TENTING ON THE PLAINS – Libby Custer

TENTING ON THE PLAINS

OR

General Custer in Kansas and Texas

BY

ELIZABETH b’ CUSTER

Author of “Boots and Saddles.”

NEW YORK

Charles L. Webster & Company

Copyrighted, 1887,

CHARLES L. WEBSTER & CO.

(All rights reserved.)
PRESS OF
Jenkins & McCowan, Centre St.

DEDICATION TO TENTING ON THE PLAINS. TO HIM WHOSE BRAVE AND BLITHE ENDURANCE MADE THOSE WHO FOLLOWED HIM FORGET, IN HIS SUNSHINY PRESENCE, HALF THE HARDSHIP AND THE DANGER.

CONTENTS.

PAGE

Biographical Sketch of Major-General George A. Custer. 1-25

CHAPTER I.

Good-by to the Army of the Potomac— Off for Texas

—Twenty Minutes for Dinner— History of Eliza- Down the Mississippi— A Crevasse— General Custer Meeting Confederate General Hood 27-62

CHAPTER II.

New Orleans after the War— General Winfield Scott— Up Red River— The Skill of the Pilots— Our Romantic Lover— At Alexandria— A Negro Prayer-Meeting— Confederate Forts— Quicksands— Alligator Hunting 63-92

CHAPTER III.

Mutiny— Trial by Court Martial— A Military Execution —Marching Through Texas— Foraging for a Bed- Joy over a Pillow— Every Man has his Price— Four Months in a Wagon— Life Without a Looking-Glass 93-13°

CHAPTER IV.

Marches Through Pine Forests— Officers Attacked with Break-Bone Fever— Promises of Bold-Flowing Streams— Introduction to the Pine-Tree Rattle-Snake —Scorpions, Tarantulas, Centipedes, Chiggers and Seed-ticks— Crossing the Ponton—” I Went A- Fishing ” ‘ 31-149

VIU CONTENTS.

PAGE

CHAPTER V.

Out of the Wilderness— Our Camp at Hempstead — Hospitality of Southern Planters — The General’s Deer-Hunting — A Baptism of Gore — Escape from Being Blown up by Powder — Eliza Establishes an Orphan Asylum — The Protecting Care that Officers

Show to Women 1 50-1 78

CHAPTER VI.

A Texas Norther— A School-Girl’s First Impression of

Texas — The Ants as our Thriving Neighbors — Gen-

eral Custer 111 of Break-Bone Fever — Measuring an

Alligator — The March to Austin — Chasing Jack-Rab-

bits—Byron, the Greyhound T 179-208

CHAPTER VII.

Byron as a Thief — An Equestrian Dude — Mexican Horse

Equipage and Blankets — General Custer visits a Deaf

and Dumb Asylum — Tales of Lawlessness — Pistols

Everywhere — Entertainments at our Quarters — Eliza’s

Colored Ball 209-236

CHAPTER VIII.

Letters Home — Extracts— Caught by a Norther — Longing

for a Yankee Wood-Pile — Colonel Groome of 1812 —

Jack Rucker Beaten in a Horse-Race — Ginnieand her

Family — Our Father Custer’s Dog 237-259

CHAPTER IX.

Disturbed Condition of Texas — A Woman’s Horse Edu-

cation at the Stables — Leaving Austin for Hemp-

stead— Sam Houston a Hero among our Offi-

cers— Detention in Galveston — A Texas Norther on

the Gulf of Mexico — Narrow Escape from Ship-

wreck— Return Home on a Mississippi Steamer. . . . 260-290

CHAPTER X.

Father Custer Gives an Account of how he was a Boy with

his Boys on the Mississippi River — A Family Robbery

— General Custer Parts with his Staff at Cairo and

Detroit— The Silent Heroes — Temptations to Induce

General Custer to Resign — Offers from Mexico — One

of his Class-mates Enters the Ministry 291-321

CONTENTS. IX

CHAPTER XI.

Reception by the War Veterans of their Boy General — ,

Appointed Lieutenant-Colonel of the Seventh Cavalry 1

— A Raid after a Pretty Girl -Our Family of Horses

and Dogs — Orders to Report at Fort Riley, Kansas —

Jollifications at St. Louis — Friendship for Lawrence

Barrett 322-347

CHAPTER Xn.

Good-by to Civilization — Westward Ho ! — The Prairie-

Schooner as we First Saw It — A few Comments on

the Wisdom of the Army Mule — The Wagon-Master

and Mule-Whacker as Types of Western Eccentricity

— Carrying Supplies to Distant Posts — First Overland

Journey in an Army Ambulance — Arrival at Fort

Riley — Border Warfare Between Quarrelsome Dogs

— The Hospitality of Officers and their Families — Wel-

comed and Housed by one of General Custer’s Old

Friends — Changing of Quarters According to Army

Regulations — Preparing a New-Comer for his Call on

the Commanding Officer’s Family — The New Arrival

Presents Himself in very Full Dress — Diana’s Horse

tells Tales — General Custer Takes his Dogs and gives

run to his Horse over the Plains — His Horses Com-

mune with him after their Dumb Fashion — The

Strength of his Arm Reserved for the Country —

Separated from the Post by the Prairie Divides —

We Trade Horses — Phil Sheridan Tested on a Race-

Track — Fighting Dissipation in the Seventh Cavalry

— General Custer’s Temptations — The Family Teach

him to Appreciate his Sunburned Nose — Men Who

Command the Admiration of Women — The Inde-

structibility of an Army Demijohn 349-403

CHAPTER XIII.

“Good Society” — An Embarrassing Position for an

Officer — The General Extricates Him — A Mock Trial

— Varieties of Character — Lessons in Horsemanship —

A Disgraced Cavalry Woman — Gossip — A Medley of

Officers and Men — War on a Dressing-Gown 404-439

CONTENTS.

PAGE

CHAPTER XIV.

Ristori, and the Course of True Love — A Proposal on the

House-top— Gideon’s Band — A Letter from Charles

C. Leland — Breitmann in Kansas — Clever Rogues

Escape from the Guard-House — Marketing in Junc-

tion City — Crossing a Swollen River — The Story of

Johnnie — An Expedition Leaves Fort Riley for a

Campaign 440-48/

CHAPTER XV.

A Prairie Fire — Letters from the General— Lending a

Dog for a Bedfellow — Beauty’s Bows and Beaux —

Negro Recruits Turn the Post into a Circus — Ladies

Fired on by a Sentinel — The Sugar Mutiny — Small-

pox in the Garrison — General Gibbs Restores Order —

An Earthquake at Fort Riley 488-514

CHAPTER XVL

Extracts from General Custer’s Letters— The March from

Fort Riley to Fort Harker— Dogs and Horses on their

First Western Campaign— Experiences in Messing in

a Country Void of Supplies— Chasing Jack-rabbits. . 515-530 j

CHAPTER XVII. I

Extracts from Letters to General Custer— Crossing Fox |

River — Account of the Undisciplined Troops — War’s

Alarms — Mourning for Custis Lee 531-549

CHAPTER XVIII.

Gratitude — A Great Snow-Storm — The Sibley Tent —

General Custer Defines his Ambition — The Cook

Devises Strange Additions to the Bill of Fare — Gen-

eral Hancock Holds a Council with the Chiefs of the

Cheyennes — The Indian Nobility Request that their

Supper be Served before the Talk — The Pipe of Peace

— A Hint for Further Refreshments — General Custer

Visits the Villages of Sioux, Apaches and Cheyennes

— A Deputation of Three Hundred Warriors and

Chiefs in Battle Line — The General’s Description of

Them — Civilized and Barbarous Warfare Confronting

Each Other — Flight of the Indians — General Custer

and his Regiment are sent in Pursuit — Extracts from

General Custer’s Letters Written from Fort Larned. . 550-561

1

CONTENTS. XI

PAGE

CHAPTER XIX.

Extracts from General Custer’s Letters from Fort Hays

and Fort Wallace- An Account of Killing his First

BufTalo-Calf-The Death of Custis Lee-Extract from

a Letter Written by General Hancock on the Indian

Depredations-Riding to Meet the Mail-T he Doctor

Eats Indian Soup in the Village-Some Items Regard-

ing a Match Bufialo-Hunt

CHAPTER XX.

Sacrifices and Self-Denial of Pioneer Duty-Poor Water

^nd Alkaline Dust-Vagaries of Western Water-

Ways-Digging in Sunken Stream-Beds for Water

-Rivers Unfringed by Trees or Shrubs-The Allur-

ing Mirage-A Short Tribute to the Western

Pioneers— Their Endurance, Patience and Courage

-The Governor of a Western Territory Shines as a

Cook as well as a Statesman-The General Writes o

his First Buf?alo-Hunt-An Accidental Discharge of

his Pistol Kills my Horse, Custis Lee-General

Sherman as a Special Providence-The Western

Town on a Move-Government makes no Provision

for Army Women to say their Prayers-Journey

to Fort Hays-The Match Hunt of the Regiment-

Supper Given by the Vanquished to the Victors-

Reception Given by the Elements on our Arrival-

The Tent Goes Down-A Scout to Fort McPherson

-A Sentinel Fires on his Friends by Mistake-

General Custer sends Escort to take us to his Camp

-Captain Robbins and Colonel Cook Attacked, and

• Fight for Three Hours ‘4 29

CHAPTER XXI.

Encamped on Big Creek-Preparation for Storms-^

Flood at Fort Hays-Kansas Lightning-Solicitude

about a Clothes-Line-Women to the Rescue-Men

Saved from Drowning-A New Kind of Ferry-Boat

-Gatling Guns as Anchors-Ghastly Lights-Lhza s

Narrative-Flora McFlimsey on the Frontier-The ^^^

Retreat to a Prairie Divide 3^^ 35

xii CONTENTS.

CHAPTER XXII.

Ordered Back to Fort Harker — A Drunken Escort —

Wild-Flowers — Color without Odor — Game — Wild

Horses — A Dromedary on the Plains — A Woman

Pioneering — A Riddled Stage — Our Bed Running

Away — Cholera — A Contrast — Reckoning Chances of

Promotion — The Addled Mail-Carrier 656-675

CHAPTER XXni.

The First Fight of the Seventh Cavalry — Reinforce-

ments of Black Troops — A Negro’s Manoeuvre — A

Unique Official Report — Peculiar Fortifications —

Indian Attack on a Stage — A Desperate Running

Fight — A Plucky Woman — Cholera at Fort Wallace

— Return of the Seventh There — Swindling Contract-

ors— Desertions — An Ingenious Prison — Fort Wallace

Attacked — A Brave and Skillful Sergeant — The

Worst Days of the Seventh — No Letters — General

Custer’s March to Fort Harker for Supplies — A Day

at Fort Riley — Happiness at Last 67C-702

LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.

Portrait of Major-General George A. Custer Frontispiece.

Maps of Texas in 1866 and in 1886 Page 26

Eliza Cooking Under Fire 43

Sabre Used by General Custer During the War 85

A Mule Lunching From a Pillow ’23

General Custer as a Cadet • 37

Our Bunkies ’71

Measuring an Alligator ^99

General Custer at the Close of the War (Aged 25) 265

“Stand There, Cowards, will you, and See an Old Man

Robbed ? ” -95

General Custer with his Horse “Vic,” Stag-hounds and

Deer-hounds 333

Maps of Kansas in 1866 and Kansas to-day 34^

Conestoga Wagon, or Prairie-schooner 35 1

The Officer’s Dress — A New-comer for a Call 375

A Suspended Equestrienne 3^7

General Custer at His Desk in His Library 409

Gun-stand in General Custer’s Library 45′

Trophies of the Chase in General Custer’s Library 467

Whipping Horses to Keep them from Freezing 497

“Well, You are a Warm-blooded Cuss ! ” 5^3

Smoking The Pipe of Peace 557

A Buflfalo Undecided as to an Attack on General Custer 567

A Buffalo at Bay 573

A Match Buffalo Hunt 607

Gathering and Counting the Tongues 611

The Banquet 613

The Addled Letter-carrier 673

Negroes form their own Picket-line 679

An Attack on a Stage-coach 683

XUl

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH

OF

MAJOR-GENERAL GEORGE A. CUSTER.

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH OF MAJOR-GEN-

ERAL GEORGE A. CUSTER.

/^ENERAL GEORGE ARMSTRONG CUS-

^^ TER was born in New Rumley, Harrison

County, O., Decembers, 1839. He was the elaest

of a family of five children, consisting of four

boys and one girl — Thomas, Nevin, Boston and

Margaret. There were three sets of children in the

family, as the father, Emanuel Custer, was a wid-

ower with a son and daughter when he married

Mrs. Kirkpatrick, who also had two sons. There

was such harmony and happiness among them

that outsiders knew no difference between full or

half brothers and sisters, and they themselves al-

most resented the question, saying that it was a sub-

ject they never discussed, nor even thought about.

Armstrong, as he was called at home, became his

father’s and mother’s idol and pride when he first

began to talk, for he was very bright and extremely

affectionate. His father belonged to the militia of

the county, and took the boy out on training days,

or whenever there happened to be any military dis-

play in the town. Almost the first little speech

2 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH OF GENERAL CUSTER.

he learned was a line he picked up from a decla-

mation one of his elder brothers was committing

to memory as a school task. His father was

proud, as well as surprised, to hear the little Arm-

strong lisp out one day, waving his tiny arm in

the air, ” My voice is for war.” How soon this

love for military life became a settled purpose no

one knows, for the boy was reticent as to his

future ; and always tender and considerate of his

invalid mother, he would not hurt her by talking

of leaving home. He only said, as he followed

the plough on his father’s farm, that he would not

choose that life for his future. He loved books,

and when his brothers either slept or played at

the nooning time, he lay in the furrow and pored

over the lives of distinguished men or tales of

travel and adventure, that the thoughtful father

denied himself some comfort in order to buy for

his boys.

General Custer, when asked once in his home how

he came to be able to command a brigade of cav-

alry at the age of twenty-three, attributed a great

deal of the success he had attained to the lesson

of self-control he had learned in teaching school,

and said that the duties of a teacher were an ad-

mirable training for a man who afterward com-

manded troops. The lad Armstrong was deter-

mined to obtain an education, and taught the

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH OF GENERAL CUSTER. 3

district school in order to defray his expenses at

an academy at Hopedale. He afterward went

to Monroe, Mich., to avail himself of the ad-

vantages of an excellent academy for boys, and

paid his way by working for his half-sister, with

whom he lived. During this time of work and

study his mmd was fixed on entering the military

academy at West Point. He consulted no one,

but on his return to Ohio he framed such a manly,

earnest letter to the Member of Congress from his

father’s district, the Hon. John A. Bmgham, that,

though opposed in politics, he could not refuse,

and out of eleven applications departed from the

usual rule, and gave the appointment to the son

of one who was not his constituent.

The leaving-taking at home was the first trial

for the boy Armstrong. His choice of profession

was a surprise and a great trial to the devoted

mother, but she was a superior woman, and real-

ized that she had reared a son whose life could

not be circumscribed by the narrow confines of

his father’s farm. Cadet life was a period of al-

most uninterrupted happiness, but, though quick

in mastering his tasks, his buoyant, fun-lovmg

temperament kept Cadet Custer very near the

foot of the class. He was wont to say, laugh-

ingly, in after years, that it required more skill to

graduate next to the foot, as he did, than to be at

4 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH OF GENERAL CUSTER.

the head of the Hst ; as, to keep within one of

going out, and yet escape being dropped, was a

serious problem.

He was graduated in the June of 1861, and was

too eager for active service to take the usual leave

of absence, but reported for duty at Washington

at once. Having had the privilege of choosing

the profession he liked, his enthusiasm at the pros-

pect of entering at once into the field had but one

serious side. He was deeply attached to his

Southern classmates ; and those with whom he had

parted with sadness, as one by one they returned

to their seceding State, were now to be arraigned

before him on an opposite side. But though they

afterward fought one another constantly during

the war, the attachment of cadet days was too

deep-seated to be disturbed. After the surrender

at Appomattox he met and entertained at his

headquarters his Southern classmates, while on the

night of the surrender seven Confederate generals,

whom he had captured, shared his tent and slept

under the same blankets with him.

On the 20th of July, 1861, Lieutenant Custer

reported for duty to the adjutant-general of the

army, and was intrusted with despatches from

General Scott to General McDowell. After deliver-

ing the despatches at 3 o’clock in the morning, at

the headquarters of the Army of the Potomac, he

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH OF GENERAL CUSTER. r

reported for duty to the Fifth Cavalry, to which he

had been assigned. He was wont to say, laughingly,

that he “reached the front just in time to run with all

the rest” after the disastrous day at Bull Run. His

comrades represent him as the hardest rider among

them. If the regiment was relieved, and ordered

to turn into .quarters for recuperation, Lieutenant

Custer, after seeing to the feeding of his horse,

obtained permission to be absent from his com-

mand, and was off, as his fellow-soldiers described

it, “smelling out another fight.” He became lean

and haggard, though perfectly well, and his un-

groomed horse was also gaunt from hard service.

On one of these expeditions about the Army of

the Potomac, which stretched for miles over the

country. General Kearney, who was also a hard

rider and an untiring soldier, saw young Custer

and invited him to become a member of his staff.

Lieutenant Custer remained with him until an

order was issued relieving regular officers from

staff duty with volunteer generals. In the win-

ter of 1861-62 he remained with his regiment

and served in the defenses of Washington,

engaging in the Manassas and Peninsula cam-

paigns; and at Cedar Run he led his squadron in a

charge against the Confederate pickets, and forced

them to retire across the stream. He marched

with his regiment when the Army of the Potomac

6 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH OF GENERAL CUSTER.

chanofed its base to the Peninsula; and at Warwick

was selected as assistant to the chief of engineers

on the staff of General (Baldy) Smith, retaining^

that position until the army halted at the Chicka-

hominy River. At the siege of Yorktown he was

engaged in the superintending of the construction

of earthworks, and was also given the duty of

making reconnoissances in a balloon, being among

the first to discover and report the evacuation of

the town. He took part in the battle of Williams-

burg with General Hancock’s brigade, and was

highly commended by that officer after leading

two regiments to an important position near Fort

Magruder. He commanded a company in an

important skirmish at New Bridge, near Cold

Harbor, on May 24, which was the result of a

reconnoissance to secure information concerning

the fords and roads. in that vicinity and to attack

the enemy, who were reported encamped near the

bridge.

General McClellan’s headquarters were about

a mile from the Chickahominy River, and it was

desirous that a safe crossing for the army should

be discovered. Lieutenant Custer, in one of his

customary sallies by himself, in search of any

portion of the army that might be having a

skirmish, met General Barnard, of General McClel-

lan’s staff, and offered to try for the ford for which

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH OF GENERAL CUSTER. 7

the chief engineer of the army was looking. He

not only found a safe and firm crossing to the

opposite bank, but concluded, while over there,

to make a reconnoissance to ascertain what he

could of the position of the enemy. The Gen-

eral in vain attempted, by gestures, to deter him

from this venturesome deed. He reported, on his

return, that the principal picket guard could be

captured by determined men.

General Barnard could not pass such conduct by

unnoticed, and asked the dripping, muddy lieuten-

ant to his headquarters. It was in this predicament

he first met General McClellan, with his brilliant

staff, described then as resembling the glittering tail

of a meteor as they rode behind their chief in full

uniform. Lieutenant Custer was a sorry sight. He

often laughed, in describing himself in after years,

and drew a comical contrast between his Rozi-

nante of a horse, rough, muddy and thin, his own

splashed, weather-worn clothes, and the superbly

equipped men who confronted him. After the chief

engineer had reported what the young lieutenant

had accomplished. General McClellan rode up to

him, and asked if he would like to become one of

his staff. He accepted the appointment at once,

and was made aide-de-camp of volunteers, with

the rank of captain, to date from June 5, 1862.

He immediately asked to be permitted to attack

8 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH OF GENERAL CUSTER.

the picket guard he had discovered that day, and

at dayhght next morning surprised the enemy,

who retreated so hastily that they left their dead

and wounded on the field. He took some prison-

ers, and had also the honor to take the first colors

that were captured by the Army of the Potomac.

While on the staff of General McClellan he par-

ticipated in the battle of Fair Oaks, the seven

days’ fighting, including the battles of Gaines’s

Mill and Malvern Hill, the skirmish in White Oak

Swamp, and the evacuation of the Peninsula.

After General McClellan was relieved from the

command of the army. Captain Custer continued

on his personal staff, and later was engaged in

the battles of South Mountain and Antietam, and

the pursuit of the enemy to Warrenton. At this

time he was promoted in his regiment from second

to first lieutenant, to date from July 17, 1862.

He took part in the brilliant cavalry Engagement

at Barbee’s Cross-roads on November 5, as a

representative of the headquarters staff, and two

days after he followed General McClellan into

retirement. He was devoted to General McClel-

lan, and was grieved and keenly disappointed

when his chief was retired from active service.

The last magazine article he ever wrote, published

after his death, spoke with enthusiasm, affection,

and faith undisturbed after fourteen years. In

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH OF GENERAL CUSTER. 9

like manner General McClellan bore testimony to

his unwavering friendship for his old aide-de-camp

in “McClellan’s Own Story,” pubHshed after his

death by Webster & Co.

While Captam Custer was on waiting orders he

remained in his half-sister’s home, Monroe, Mich.,

among the schoolmates and friends of several

years before. As it was winter, and no active

operations were going on at the front, he was not

impatient, and the time did not drag. It was in

Monroe that he met his wife, the daughter of

Judge Daniel S. Bacon, and, but for the Judge’s

opposition to military life for his only daughter,

they would have then been married. On March

31, 1863, he was discharged from volunteer com-

mission, and joined his company at Capitol Hill,

D. C, on the 3d of April, where he served until

May 15, and was appointed aide-de-camp to Gen-

eral Pleasonton, participated in the closing opera-

tions of the Rappahannock campaign, was en-

gaged in the action at Brandy Station ; and for

daring gallantry in the skirmish at Aldie he was

appointed a brigadier-general of volunteers, to

date from June 29, 1863, and was assigned to the

Michigan brigade, which he soon made famous.

The men of his brigade adored him, and used to

boast to their comrades in other commands, ” Our

boy-general never says ‘ Go in, men !’ he says, with

lO BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH OF GENERAL CUSTER.

that whoop and yell of his, * Come on, boys !’ and

in we go, you bet.”

General Custer was then twenty-three years of

age, the youngest general in the service ; his

golden hair fell in curls on his shoulders, in obey-

ance to a boyish whim and a bet that he would

not cut it till the war was ended. On his lip was

his first downy mustache, but his keen eye marked

the determination and ability to command, while

his valor was, as the soldiers said, of that sort that

asks no man to go where he does not lead. He

joined the Third Cavalry Division on the 29th of

June, at Hanover, Pa., and participated in the

Pennsylvania campaign, and was engaged on the

ist of July in a skirmish with the enemy’s cavalry.

He had a horse killed under him on the 2d of

July, while leading a company of the Sixth Michi-

gan Cavalry in a charge near Hunterstown. He

was conspicuous on the right of the army at the

battle of Gettysburg, in conjunction with the

brigades of Gregg and Mcintosh, in defeating

General Stuart’s effort to turn that flank. He

moved on the morning of the 4th with the Third

Cavalry Division in pursuit of the enemy, and

was engaged in the skirmishes at the Monterey

House and Hagerstown, the actions at Williams-

port (6th and 14th), Boonesboro’, Funkstown

and Falling Waters, and was made a brevet

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH OF GENERAL CUSTER. \ i

major, to date from July 3, 1863, for gallant and

meritorious services at the battle of Gettysburg.

He was then employed in central Virginia till

the end of the year, and was engaged in the

skirmish at King George Court House, and in the

advance toward and skirmish at Culpeper Court

House (September 13), where a piece of shell

wounded him on the inside of the thigh, and

killed his horse. He was disabled for field service

until the 8th of October. Accepting twenty days

leave of absence, he went to Monroe, Mich., to

again petition Judge Bacon for his daughter’s

hand. He was met with great cordiality, offered

the sincerest congratulations, commended as only

one self-made man can commend another, and a

reluctant consent given to the engagement ; re-

luctant because the Judge believed the military

profession too hazardous and uncertain to admit

of matrimony in time of war.

He returned to his command in October, and

was engaged in the action at James City and

Brandy Station (where his determined action pre-

vented the capture of his brigade), the movement

toward Centreville, the actions at Gainesville and

Buckland’s Mills, the skirmish at Stevensburg and

the Mine Run operations.

In the February of ‘1864 he went to Monroe,

and on the 9th was married to Elizabeth Bacon.

12 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH OF GENERAL CUSTER.

They were recalled from the bridal tour by tele-

grams urging the return of the General to the front,

in order that he might take command of a portion of

the Army of the Potomac, which was to be sent in

a certain direction as a feint to attract the Confed-

erate army, while General Kilpatrick, with the

cavalry (General Custer’s brigade with them),

attempted to get into Richmond. Leaving his

bride at a farm-house at Stevensburg.Va., where his

headquarters were established almost in sight of

Confederate pickets, he started at once on his arri-

val, and made so successful a feint that the bulk of

the enemy were turned in pursuit. Soon after his

return his wife went to Washington, to remain as

near as possible during the active operations of

the summer. General Custer took part in the

Wilderness campaign. In the re-organization of

the cavalry — caused by the removal of General

Pleasonton, the death of General Buford, the trans-

fer of General Kilpatrick to the West — he was

transferred, with the Michigan brigade, to the

First Cavalry Division, which crossed the Rapidan

in May, the main army being toward Orange

Court House. He was engaged in the battles of

the Wilderness (where the cavalry was on the

left) and Todd’s Tavern ; in General Sheridan’s

cavalry raid toward Richmond by the way of

Beaver Dam Station and Ashland, during which

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH OF GENERAL CUSTER. i ->

his brigade had the advance, and by a gallant dash

captured at Beaver Dam Station three large trains,

which were conveying rations to the Confederate

army, destroying several miles of railroad, and

releasing four hundred prisoners, who were e}t

route to Richmond. On the next day he assisted

in the destruction of the Ashland Station, and on

the nth of May the command was within four

miles of Richmond, on the Brook pike, with his

brigade again in the advance ; and the action of

Yellow Tavern followed, where he won the brevet

of lieutenant-colonel for gallant and meritorious

services. He was engaged in the actions at

Meadow Bridge, Mechanicsville and Hanovertown,

the battles of Hawes’s Shop and Cold Harbor, and

in General Sheridan’s second raid, during which

was fought the battle of Trevillian Station (where

his brigade was at one time in such great peril that

he tore the colors from the staff and concealed

them in the breast of his coat), and in the skirmish

at Newark. After a brief rest near Petersburg, his

brigade was transferred from the Army of the

Potomac to the Shenandoah Valley, and arrived

at Halltown about the 8th of August, and partici-

pated, with the First Cavalry Division, in the

skirmishes at Stone Chapel and at Newtown, the

brilliant action at Cedarville, near Front Royal,

the combats at Kearneysville, Smithfield, Berry-

14 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH OF GENERAL CUSTER.

ville and Opequan Creek, the battles of Winchester

and Fisher’s Hill (where he rendered conspicuous

service), and the actions at Cedarville and Luray.

He was made a brevet colonel, to date from Sep-

tember 19, 1864, for gallant and meritorious serv-

ices at the battle of Winchester, and brevet

major-general of volunteers, to date from October

19, 1864, for gallant and meritorious services at

the battles of Winchester and Fisher’s Hill.

He was assigned on the 26th of September to

the command of the Second Cavalry Division,

which he attempted to join at Piedmont, but the

enemy appeared in force, and he was compelled to

return to the cavalry headquarters, where he

remained until the 30th, when he was transferred

to the Third Cavalry Division and assumed the

command at Harrisonburg, and started on the 6th

of October with the Army of the Shenandoah, on

the return march through the valley, moving on

the road nearest the Blue Ridge, and repulsed the

army that night at Turkey town. On the next day

his rear guard was frequently engaged with the

enemy during the march toward Columbia Fur-

naces, and the next day they fought his rear guard

with so much persistency that General Sheridan

ordered his chief of cavalry to attack them, and

at daybreak on the 9th of October the brilliant

cavalry action of Woodstock was begun. General

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH OF GENERAL CUSTER.

15

Custer, having completed the formation for a

charge, rode to the front of his Hne and saluted

his former classmate, General Rosser, who com-

manded the Confederate cavalry, and then moved

his division at a trot, which in a few minutes was

changed to a gallop, and as the advancing line

neared the enemy the charge was sounded, and

the next instant the division enveloped their flanks,

and forced them to retreat for two miles, when

General Rosser made a brilliant effort to recover

the lost ground ; but General Custer rapidly

re-formed his brigades, and again advanced in a

second charge with the other divisions, and drove

the enemy to Mount Jackson, a distance of

twenty-six miles, with the loss of everything on

wheels except one gun.

He was conspicuous at the battle of Cedar

Creek, where he confronted the enemy from the

first attack in the morning until the battle

was ended. After the first surprise he was

recalled from the right, and assigned to the

left, where the enemy were held in check. After

General Sheridan appeared on the field, he was

returned to the extreme right; and at quarter past

4 o’clock, p. M., when the grand advance was

made, leaving three regiments to attend to the

cavalry in his front, he moved into position with

the other regiments of his division to participate

1 6 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH OF GENERAL CUSTER.

in the movement. The divisions of cavalry,

sweeping both flanks, crossed Cedar Creek about

the same time, and, breaking the last line the

enemy attempted to form, charged upon their

artillery and trains, and continued the pursuit to

Fisher’s Hill, capturing and retaking a large num-

ber of guns, colors and materials of war. He

won in this battle an enduring fame as a cavalry

leader, and was recommended by General Torbert

for promotion, which, upon several occasions, he

had justly earned. He was sent to Washington at

the end of the campaign, in charge of the captured

battle-flags, and upon his return to the valley, com-

manded, in December, an expedition to Harrison-

burg, and was attacked at Lacey Springs at day-

break of the 2oth by a superior force, and com-

pelled to retire to Winchester, where he remained

during the winter. He was promoted to a cap-

taincy in his regiment, May 8, 1864, and assigned

to duty on his brevet rank as major-general of

volunteers.

He participated in General Sheridan’s last cav-

alry raid during the spring of 1865, marching

from Winchester to Harrisonburg, and thence to

Waynesboro, where, while in the advance, he

engaged and defeated the enemy, and captured

three guns, two hundred wagons, sixteen hundred

prisoners and seventeen battle flags.

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH OF GENERAL CUSTER.

17

He was a conspicuous figure in the brilliant

operations of that dashing movement until the

command (First and Third divisions), having

crossed the Peninsula and the James River, en-

camped on the 26th of March in rear of the

Army of the Potomac, which was then in front of

Petersburg.

On the next day the two divisions were moved

to the rear of the extreme left, and encamped at

Hancock’s Station, where they were joined by the

Second Division, and on the 29th the entire cav-

alry corps moved out to raid in the rear of the

Army of Northern Virginia, cut the South Side Rail-

road, and effect a junction with General Sherman

in North Carolina ; but the plans were changed

during the night, and the cavalry corps was or-

dered to turn the enemy’s right flank, which

brought on the actions at Five Forks and Dinwid-

dle Court House, and the next day General Custer

won the brevet of brigadier-general, to date from

March 13, 1865 (antedated), for gallant and meri-

torious Services at the battle of Five Forks. He

was engaged in the actions at Sailor’s Creek and

Appomattox Station, received the first flag of truce

from the Army of Northern Virginia, and was

present at the surrender at Appomattox Court

House, April 9, 1865, and a few days afterward

participated in the movement to Dan River, N. C.„

l8 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH OF GENERAL CUSTER.

which marks the close of his services during the

War of the RebeUion. He was made a brevet

major-general, to date from March 13, 1865, for

gallant and meritorious services during the cam-

paign ending with the surrender of the Army of

Northern Virginia, and was appointed a major-

general of volunteers, to date from April 15, 1865.

One of his friends has said : ” His perceptive

faculties, decision of character, dash and audacity

won the favor of the peculiar Kearney, the cau-

tious McClellan, the sarcastic Pleasonton and the

impetuous Sheridan ; and these generals, with

wholly different ideas and characters, trusted him

with unlimited confidence.”

In a general order addressed to his troops, dated

at Appomattox Court House, April 9, 1865, Gen-

eral Custer said : ” During the past six months,

though in most instances confronted by superior

numbers, you have captured from the enemy in

open battle 1 1 1 pieces of field artillery, sixty-five

battle-flags and upward of ten thousand prisoners

of war, including seven general officers. Within

the past ten days, and included in the above, you

have captured forty-six field-pieces of artillery and

thirty-seven battle-flags. You have never lost a

gun, never lost a color, and never been defeated ;

and, notwithstanding the numerous engagements

in which you have borne a prominent part, includ-

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH OF GENERAL CUSTER. ig

ing those memorable battles of the Shenandoah,

you have captured every piece of artillery which

the enemy has dared to open upon you.”

General Custer participated in all but one of the

battles of the Army of the Potomac, had eleven

horses shot under him, received bullet-holes in his

hat, had a lock of his hair cut off by a passing-

shot, was wounded in the thigh by a spent ball,

was crushed by the fall of his wounded horse

until the buttons of his jacket were almost flat-

tened, and at one time charged into the enemy’s

lines, and would have been taken prisoner^ except

that in the melee he escaped, as he wore an over-

coat he had captured from a Confederate officer in

a former engagement. His whole four years of

service during the war was a series of narrow

escapes.

After the first day’s review in Washmgton, he

parted with his beloved Third Cavalry Division,

and started at once for Texas, where he took com-

mand of a division of Western cavalry, whose

term of service had not expired, and marched

from Alexandria, on Red River, La., to Hempstead,

in Texas. In the autumn he was made chief of

cavalry, and marched to Austin, where he sup-

ported the Governor and the new State organiza-

tion in restoring order to the demoralized country.

In March, 1866, he was mustered out of the

20 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH OF GENERAL CUSTER.

volunteer service, to date from February, 1866. A

proposition was made from President Juarez to

give him command of the Mexican cavalry in the

struggle against Maximilian, but President John-

son declined to give the necessary leave of

absence, and/ General Custer decided to remain at

home, and accepted the lieutenant-colonelcy of the

Seventh Cavalry, his appointment datmg July 28,

1866. He reported for duty at Fort Riley, Kansas,

his regiment’s headquarters, in November, and

remained in Kansas five years, during which time

he was on expeditions in pursuit of Indians in the

Indian Territory, Colorado, New Mexico, Nebraska

and Wyoming. On the 27th of November, 1868,

he fought the battle of the Wachita, in the Indian

Territory, and inflicted such defeat on the Indians

that the entire tribe of Cheyennes were compelled’

to return to their reservation. From 1 871 to 1873

he was on duty with his regiment in Kentucky.

In the spring of 1873 he was ordered with the

Seventh Cavalry to Dakota, and left Fort Rice on

an expedition to the Yellowstone. On that river,

near the mouth of Tongue River, he fought the

Sioux with his regiment on August 4, and on the

I ith he had another engagement three miles below

the mouth of the Big Horn. General Custer

solicited permission to conduct an expedition into

the Black Hills, at that time unvisited by the white

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH OF GENERAL CUSTER. 2 1

man ; and in July, 1874, he left Fort Lincoln,

Dakota, and opened an unexplored country to

miners and settlers. On May 15 General Custer

left Fort Lincoln in command of his reofiment.

accompanying an expedition against the confeder-

ated Sioux tribes. The pursuit of the Indians was

carried to the Little Big Horn River, a region

almost entirely unknown. It had long been the

favorite spot for their encampments, and there

was afterward ascertained to be nine thousand in

their villages stretched along the river. The Gov-

ernment expedition numbered one thousand one

hundred men. As there were no means of ascer-

taining the strength of the savages. General Custer

was sent with his regiment to pursue a trail. On

June 25 he reached the vicinity of what was sup-

posed by friendly Indian scouts, who accompanied

the column, to be the only Indian village. An

attack by a portion of the regiment, two hundred

troopers in all, was made, and followed by a

repulse, ending in a retreat from the enemy.

General Custer with two hundred and seventy-

seven of his men charged on another part of the

village, and fought against terrible odds, expect-

ing momentarily to be joined by the other portion

of the regiment, that were then in retreat. At the

end of an engagement that is supposed to have

lasted about forty-five minutes, every voice was

2 2 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH OF GENERAL CUSTER.

silenced, and General Custer lay among his

devoted followers (his brothers, Colonel Tom and

Boston Custer ; his brother-in-law. Lieutenant

James Calhoun ; his nephew, Armstrong Reed)

in the ” Bivouac of the Dead.”

He was buried with his comrades on the battle-

field ; but, in accordance with a request made

years previous, to his wife, he was laid with mili-

tary ceremonies at West Point in 1877. In August,

1879, ^^s ^^^^ battle-field was made a National

cemetery, and through the interest of his friend,

Major-General Meigs, then the quartermaster-gen-

eral, a monument was erected by Government to

the memory of General Custer and all who fell in

the battle of the Little Big Horn. The name of

each officer and soldier is carved in the granite,

and its shaft does sentry duty over ground en-

riched by the precious blood of the heroes who

fell there in the year of the nation’s Centennial.

In personal appearance General Custer had

marked individuality. It was not due to the fact that

his dress was a costume he chose during the war,

(and was followed in some of its details by his

Third Division of Cavalry), or that he assumed a

campaigning garb of buckskin on the frontier.

Neither was it the result of the flowing locks that

his boyish freak allowed to grow during the w^ar,

and, though his head was closely cropped in garri-

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH OF GENERAL CUSTER, 23

son life on the plains, he left the hair uncut while

campaigning. There was still an individuality

that marked him — walking, riding, standing; ges-

tures wholly his own ; quick, impulsive move-

ments, entirely unstudied ; and indescribable

peculiarities that were so marked, it was seldom

any one saw a resemblance in any one else to

General Custer. A broad hat, navy blue shirt

with wide collar, and red neck-tie, were distinctive

features of the costume. He was not quite six

feet, though he looked it; broad shouldered, well

proportioned, and weighing as a rule 170 pounds.

His body was so lithe, his motions so quick, there

was no deed of the expert Indian rider that

General Custer could not execute. He was the

strongest man but one while at West Point; and

using neither liquor nor tobacco, he was able to

endure heat, cold, privation of every kind, with

no apparent recognition of the hardships. His

hair and mustache were golden in tint; his blue

eyes were deep set under eyebrows that were

older than his face. His expression was thought-

ful, and but for the sparkle of his ever youthful

eyes, the face might have remained so in conver-

sation. He was studious in his tastes. The

activity of war life interrupted all such pursuits,

but in the quiet of the winters in a frontier

garrison, he resumed his study and reading.

24 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH OF GENERAL CUSTER.

He contributed articles on hunting to the news-

papers devoted to out – door sports, and wrote

papers for the Galaxy that were afterward

pubhshed in book form, under the title of ” My

Life on the Plains.” He was engaged on a series

of papers on the war, for the Galaxy, when his

last campaign took place. He was an ardent

sportsman, and accounted more than an ordinary

shot. His domestic life, when frontier days at

last gave him a semblance of a home during the

winter months, was one of contentment, which

was rather surprising, when it is known that

fourteen years out of the thirty-seven of his short life

were spent in the active campaigns of the war

and the frontier. He revered religion, and was so

broad that every one’s belief was sacred to him.

He dearly loved the society of children when they

were able to chatter with him; his deference for the

aged was inborn, and intensified by his love for

his aged parents; he honored womankind; and he

loved animals with such devotion that he was

never without having them about him if he could

help it. Impetuous and daring as his life was, he

declared that no step was ever taken without an

instant looking upon all sides of the question. His

actions, quick as they were always, were the result

of an activity of brain that took in a situation

wnth marvelous speed. General Custer’s treat-

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH OF GENERAL CUSTER.

25

ment of his enemies was more after the manner

of a man of mature years, but it was the result

of a discipUne of self by that impetuous character,

who endeavored to remember that ” to forgive

is Divine.”

Elizabeth B. Custer,

55 West Tenth Street,

New York City.

Thanks are due Captain George F. Price, Fifth United States

Cavalry, for extracts containing dates and strictly military details,

from the excellent sketch of his comrade in his book “Across the

Continent with the Fifth Cavalry.” D. Van Nostrand, Publisher.

E. B. C.

TEXAS IxN 1866 AND IN 1886.

26

TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

CHAPTER I.

GOOD-BY TO THE ARMY OF THE POTOMAC OFF FOR

TEXAS — TWENTY MINUTES FOR DINNER HISTORY

OF ELIZA DOWN THE MISSISSIPPI A CREVASSE

GENERAL CUSTER MEETING CONFEDERATE GENERAL

HOOD.

f^ ENERAL CUSTER was given scant time,

^^ after the last gun of the v^ar was fired, to

realize the blessings of peace. While others has-

tened to discard the well-worn uniforms, and don

again the dress of civilians, hurrying to the cars,

and groaning over the slowness of the fast-flying

trains that bore them to their homes, my husband

was almost breathlessly preparing for a long jour-

ney to Texas. He did not even see the last of

that grand review of the 23d and 24th of May,

1865. On the first day he was permitted to doff

his hat and bow low, as he proudly led that superb

body of men, the Third Division of Cavalry, in

28 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

front of the grand stand, where sat the ” powers

that be.” Along the hne of the division, each sol-

dier straightened himself in the saddle, and felt the

proud blood fill his veins, as he realized that he

was one of those who, in six months, had taken 1 1 1

of the enemy’s guns, sixty-five battle-flags, and up-

w^ard of 10,000 prisoners of war, while they had

never lost a flag, or failed to capture a gun for

which they fought.

In the afternoon of that memorable day General

Custer and his staff rode to the outskirts of Wash-

ington, where his beloved Third Cavalry Division

had encamped after returning from taking part in

the review. The trumpet was sounded, and the

call brought these war-worn veterans oat once

more, not for a charge, not for duty, but to say

that word which we who have been compelled to

live in its mournful sound so many years, dread

even to write. Down the line rode their yellow-

haired ” boy general,” waving his hat, but setting

his teeth and trying to hold with iron nerve the

quivering muscles of his speaking face ; keeping

his eyes wide open, that the moisture dimming

their vision might not gather and fall. Cheer af-

ter cheer rose on that soft spring air. Some enthu-

siastic voice started up afresh, before the hurrahs

were done, ” A tiger for old Curley ! ” Off came

the hats again, and up went hundreds of arms,

THE SOLDIERS’ GOOD-BY.

29

waving the good-by and wafting innumerable

blessings after the man who was sending them

home in a blaze of glory, with a record of which

they might boast around their firesides. I began to

realize, as I watched this sad parting, the truth of

what the General had been telling me : he held

that no friendship was like that cemented by mu-

tual danger on the battle-field.

The soldiers, accustomed to suppression through

strict military discipline, now vehemently express-

ed their feelings ; and though it gladdened the

General’s heart, it was still the hardest sort of

work to endure it all without show of emotion.

As he rode up to where I was waiting, he could

not, dared not, trust himself to speak to me. To

those intrepid men he was indebted for his suc-

cess. Their unfailing trust in his judgment,

their willingness to follow where he led — ah ! he

knew well that one looks upon such men but once

in a lifetime. Some of the soldiers called out for

the General’s wife. The staff urged me to ride

forward to the troops, as it was but a little thing

thus to respond to their good-by. I tried to do so,

but after a few steps, I begged those beside whom

I rode to take me back to where we had been stand-

ing. I was too overcome, from having seen the

suffering on my husband’s face, to endure any

more sorrow.

TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

As the officers gathered about the General and

wrung his hand in parting, to my surprise the sol-

diers gave me a cheer. Though very grateful for

the tribute to me as their acknowledged comrade,

I did not feel that I deserved it. Hardships such

as they had suffered for a principle, require a far

higher order of character than the same hardships

endured when the motive is affection.

Once more the General leaped into the saddle,

and we rode rapidly out of sight. How glad I

was, as I watched the set features of my husband’s

face, saw his eyes fixed immovably in front of

him, listened in vain for one word from his over-

burdened heart, that I, being a woman, need not

tax every nerve to suppress emotion, but could

let the tears stream down my face, on all our

silent way back to the city.

Then began the gathering of our ” traps,” a

hasty collection of a few suitable things for a

Southern climate, orders about shipping the

horses, a wild tearing around of the improvident,

thoughtless staff — good fighters, but poor pro-

viders for themselves. Most of them were young

men, for whom my husband had applied when he

was made a brigadier. His first step after his

promotion was to write home for his schoolmates,

or select aides from his early friends then in

service. It was a comfort, when I found mvself

ORDERED TO TEXAS. -»!

grieving over the parting with my husband’s Divi-

sion, that our mihtary family were to go with us.

At dark we were on the cars, with our faces turned

southward. To General Custer this move had

been unexpected. General Sheridan knew that

he needed little time to decide, so he sent for him

as soon as we encamped at Arlington, after our

march up from Richmond, and asked if he would

like to take command of a division of cavalry on

the Red River in Louisiana, and march throughout

Texas, with the possibility of eventually entering

Mexico. Our Government was just then thinking

it was high time the French knew that if there

was any invasion of Mexico, with an idea of a

complete ” gobbling up ” of that country, the one

to do the seizure, and gather in the spoils was

Brother Jonathan. Very wisely, General Custer

kept this latter part of the understanding why he

was sent South from the ” weepy ” part of his

family. He preferred transportation by steamer,

rather than to be floated southward by floods of

feminine tears. All I knew was, that Texas, hav-

ing been so outside of the limit where the armies

marched and fought, was unhappily unaware that

the war was over, and continued a career of bush-

whacking and lawlessness that was only tolerated

from necessity before the surrender, and must

now cease. It was considered expedient to fit out

32 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

two detachments of cavalry, and start them on a

march through the northern and southern portions

of Texas, as a means of informing that isolated

State that depredations and raids might come to

an end. In my mind, Texas then seemed the

stepping-off place ; but I was indifferent to the

points of the compass, so long as I was not left

behind.

The train in which we set out was crowded

with a joyous, rollicking, irrepressible throng of

discharged officers and soldiers, going home to

make their swords into ploughshares. Every-

body talked with everybody, and all spoke at once.

The Babel was unceasing night and day; there

was not a vein that was not bursting with joy.

The swift blood rushed into the heart and out

again laden with one glad thought. “The war is

over ! ” At the stations, soldiers tumbled out and

rushed into some woman’s waiting arms, while

bands tooted excited welcomes, no one instrument

according with another, because of throats over-

charged already with bursting notes of patriotism

that would not be set music. The customary train

of street gamins, who imitate all parades and

promptly copy the pomp of the circus and other

processions, stepped off in a mimic march, follow-

ing the conquering heroes as they were lost to

our sight down the street, going home.

WELCOMING WOUNDED HEROES.

33

Sometimes the voices of the hilarious crowd at

the station were stilled, and a hush of reverent

silence preceded the careful lifting from the car

of a stretcher bearing a form broken and bleeding

from wounds, willingly borne, that the home to

which he was coming might be unharmed.

Tender women received and hovered lovingly-

over the precious freight, strong arms carried him

away ; and we contrasted the devoted care, the

love that would teach new ways to heal, with the

condition of the poor fellows we had left in the

crowded Washington hospitals, attended only by

strangers. Some of the broken-to-pieces soldiers

were on our train, so deftly mended that they

stumped their way down the platform, and began

their one-legged tramp through life, amidst the loud

huzzas that a maimed hero then received. They

even joked about their misfortunes. I remember

one undaunted fellow, with the fresh color of

buoyant youth beginning again to dye his cheek,

even after the amputation of a leg, which so

depletes the system. He said some grave words

of wisdom to me in such a roguish way, and fol-

lowed up his counsel by adding, ” You ought to

heed such advice from a man with one foot in the

grave.”

We missed all the home-coming, all the glorifi-

cation awarded to the hero. General Custer said

34 TENTING CN THE PLAINS.

no word of regret. He had accepted the offer for

further active service, and gratefully thanked his

chief for giving him the opportunity. I, however,

should have liked to have him get some of the

celebrations that our country was then showering

on its defenders. I missed the bonfires, the pro-

cessions, the public meeting of distinguished citi-

zens, who eloquently thanked the veterans, the

editorials that lauded each townsman’s deed, the

poetry in the corner of the newspaper that was

dedicated to a hero, the overflow of a woman’s

heart singing praise to her military idol. But the

cannon were fired, the drums beat, the music

sounded for all but us. Offices of trust were

offered at once to men coming home to private

life, and towns and cities felt themselves honored

because some one of their number had gone out

and made himself so glorious a name that his very

home became celebrated. He was made the

mayor, or the Congressman, and given a home

which it would have taken him many years of

hard work to earn. Song, story and history have

long recounted what a hero is to a woman. Imagi-

nation pictured to my eye troops of beautiful

women gathering around each gallant soldier on

his return. The adoring eyes spoke admiration,

while the tongue subtly wove, in many a sentence,

its meed of praise. The General and his staff of

THE ”LADIES’ CAR” OF OTHER DAYS.

35

boys, loving and reverencing women, missed what

men wisely count the sweetest of adulation. One

weather-beaten slip of a girl had to do all their

banqueting, cannonading, bonfiring, brass-band-

ing, and general hallelujahs all the way to Texas,

and — yes, even after we got there ; for the South-

ern women, true to their idea of patriotism, turned

their pretty faces away from our handsome fel-

lows, and resisted, for a long time, even the mildest

flirtation.

The drawing-room car was then unthought of

in the minds of those who plan new luxuries, as

our race demand more ease and elegance. There

was a ladies’ car, to which no men unaccompanied

by women were admitted. It was never so full as

the other coaches, and was much cleaner and bet-

ter ventilated.

This was at first a damper to the enjoyment of

a military family, who lost no opportunity of being

together, for it compelled the men to remain in

the other cars. The scamp among us devised a

plan to outwit the brakemen ; he borrowed my

bag just before we were obliged to change cars,

and after waiting till the General and I were safely

seated, boldly walked up and demanded entrance,

on the plea that he had a lady inside. This scheme

worked so well that the others took up the cue,

and my cloak, bag, umbrella, lunch-basket, and

36 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

parcel of books and papers were distributed among^

the rest before we stopped, and were used to ob-

tain entrance into the better car. Even our faith-

ful servant, Eliza, was unexpectedly overwhelmed

with urgent offers of assistance ; for she always

went with us, and sat by the door. This plan was

a great success, in so far as it kept our party to-

gether, but it proved disastrous to me, as the

scamp forgot my bag at some station, and I was

minus all those hundred and one articles that seem

indispensable to a traveler’s comfort. In that plight

I had to journey until, in some merciful detention,,

we had an hour in which to seek out a shop, and

hastily make the necessary purchases.

At one of our stops for dinner we all made the

usual rush for the dining-hall, as in the confusion

of over-laden trains at that excited time it was

necessary to hurry, and, besides, as there were de-

lays and irregularities in traveling, on account of

the home-coming of the troops, we never knew

how long it might be before the next eating-house

was reached. The General insisted upon Eliza’s

going right with us, as no other table was provided.

The proprietor, already rendered indifferent to

people’s comfort by his extraordinary gains, said

there was no table for servants. Eliza, the best-

bred of maids, begged to go back dinnerless into

the car, but the General insisted on her sitting

TWENTY MINUTES FOR A DISTURBED DINNER.

2>7

down between us at the crowded table. A posi-

tion so unusual, and to her so totally out of place,

made her appetite waver, and it vanished entirely

when the proprietor came, and told the General

that no colored folks could be allowed at his table.

My husband quietly replied that he had been ob-

liged to give the woman that place, as the house

had provided no other. The determined man still

stood threateningly over us, demanding her remov-

al, and Eliza uneasily and nervously tried to go.

I trembled, and the fork failed to carry the food,

owing to a very wobbly arm. The General firmly

refused, the staff rose about us, and all along the

table up sprang men we had supposed to be citi-

zens, as they were in the dress of civilians.

“General, stand your ground; we’ll back yo.u; the

woman shall have food.” How little we realize in

these piping times of peace, how great a flame a

little fire kindled in those agitating days. The

proprietor slunk back to his desk; the General and

his hungry staff went on eating as calmly as ever ;

Eliza hung her embarrassed head, and her mistress

idly twirled her useless fork — while the proprietor

made $1.50 clear gain on two women that were too

frightened to swallow a mouthful. I spread a sand-

wich for Eliza, while the General, mindful of the

returning hunger of the terrified woman, and per-

fectly indifferent as to making himself ridiculous

^8 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

with parcels, marched by the infuriated but subdued

bully, with either a whole pie or some such modest

capture in his hand. We had put some hours of

travel between ourselves and the ” twenty-minutes-

for-dinner ” place which came so near being a

battle-ground, before Eliza could eat what we

had brought for her.

I wonder if any one is waiting for me to say

that this incident happened south of the Mason

and Dixon line. It did not. It was in Ohio ; I

don’t remember the place. After all, the memory

over which one complains, when he finds how

little he can recall, has its advantages. It hope-

lessly buries the names of persons and places,,

when one starts to tell tales out of school. It is

like extracting the fangs from a rattlesnake ; the

reptile, like the story, may be very disagreeable,

but I can only hope that a tale unadorned with

names or places is as harmless as a snake with its

poison withdrawn.

I must stop a moment and give our Eliza, on

whom this battle was waged, a little space in this

story, for she occupied no small part in the events

of the six years after ; and when she left us and

took an upward step in life by marrying a colored

lawyer, I could not reconcile myself to the loss ;

and though she has lived through all the grandeur

of a union with a man ” who gets a heap of

ELIZA’S BRONZE TINT. 39

money for his speeches in poUtics, and brass bands

to meet him at the stations, Miss Libbie,” she came

to my little home not long since with tears of joy

illuminating- the bright bronze of her expressive

face. It reminded me so of the first time I knew

that the negro race regarded shades of color as a

distinctive feature, a beauty or a blemish, as it

might be. Eliza stood in front of a bronze

medallion of my husband when it was first sent

from the artist’s in 1865, and amused him hugely,

by saying, in that partnership manner she had in

our affairs, ” Why, Ginnel, it’s jest my color.”

After that, I noticed that she referred to her race

according to the deepness of tint, telling me, with

scorn, of one of her numerous suitors : “Why, Miss

Libbie, he needent think to shine up to me ; he’s

nothing but a black African.” I am thus intro-

ducing Eliza, color and all, that she may not seem

the vague character of other days ; and whoever

chances to meet her will find in her a good war

historian, a modest chronicler of a really self-

denying and courageous life. It was rather a

surprise to me that she was not an old woman

when I saw her again this autumn, after so many

years, but she is not yet fifty. I imagine she did

so much mothering in those days when she com-

forted me in my loneliness, and quieted me in

my frights, that I counted her old even then.

40

TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

Eliza requests that she be permitted to make

her little bow to the reader, and repeat a wish of

hers that I take great pains in quoting her, and

not represent her as saying, ” like field-hands,

whar and thar!’ She says her people in Virginia,

whom she reverences and loves, always taught

her not to say “them words; and if they should

see what I have told you they’d feel bad to think

I forgot.” If whar and thar appear occasion-

ally in my efforts to transfer her literally to these

pages, it is only a lapsus lingtice on her part.

Besides, she has lived North so long now, there

is not that distinctive dialect peculiar to the

Southern servant. In her excitement, narrating

our scenes of danger or pleasure or merriment,

she occasionally drops into expressions that

belonged to her early life. It is the fault of her

historian if these phrases get into print. To me

they are charming, for they are Eliza in undress

uniform — Eliza without her company manners.

She describes her leaving the old plantation dur-

ing war times. ” I jined the Ginnel at Amosville,

Rappahannock County, in August, 1863. Every-

body was excited over freedom, and I wanted to

see how it was. Everybody keeps asking me why

I left. I can’t see why they can’t recollect what

war was for, and that we was all bound to try

and see for ourselves how it was. After the

A CONTRABAND AS COOK.

41

‘Mancipation, everybody was a standin’ up for

liberty, and I wasent goin’ to stay home when

everybody etse was a-goin’. The day I came

into camp, there was a good many other darkies

from all about our place. We was a standin’

round waitin’ when I first seed the Ginnel.

” He and Captain Lyon cum up to me, and the

Ginnel says, ‘ Well, what’s your name ! ‘ I told

him Eliza ; and he says, looking me all over fust,

‘ Well, Eliza, would you like to cum and live with

me ? ‘ I waited a minute, Miss Libbie. I looked

kim all over, too, and finally I sez, ‘I reckon I

would.’ So the bargain was fixed up. But, oh,

how awful lonesome I was at fust, and I was

afraid of everything in the shape of war. I used

to wish myself back on the old plantation with

my mother. I was mighty glad when you cum,

Miss Libbie. Why, sometimes I never sot eyes

on a woman for weeks at a time.”

Eliza’s story of her war life is too long for these

pages ; but in spite of her confession of being so

” ‘fraid,” she was a marvel of courage. She was cap-

tured by the enemy, escaped, and found her way

back after sunset to the General’s camp. She had

strange and narrow escapes. She says, quaintly:

” Well, Miss Libbie, I set in to see the war, begin-

ning and end. There was many niggers that cut

into the cities and huddled up thar, and laid around

42 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

and saw hard times ; but I went to see the end^

and I stuck it out. I alius thought this, that I

didn’t set down to wait to have ’em all free me..

I helped to free myself. I was all ready to step to

the front whenever I was called upon, even if I

didn’t shoulder the musket. Well, I went to the

end, and there’s many folks says that a woman

can’t follow the army without throwing themselves

away, but I know better. I went in, and I cum out

with the respect of the men and the officers.”

Eliza often cooked under fire, and only lately

one of the General’s staff, recounting war days, de-

scribed her as she was preparing the General’s din-

ner in the field. A shell would burst near her; she

would turn her head in anger at being disturbed^

unconscious that she was observed, begin to growl

to herself about being obliged to move, but take

up her kettle and frying-pan, march farther away,,

make a new fire, and begin cooking as unper-

turbed as if it were an ordinary disturbance in-

stead of a sky filled with bits of falling shell. I

do not repeat that polite fiction of having been on

the spot, as neither the artist nor I had Eliza’s grit

or pluck ; but we arranged the camp-kettle, and

Eliza fell into the exact expression, as she volubly

began telling the tale of “how mad those busting

shells used to make her.” It is an excellent like-

ness, even though Eliza objects to the bandanna^

ELIZA COOKING UNDER FIRK.

44 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

which she has abandoned m her new position ;

and I must not forget that I found her one day

turning her head critically from side to side look-

ing at her picture ; and, out of regard to her, will

mention that her nose, of which she is very proud,

is, she fears, a touch too flat in the sketch. She

speaks of her dress as ” completely whittled out

with bullets,” but she would like me to mention

that ” she don’t wear them rags now.”

When Eliza reached New York this past

autumn, she told me, when I asked her to choose

where she would go, as my time was to be entirely

given to her, that she wanted first to go to the

Fifth Avenue Hotel and see if it looked just the

same as it did ” when you was a bride, Miss

Libbie, and the Ginnel took you and me there on

leave of absence.” We went through the halls

and drawing-rooms, narrowly watched by the

major-domo, who stands guard over tramps, but

fortified by my voice, she ” oh’d ” and ” ah’d “

over its grandeur to her heart’s content. One day

I left her in Madison Square, to go on a business

errand, and cautioned her not to stray away.

When I returned, I asked anxiously, “Did any

one speak to you, Eliza ?” ” EveryhoAy, Miss

Libbie,” as nonchalant and as complacent as if it

were her idea of New York hospitality. Then she

begged me to go round the Square, “to hunt a

ELIZA’S DELIGHT OVER THE CITY.

45

lady from Avenue A, who see’d you pass with

me, Miss Libbie, and said she knowed you was a

lady, though I reckon she couldn’t ‘count for me

and you bein’ together.” We found the Avenue

A lady, and I was presented, and to her satisfac-

tion admired the baby that had been brought over

to that blessed breathing-place of our city.

– The Elevated railroad was a surprise to Eliza.

She ” didn’t believe it would be so high.” At that

celebrated curve on the Sixth Avenue line, where

Monsieur de Lesseps even exclaimed, ” Mon Dieu !

but the Americans are a brave people,” the poor

frightened woman clung to me and whispered,

” Miss Libbie, couldn’t we get down any way ?

Miss Libbie, I’se seed enough. I can tell the folks at

home all about it nozu. Oh, I never did ‘spect to

be so near heaven till I went up for good.”

At the Brooklyn Bridge she demurred. She is

so intelligent that I wanted to have her see the

shipping, the wharves, the harbor, and the Statue

of Liberty; but nothing kept her from flight save

her desire to tell her townspeople that she had

seen the place where the crank jumped off. The

policeman, in answer to my inquiry, commanded

us in martial tones to stay still till he said the word ;

and when the wagon crossing passed the spot, and

the maintainer of the peace said ” Now ! ” Eliza

shivered, and whispered, ”Now, let’s go home, Miss

46 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

Libbie. I dun took the cullud part of the town fo’

I come ; the white folks hain’t seen what I has,

and they’ll be took when I tell ’em ; ” and off she

toddled, for Eliza is not the slender woman I once

knew her.

Her description of the Wild West exhibition was

most droll. I sent her down because we had lived

through so many of the scenes depicted, and I felt

sure that nothing would recall so vividly the life on

the frontier as that most realistic and faithful rep-

resentation of a western life that has ceased to be,

with advancing civilization. She went to Mr.

Cody’s tent after the exhibition, to present my

card of introduction, for he had served as General

Caster’s scout after Eliza left us, and she was,

therefore, unknown to him except by hearsay.

They had twenty subjects in common ; for Eliza,

in her way, was as deserving of praise as was the

courageous Cody. She was delighted with all

she saw, and on her return, her description of it,

mingled with imitations of the voices of the haw-

kers and the performers, was so incoherent that it

presented only a confused jumble to my ears. The

buffalo were a surprise, a wonderful revival to her

of those hunting-days when our plains were dark-

ened by the herds. “When the buffalo cum in, I

was ready to leap up and holler. Miss Libbie ;

it ‘minded me of ole times. They made me

A VISIT TO THE ‘< WILD WEST.” 47

think of the fifteen the Ginnel fust struck In Kansas.

He jest pushed down his ole hat, and and went

after ’em linkety-cHnk. Well, Miss Libbie, when

Mr. Cody come up, I see at once his back and hips

was built precisely like the Ginnel, and when I

come on to his tent, I jest said to him : ‘ Mr. Buf-

falo Bill, when you cum up to the stand and

wheeled round, I said to myself, ” Well, if he ain’t

the ‘spress image of Ginnel Custer in battle, I never

seed any one that was.” I jest wish he’d come to

my town and give a show ! He could have the

hull fair-ground there. My! he could raise money

so fast t’wouldn’t take him long to pay for a church.

And the shootin’ and ridin’ ! why, Miss Libbie,

when I seed one of them ponies brought out, I

know’d he was one of the hatefullest, sulkiest ponies

that ever lived. He was a-prancin’ and curvin’,

and he just stretched his ole neck and throwed the

men as fast as ever they got on.”

After we had strolled through the streets for

many days, Eliza always amusing me by her droll

comments, she said to me one day: “Miss Libbie,

you don’t take notice, when me and you’s walking

on a-lookin’ into shop-windows, and a-gazin’ at

the new things I never see before, how the folks

does stare at us. But I see ’em a-gazin’, and

I can see ’em a-ponderin’ and sayin’ to theirsel’s,

‘Well, I do declar’! that’s a lady, there ain’t no

48 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

manner of doubt. She’s one of the bong tong ;

but whatever she’s a-doin’ with that old scrub

nigger, I can’t make out.’ ” I can hardly express

what a recreation and delight it was to go about

with this humorous woman and listen to her com-

ments, her unique criticisms, her grateful delight,

when she turned on the street to say: “Oh, what

a good time me and you is having, Miss Libbie,

and Jiow I will ‘stonish them people at home ! ‘^

The best of it all was the manner in which she

brought back our past, and the hundred small events

we recalled, which were made more vivid by the

imitation of voice, walk, gesture, she gave in

speaking of those we followed in the old march-

ing days.

On this journey to Texas some accident hap-

pened to our engine, and detained us all night. We

campaigners, accustomed to all sorts of unexpected

inconveniences, had learned not to mind discom-

forts. Each officer sank out of sight into his

great-coat collar, and slept on by the hour, while I

slumbered till morning, curled up in a heap, thank-

ful to have the luxury of one seat to myself. We

rather gloried over the citizens who tramped up

and down the aisle, groaning and becoming more

emphatic in their language as the night advanced,

indulging in the belief that the women were too-

sound asleep to hear them. I wakened enough ta

A SUBTERFUGE TO OBTAIN COMFORT.

49

hear one old man say, fretfully, and with many ad-

jectives : “Just see how those army folks sleep;

they can tumble down anywhere, while I am so

lame and sore, from the cramped-up place I am in,

I can’t even doze.” As morning came we noticed

our scamp at the other end of the car, with his legs

stretched comfortably on the seat turned over in

front of him. All this unusual luxury he accounted

for afterward, by telling us the trick that his inge-

nuity had suggested to obtain more room. “You

see,” the wag said, “two old codgers sat down in

front of my pal and me, late last night, and went

on counting up their gains in the rise of corn, owing

to the war, which, to say the least, was harrowmg

to us poor devils who had fought the battles that

had made them rich and left us without a ‘ red.’

I concluded, if that was all they had done for their

country, two of its brave defenders had more of a

right to the seat than they had. I just turned

to H and began solemnly to talk about what

store I set by my old army coat, then on the seat

they occupied ; said I couldn’t give it up, though I

had been obliged to cover a comrade who had died

of small-pox, I not being afraid of contagion, having

had varioloid. Well, I got that far when the eyes

of the old galoots started out of their heads, and

they vamoosed the ranche, I can tell you, and I

saw them peering through the window at the end

^O TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

of the next car, the horror still in their faces.” The

General exploded with merriment. How strange

it seems, to contrast those noisy, boisterous times,

when everybody shouted with laughter, called

loudly from one end of the car to the other, told

stories for the whole public to hear, and sang war-

songs, with the quiet, orderly travelers of nowa-

days, who, even in the tremor of meetmg or part-

ing, speak below their breath, and, ashamed of

emotion, quickly wink back to its source the pre-

historic tear.

We bade good-by to railroads at Louisville, and

the journeying south was then made by steamer.

How peculiar it seemed to us, accustomed as we

were to lake craft with deep hulls, to see for the

first time those flat-bottomed boats drawing so lit-

tle water, with several stories, and upper decks

loaded with freight. I could hardly rid myself of

the fear that, being* so top-heavy, we would blow-

over. The tempests of our western lakes were

then my only idea of sailing weather. Then the

long, sloping levees, the preparations for the rise

of water, the strange sensation, when the river was

high, of looking over the embankment, down

upon the earth ! It is a novel feeling to be for the

first time on a great river, with such a current as

the Mississippi flowing on above the level of the

plantations, hemmed in by an embankment ori

”BURYING A DEAD MAN:’

51

either side. Though we saw the manner of its

construction at one point where the levee was be-

ing repaired, and found how firmly and substan-

tially the earth was fortified with stone and logs

against the river, it still seemed to me an un-

natural sort of voyaging to be above the level of

the ground ; and my tremors on the subject, and

other novel experiences, were instantly made use

of as a new and fruitful source of practical jokes.

For instance, the steamer bumped into the shore

anywhere it happened to be wooded, and an army

of negroes appeared, running over the gang-plank

like ants. Sometimes at night the pine torches,

and the resinous knots burning in iron baskets

slung over the side of the boat, made a weird and

gruesome sight, the shadows were so black, the

streams of light so intense, while the hurrying

negroes loaded on the wood, under the brutal voice

of a steamer’s mate. Once a negro fell in. They

made a pretense of rescuing him, gave it up soon,

and up hurried our scamp to the upper deck to

tell me the horrible tale. He had good command

of language, and allowed no scruples to spoil a

story After that I imagined, at every night

wood-lading, some poor soul was swept down

under the boat and off into eternity. The General

was sorry for me, and sometimes, when I imagined

the calls of the crew to be the despairing wail of a

52 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

dying man, he made pilgrimages, for my sake, to

the lower deck to make sure that no one was

drowned. My imaginings were not always so re-

spected, for the occasion gave too good an oppor-

tunity for a joke, to be passed quietly by. The

scamp and my husband put their heads together

soon after this, and prepared a tale for the ” old

lady,” as they called me. As we were about to

make a landing, they ran to me and said, ” Come,

Libbie, hurry up ! hurry up ! You’ll miss the fun

if you don’t scrabble.” “Miss what?” was my

very natural question, and exactly the reply they

wanted me to make. “Why, they’re going to

bury a dead man when we land.” I exclaimed in

horror, ” Another man drowned ? how can you

speak so irreverently of death?” With a ” do you

suppose the mate cares for one nigger more or

less ?” they dragged me to the deck. There I saw

the great cable which was used to tie us up, fast-

ened to a strong spar, the two ends of which were

buried in the bank. The ground was hollowed

out underneath the centre, and the rope slipped

under to fasten it around the log. After I had

watched this process of securing our boat to the

shore, these irrepressibles said, solemnly, ” The

sad ceremony is now ended, and no other will take

place till we tie up at the next stop.” When it

dawned upon me that ” tying up ” was called, in

A MISSISSIPPI STEAMER.

53

steamer vernacular, ” burying- a dead man.” my

eyes returned to their proper place in the sockets,

breath came back, and indignation filled my soul.

Language deserts us at such moments, and I re-

sorted to force. As there was no one near, a few

well-deserved thumps were rained down on the

yellow head of the commanding officer, who bore

this merited punishment quite meekly, only sug-

gesting that the next time the avenger felt called

upon to administer such telling whacks, it might

be done with the hand on which there were no

rings.

The Ruth was accounted one of the largest and

most beautiful steamers that had ever been on the

Mississippi River, her expenses being $i,ooo a day.

The decorations were sumptuous, and we enjoyed

every luxury. We ate our dinners to very good

music, which the boat furnished. We had been on

plain fare too long not to watch with eagerness

the arrival of the procession of white-coated negro

waiters, who each day came in from the pastry-

cook with some new device in cake, ices, or con-

fectionery. There was a beautiful Ruth gleaning

in a field, in the painting that filled the semicircle

over the entrance of the cabin. Ruths with

sheaves held up the branches of the chandeliers,

while the pretty gleaner looked out from the glass

of the stateroom doors. The captain being very

54

TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

patient as well as polite, we pervaded every cor-

ner of the great boat. The General and his boy-

soldiers were too accustomed to activity to be

quiet in the cabin. Even that unapproachable

man at the wheel yielded to our longing eyes, and

let us into his round tower. Oh, how good he was

to me ! The General took me up there, and the

pilot made a place for us, where, with my bit of

work, I listened for hours to his stories. My hus-

band made fifty trips up and down, sometimes de-

tained when we were nearingan interesting point,

to hear the story of the crevasse. Such tales were

thrilling enough even for him, accustomed as he

then was to the most exciting scenes. The pilot

pointed out places where the river, wild with the

rush and fury of spring freshets, had burst its way

through the levees, and, sweeping over a penin-

sula, returned to the channel beyond, utterly an-

nihilating and sinking out of sight forever the

ground where happy people had lived on their

plantations. It was a sad time to take that jour-

ney, and even in the midst of our intense enjoy-

ment of the novelty of the trip, the freedom from

anxiety, and the absence of responsibility of any

kind, I recall how the General grieved over the

destruction of plantations by the breaks in the

levee. The work on these embankments was done

by assessment, I think. They were cared for as

BREAKING OF A LEVEE, 55

our roads and bridges are kept in order, and when

men were absent in the war, only the negroes were

left to attend to the repairing. But the inunda-

tions then were slight, compared with many from

which the State has since suffered. In 1874 thirty

parishes were either wholly or partly overflowed

by an extraordinary rise in the river. On our trip

we saw one plantation after another submerged,

the grand old houses abandoned, and standing in

lakes of water, while the negro quarters and barns

were almost out of sight. Sometimes the cattle

huddled on a little rise of ground, helpless and

pitiful. We wished, as we used to do in that

beautiful Shenandoah Valley, that if wars must

come, the devastation of homes might be avoided.

And I usually added, with one of the totally im-

practicable suggestions conjured up by a woman,

that battles might be fought in desert places.

A Southern woman who afterward entertained

us, described, in the graphic and varied language

which is their gift, the breaking of the levee on

their own plantation. How stealthily the small

stream of water crept on and on, until their first

warning was its serpent-like progress past their

house. Then the excitement and rush of all the

household to the crevasse, the hasty gathering in

of the field -hands, and the homely devices for

stopping the break until more substantial materials

56 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

could be gathered. It was a race for life on all

sides. Each one, old or young, knew that his

safety depended on the superhuman effort of the

first hour of danger. In our safe homes we scarcely

realize what it would be to look out from our win-

dows upon, what seemed to me, a small and insuf-

ficient mound of earth stretching along the front-

age of an estate, and know that it was our only

rampart against a rushing flood, which seemed

human in its revengeful desire to engulf us.

The General was intensely interested in those

portions of the country where both naval and land

warfare had been carried on. At Island No. 10

and Fort Pillow especially, there seemed, even then,

no evidence that fighting had gone on so lately.

The luxuriant vegetation of the South had covered

the fortifications ; nature seemed hastening to

throw a mantle over soil that had so lately been

reddened with such a precious dye. The fighting

had been so desperate at the latter point, it is

reported the Confederate General Forrest said :

” The river was dyed with the blood of the

slaughtered for two hundred yards.”

At one of our stops on the route, the Confederate

General Hood came on board, to go to a town a

short distance below, and my husband, hearing he

was on the boat, hastened to seek him out and in-

troduce himself. Such reunions have now become

A FEDERAL AATD COMFEDERA TE GEiVERAL MEET.

57

common, I am thankful to say, but I confess to

watching curiously every expression of those men,

as it seemed very early, in those times of excited

and vehement conduct, to begin such overtures.

And yet I did not forget that my husband sent

messages of friendship to his classmates on the

other side, throughout the war. As I watched this

meeting, they looked, while they grasped each

other’s hand, as if they were old-time friends

happily united. After they had carried on an ani-

mated conversation for a while, my husband,

always thinking how to share his enjoyment, hur-

ried to bring me into the group. General Custer

had already taught me, even in those bitter times,

that he knew his classmates fought from their con-

victions of right, and that, now the war was over,

I must not be adding fuel to a fire that both sides

should strive to smother.

General Hood was tall, fair, dignified and sol-

dierly. He used his crutch with difficulty, and it

was an effort for him to rise when I was presented.

We three instantly resumed the war-talk that my

coming had interrupted. The men plied each

other with questions as to the situation of troops at

certain engagements, and the General fairly bom-

barded General Hood with inquiries about the

action on their side in different campaigns. At

that time nothing had been written for Northern

5^ TENTim ON THE PLAINS.

papers and magazines by the South. All we knew

was from the brief accounts in the Southern news-

papers that our pickets exchanged, and from papers

captured or received from Europe by way of

blockade-runners. We were greatly amused by

the comical manner in which General Hood de-

scribed his efforts to suit himself to an artificial leg,

after he had contributed his own to his beloved

cause. In his campaigns he was obliged to carry

an extra one, in case of accident to the one he

wore, which was strapped to his led horse. He

asked me to picture the surprise of the troops who

captured all the reserve horses at one time, and

found this false leg of his suspended from the

saddle. He said he had tried five, at different

times, to see which of the inventions was lightest

and easiest to wear; ” and I am obliged to confess,

Mrs. Custer, much as you may imagine it goes

against me to do so, that of the five — English,

German, French, Yankee and Confederate — the

Yankee leg was the best of all.” When General

Custer carefully helped the maimed hero down

the cabin stairs and over the gangway, we bade

him good-by with real regret — so quickly do sol-

diers make and cement a friendship when both

find the same qualities to admire in each other.

The novelty of Mississippi travel kept even our

active, restless party interested. One of our

CROSSIA’G SAND BARS.

59

number played guitar accompaniments, and we

sang choruses on deck at night, forgetting that the

war-songs might grate on the ears of some of the

people about us. The captain and steamer’s crew

allowed us to roam up and down the boat at will,

and when we found, by the map or crew, that we

were about to touch the bank in a hitherto un-

visited State, we were the first to run over the

gang-plank and caper up and down the soil, to add

a new State to our fast-swelling list of those in

which we had been. We rather wondered, though,

what we would do if asked questions by our

elders at home as to what we thought of Arkansas,

Mississippi and Tennessee, as we had only scam-

pered on and off the river-bank of those States

while the wooding went on. We were like chil-

dren let out of school, and everything interested us.

Even the low water was an event. The sudden

stop of our great steamer, which, large as it was,

drew but a few feet of water, made the timbers

groan and the machinery creak. Then we took

ourselves to the bow, where the captain, mate and

deck-hands were preparing for a siege, as the force

of the engines had ploughed us deep into a sand-

bar. There was wrenching, veering and strug-

gling of the huge boat ; and at last a resort to

those two spars which seem to be so uselessly at-

tached to each side of the forward deck of the

6o TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

river steamers. These were swung- out and

plunged into the bank, the rope and tackle put

into use, and with the aid of these stilts we were

skipped over the sand-bar into the deeper water.

It was on that journey that I first heard the

name Mr. Clemens took as his noni deplume.

The droning voice of the sailor taking soundings,

as we slowly crept through low water, called out,

” Mark twain !” and the pilot answered by steer-

ing the boat according to the story of the plumb-

line.

The trip on a Mississippi steamer, as we knew

it, is now one of the things of the past. It was

accounted then, and before the war, our most luxu-

rious mode of travel. Every one was sociable,

and in the constant association of the long trip,

some warm friendships sprung up. We had then

our first acquaintance with Bostonians as well as

with Southerners. Of course, it was too soon for

Southern women, robbed of home, and even the

necessities of life, by the cruelty of war, to be

wholly cordial. We were more and more amazed

at the ignorance in the South concerning the

North. A young girl, otherwise intelligent, thawed

out enough to confess to me that she had really no

idea that Yankee soldiers were like their own

physically. She imagined they would be as

widely different as black from white, and a sort

RIVER SCENERY 6 1

of combination of gorilla and chimpanzee. Gun-

boats had but a short time before moored at the

levee that bounded her grandmother’s plantation,

and the negroes ran into the house crying the ter-

rible news of the approach of the enemy. The

very thought of a Yankee was abhorrent ; but the

girl, more absorbed with curiosity than fear, slip-

ped out of the house to where a view of the walk

from the landing was to be had, and, seeing a

naval officer approaching, raced back to her grand-

mother, crying out in surprise at finding a being

like unto her own people, “Why, it’s a man.”

As we approached New Orleans, the plantations

grew richer. The palmetto and the orange, by

which we are ” twice blessed ” in its simultaneous

blossom and fruit ; the oleander, treasured in con-

servatories at home, here growing to tree size

along the country roads, all charmed us. The wide

galleries around the two stories of the houses were

a delight. The course of our boat was often near

enough the shore for us to see the family gathered

around the supper-table spread on the upper gal-

lery, which was protected from the sun by blinds,

or shades of matting.

We left the steamer at New Orleans with

regret. It seems, even now, that it is rather too

bad we have grown into so hurried a race that

we cannot spare the time to travel as leisurely

62 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

or luxuriously as we then did. Even pleasure-

seekers going off for a tour, when they are

not restricted by time nor mode of journeying,

study the time-tables closely, to see by which

route the quickest passage can be made.

CHAPTER II.

NEW ORLEANS AFTER THE WAR GENERAL WINFIELD

SCOTT UP RED RIVER — ^THE SKILL OF THE PILOTS

OUR ROMANTIC LOVER AT ALEXANDRIA A

NEGRO PRAYER-MEETING CONFEDERATE FORTS

QUICKSANDS ALLIGATOR HUNTING.

A^T’E v^^ere detained, by orders, for a little time

in New Orleans, and the General was enthu-

siastic over the city. All day we strolled through

the streets, visiting the French quarter, contrasting

the foreign shop-keepers, who were never too

hurried to be polite with our brusque business-like

Northern clerk, dined in the charming French

restaurants, where we saw eating made a fine art.

The sea-food was then new to me, and I hovered

over the crabs, lobsters and shrimps, but remem-

ber how amused the General was by my quick re-

treat from a huge green live turtle, whose locomo-

tion was suspended by his being turned upon his

back. He was unconsciously bearing his own

epitaph fastened upon his shell : ” I will be served

up for dinner at 5 p. m. We of course spent hours,

even matutinal hours, at the market, and the Gen^

63

64 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

eral drank so much coffee that the old mammy

who served him said many a ” Mon Dieu !” in sur-

prise at his capacity, and volubly described in

French to her neighbors what marvels a Yankee

man could do in coffee-sipping. For years after,

when very good coffee was praised, or even Eliza’s

strongly commended, his ne plus tdtra was,

” Almost equal to the French market.” We here

learned what artistic effects could be produced

with prosaic carrots, beets, onions and turnips.

The General looked with wonder upon the leis-

urely Creole grandee who came to order his own

dinner. After his epicurean selection, he showed

the interest and skill that a Northern man might

in the buying of a picture or a horse, when the

servant bearing the basket was entrusted with

what was to be enjoyed at night. We had never

known men that took time to market, except as

our hurried Northern fathers of families sometimes

made sudden raids upon the butcher, on the way

to business, and called off an order as they ran

for a car.

The wide-terraced Canal Street, with its throng

of leisurely promenaders, was our daily resort.

The stands of Parma violets on the street corners

perfumed the whole block, and the war seemed

not even to have cast a cloud over the first

foreign pleasure-loving people we had seen. The

DE TENTION AT NEW ORLEANS. 6 5

General was so pleased with the picturesque cos-

tumes of the servants, that Eliza was put into a

turban at his entreaty. In vain we tried for a

glimpse of the Creole beauties. The duenna that

guarded them in their rare promenades, as they

glided by, wearing gracefully the lace mantilla,

bonnetless, and shaded by a French parasol,

whisked the pretty things out of sight, quick as

we were to discover and respectfully follow them

The effects of General Butler’s reign were still

visible in the marvelous cleanliness of the city.

We drove on the shell road, spent hours in the

horse-cars, went to the theatres, and even pene-

trated the rooms of the most exclusive milliners,

for General Custer liked the shops as much as I

did. Indeed, we had a grand play-day, and were

not in the least troubled at our detention.

General Scott was then in our hotel, about to set

out for the North. He remembered Lieutenant

Custer, who had reported to him in 1861, and was

the bearer of despatches sent by him to the front;

and he congratulated my husband on his career m

terms that, coming from such a veteran, made his

boy-heart leap for joy. General Scott was then

very infirm, and, expressing a wish to see me, with

old-time gallantry begged my husband to explain

to me that he would be compelled to claim the

privilege of sitting. But it was too much for his

66 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

etiquettical instincts, and, weak as he was, he fee-

bly drew his tall form to a half-standing position,

leaning against the lounge as I entered. Pictures

of General Scott, in my father’s home, belonged

to my earliest recollections. He was a colossal

figure on a fiery steed, whose prancing fore feet

never touched the earth. The Mexican War had

hung a halo about him, and my childish explana-

tion of the clouds of dust that the artist sought to

represent was the smoke of battle, in which I sup-

posed the hero lived perpetually. And now this

decrepit, tottering man — I was almost sorry to

have seen him at all, except for the praise that he

bestowed upon my husband, which, coming from

so old a soldier, I deeply appreciated.

General Sheridan had assumed command of the

Department of the Mississippi, and the Govern-

ment had hired a beautiful mansion for headquar-

ters, where he was at last living handsomely after

all his rough campaigning. When we dined with

him, we could but contrast the food prepared over

a Virginia camp-fire, with the dainty French cook-

ery of the old colored Mary, who served him after-

ward so many years. General Custer was, of

course, glad to be under his chief again, and after

dinner, while I was given over to some of the

military family to entertain, the two men, sitting

on the wide gallery, talked of what, it was then

THE END OF A CITY HOLIDAY. 67

believed, would be a campaign across the border.

I was left in complete ignorance, and did not even

know that an army of 70,000 men was being or-

ganized under General Sheridan’s masterly hand.

My husband read the Eastern papers to me, and

took the liberty of reserving such articles as might

prove incendiary in his family. If our incorrigible

scamp spoke of the expected wealth he intended

to acquire from the sacking of palaces and the

spoils of churches, he was frowned upon, not only

because the General tried to teach him that there

were some subjects too sacred tp be touched by

his irreverent tongue, but because he did not wish

my anxieties to be aroused by the prospect of an-

other campaign. As much of my story must be

of the hardships my husband endured, I have here

lingered a little over the holiday that our journey

and the detention in New Orleans gave him. I

hardly think any one can recall a complaint of his

in those fourteen years of tent-life ; but he was

taught, through deprivations, how to enjoy every

moment of such days as that charming journey

and city experience gave us.

The steamer chartered to take troops up the Red

River was finally ready, and we sailed the last

week in June. There were horses and Government

freight on board. The captain was well named

Greathouse, as he greeted us with hospitality and

68 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

put his little steamer at our disposal. Besides

the fact that this contract for transportation would

line his pockets well, he really seemed glad to

have us. He was a Yankee, and gave us his na-

tive State (Indiana) in copious and inexhaustible

supplies, as his contribution to the talks on deck.

Long residence in the South had not dimmed his

patriotism ; and in the rapid transits from deck to

pilot-house, of this tall Hoosier, I almost saw the

straps fastening down the trousers of Brother

Jonathan, as well as the coat-tails cut from the

American flag, so entirely did he personate in his

figure our emblematic Uncle Sam, It is customary

for the Government to defray the expenses of offi-

cers and soldiers when traveling under orders ;

but so much red-tape is involved that they often

pay their own way at the time, and the quarter-

master reimburses them at the journey’s end.

The captain knew this, and thought he would

give himself the pleasure of having us as his

guests. Accordingly, he took the General one

side, and imparted this very pleasing information.

Even with the provident ones this would be a

relief; while we had come on board almost wrecked

in our finances by the theatre, the tempting flow-

ers, the fascinating restaurants, and finally, a dis-

astrous lingering one day in the beguiling shop of

Madam Olympe, the reigning milliner. The Gen-

HOSPITALITY OF CAPTAIN GREATIIOUSE. 69

eral had boug-ht some folly for me, in spite of the

heroic protest that I made about its inappropriate-

ness for Texas, and it left us just enough to pay for

our food on our journey, provided we ordered

nothing extra, and had no delays. Captain Great-

house little knew to what paupers he was extend-

ing his hospitality. No one can comprehend how

carelessly and enjoyably army people can walk

about with empty pockets, knowing that it is but

a matter of thirty days’ waiting till Richard shall

be himself again. My husband made haste to

impart the news quietly to the staff, that the

captain was going to invite them all to be his

guests, and so relieve their anxiety about financial

embarrassment. The scamp saw a chance for a

joke, and when the captain again appeared he

knew that he was going to receive the invitation,

and anticipated it. In our presence he jingled

the last twenty-six cents he had in the world

against the knife in his almost empty pockets,

assumed a Croesus-like air, and begged to know

the cost of the journey, as he loftily said he made

it a rule always to pay in advance. At this, the

General, unable to smother his laughter, precipitat-

ed himself out of the cabin-door, nearly over the

narrow guard, to avoid having his merriment

seen. When the captain said blandly that he was

about to invite our party to partake of his hospital-

JO

TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

ity, our scamp bowed, and accepted the courtesy

as if it were condescension on his part, and pro-

ceeded to take possession, and almost command,

of the steamer.

It was a curious trip, that journey up the Red

River. We saw the dull brownish-red water from

the clay bed and banks mingling with the clearer

current of the Mississippi long before we entered

the mouth of the Red River. We had a delight-

ful journey ; but I don’t know why, except that

youth, health and buoyant spirits rise superior to

everything. The river was ugliness itself. The

tree trunks, far up, were gray and slimy with the

late freshet, the hanging moss adding a dismal

feature to the scene. The waters still covered the

low, muddy banks strewn with fallen trees and

underbrush. The river was very narrow in places,

and in our way there were precursors of the Red

River raft above. At one time, before Govern-

ment work was begun, the raft extended forty-

five miles beyond Shreveport, and closed the

channel to steamers. Sometimes the pilot wound

us round just such obstructions — logs and drift-

wood jammed in so firmly, and so immovable,

they looked like solid ground, while rank vegeta-

tion sprung up through the thick moss that cov-

ered the decaying tree trunks. The river was

very crooked, The whistle screeched when ap-

RED RIVER OF THE SOUTH. 71

preaching a turn ; but so sudden were some of

these, that a steamer coming down, not slacken-

ing speed, almost ran into us at one sharp bend.

It shaved our sides and set our boat a-quivering,

while the vituperations of the boat’s crew, and the

loud, angry voices of the captain and pilot, with

a prompt return of such civilities from the other

steamer, made us aware that emergencies brought

forth a special and extensive set of invectives, re-

served for careless navigation on the Red River

of the South. We grew to have an increasing

respect for the skill of the pilot, as he steered us

around sharp turns, across low water filled with

branching upturned tree trunks, and skillfully

took a narrow path between the shore and a snag

that menacingly ran its black point out of the

water. A steamer in advance of us, carrying

troops, had encountered a snag, while going at

great speed, and the obstructing tree ran entirely

through the boat, coming out at the pilot-house.

The troops were unloaded and taken up after-

ward by another steamer. Sometimes the roots

of great forest trees, swept down by a freshet,

become imbedded in the river, and the whole

length of the trunk is under water, swaying up

and down, but not visible below the turbid sur-

face. The forest is dense at some points, and we

could see but a short distance as we made our

circuitous, dangerous way.

72

TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

The sand-bars, and the soft red clay of the river-

banks, were a fitting home for the alligators that

lay sunning themselves, or sluggishly crawled into

the stream as the General popped away at them

with his rifle from the steamer’s guards. They

were new game, and gave some fresh excitement

to the long, idle days. He never gave up trying,

in his determined way, for the vulnerable spot in

their hide just behind the eye. I thought the

sand-hill crane must have first acquired its tiresome

habit of standing on one leg, from its disgust at

letting down the reserve foot into such thick,

noisome water. It seemed a pity that some of

those shots from the steamer’s deck had not

ended its melancholy existence. Through all this

mournful river-way the guitar twanged, and the

dense forest resounded to war choruses or old

college glees that we sent out in happy notes as

we sat on deck. I believe Captain Greathouse

bade us good-by with regret, as he seemed to

enjoy the jolly party, and when we landed at

Alexandria he gave us a hogshead of ice, the last

we were to see for a year.

A house abandoned by its owners, and used by

General Banks for headquarters during the war,

was selected for our temporary home. As we

stepped upon the levee, a tall Southerner came

toward me and extended his hand. At that time

MEMORIES OF CHILDHOOD REVIVED. 73

the citizens were not wont to welcome the Yankee

in that manner. He had to tell me who he was,

as unfortunately I had forgotten, and I began

to realize the truth of the saying, that ” there are

but two hundred and fifty people in the world,”

when I found an acquaintance in this isolated town.

He proved to be the only Southerner I had ever

known in my native town in Michigan, who came

there when a lad to visit kinsfolk. In those days

his long black hair, large dark eyes and languish-

ing manner, added to the smooth, soft-flowing,

flattering speeches, made sad havoc in our school-

girl ranks. I suppose the youthful and probably

susceptible hearts of our circle were all set flutter-

ing, for the boy seemed to find pleasure in a chat

with any one of us that fell to him in our walks

to and from school. The captivating part of it all

was the lines written on the pages of my arith-

metic, otherwise so odious to me — ” Come with

me to my distant home, where, under soft South-

ern skies, we’ll breathe the odor of orange groves.”

None of us had answered to his ” Come,” possibly

because of the infantile state of our existence,

possibly because the invitation was too general.

And here stood our youthful hero, worn prema-

turely old and shabby after his four years of

fighting for ” the cause.” The boasted ” halls of

his ancestors,” the same to which we had been so

74 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

ardently invited, were a plain white cottage. No

orange groves, but a few lime-trees sparsely scat-

tered over the prescribed lawn. In the pleasant

visit that we all had, there was discreet avoidance

of the poetic license he had taken in early years,

when describing his home under the southern sky.

Alexandria had been partly burned during

the war, and was built up mostly with one-story

cottages. Indeed, it was always the popular

mode of building there. We found everything

a hundred years behind the times. The houses of

our mechanics at home had more conveniences

and modern improvements. I suppose the retinue

of servants before the war rendered the inhabi-

tants indifferent to what we think absolutely

necessary for comfort. The house we used as

headquarters had large, lofty rooms separated by a

wide hall, while in addition there were two wings.

A family occupied one-half of the house, caring

for it in the absence of the owners. In the six

weeks we were there, we never saw them, and

naturally concluded they were not filled with joy

at our presence. The house was delightfully airy ;

but we took up the Southern custom of living on

the gallery. The library was still intact, in spite

of its having been headquarters for our army; and

evidently the people had lived in what was

considered luxury for the South in its former

A WATER FAMINE.

75

days, yet everything” was primitive enough.

This great house, filled as it once was with serv-

ants, had its sole water-supply from two tanks

or cisterns above-ground at the rear. The rich

and the poor were alike dependent upon these

receptacles, for water; and it was not a result

of the war, for this was the only kind of res-

ervoir provided, even in prosperous times. But

one well was dug in Alexandria, as the water was

brackish and impure. Each house, no matter how

small, had cisterns, sometimes as high as the

smaller cottages themselves. The water in those

where we lived was very low, the tops were

uncovered, and dust, leaves, bugs and flies were

blown in, while the cats strolled around the upper

rim during their midnight orchestral overtures.

We found it necessary to husband the fast lower-

ing water, as the rains were over for the summer.

The servants were enjoined to draw out the

home-made plug (there was not even a Yankee

faucet) with the utmost care, while some one was

to keep vigilant watch on a cow, very advanced

in cunning, that used to come and hook at the

plug till it was loosened and fell out. The sound

of flowing water was our first warning of the

precious wasting. No one could drink the river-

water, and even in our ablutions we turned our

eyes away as we poured the water from the pitcher

76 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

into the bowl. Our rain-water Vv-as so full of

gallinippers and poUywogs, that a glass stood by

the plate untouched until the sediment and nat-

ural history united at the bottom, while heaven

knows what a microscope, had we possessed one,

would have revealed !

Eliza was well primed with stories of alligators

by the negroes and soldiers, who loved to frighten

her. One measuring thirteen feet eight inches was

killed on the river-bank, they said, as he was about

to partake of his favorite supper, a negro sleep-

ing on the sand. It was enough for Eliza when

she heard of this preference for those of her

color, and she duly stampeded. She was not well

up in the habits of animals, and having seen the

alligators crawling over the mud of the river banks,

she believed they were so constituted that at night

they could take long tramps over the country.

She used to assure me that she nightly heard them

crawling around the house. One night, when some

fearful sounds issued from the cavernous depths

of the old cistern, she ran to one of the old negroes

of the place, her carefully braided wool rising from

her head in consternation, and called out, “Jest

listen ! jest listen!” The old mammy quieted her

by, ” Oh la, honey, don’t you be skeart ; nothin’s

goin’ to hurt you ; them’s only bull-toads.” This

information, though it quieted Eliza’s fears, did

THE SOTTTITERiV CALLLVTPPER.

77

not make the cistern-water any more enjoyable

to us.

The houses along Red River were raised from

the ground on piles, as the soil was too soft and

porous for cellars. Before the fences were de-

stroyed and the place fell into dilapidation, there

might hav6 been a lattice around the base of the

building, but now it was gone. Though this open

space under the house gave vent for what air was

stirring, it also offered free circulation to pigs, that

ran grunting and squealing back and forth, and

even the calves sought its grateful shelter from

the sun and flies. And, oh, the mosquitoes! Others

have exhausted adjectives in trying to describe

them, and until I came to know those of the Mis-

souri River at Fort Lincoln, Dakota, I joined in

the general testimony, that the Red River of the

South could not be outdone. The bayous about

us, filled with decaying vegetable matter, and

surrounded with marshy ground, and the frequent

rapid fall of the river, leaving banks of mud, all

bred mosquitoes, or gallinippers, as the darkies

called them. Eliza took counsel as to the best

mode of extermination, and brought old kettles

with raw cotton into our room, from which pro-

ceeded such smudges and such odors as would

soon have wilted a Northern mosquito ; but it only

resulted in making us feel like a piece of dried

78

TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

meat hanging in a smoke-house, while the undis-

turbed insect winged its way about our heads,

singing as it swirled and dipped and plunged its

javelin into our defenseless flesh. There were days

there, as at Fort Lincoln, when the wind, blowing

in a certain direction, brought such myriads of

them that I was obliged to beat a retreat under

the netting that enveloped the high, broad bed,

which is a specialty of the extreme South, and

with my book, writing or sewing listened triumph-

antly to the clamoring army beating on the out-

side of the bars. The General made fun of me

thus enthroned, when he returned from office

work ; but I used to reply that he could afford fo

remain unprotected, if the greedy creatures could

draw their sustenance from his veins without leav-

ing a sting.

At the rear of our house were two rows of

negro quarters, which Eliza soon penetrated, and

afterward begged me to visit. Only the very old

and worthless servants remained. The owners of

the place on which we were living had three other

sugar plantations in the valley, from one of which

alone 2,300 hogsheads of sugar were shipped in

one season, and at the approach of the army 500

able-bodied negroes were sent into Texas. Eliza

described the decamping of the owner of the plan-

tation thus, ” Oh, Miss Libbie, the war made a

NEGRO REMINISCENCES.

79

mighty scatter.” The poor creatures left were in

desperate straits. One, a bed-ridden woman,

having been a house-servant, was intelhgent for

one of her race. After Ehza had taken me the

rounds, I piloted the General, and he found that,

though the very old woman did not know her exact

age, she could tell him of events that she remem-

bered when she was in New Orleans with her mis-

tress, which enabled him to calculate her years to

be almost a hundred. Three old people claimed

to remember ” Washington’s war.” I look back

to our visit to her little cabin, where we sat beside

her bed, as one of vivid interest. The old woman

knew little of the war, and no one had told her

of the proclamation until our arrival. We were

both much moved when, after asking us ques-

tions, she said to me, ” And, Missey, is it really

true that I is free ?” Then she raised her eyes to

heaven, and blessed the Lord for letting her live

to see the day. The General, who had to expostu-

late with Eliza sometimes for her habit of feeding

every one out of our supplies, whether needy or

not, had no word to say now. Our kitchen could

be full of grizzly, tottering old wrecks, and he only

smiled on the generous dispenser of her master’s

substance. Indeed, he had them fed all the time

we stayed there, and they dragged their tattered

caps from their old heads, and blessed him as we

8o TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

left, for what he had done, and for the food that

he provided for them after we were gone.

It was at Alexandria that I first visited a negro

prayer-meeting. As we sat on the gallery one

evening, we heard the shouting and singing, and

quietly crept round to the cabin where the exhort-

ing and groaning were going on. My husband

stood with uncovered head, reverencing their sin-

cerity, and not a muscle of his face moved,

though it was rather difficult to keep back a smile

at the grotesqueness of the scene. The language,

and the absorbed manner in which these old

slaves held communion with their Lord, as if He

were there in person, and told Him in simple but

powerful language their thanks that the day of

Jubilee had come, that their lives had been spared

to see freedom come to His people, made us sure

that a faith that brought their Saviour down in

their midst was superior to that of the more civil-

ized, who send petitions to a throne that they

themselves surround with clouds of doctrine and

doubt. Though they were so poor and helpless,

and seemingly without anything to inspire grati-

tude, evidently there were reasons in their own

minds for heartfelt thanks, as there was no mistak-

ing the genuineness of feeling when they sang :

** Bless the Lord that I can rise and tell

That Jesus has done all things well.”

COLORED PR A YER-MEE TING. 8 1

Old as some of these people were, their reUgion

took a very energetic form. They swayed back

and forth as they sat about the dimly lighted

cabin, clapped their hands spasmodically, and

raised their eyes to heaven in moments of absorp-

tion. There were those among the younger peo-

ple who jumped up and down as the ” power “

possessed them, and the very feeblest uttered

groans, and quavered out the chorus of the old

tunes, in place of the more active demonstrations

for which their rheumatic old limbs now unfitted

them. When, afterward, my husband read to me

newspaper accounts of negro camp-meetings or

prayer-meetings graphically written, no descrip-

tion seemed exaggerated to us ; and he used to

say that nothing compared with that night when

we first listened to those serious, earnest old cen-

tenarians, whose feeble voices still quavered out a

tune of gratitude, as, with bent forms and bowed

heads, they stood leaning on their canes and

crutches.

As the heat became more overpowering, I be-

gan to make excuses for the slip-shod manner of

living of the Red River people. Active as was

my temperament, climatic influences told, and I

felt that I should have merited the denunciation

of the antique woman in ” Uncle Tom’s Cabin,”

of ” Heow shiftless ! ” It was hard to move about

82 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

in the heat of the day, but at evening we all went

for a ride. It seemed to me a land of enchant-

ment. We had never known such luxuriance of

vegetation. The valley of the river extended

several miles inland, the foliage was varied and

abundant, and the sunsets had deeper, richer

colors than any at the North. The General, get

ting such constant pleasure out of nature, and not

in the least minding to express it, was glad to

hear even the prosaic one of our number, who

rarely cared for color or scenery, go into raptures

over the gorgeous orange and red of that Southern

sky. We sometimes rode for miles along the

country roads, between hedges of osage-orange

on one side, and a double white rose on the other,

growing fifteen feet high. The dew enhanced

the fragrance, and a lavish profusion was dis-

played by nature in that valley, which was a con-

stant delight to us. Sometimes my husband and

I remained out very late, loth to come back to

the prosy, uninteresting town, with its streets

flecked with bits of cotton, evidences of the traffic

of the world, as the levee was now piled up with

bales ready for shipment. Once the staif crossed

with us to the other side of the river, and rode

out through more beautiful country roads, to

what was still called Sherman Institute. General

Sherman had been at the head of this military

CONFEDERATE ENGINEERING. 83

school before the war, but it was subsequently

converted into a hospital. It was in a lonely and

deserted district, and the great empty stone

building, with its turreted corners and modern

architecture, seemed utterly incongruous in the

wild pine forest that surrounded it. We returned

to the river, and visited two forts on the bank

opposite Alexandria. They were built by a Con-

federate officer who used his Federal prisoners

for workmen. The General took in at once the

admirable situation selected, which commanded

the river for many miles. He thoroughly appre-

ciated, and endeavored carefully to explain to me,

how cleverly the few materials at the disposal of

the impoverished South had been utilized. The

moat about the forts was the deepest our officers

had ever seen. Closely as my husband studied

the plan and formation, he said it would have

added greatly to his appreciation, had he then

known, what he afterward learned, that the Con-

federate engineer who planned this admirable

fortification was one of his classmates at West

Point, of whom he was very fond. In 1864 an

immense expedition of our forces was sent up the

Red River, to capture Shreveport and open up the

great cotton districts of Texas. It was unsuccess-

ful, and the retreat was rendered impossible by

low water, while much damage was done to our

84 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

fleet by the very Confederate forts we were now

visiting-. A dam was constructed near Alexan-

dria, and the squadron was saved from capture

or annihilation by this timely conception of a

quick-witted Western man, Colonel Joseph Bailey,

The dam was visible from the walls of the forts,

where we climbed for a view.

As we resumed our ride to the steamer, the

General, who was usually an admirable path-

finder, proposed a new and shorter road; and lik-

ing variety too much to wish to travel the same

country twice over, all gladly assented. Every-

thing went very well for a time. We were ab-

sorbed in talking, noting new scenes on the route,

or, as was our custom when riding off from the

public highway, we sang some chorus ; and thus

laughing, singing, joking, we galloped over the

ground thoughtlessly into the very midst of seri-

ous danger. Apparently, nothing before us im-

peded our way. We knew very little of the

nature of the soil in that country, but had become

somewhat accustomed to the bayous that either

start from the river or appear suddenly inland,

quite disconnected from any stream. On that

day we dashed heedlessly to the bank of a wide

bayou that poured its waters into the Red River.

Instead of thinking twice, and taking the precau-

tion to follow its course farther up into the coun-

S ti

•S ‘5

5:5

.is J3

a a

o o

Q Q

86 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

try, where the mud was dryer and the space to

cross much narrower, we determined not to de-

lay, and prepared to go over. The most venture-

some dashed first on to this bit of dried slough,

and though the crust swayed and sunk under

the horse’s flying feet, it still seemed caked hard

enough to bear every weight. There were seams

and fissures in portions of the bayou, through

which the moist mud oozed ; but these were not

sufficient warning to impetuous people. Another

and another sprang over the undulating soiL

Having reached the other side, they rode up and

down the opposite bank, shouting to us where

they thought it the safest to cross, and of course

interlarded their directions with good-natured

scoffing about hesitation, timidity, and so on.

The General, never second in anything when he

could help it, remained behind to fortify my sink-

ing heart, and urge me to undertake the crossing

with him. He reminded me how carefully Custis

Lee had learned to follow and to trust to him,

and he would doubtless plant his hoofs in the

very tracks of his own horse. Another of our

party tried to bolster up my courage, assuring me

that if the heavy one among us was safely on the

other bank, my light weight might be trusted. I

dreaded making the party wait until we had

gone farther up the bayou, and might have mus-

ADVENTURE ON A BAYOU. 87

tered up the required pluck had I not met with

trepidation on the part of my horse. His fine,

delicate ears told me, as plainly as if he could

speak, that I was asking a great deal of him. We

had encountered quicksands together in the bed

of a Virginia stream, and both horse and rider

were recalling the fearful sensation, when the

animal’s hind legs sank, leaving his body en-

gulfed in the soil. With powerful struggles

with his fore feet and muscular shoulders, we

plunged to the right and left, and found at last

firm soil on which to escape. With such a recol-

lection still fresh, as memory is sure to retain ter-

rors like that, it was hardly a wonder that we

shrank from the next step. His trembling flanks

shook as much as the unsteady hand that held his

bridle. He quivered from head to foot, and held

back. I urged, and patted his neck, while we

both continued to shiver on the brink. The Gen-

eral laughed at the two cowards we really were,

but still gave us time to get our courage up to

the mark. The officer remaining with us con-

tinued to encourage me with assurances that there

was ” not an atom of danger,” and finally, with a

bound, shouting out, ” Look how well I shall go

over ! ” sprang upon the vibrating crust. In an in-

stant, with a crack like a pistol, the thin layer of

solid mud broke, and down went the gay, hand-

88 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

somely caparisoned fellow, engulfed to his waist

in the foul black crust. There was at once a com-

motion. With no ropes, it was hard to effect his

release. His horse helped him most, struggling

frantically for the bank, while the officers, having

flung themselves off from their animals to rush to

his rescue, brought poles and tree branches, which

the imbedded man was not slow to grasp and

drag himself from the perilous spot when only

superhuman strength could deliver him, as the

mud of a bayou sucks under its surface with

great rapidity anything with which it comes in

contact. As soon as the officer was dragged

safely on to firm earth, a shout went up that rent

the air with its merriment. Scarcely any one

spoke while they labored to save the man’s life,

but once he was out of peril, the rescuers felt

their hour had come. They called out to him, in

tones of derision, the vaunting air with which he

said just before his engulfment, ” Look at me;

see how I go over ! ” He was indeed a sorry

sight, plastered from head to foot with black mud.

Frightened as I was — for the trembling had ad-

vanced to shivering, and my chattering teeth and

breathless voice were past my control — I still felt

that little internal tremor of laughter that some-

how pervades one who has a sense of the ludicrous

in very dangerous surroundings.

A LOUISIANA BAYOU.

89

I had certainly made a very narrow escape, for

it would have been doubly hard to extricate me.

The riding habits in those days were very long,

and loaded so with lead to keep them down in

high winds — and, I may add, in furious riding —

that it was about all I could do to lift my skirt

when I put it on.

I held my horse with a snaffle, to get good,

smooth going out of him, and my wrists became

pretty strong ; but in that slough I would have

found them of little avail, I fear. There remained

no opposition to seeking a narrower part of the

bayou, above where I had made such an escape,

and there was still another good result of this

severe lesson after that : when we came to such

ominous looking soil, Custis Lee and his mistress

were allowed all the shivering on the brink that

their cowardice produced, while the party scattered

to investigate the sort of foundation we were

likely to find, before we attempted to plunge over

a Louisiana quagmire.

The bayous were a strange feature of that coun-

try. Often without inlet or outlet, a strip of water

appeared, black and sluggish, filled with logs, snags,

masses of underbrush and leaves. The banks, cov-

ered with weeds, noisome plants and rank tangled

vegetation, seemed the dankest, darkest, most

weird and mournful spots imaginable, a fit home for

90

TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

ghouls and bogies. There could be no more appro-

priate place for a sensational novelist to locate a

murder. After a time, I became accustomed to

these frequently occurring water ways, but it took

me a good while to enjoy going fishing on them.

The men were glad to vary their days by dropping

a line in that vile water, and I could not escape

their urging to go, though I was excused from

fishing.

On one occasion we went down the river on a

steamer, the sailors dragging the small boats over

the strip of land between the river and the bayou,

and all went fishing or hunting. This excursion

was one that I am likely to remember forever.

The officers, intent on their fishing, were rowed

slowly through the thick water, while I was won-

dering to myself if there could be, anywhere, such

a wild jungle of vines and moss as hung from the

trees and entangled itself in the mass of weeds

and water-plants below. We followed little in-

dentations of the stream, and the boat was rowed

into small bays and near dark pools, where the

fish are known to stay, and finally we floated.

The very limbs of the trees and the gnarled

trunks took on human shape, while the drooping

moss swayed as if it might be the drapery of a

lamia, evolved out of the noisome vapors and

floating above us. These fears and imaginings,

ALLIGA TORS. g I

which would have been put to flight by the assur-

ances of the General, had he not been so intent on

his line, proved to be not wholly spectres of the

imagination. A mass of logs in front of us seemed

to move. They did move, and the alligator, that

looked so like a tree-trunk, established his identity

by separating himself from the floating timber and

making off. It was my scream, for the officers

themselves did not enjoy the proximity of the

beast, that caused the instant use of the oars and

a quick retreat.

I went fishing after that, of course ; I couldn’t

get out of it ; indeed, I was supported through my

tremors by a pleasure to which a woman cannot

be indifferent ; that of being wanted on all sorts

of excursions. But logs in the water never looked

like logs after that ; to my distended vision they

appeared to writhe with the slow contortions of

loathsome animals.

A soldier captured a baby-alligator one day,

and the General, thinking to quiet my terror of

them by letting me see the reptile ” close to,” as

the children say, took me down to camp, where

the delighted soldier told me how he had caught

it, holding on to the tail, which is its weapon.

The animal was all head and tail ; there seemed

to be no intermediate anatomy. He flung the

latter member at a hat in so vicious and violent a

92

TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

way, that I believed instantly the story, which I

had first received with doubt, of his rapping- over

a puppy and swallowing him before rescue could

come. This pet was in a long tank of water the

owner had built, and it gave the soldiers much

amusement.

The General was greatly interested in alligator-

huntino^. It was said that the scales were as thick

as a china plate, except on the head, and he began

to believe so when he found his balls glancing off

the impenetrable hide as if from the side of an

iron-clad. I suppose it was very exciting, after

the officers had yelped and barked like a dog, to

to see the great monster decoyed from some dark

retreat by the sound of his favorite tid-bit The

wary game came slowly down the bayou, under

fire of the kneeling huntsmen concealed in the

underbrush, and was soon despatched. For my-

self, I should have preferred, had I been consulted,

a post of observation in the top of some tree, in-

stead of the boat in which I was being rowed.

CHAPTER III.

MUTINY TRIAL BY COURT-MARTIAL A MILITARY EXE-

CUTION MARCHING THROUGH TEXAS FORAGING

FOR A BED JOY OVER A PILLOW EVERY MAN

HAS HIS PRICE FOUR MONTHS IN A WAGON

LIFE WITHOUT A LOOKING-GLASS.

‘^HERE w^as a great deal to do in those v^eeks

of our detention at Alexandria, during the

working hours of the day, in organizing the

division of cavalry for the march. Troops that

had been serving in the West during the w^ar

were brought together at that point from all

directions, and an effort was made to form them

into a disciplined body. This herculean task

gave my husband great perplexity. He wrote

to my father that he did not entirely blame the

men for the restlessness and insubordination they

exhibited, as their comrades, who had enlisted only

for the war, had gone home, and, of course, wrote

back letters to their friends of the pleasures of

reunion with their families and kindred, and the

welcome given them by their townspeople. The

troops with us had not served out the time of

94

TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

their enlistment, and the Government, according

to the strict letter of the law, had a right to the

unexpired time for which the men were pledged.

Some of the regiments had not known the smell

of gunpowder during the entire vv^ar, having been

stationed in and near Southern cities, and that

duty is generally demoralizing. In the reorgan-

izing of this material, every order issued was met

with growls and grumbling. It seemed that it

had been the custom with some of their officers to

issue an order, and then go out and make a speech,

explaining the whys and wherefores. One of the

colonels came to the General one day at his own

quarters, thinking it a better place than the office

to make his request. He was a spectacle, and

though General Custer was never in after years

incautious enough to mention his name, he could

not, with his keen sense of the ludicrous, resist a

laughing description of the interview. The man

was large and bulky in build. Over the breast of

a long, loose, untidy linen duster he had spread

the crimson sash, as he was officer of the day. A

military sword-belt gathered in the voluminous

folds of the coat, and from his side hung a parade

sword. A slouch hat was crowded down on a

shock of bushy hair. One trouser-leg was tucked

into his boot, as if to represent one foot in the

cavalry; the other, true to the infantry, was down

MILITAR Y SELF-GO VERNMENT.

95

in its proper place. He began his interview by

praising his regiment, gave an account of the suc-

cess with which he was drilling his men, and,

leaning confidentially on the General’s knee, told

him he ” would make them so near like reg-

glers you couldn’t tell ’em apart.” Two officers

of the regular army were then in command of

the two brigades, to one of which this man’s

regiment was assigned. But the object of the

visit was not solely to praise his regiment ; he

went on to say that an order had been issued

which the men did not like, and he had come up to

expostulate. He did not ask to have the order

rescinded, but told the General he would like to

have him come down and give the reasons to the

troops. He added that this was what they ex-

pected, and when he issued any command he

went out and got upon a barrel and explained it

to the boys. My husband listened patiently, but

declined, as that manner of issuing orders was

hardly in accordance with his ideas of discipline.

The soldiers did not confine their maledictions

to the regular officers in command ; they openly

refused to obey their own officers. One of the

colonels (I am glad I have forgotten his name)

made ^ social call at our house. He was in great

perturbation of mind, and evidently terrified, as

in the preceding night his dissatisfied soldiers had

96

TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

riddled his tent with bullets, and, but for his ” lying”

low ” he would have been perforated like a sieve.

The men supposed they had ended his military

career ; but at daylight he crept out. The sol-

diers were punished ; but there seemed to be

little to expect in the way of obedience if, after

four years, they ignored their superiors and took

affairs into their own hands. Threats began to

make their way to our house. The staff had their

tents on the lawn in front of us, and even they

tried to persuade the General to lock the doors

and bolt the windows, which were left wide open

day and night. Failing to gain his consent to

take any precautions, they asked me to use my

influence ; but in such affairs I had little success

in persuasion. The servants, and even the order-

lies, came to me and solemnly warned me of the

threats and the danger that menaced the General.

Thoroughly frightened in his behalf, they prefaced

their warnings with the old-fashioned sensational

language: “This night, at 12 o’clock,” etc. The

fixing of the hour for the arrival of the assas-

sin completely unnerved me, as I had not then

escaped from the influence that the melodramatic

has upon youth. I ran to the General the mo-

ment he came from his office duties, to tell him,

with tears and agitation, of his peril. As usual,

he soothed my fears, but, on this occasion, only

THREATS AND A PiSTOL. q7

temporarily. Still, seeing what I suffered from

anxiety, he made one concession, and consented,

after much imploring, to put a pistol under his

pillow. A complete battery of artillery round our

house could not have secured to me more peace

of mind than that pistol ; for I knew the accuracy

of his aim, and I had known too much of his cool,

resolute action, in moments of peril, not to be sure

that the small weapon would do its work. Peace

was restored to the head of our house ; he had a

respite from the whimpering and begging. I even

grew so courageous as to be able to repeat to

Eliza, when she came next morning to put the

room in order, what the General had said to me,

that ” barking dogs do not bite.” The mattress

was proudly lifted, and the pistol, of which I stood

in awe, in spite of my faith in its efficacy, was ex-

hibited to her in triumph. I made wide detours

around that side of the bed the rest of the time we

remained at Alexandria, afraid of the very weapon

to which I was indebted for tranquil hours. The

cats, pigs and calves might charge at will under

the house. If I mistook them for the approaching

adversary I remembered the revolver and was

calmed.

Long afterward, during our winter in Texas, my

husband began one day to appear mysterious, and

assume the suppressed air that invariably prefaced

98

TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

a season of tormenting, when a siege of questions

only brought out deeper and obscurer answers

to me. Pouting, tossing of the head, and reiter-

ated announcements that I didn’t care a rap, I

didn’t want to know, etc., were met by chuckles

of triumph and wild juba patting and dancing

around the victim ; unrestrained by my saying that

such was the custom of the savage while torturing

his prisoner. Still, he persisted that he had such

a good joke on me. And it certainly was : there

had not been a round of ammunition in the house

that we occupied at Alexandria, neither had that

old pistol been loaded during the entire summer.

The soldiers became bolder in their rebellion,

insubordination reached a point where it was al-

most uncontrollable. Reports were sent to Gen-

eral Sheridan, in command of the Department,

and he replied to my husband, ” Use such sum-

mary measures as you deem proper to overcome

the mutinous disposition of the individuals in

your command.” A Western officer, a stranger

to us up to that time, published an account of one

of the regiments, which explains what was not

clear to us then, as we had come directly from

the Army of the Potomac:

” One regiment had suffered somewhat from

indifferent field-officers, but more from the bad

fortune that overtook so many Western regiments

JNSUBORDINA TION.

99

in the shape of garrison duty in small squads or

squadrons, so scattered as to make each a sort of

independent command, which in the end resulted

in a loss of discipline, and the ruin of those bonds

of sympathy that bound most regiments together.

To lead such a regiment into a hotly contested

fight would be a blessing, and would effectually

set at rest all such trouble; but their fighting had

been altogether of the guerrilla kind, and there

was no regimental pride of character, simply be-

cause there had been no regimental deed of valor.

Tired out with the long service, weary with an

uncomfortable journey by river from Memphis,

sweltering under a Gulf-coast sun, under orders

to go farther and farther from home when the

war was over, the one desire was, to be mustered

out and released from a service that became irk-

some and baleful when a prospect of crushing the

enemy no longer existed. All these, added to

the dissatisfaction among the officers, rendered

the situation truly deplorable. The command

had hardly pitched their tents at Alexandria be-

fore the spirit of reckless disregard of authority

began to manifest itself. The men, singly or in

squads, began to go on extemporaneous raids

through the adjoining country, robbing and

plundering indiscriminately in every direction.

They seemed to have no idea that a conquered

lOO TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

and subdued people could possibly have any

rights that the conquerors were bound to respect.

But General Custer was under orders to treat the

people kindly and considerately, and he obeyed

orders with the same punctiliousness with which

he exacted obedience from his command.”

The anger and hatred of these troops toward

one especial officer culminated in their peremp-

tory demand that he should resign. They drew

up a paper, and signed their names. He had not

a friend, and sought the commanding officer for

protection. This was too pronounced a case of

mutiny to be treated with any but the promptest,

severest measures, and all who had put their

names to the document were placed under arrest.

The paper was in reality but a small part of the

incessant persecution, which included threats of

all kinds against the life of the hated man ; but

it was written proof that ‘ * tements regarding

his danger were true.

All but one of those that were implicated apol-

ogized, and were restored to duty. A sergeant

held out, and refused to acknowledge himself in

the wrong. A court-martial tried him, and he

was sentenced to death. Those who had been

associated in the rebellion against their officer

were thoroughly frightened, and seriously grieved

at the fate to which their comrade had been con-

JUSTICE AND MERCY. lOI

signed by their uncontrollable rage, and began to

speak among themselves of the wife and children

at home. The wife was unconscious that the

heartbreaking revelations were on their way, that

the saddest of woman’s sorrows, widowhood, was

hers to endure, and that her children must bear a

tainted name. It came to be whispered about that

the doomed man wore on his heart a curl of

baby’s hair, that had been cut from his child’s head

when he went out to serve his imperiled country.

Finally, the wretched, conscience-stricken soldiers

sued for pardon for their condemned companion,

and the very man against whom the enmity had

been cherished, and who owed his life to an

accident, busied himself in collecting the name of

every man in the command, begging clemency

for the imperiled sergeant. Six days passed, and

there was increased misery among the men, who

felt themselves responsible for their comrade’s

life. The prayer for pardon, with its long roll of

names, had been met by the General with the

reply that the matter would be considered.

The men now prepared for vengeance. They

lay around the camp-fires, or grouped themselves

in tents, saying that the commanding officer

would not dare to execute the sentence of the

court-martial, while messages of this kind

reached my husband in cowardly, roundabout

102 TENTTNC, ON’ THE PLAINS.

ways, and threats and menaces seemed to fill

the air. The preparation for the serg-eant’s exe-

cution was ordered, and directions given that a

deserter, tried by court-martial and condemned,

should be shot on the same day. This man, a

vagabond and criminal before his enlistment, had

deserted three or four times, and his sentence

drew little pity from his comrades. At last

dawned in the lovely valley that dreadful day,

which I recall now with a shudder. It was im-

possible to keep me from knowing that an execu-

tion was to occur. There was no place to send

me. The subterfuges by which my husband had

kept me frorfi knowing the tragic or the sorrowful

in our military life heretofore, were of no avail

now. Fortunately, I knew nothing of the peti-

tion for pardon ; nothing, thank God ! of the wife

at her home, or of the curl of baby’s hair that

was rising and falling over the throbbing, ago-

nized heart of the condemned father. And how

the capacity we may have for embracing the sor-

rows of the whole world disappears, when our

selfish terrors concentrate on the safety of our

own loved ones !

The sergeant’s life was precious as a life ; but

the threats, the ominous and quiet watching, the

malignant, revengeful faces of the troops about

us, told me plainly that another day might darken

COOLNESS UNDER DANGER. 103

my life forever, and I was consumed by my own

torturing suspense. Rumors of the proposed

murder of my husband reached me through the

kitchen, the orderUes about our quarters, and at

last through the staff. They had fallen into the

fashion of my husband, and spared me anything

that was agitating or alarming ; but this was a

time, they felt, when all possible measures should

be taken to protect the General, and they im-

plored me to induce him to take precautions for

his safety. My pleading was of no avail. He

had ordered the staff to follow him unarmed to

the execution. They begged him to wear his

side-arms, or at least permit them the privilege,

in order that they might defend him ; but he

resolutely refused. How trivial seem all attempts

to describe the agonies of mind that jfilled that

black hour when the General and his staff rode

from our lawn toward the dreaded field !

Eliza, ever thoughtful of me, hovered round

the bed, where I had buried my head in the pil-

lows, to deaden the sound of the expected volley.

With terms of endearment, and soothino^, she

sought to assure me that nothing would happen

to the General. ” Nothin’ ever does, you know.

Miss Libbie,” she said, her voice full of the

mother in us all when we seek to console. And

yet that woman knew all the plans for the Gen-

I04 TENTIh’G ON- THE PLAINS.

eral’s death, all the venom in the hearts of those

who surrounded us, and she felt no hope for

his safety.

Pomp and circumstance are not alone for

” glorious war,” but in army life must also be ob-

served in times of peace. There are good

reasons for it, I suppose. The more form and

solemnity, the deeper the impression ; and as this

day was to be a crucial one, in proving to the in-

subordinate that order must eventually prevail,

nothing was hurried, none of the usual customs

were omitted. Five thousand soldiers formed a hol-

low square in a field near the town. The staff, ac-

customed to take a position and remain with their

General near the opening left by the division, fol-

lowed with wonder and alarm as he rode slowly

around the entire square, so near the troops that

a hand might have been stretched out to deal a

fatal blow. The wagon, drawn by four horses,

bearing the criminals sitting on their coffins, was

driven at a slow pace around the square, escorted

by the guard and the firing-party, with reversed

arms. The coffins were placed in the centre of

the square, and the men seated upon them at the

foot of their open graves. Eight men, with livid

countenances and vehemently beating hearts, took

their places in front of their comrades, and looked

upon the blanched, despairing faces of those

A REPRIEVE, 105

whom they were ordered to kill. The provost-

marshal carried their carbines off to a distance,

loaded seven, and placed a blank cartridge in the

eighth, thus giving the merciful boon of per-

manent uncertainty as to whose was the fatal shot.

The eyes of the poor victims were then bandaged,

while thousands of men held their breath as the

tragedy went on. The still, Southern air of that

garden on earth was unmoved by any sound, save

the unceasing notes of the mocking-birds that

sang night and day in the hedges. Preparations

had been so accurately made that there was but

one word to be spoken, after the reading of the

warrant for execution, and that the last that those

most miserable and hopeless of God’s creatures

should hear on earth.

There was still one more duty for the provost-

marshal before the fatal word, ” Fire !” was sound-

ed. But one person understood his movements as

he stealthily drew near the sergeant, took his arm,

and led him aside. In an instant his voice rang out

the fatal word, and the deserter fell back dead, in

blessed ignorance that he went into eternity alone ;

while the sergeant swooned in the arms of the

provost-marshal. When he was revived, it was

explained to him that the General believed him to

have been the victim of undue influence, and had

long since determined upon the pardon ; but some

I06 TENTINC ON THE PLAINS.

punishment he thought necessary, and he was also

determined that the soldiers should not feel that

he had been intimidated from performing his duty

because his own life was in peril. It was ascer-

tained afterward that the sergeant’s regiment had

gone out that day with loaded carbines and forty

rounds besides ; but the knowledge of this would

have altered no plan, nor would it have induced

the commanding officer to reveal to any but his

provost-marshal the final decision.

Let us hope that in these blessed days of peace

some other tiny curls are nestling in a grand-

father’s neck, instead of lying over his heart as

did the son’s in those days, when memories and

mementoes were all we had of those we loved.

General Custer not only had his own Division

to organize and discipline, but was constantly

occupied in trying to establish some sort of har-

mony between the Confederate soldiers, the citi-

zens, and his command. The blood of everyone

was at boiling-point then. The soldiers had not

the grief of returning to homes desolated by war,

because Louisiana escaped much and Texas all of

the devastation of campaigns ; but they came

home obliged to begin the world again. The

negroes of the Red-River country were not an

easy class to manage in days of slavery. We

heard that all desperate characters in the border

PERPLEXITIES 01^ DISCIPLINE. 1 07

States had been sold into Louisiana, because of

its comparative isolation, and that the most ungov-

ernable cases were congregated in the valley of

the Red River. However that may have been, it

certainly was difficult to make them conform to

the new state of affairs. The master, unaccus-

tomed to freedom, still treated the negro as a

slave. The colored man, inflated with freedom

and reveling in idleness, would not accept com-

mon directions in labor. How even the South

tolerates a name that it once hated, in the pros-

perity of the new regime, and in the prospect of

their splendid future ! How fresh the enthusiasm

in the present day, at any mention of the liberator

of the slaves !

But when we consider through what bungling

errors we groped blindly in those early days of

emancipation, we might well wish that Abraham

Lincoln could have been spared to bring his jus-

tice and gentle humanity to bear upon the ad-

justing of that great transition from slavery to

freedom.

At the least intimation of a ” show ” or a funeral

— which is a festivity to them, on account of the

crowds that congregate — off went the entire body

of men, even if the crops were in danger of spoil-

ing for want of harvesting. It was a time in our

history that one does not like to look back upon.

Io8 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

The excitement into which the land was thrown,

not only by war, but by the puzzhng question of

how to reconcile master to servant and servant to

master — for the colored people were an element

most difficult to manage, owing to their ignorance

and the sudden change of relations to their former

owners — all this created new and perplexing

problems, which were the order of each day.

The Confederate soldiers had to get their blood

down from fever heat. Some took advantage of

the fact that the war was over and the Govern-

ment was ordering its soldiers into the State, not

as invaders but as pacifiers, to drag their sabres

through the street and talk loudly on the corners

in belligerent language, without fear of the im-

prisonment that in war-times had so quickly

followed.

The General was obliged to issue simultaneous

orders to his own men, demanding their observ-

ance of every right of the citizen, and to the re-

turned Confederate soldiers, assuring them that

the Government had not sent troops into their

country as belligerents, but insisting upon certain

obligations, as citizens, from them.

In an order to the Division, he said : ” Numer-

ous complaints having reached these headquarters,

of depredations having been committed by per-

sons belonging to this command, all officers and

AN ORDER TO THE DIVISION. 109

soldiers are hereby urged to use every exertion to

prevent the committal of acts of lawlessness,

which, if permitted to pass unpunished, will bring

discredit upon the command. Now that the war

is virtually ended, the rebellion put down, and

peace about to be restored to our entire country,

let not the lustre of the past four years be dim-

med by a single act of misconduct toward the

persons or property of those with whom we

may be brought in contact. In the future,

and particularly on the march, the utmost

care will be exercised to save the inhabitants

of the country in which we may be located

from any molestation whatever. Every violation

of the order regarding foraging will be punished.

The Commanding-General is well aware that the

number of those upon whom the enforcement of

this order will be necessary will be small, and he

trusts that in no case will it be necessary. All

officers and soldiers of this command are ear-

nestly reminded to treat the inhabitants of this De-

partment with conciliation and kindness, and par-

ticularly is this injunction necessary when we are

brought in contact with those who lately were in

arms against us. You can well afford to be gen-

erous and magnanimous.”

In another order, addressed to the Confederate

soldiers, he said : ” It is expected, and it will be

I lo TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

required, that those who were once our enemies,

but are now to be treated as friends, will in return

refrain from idle boasts, which can only result in

harm to themselves. If there still be any who,

blind to the events of the past four years, con-

tinue to indulge in seditious harangues, all such

disturbers of the peace will be arrested, and

brought to these headquarters.”

Between the troublesome negroes, the unsub-

dued Confederates, and the lawless among our

own soldiers, life was by no means an easy prob-

lem to solve. A boy of twenty-five was then ex-

pected to act the subtle part of statesman and

patriot, and conciliate and soothe the citizen ; the

part of stern and unrelenting soldier, punish-

ing evidences of unsuppressed rebellion on the

part of the conquered ; and at the same time the

vigilant commanding officer, exacting obedience

from his own disaffected soldiery.

As for the positions he filled toward the negro,

they were varied — counseling these duties to

those who employed them, warning them from

idleness, and urging them to work, feeding and

clothing the impoverished and the old. It seems

to me it was a position combining in one man

doctor, lawyer, task-master, father and provider.

The town and camp swarmed with the colored

people, lazily lying around waiting for the Gov-

AN ORDER TO THE NEGROES. I I I

ernment to take care of them, and it was neces-

sary to issue a long order to the negroes, from

which I make an extract :

” Since the recent advent of the United States

forces into this vicinity, many of the freedmen of

the surrounding country seem to have imbibed

the idea that they will no longer be required to

labor for their own support and the support of

those depending upon them. Such ideas cannot

be tolerated, being alike injurious to the interests

and welfare of the freedmen and their employers.

Freedmen must not look upon military posts as

places of idle resort, from which they can draw

their means of support. Their proper course is

to obtain employment, if possible, upon the same

plantations where they were previously employed.

General Order No. 23, Headquarters Department

of the Gulf, March 11, 1865, prescribes the rules

of contract in the case of these persons. The com-

ing crops, already maturing, require cultivation,

and will furnish employment for all who are dis-

posed to be industrious. Hereafter, no freedman

will be permitted to remain in the vicinity of the

camps who are not engaged in some proper em-

ployment.”

Standing alone in the midst of all this confu-

sion, and endeavoring to administer justice on all

sides, General Custer had by no means an envia-

I I 2 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

ble task. I do not wonder now that he kept his

perplexities as much as possible from me. He

wished to spare me anxiety, and the romp or the

gallop over the fragrant field, which he asked for

as soon as office-hours were over, was probably

much more enjoyable with a woman with uncor-

rugated brow. Still, I see now the puzzled shake

of the head as he said, ” A man may do every-

thing to keep a woman from knowledge of offi-

cial matters, and then she gets so confounded

keen in putting little trifles together, the first

thing you know she is reading a man’s very

thoughts.” Yet it does not strike me as remark-

able keenness on the part of a woman if, after the

experience she gains in following the bugle a

time, and with her wits sharpened by aff”ection,

she decides that a move is about to take place.

The General used to turn quickly, almost suspici-

ously, to me and say, as if I had been told by the

staff, ” How did you find out we were ordered to

move ? ” — when he had been sending for the

quartermaster and the commissary, and looking

at his maps, for ever so long before ! It was not

much of a mystery to solve when the quarter-

master meant transportation, the commissary

food, and the maps a new route.

After determined efforts to establish discipline,

order began to be evolved out of the chaos, and

AN A TTACK ON THE AGED I 1 3

the men resigned themselves to their hard fate.

Much as I feared them, and greatly as I had resent-

ed their attempt to lay all their present detention

and compulsory service to my husband, I could

not but agree with him when he argued for them,

that it was pretty hard not to be allowed to go

home, when the other soldiers had returned to

receive the rewards of the victorious. They

wrote home abusive newspaper articles, which

were promptly mailed to the General by unknown

hands, but of which he took no notice. I recol-

lect only once, after that, knowing of an abso-

lutely disagreable encounter. During the follow-

ing winter in Texas, my husband came quickly

into our room one morning, took my riding-whip,

and returned across the hall to his office. In a

short time he as quickly returned, and restored it

to its place, and I extracted from him an explana-

tion. Among the newspaper articles sent him

from the North, there was an attack on his dear,

quiet, unoffending father and mother. He sent

for the officer who was credited with the author-

ship, and, after his denial of the article, told him

what he had intended to do had he been guilty

of such an assault; that he was prepared for any at-

tack on himself, but nothing would make him sub-

mit to seeing his gray-haired parents assailed. Then

he bade him good-morning, and bowed him out.

I 1 4 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

The effect of the weeks of discipUne on the

Division was visible on our march into Texas. The

General had believed that the men would eventual-

ly conform to the restrictions, and he was heartily

relieved and glad to find that they did. The Texans

were amazed at the absence of the lawlessness

they had expected from our army, and thankful

to find that the Yankee column was neither de-

vastating nor even injuring their hitherto unmo-

lested State, for the war on land had not reached

Texas. The troops were not permitted to live on

the country, as is the usage of war, and only one

instance occurred during the entire march, of a

soldier’s simply helping himself to a farmer’s

grain. Every pound of food and forage was

bought by the quartermaster. It was hard to

realize that the column marching in a methodical

and orderly manner was, so short a time before,

a lawless and mutinous command.

They hated us, I suppose. That is the penalty

the commanding officer generally pays for what

still seems to me the questionable privilege of

rank and power. Whatever they thought, it did

not deter us from commending, among ourselves,

the good material in those Western men, which so

soon made them orderly and obedient soldiers.

But I have anticipated somewhat and must go

back and say good-by to that rich, flower-scented

PRIVILEGES OUTNLMBER HARDSHIPS.

115

valley. It had been a strange experience to me.

I had no woman but Eliza to whom I could speak.

The country and all its customs seemed like an-

other world, into which I had unexpectedly

entered. I had spent many hours of anxiety about

my husband’s safety. But the anxiety, heat, mos-

quitoes, poor water, alligators, mutiny, all com-

bined, failed to extract a complaint. There was

not an atom of heroism in this ; it was undeniably

the shrewd cunning of which women are accused,

for I lived in hourly dread of being sent to Texas

by the other route, via New Orleans and the Gulf

of Mexico. The General had been advised by

letters from home to send me that way, on the

ground that I could not endure a march at that

season. Officers took on a tone of superiority, and

said that they would not think of taking theh’

wives into such a wilderness. My fate hung in

the balance, and under such circumstances it was

not strange that the inconveniences of our stay

on Red River were not even so much as ac-

knowledged. It is true that I was not then a

veteran campaigner, and the very newness of the

hardships would, doubtless, have called forth a

few sighs, had not the fear of another separation

haunted me. It is astonishing how much grum-

bling is suppressed by the fear of something worse

awaiting you. In the decision which direction I

1 1 6 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

was to take, I won ; my husband’s scruples were

overcome by my unanswerable arguments and his

own inclination.

I prepared to leave Alexandria with regret, for

the pleasures of our stay had outnumbered the

drawbacks. It was our first knowledge that the

earth could be so lovely and so lavishly laden

with what began to be tropical luxuriance. I do

not recall the names of all the birds, but the

throats of all of them seemed to be filled with song.

In a semicircle on the lawn in front of our house,,

grew a thick hedge of crape myrtle, covered with

fragrant blossoms. Here the mocking-birds fear-

lessly built their nests, and the stillest hour of the

night was made melodious with the song that twi-

light had been too short to complete. Really, the

summer day there was too brief to tell all that

these birds had to say to their mates.

To the General, who would have had an aviary

had it been just the thing for a mounted regiment^

lall this song, day and night, was enchanting. In

after years he never forgot those midnight sere-

nades, and in 1873 he took a mocking-bird into

the bleak climate of Dakota. Eliza mildly growled

at “sich nonsense” as “toting round a bird, when

’twas all folks like us could do to get transporta-

tion for a cooking-kit.” Nevertheless, she took

excellent care of the feathered tribe that we owned.

A LUXURIANT VALLEY. I i 7

Among the fruits we first ate in Louisiana were

fresh figs, which we picked from the tree. It was

something to write home about, but at the same

time we wished that instead we might have a

Northern apple.

The time came to bid farewell to birds, fruits,

jasmine and rose, and prepare for a plunge into the

wilderness — much talked of with foreboding pro-

phecies by the citizens, but a hundred times worse

in reality than the gloomiest predictions.

It was known that the country through which

we were to travel, having been inaccessible to

merchants, and being even then infested with

guerillas, had large accumulations of cotton

stored at intervals along the route that was

marked out for our journey. Speculators arrived

from New Orleans, and solicited the privilege of

following with wagons that they intended to load

with cotton. They asked no favors, desiring only

the protection that the cavalry column would

afford, and expected to make their way in our

wake until the seaboard was reached and they

could ship their purchases by the Gulf of Mexico.

But their request was refused, as the General

hardly thought it a fitting use to which to put the

army. Then they assailed the quartermaster,

offering twenty-five thousand dollars to the Gen-

eral and him, as a bribe. But both men laughed

I I 8 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

to scorn that manner of gretting- rich, and returned

to their homes the year after as poor as when they

had left there five years before. As I think of the

instances that came under my knowledge, when

quartermasters could have made fortunes, it is a

marvel to me that they so often resisted all man-

ner of temptation. The old tale, perhaps dating

back to the War of 1812, still applies, as it is a

constantly recurring experience. There was once

a wag in the quartermaster’s department, and

even when weighted down with the grave respon-

sibility of a portion of the Government treasury,

he still retained a glimmer of fun. Contractors

lay in wait for him with bribes, which his spirit of

humor allowed to increase, even though the offers

were insults to his honor. Finally, reaching a

very large sum, in sheer desperation he wrote to

the War Department : ” In the name of all the

gods, relieve me from this Department ; they’ve

almost got up to my price.” Civilians hardly

realize that, even in times of peace like this, when

the disbursements will not compare with the

money spent in years of war, between eight and

nine millions of dollars^are yearly paid out by the

quartermaster’s department alone. Since the war

the embezzlements have been hardly worthy of so

serious a name, amounting to but a few hundred

dollars, all told.

A SOLDIER’S COURTESY.

119

The General had an ambulance fitted up as a

traveling-wagon for me ; the seats so arranged

that the leather backs could be unstrapped at the

sides and laid down so as to form a bed, if I

wished to rest during the march. There was a

pocket for my needlework and book, and a box

for luncheon, while my traveling-bag and shawl

were strapped at the side, convenient, but out of

the way. It was quite a complete little house of

itself. One of the soldiers, who was interested in

the preparations for my comfort, covered a can-

teen with leather, adding of his own accord, in

fine stitchery in the yellow silk used by the sad-

dlers, ” Lady Custer.” Each day of our journey

this lofty distinction became more and more in-

congruous and amusinor, as I realized the increas-

ing ugliness, for which the rough life was, in a

measure, responsible. By the time we reached

the end of our march there was a yawning gulf

between the soldier’s title and the appearance of

the owner of the canteen. The pfuide that had

been employed was well up in all the devices for

securing what little measure of comfort was to

be found in overland travel. I followed his suor-

gestion, and after the canteen was filled in the

morning, it was covered with a piece of wet

blanket and hung, with the cork left out, to the

roof of the wag-on, in order to catch all the air

I 20 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

that might be stirring. Under this damp treat-

ment the yellow letters of “Lady Custer” faded

out as effectually as did all semblance of what-

ever delicacy of coloring the owner once pos-

sessed.

A short time after we set out, we left the valley

of the Red River, with its fertile plantations, and

entered a pine forest on the table-land, through

which our route lay for a hundred and fifty miles.

A great portion of the higher ground was sterile,

and the forest much of the way was thinly in-

habited. We had expected to hire a room in any

farm-house at which we halted at the end of

each day’s journey, and have the privilege of

sleeping in a bed. Camping on the ground was

an old story to me after our long march in Vir-

ginia ; but, with the prospect of using the bosom

of mother Earth as a resting-place for the coming

thirty years, we were willing to improve any

opportunity to be comfortable when we could.

The cabins that we passed on the first day dis-

couraged us. Small, low, log huts, consisting of

one room each, entirely separated and having a

floored open space between them, were the cus-

tomary architecture. The windows and doors

were filled with the vacant faces of the filthy

children of the poor white trash and negroes.

The men and women slouched and skulked

”PORE WHITE TRASH.” 121

around the cabins out of sight, and every sign of

abject, loathsome poverty was visible, even in

the gaunt and famished pigs that rooted around

the doorway. I determined to camp out until we

came to more inviting habitations, which, I regret

to say, we did not find on that march. We had

not brought the thin mattress and pillows that

had been made for our traveling-wagon in Vir-

ginia ; but the hardest sort of resting-place was

preferable to braving the squalor of the huts

along our way.

My husband rolled his overcoat for my pillow,

telling me that a soldier slept like a top with such

an one, and it was much better than a saddle, in

the hollow of which he had often laid his flaxen

top-knot. But a woman cannot make herself into

a good soldier all in a minute. If one takes hold

of the thick, unwieldy material that Uncle Sam

puts into the army overcoat, some idea can be

gained of the rocky roll it makes when doing

duty as a resting-place ; and anyone whose neck

has made the steep incline from head to shoulder

that this substitute for a pillow necessitates, is apt

to waken less patriotic than when he retired.

After repeated efforts to get accustomed to this,

buoyed up by my husband’s praise of my veteran-

like behavior, I confided to Eliza that I should not

be ungrateful for any device she might think out

122 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

for my relief, if she would promise not to tell that

I had spoken to her. The next day she gathered

moss from the trees along the stream, and I felt

that I could serve my country just as well by rest-

ing on this soft bed. I had begged off from using

a tent in that country, as there seemed to be no

insect that was not poisonous, and even many of

the vines and underbrush were dangerous to

touch. My husband had the wagon placed in

front of the tent every night when our march was

ended, and lifted me in and out of the high bed-

room, where I felt that nothing venomous could

climb up and sting. The moss, though very com-

fortable, often held in its meshes the horned toad,

a harmless little mottled creature that had two

tiny horns, which it turned from side to side in the

gravest, most knowing sort of way. The officers

sent these little creatures home by mail as curiosi-

ties, and, true to their well-known indifference to

air, they jumped out of the box at the journey’s end

in just the same active manner that they had hop-

ped about under our feet. Still, harmless as they

were held to be, they were not exactly my choice

as bed-fellows, any more than the lizards the

Texans call swifts, which also haunted the tangles

of the moss. Eliza tried to shake out and beat it

thoroughly, in order \.o dislodge any inhabitants,

before making my bed. One night I found that

124 TENTING ON THE PLAINS,

I

hay had been substituted, and felt myself rich in

luxury. I remembered gladly that hay was so

clean, so free from all natural history, and closed

my eyes in gratitude. And then it smelt so good,

so much better than the damp, vegetable odor of

the moss. A smudge at the end of the wagon

was rising about me to drive away mosquitoes,

and though the smoke scalds the eyes in this

heroic remedy, I still comforted myself with the

fresh odor of the hay, and quietly thought that

life in a manger was not the worst fate that could

come to one. All this pervading sense of comfort

was slightly disturbed in the night, when I was

awakened by a munching and crunching at my

ear. Wisps of hay were lying over the side of the

wagon, as it was too warm to leave the curtains

down, and the attraction proved too much for a

stray mule, which was quietly eating the pillow

from under my head. It was well our tent and

wagon were placed to one side, quite off by them-

selves, for the General would have waked the

camp with his peals of laughter at my indignation

and momentary fright. It did not need much

persuasion to rout the mule after all the hubbub

my husband made with his merriment, but I found

that I inclined to the moss bed after that.

As we advanced farther into the forest, Eliza

received further whispered confidences about my

THE LUXURY OF A PILLOW.

125

neck, stiff and sore from the roll of patriotic blue

that was still the rest for my tired head, and she re-

solved to make an attempt to get a feather pillow.

One day she discovered, near our camp, a house

that was cleaner than the rest we had seen, and

began negotiations with the mistress. She offered

a ” greenback,” as we had no silver then ; but they

had never seen one, and would not believe that it

was legal money. Finally, the woman said that,

if we had any calico or muslin for sale, she would

exchange her pillows for either the one or the

other. Eliza forgot her diplomacy, and rather in-

dignantly explained that we were not traveling

pedlers. At last, after several trips to and from

our camp, in which I was secretly interested, she

made what she thought a successful trade by

exchanging some blankets. Like the wag’s de-

scription of the first Pullman-car pillows, which he

said he lost in his ear, they were diminutive ex-

cuses for our idea of what one should be, but I

cannot remember anything that ever impressed

me as such a luxury; and I was glad to see that,

when the pillows were installed in their place, the

faith in my patriotism and in my willingness to

endure privations was not shaken.

The General was satisfied with his soldiers, and

admired the manner in which they endured the

trials of that hard experience. His perplexities

126 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

departed when they took everything so bravely.

He tried to arrange our marches every day so that

w^e might not travel over fifteen miles. So far as

I can remember, there was no one whose temper

and strength was not tried to the uttermost, except

my husband. His seeming indifference to excessive

heat, his having long before conquered thirst, his

apparent unconsciousness of the stings or bites of

insects, were powerful aids in encountering those

suffocating days. Frequently after a long march,

when we all gasped for breath, and in our exhaus-

tion flung ourselves down ” anywhere to die,” as

we laughingly said, a fresh horse was saddled, and

off went the General for a hunt, or to look up the

prospects for water in our next day’s journey. If

this stifling atmosphere, to which we were daily

subjected, disturbed him, we did not know it. He

held that grumbling did not mend matters ; but I

differed with him. I still think a little complain-

ing, when the patience is sorely taxed, eases the

troubled soul, though at that time I took good care

not to put my theory into practice, for reasons I

have explained, when the question of my joining

the march hung in the balance.

My life in a wagon soon became such an old

story that I could hardly believe I had ever had a

room. It constantly reminded me of my father.

He had opposed my marrying in the army, as I sup-

A HOME IN A WAGON. I 2 7

pose most fond fathers do. His opposition caused

me great suspense, and I thought, as all the very

young are apt to, that it was hopeless misery. Now

that the struggle was ended, I began to recall the

arguments of my parents. Father’s principal one,

mindful of the deprivations he had seen officers’

wives endure in Michigan’s early days, was that,

after the charm and dazzle of the epaulet had

passed, I might have to travel “in a covered

wagon like an emigrant.” I told this reason of

my father’s to my husband, and he often laughed

over it. When I was lifted from my rather lofty

apartment, and set down in the tent in the dark —

and before dawn in a pine forest it is dark — the

candle revealed a twinkle in the eye of a man who

could joke before breakfast. ” I wonder what

your father would say now,” was the oft-repeated

remark, while the silent partner scrabbled around

to get ready for the day. There was always a

pervading terror of being late, and I could not

believe but that it might happen, some day, that

thousands of men would be kept waiting because

a woman had lost her hair-pins. Imagine the

ignominy of any of the little trifles that delay us

in getting ourselves together, being the cause of

detaining an expedition in its morning start on

the march. Fortunately, the soldiers would have

been kept in merciful ignorance of the cause of

I 28 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

the detention, as a commanding officer is not

obliged to explain why he orders the trumpeter to

delay the call of ” boots and saddles;” but the

chagrin would have been just as great on the part

of the ” camp-follower,” and it would have given

the color of truth to the General’s occasional

declaration that ” it is easier to command a

whole division of cavalry than one woman.” I

made no protest to this declaration, as I had ob-

served, even in those early days of my married

life, that, in matrimonial experiences, the men that

make open statements of their wrongs in rather a

pompous, boastful way, are not the real sufferers.

Pride teaches subtlety in hiding genuine injuries^

Though I had a continued succession of frights,

while prowling around the tent before day hunting

my things, believing them lost sometimes, and thus

being thrown into wild stampedes, I escaped the

mortification of detaining the command. The

Frenchman’s weariness of a life that was given

over to buttoning and unbuttoning, was mine, and

in the short time between reveille and breakfast, I

lived through much perturbation of mind, fearing

I was behind time, and devoutly wished that

women who followed the drum could have been

clothed like the feathered tribe, and ready for the

wing at a moment’s notice. On this expedition I

brought down the art of dressing in a hurry to so

RECOMMENDA TION FOR A ^’CAMP FOLLOWERS \ 2g

fine a point that I could take my bath and dress

entirely in seven minutes. My husband timed me

one day, without my knowledge, and I had the

honor of having this added to a very brief list of

my attributes as a soldier. There was a second

recommendation, which did duty as a mild plaudit

for years afterward. When faithful soldiers are

discharged after their term of service has expired,

they have papers given them by the Government,

with statements of their ability and trustworthi-

ness. Mine consisted in the words usually used

in presenting me to a friend. Instead of referring

to a few meagre accomplishments which my

teachers had struggled to implant, as is the fash-

ion of some exuberant husbands, w^ho proudly

introduce their wives to intimate friends, the Gen-

eral usually said, ” Oh, I want you to know my

wife ; she slept four months in a wagon.’

Perhaps some people m the States may not

realize that army women have a hard time even

in saying their prayers. The closet that the New

Testament tells us to frequent is seldom ours, for

rarely does our frugal Government allow us one in

army quarters large enough to crowd in our few

gowns, much less to ” enter in and shut the door”;

while on a march like that in Texas, devotions

would be somewhat disturbed when one kneeled

down in a tent, uncertain whether it would be on

I30

TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

a centipede or a horned toad. To say a prayer

undisturbed, it was necessary to wait until one

went to bed. Fortunately, mine were brief, since

I had nothing to ask for, as I believed the best of

everything on earth had already been given to

me. If I was tired, and fell asleep in the midst

of my thanks, I could only hope the Heavenly

Father would forgive me. I was often so ex-

hausted at night, that it was hard to keep my eyes

open after my head had touched the pillow, espe-

cially after the acquisition of the blessed feather

pillow. An army woman I love, the most con-

sistent and honorable of her sex, was once so worn

out after a day of danger and fatigue on a march,

that she fell asleep while kneeling beside the bed

in the room she occupied, saying her prayers ; and

there she found herself, still on her knees, when

the sun wakened her in the morning.

CHAPTER IV.

MARCHES THROUGH PINE FORESTS OFFICERS ATTACKED

WITH BREAK-BONE FEVER PROMISES OF BOLD FLOW-

ING STREAMS INTRODUCTION TO THE PINE-TREE

RATTLESNAKE SCORPIONS, TARANTULAS, CENTI-

PEDES, CHIGGERS AND SEED-TICKS CROSSING THE

77

PONTON ” I WENT A-FISHING.

F

‘OR exasperating heat, recommend me to a

pine forest. Those tall and almost branch-

less Southern pines were simply smothering-. In

the fringed tops the wind swayed the delicate

limbs, while not a breath descended to us below.

We fumed and fussed, but not ill-naturedly, when

trying to find a spot in which to take a nap. If we

put ourselves in a narrow strip of shadow made by

the slender trunk of a tree, remorseless Sol followed

persistently, and we drowsily dragged ourselves

to another, to be pursued in the same determined

manner and stared into instant wakefulness by the

burning rays.

The General had reveille sounded at 2 o’clock

in the morning, causing our scamp to remark, sotto

voce, that if we were to be routed out in the night, he

132 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

thought he would eat his breakfast the evenhigr

before, in order to save time. It was absolutely

necessary to move before dawn, as the moment

the sun came in sight the heat was suffocating. It

was so dark when we set out that it was with diffi-

culty we reached the main road, from our

night’s camp, in safety. My husband tossed me

into the saddle, and cautioned me to follow as

close as my horse could walk, as we picked our

way over logs and through ditches or underbrush.

Custis Lee * was dog-like in his behavior at these

times. He seemed to aim to put his hoof exactly

in the foot-print of the General’s horse. In

times of difficulty or moments of peril, he evident-

ly considered that he was following the command-

ing officer, rather than carrying me. I scarcely

blamed him, much as I liked to control my own

horse, and gladly let the bridle slacken on his neck

as he cautiously picked his circuitous way ; but

once on the main road, the intelligent animal al-

lowed me to take control again. Out of the dark

my husband’s voice came cheerily, as if he were

riding in a path of sunshine : ” Are you all right ? “

” Give Lee his head.” ” Trust that old plug of yours

to bring you out ship-shape.” This insult to my

* My horse was captured from a staff-offieer of General Custis

Lee during the war, purchased by my husband from the Govern-

ment, and named for the Confederate general.

THE DEWS OF THE SOUTH.

13:

Splendid, spirited, high-stepping F. F. V. — for he

was that among horses, as well as by birth — was

received calmly by his owner, especially as the

sagacious animal was taking better care of me than

I could possibly take of myself, and I spent a brief

time in calling out a defense of him through the

gloom of the forest. This little diversion was in-

dulged in now and again by the General, to pro-

voke an argument, and thus assure himself that I

was safe and closely following ; and so it went on,

before day and after dark ; there was no hour or

circumstance out of which we did not extract

some amusement.

The nights, fortunately, were cool ; but such

dews fell, and it was so chilly, that we were obliged

to begin our morning march in thick coats, which

were tossed off as soon as the sun rose. The dews

drenched the bedding. I was sometimes sure that

it was raining in the night, and woke my husband

to ask to have the ambulance curtains of our bed

lowered ; but it was always a false alarm; not a

drop of rain fell in that blistering August. I soon

learned to shut our clothes in a little valise at

night, after undressing in the tent, to ensure dry

linen in the penetrating dampness of the morning.

My husband lifted me out of the wagon bedroom

when reveille sounded, into the tent, and by the

light of a tallow candle I had my bath and got

134

TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

into my clothes, combing my hair straight back, as

it was too dark to part it. Then, to keep my shoes

from being soaked with the wet grass, I was

carried to the dining-tent, and Ufted upon my

horse afterward.

One of my hurried toilets was stopped short one

morning, by the loss of the waist of my riding-

habit. In vain I tossed our few traps about to

find it, and finally remembered that I had ex-

changed the waist for a jacket, and left it under a

tree where we had been taking a siesta the day

before. Eliza had brought in the blanket, books^

and hats, but alas for my dress body ! it was hope-

lessly lost. In a pine forest, dark and thick with

fallen trees, what good did one tallow dip do in

the hasty search we made ? A column of thou-

sands of men could not be detained for a woman’s

gown. My husband had asked me to braid the

sleeves like his own velvet jacket. Five rows of

gilt braid in five loops made a dash of color that

he liked, which, though entirely out of place in a

thoroughfare, was admissible in our frontier life.

He regretted the loss, but insisted on sending for

more gilt braid as soon as we were out of the

wilderness, and then began to laugh to himself

and wonder if the traveler that came after us, not

knowing who had preceded him, might not think

he had come upon a part of the wardrobe of a cir-

THE GUIDE AND HIS MULE. \ -> –

•JO

cus troupe. It would have been rather serious

joking”, if in the small outfit in my valise I had not

brought a jacket, for which, though it rendered me

more of a fright than sun and wind had made me,

I still was very thankful ; for without the happy

accident that brought it along, I should have been

huddled inside the closed ambulance, waistless

and alone. Our looks did not enter into the

question very much. All we thought of was, how

to keep from being prostrated by the heat, and

how to get rested after the march, for the next

day’s task.

We had a unique character for a guide. He

was a citizen of Texas, who boasted that not a

road or a trail in the State was unfamiliar to him.

His mule Betty was a trial ; she walked so fast

that no one could keep up with her, but not faster

did she travel than her master’s tongue. As we

rode at the head of the column, the sun pouring

down upon our heads, we would call out to him,

” In heaven’s name, Stillman, how much longer is

this to keep up ?” meaning. When shall we find a

creek on which to camp ? ” Oh, three miles

further you’re sure to find a bold-flowin’ stream,”

was his confident reply ; and, sure enough, the

grass began to look greener, the moss hung from

the trees, the pines were varied by beautiful

cypress, or some low-branched tree, and hope

136 TEXTING ON THE PLAINS.

Sprang up in our hearts. The very horses showed,

by quickening step, they knew what awaited us.

Our scorched and parched throats began to taste,

in imagination, what w^as our idea of a bold-flow^-

ing stream ; it was cool and Hmpid, dancing over

pebbles on its merry way. We found ourselves in

reality in the bed of a dried creek, nothing but

pools of muddy water, with a coating of green

mold on the surface. The Custers made use of

this expression the rest of their lives. If ever we

came to a puny, crawling driblet of water, they

said, ” This must be one of Stillman’s bold-flow-

ing streams.” On we went again, w4th that fabri-

cator calling out from Betty’s back, ” Sho’ to find

finest water in the land five miles on !” Whenever

he had ” been in these parts afore, he had ahvays

found at all seasons a roaring torrent.” One day

we dragged through forty miles of arid land, and

after passing the dried beds of three streams, the

General was obliged to camp at last, on account

of the exhausted horses, on a creek with pools of

muddy, standing water, which StiUman, comingc^

back to the column, described as ” rather low.”

This was our worst day, and we felt the heat in-

tensely, as we usually finished our march and

were in camp before the sun was very high. I do

not remember one good drink of w ater on that

march. When it w^as not muddy or stagnant, it

GENERAL CUSTER AS A CADET.

137

138 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

tasted of the roots of the trees. Some one had

given my husband some claret for me when we

set out, and but for that, I don’t really know how

the thirst of the midsummer days could have been

endured. The General had already taught him-

self not to drink between meals, and I was trying”

to do so. All he drank was his mug of coffee

in the early morning and at dinner, and cold

tea or coffee, which Eliza kept in a bottle for

luncheon.

The privations did not quench the buoyancy of

those gay young fellows. The General and his

staff told stories and sang, and a man with good

descriptive powers recounted the bills of fare of

good dinners and choice viands he had enjoyed,

while we knew we had nothing to anticipate in

this wilderness but army fare. Sometimes, as we

marched along, almost melted with heat, and our

throats parched for water, the odor of cucumbers

was wafted toward us. Stillman, the guide, being

called on for an explanation, as we wondered if

we were nearing a farm, slackened Betty, waited

for us, and took down our hopes by explaining

that it was a certain species of snake, which in-

fested that part of the country. The scorpions,

centipedes and tarantulas were daily encountered.

I not only grew more and more unwilling to take

my nap, after the march was over, under a tree.

ANIMA TED NA TURE.

139

but made life a burden to my husband, till he

gave up flinging” himself down anywhere to sleep,

and induced him to take his rest in the traveling

wagon. I had been indolently lying outstretched

in a little grateful shade one day, when I was hur-

riedly roused by some one, and moved to avoid

what seemed to me a small, dried twig. It was

the most venomous of snakes, called the pine-tree

rattlesnake. It was very strange that we all

escaped being stung or bitten, in the midst of

thousands of those poisonous reptiles and insects.

One teamster died from a scorpion’s bite, and, un-

fortunately, I saw his bloated, disfigured body as

we marched by. It lay on a wagon, ready for

burial, without even a coffin, as we had no lumber.

What was most aggravating were two pests of

that region, the seed-tick and the chigger. The

latter bury their heads under the skin, and when

they are swollen with blood, it is almost impossible

to extract them without leaving the head imbedded.

This festers, and the irritation is almost unbear-

able. If they see fit to locate on neck, face or

arms, it is possible to outwit them in their prog-

ress ; but they generally choose that unattainable

spot between the shoulders, and the surgical opera-

tion of taking them out with a needle or knife-

point, must devolve upon some one else. To ride

thus with the skin on fire, and know that it must

140 TENTIXG ON THE PLAINS.

be endured till the march was ended, caused some

grumbling, but it did not last long”. The enemy

being routed, out trilled a song or laugh from

young and happy throats. If we came to a sandy

stretch of ground, loud groans from the staff be-

gan, and a cry, ” We’re in for the chiggers !” was

an immediate warning. We all grew very wary

of lying down to rest in such a locality, but were

thankful that the little pests were not venomous.

There’s nothing like being where something dan-

gerous lies in w^ait for you, to teach submission to

what is only an irritating inconvenience.

One of the small incidents out of which we in-

variably extracted fun, was our march at dawn

past the cabins of the few inhabitants. On the

open platform, sometimes covered, but often with

no roof, which connects the two log huts, the

family are wont to sleep in hot weather. There

they lay on rude cots, and were only wakened by

the actual presence of the cavalry, of whose ap-

proach they were unaware. The children sat up

in bed, in wide-gaping wonder ; the grown people

raised their heads, but instantly ducked under the

covers again, thinking they would get up in a mo-

ment, as soon as the cavalcade had passed. From

time to time a head was cautiously raised, hoping

to see the end of the column. Then such a shout

from the soldiers, a fusillade of the wittiest com-

AN A TTA CK OF FE VER. 1 4 1

ments, such as only soldiers can make — for I never

expect to hear brighter speeches than issue from

a marching column — and down went the venture-

some head, compelled to obey an unspoken mili-

tary mandate and remain ” under cover.” There

these people lay till the sun was scorching them,

imprisoned under their bed-clothes by modesty,

while the several thousand men filed by, two by

two, and the long wagon-train in the rear had

passed the house.

There came a day when I could not laugh and

joke with the rest. I was mortified to find myself ill

— I, who had been pluming myself on being such

a good campaigner, my desire to keep well being

heightened by overhearing the General boasting

to Tom that ” nothing makes the old lady sick.”

We did not know that sleeping in the sun in that

climate brings on a chill, and I had been fright-

ened away from the snake-infested ground, where

there might be shade, to the wagon for my after-

noon sleep. It was embarrassing in the extreme.

I could neither be sent back, nor remain in that

wilderness, which was infested by guerillas. The

surgeon compelled me to lie down on the march.

It was very lonely, for I missed the laughter and

story at the head of the column, which had light-

ened the privations of the journey. The soil was so

shallow that the wagon was kept on a continual

142

TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

joggle by the roots of the trees over which we

passed. This unevenness was of course not notice-

able on horseback, but now it was painfully so at

every revolution of the wheels. , The General and

Tom came back to comfort me every now and

asrain, while Eliza “■ mammied ” and nursed me,

and rode in the seat by the driver. It was

” break-bone fever.” No one knowing about it

can read these words and not feel a shudder. I

believe it is not dangerous, but the patient is intro-

duced, in the most painful manner, to every bone

in his body. Incredible as it used to seem when in

school we repeated the number of bones, it now be-

came no longer a wonder, and the only marvel was,

how some of the smallest on the list could con-

tain so large an ache. I used to lie and speculate

how one slender woman could possibly conceal

so many bones under the skin. Anatomy had

been on the list of hated books in school ; but I

began then to study it from life, in a manner that

made it likely to be remembered. The surgeon, as

is the custom of the admirable men of that profes-

sion in the army, paid me the strictest attention,

and I swallowed quinine, it seemed to me, by the

spoonful. As I had never taken any medicine to

speak of, it did its duty quickly, and in a few days

I was lifted into the saddle, tottering and light-

headed, but partly relieved from the pain, and

QUININE AS A DIET. 1 43

very glad to get back to our military family, who

welcomed me so warmly that I was aglow with

gratitude. I wished to ignore the fact that I had

fallen by the way, and was kept in lively fear that

they would all vote me a bother. After that, my

husband had the soldiers who were detailed for

duty at headquarters, when they cut the wood for

camp-fires, build a rough shade of pine branches

over the wagon, when we reached camp. Even

that troubled me, though the kind-hearted fellows

did not seem to mind it ; but the General quieted

me by explaining that the men, being excused from

night duty as sentinels, would not mind building

the shade as much as losing their sleep, and, be-

sides, we were soon afterward out of the pine for-

est and on the prairie.

Our officers suffered dreadfully on that march,

though they made light of it, and were soon merry

after a trial or hardship was over. The drenching

dews chilled the air that was encountered just at

daybreak. They were then plunged into a steam

bath from the overpowering sun, and the impure

water told frightfully on their health. I have seen

them turn pale and almost reel in the saddle, as

we marched on. They kept quinine in their vest-

pockets, and horrified me by taking large quanti-

ties at any hour when they began to feel a chill

coming on, or were especially faint. Our brother

I 44 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

Tom did not become quite strong, after nis attacli

of fever, for a long time, and had inflammatory

rheumatism at Fort Riley a year or more after-

ward, which the surgeons attributed to his Texas

exposure. I used to see the haggard face of the

adjutant-general, Colonel Jacob Greene, grow

drawn and gray with the inward fever that filled

his veins and racked his bones with pain. The

very hue of his skin comes back to me after all

these years, for we grieved over his suffering,

as_we had all just welcomed him back from the

starvation of Libby Prison.

I rode in their midst, month after month, ever

revolving in my mind the question, whence came

the inexhaustible supply of pluck that seemed

at their command, to meet all trials and privations,

just as their unfaltering courage had enabled them

to go through the battles of the war ? And yet,

how much harder it was to face such trials, unsup-

ported by the excitement of the trumpet-call and

the charge. There was no wild clamor of war to

enable them to forget the absence of the common-

est necessities of existence. In Texas and Kansas,

the life was often for months unattended by ex-

citement of any description. It was only to be

endured by a grim shutting of the teeth, and an

iron will. The mother of one of the fallen heroes of

the Seventh Cavalry, who passed uncomplainingly

FORTITUDE OF SOLDIERS. 145

through the privations of the frontier, and gave up

his Ufe at last, writes to me in a recent letter that

she considers ” those late experiences of hardship

and suffering, so gallantly borne, by far the most

interesting of General Custer’s life, and the least

known.” For my part, I was constantly mystified

as I considered how our officers, coming from all

the wild enthusiasm of their Virginia Ufe, could, as

they expressed it, “buckle down” to the dull, ex-

hausting days of a monotonous march.

Young as I then was, I thought that to endure,

to fight for and inflexibly pursue, a purpose or

general principle like patriotism, seemed to require

far more patience and courage than when it is

individualized. I did not venture to put my

thoughts into words, for two reasons : I was too

wary to let them think I acknowledged there were

hardships, lest they might think I repented having

come ; for I knew then, as I know now, but feared

they did not, that I would go through it all a hun-

dred times over, if inspired by the reasons that

actuated me. In the second place, I had already

found what a habit it is to ridicule and make light

of misfortune or vicissitude. It cut me to the

quick at first, and I thought the officers and sol-

diers lacking in sympathy. But I learned to know

what splendid, loyal friends they really were, if

misfortune came and help was needed ; how they

146 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

denied themselves to loan money, if it is the finan-

cial difficulty of a friend ; how they nursed one

another in illness or accident ; how they quietly

fought the battles of the absent ; and one occasion

I remember, that an officer, being ill, was unable

to help himself when a soldier behaved in a

most insolent manner, and his brother officer

knocked him down, but immediately apologized

to the captain for taking the matter out of his

hands. A hundred ways of showing the most

unswerving fidelity taught me, as years went on,

to submit to what I still think the deplorable habit,

if not of ridicule, of suppressed sympathy. I used

to think that even if a misfortune was not serious,

it ought to be recognized, and none were afraid of

showing that they possessed truly tender, gen-

tle, sympathetic natures, with me or with any

woman that came among them.

The rivers, and even the small streams, in Texas

have high banks. It is a land of freshets, and the

most innocent little rill can rise to a roaring tor-

rent in no time. Anticipating these crossings, we

had in our train a ponton bridge. We had to make

long halts while this bridge was being laid, and

then, oh ! the getting down to it. If the sun was

high, and the surgeon had consigned me to the

traveling-wagon, I looked down the deep gulley

with more than inward quaking. My trembling

DESCENT TO A RIVER. 1 . 7

hands clutched wildly at the seat, and my head

was out at the side to see my husband’s face, as

he directed the descent, cautioned the driver, and

encouraged me. The brake was frequently not

enough, and the soldiers had to man the wheels,

for the soil was wet and slippery from the constant

passing of the pioneer force, who had laid the

bridge. The heavy wagons, carrying the boats

and lumber for the bridge, had made the side-hill

a difficult bit of ground to traverse. The four

faithful mules apparently sat down and slid to the

water’s edge ; but the driver, so patient with my

quiet imploring to go slowly, kept his strong foot

on the brake and knotted the reins in his power-

ful hands. I blessed him for his caution, and

then at every turn of the wheel I implored him

again to be careful. Finally, when I poured out my

thanks at the safe transit, the color mounted in his

brown face, as if he had led a successful charge.

In talking at night to Eliza, of my tremors as we

plunged down the bank and were bounced upon

the ponton, which descended to the water’s edge

under the sudden rush with which we came, I

added my praise of the driver’s skill, which she

carefully repeated as she slipped him, on the sly,

the mug of coffee and hot biscuits with which she

invariably rewarded merit, whether in officers or

men. When I could, I made these descents on

1 48 TEA’TIXG Oy THE PLAINS.

horseback, and climbed up the opposite bank with

my hands wound in Custis Lee’s abundant mane.

Ehza, in spite of her constant lookout for some

variety for our table, could seldom find any vege-

tables, even at the huts we passed. Corn pone

and chine were the principal food of these shift-

less citizens, butternut colored in clothing and

complexion, indifferent alike to food and to drink.

At the Sabine River the water was somewhat

clearer. The soldiers, leading their horses, crossed

carefully, as it was dangerous to stop here, lest the

weight should carry the bridge under ; but they

are too quick-witted not to watch every chance to

procure a comfort, and they tied strings to their

canteens and dragged them beside the bridge,

getting, even in that short progress, one tolerably

good drink. The wagon-train was of course a

long time in crossing, and dinner looked dubious

to our staff. Our faithful Eliza, as we talk over

that march, will prove in her own language, better

than I can portray, how she constantly bore our

comfort on her mind.

” Miss Libbie, do you mind, after we crossed the

Sabine River, we went into camp ? Well, we

hadn’t much supplies, and the wagons wasn’t up ;

so, as I was awaitin’ for you all, I says to the

boys, ‘ Now, you make a fire, and I’ll go a-fishin’.’

The first thing, I got a fish — well, as long as my

ELIZA’S FISH STORY.

149

arm. It was big, and jumped so it scart me, and I

let the line go, but one of the men caught hold and

jumped for me and I had him, and went to work

on him right away. I cleaned him, salted him,

rolled him in flour, and fried him ; and. Miss

Libbie, we had a nice platter of fish, and the Gen-

eral was just delighted when he came up, and he

was surprised, too, and he found his dinner — for I

had some cold biscuit and a bottle of tea in the

lunch-box — while the rest was awaitin’ for the

supplies to come up. For while all the rest was

awaitin’, I went fishin’, mind you !”

CHAPTER V.

OUT OF THE WILDERNESS OUR CAMP AT HEMPSTEAD

HOSPITALITY OF SOUTHERN PLANTERS THE

general’s DEER-HUNTING A BAPTISM OF GORE

ESCAPE FROM BEING BLOWN UP BY POWDER

ELIZA ESTABLISHES AN ORPHAN ASYLUM THE

PROTECTING CARE THAT OFFICERS SHOW TO

WOMEN.

A S we came out of the forest, the country im-

proved somewhat. The farm-houses began

to show a httle look of comfort, and it occurred to

us that we might now vary the monotony of our

fare by marketing. My husband and I sometimes

rode on in advance of the command, and ap-

proached the houses with our best manners,

sohciting the privilege of buying butter and eggs.

The farmer’s wife was taking her first look at

Yankees, but she found that we neither wore

horns nor were cloven-footed, and she even so far

unbent as to apologize for not having butter, add-

ing, what seemed then so flimsy an excuse, that

” I don’t make more than enough butter for our

own use, as we are only milking seven cows

I

our OF THE WILDERNESS. i r j

now.” We had yet to learn that what makes a

respectable dairy at home, was nothing in a coun-

try where the cows give a cupful of milk and all

run to horns. It was a great relief to get out of

the wilderness, but though our hardships were

great, I do not want them to appear to outnumber

the pleasures. The absence of creature comforts

is easily itemized. We are either too warm or too

cold, we sleep uncomfortably, we have poor food,

we are wet by storms, we are made ill by ex-

posure. Happiness cannot be itemized so readily;

it is hard to define what goes to round and com-

plete a perfect day. We remember hours of pleas-

ure as bathed in a mist that blends all colors into

a roseate hue ; but it is impossible to take one tint

from colors so perfectly mingled, and define how

it adds to theperfect whole.

. The days now seemed to grow shorter and

brighter. In place of the monotonous pines, we

had magnolia, mulberry, pecan, persimmon and

Hve-oak, as well as many of our own Northern

trees, that grew along the streams. The cactus,

often four feet high, was covered with rich red

blossoms, and made spots of gorgeous color in the

prairie grass. I had not then seen the enormous

cacti of old Mexico, and four feet of that plant

seemed immense, as at home we labored to get

one to grow six inches. The wild-flowers were

152

TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

charming in color, variety and luxuriance. The

air, even then beginning to taste of the sea, blew

softly about us. Stillman no longer blackened his

soul with prophecies about the streams on which

we nightly pitched our tents. The water did flow

in them, and though they were then low, so that

the thousands of horses were scattered far up and

down when watering-time came, the green scum

of sluggish pools was a thing of the past.

A few days before we reached what was to be

a permanent camp, a staff-officer rode out to meet

us, and brought some mail. It was a strange sen-

sation to feel ourselves restored by these letters to

the outside world. General Custer received a

great surprise. He was brevetted major, lieuten-

ant-colonel and brigadier-general in the regular

army. The officers went off one side to read their

sweethearts’ letters ; and some of our number re-

newed their youth, sacrificed in that dreadful for-

est to fever, when they read the good news of the

coming of their wives by sea. At Hempstead we

halted, and the General made a permanent camp,

in order to recruit men and horses after their ex-

hausting march. Here General Sheridan and some

of his staff came, by way of Galveston, and

brought with them our father Custer, whom the

General had sent for to pay us a visit. General

Sheridan expressed great pleasure at the appear-

COMMEND A TION FROM THE CHIEF. \ c ->

ance of the men and horses, and heard with rehef

and satisfaction of the orderly manner in which

they had marched through the enemy’s country,

of how few horses had perished from the heat,

and how seldom sunstroke had occurred. He

commended the General — as he knew how to do so

splendidly — and placed him in command of all the

cavalry in the State. Our own Division then

numbered four thousand men.

I was again mortified to have to be compelled to

lie down for a day or two, as so many weeks in the

saddle had brought me to the first discovery of a

spinal column. It was nothing- but sheer fatigue,

for I was perfectly well, and could laugh and talk

with the rest, though not quite equal to the effort

of sitting upright, especially as we had nothing

but camp-stools, on which it is impossible to rest.

Indisposition, or even actual illness, has less ter-

rors in army life than in the States. We were not

condemned to a gloomy upper chamber in a house,

and shut in alone with a nurse whom we had never

before seen. In our old life, ailing people lay on a

lounge in the midst of all the garrison, who were

coming and going a dozen times a day, asking,

” How does it go now?” and if you had studied up

anything that they could do for you ! I princi-

pally recall being laid up by fatigue, because of the

impetuous assault that my vehement father Custer

1^4 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

made on his son for allowing me to share the dis-

comforts ; and when I defended my husband by

explaining how I had insisted upon coming, he

only replied, ” Can’t help it if you did. Arm-

strong, you had no right to put her through such

a jaunt.” It was amusing to see the old man’s

horror when our staff told him what we had been

through. It would have appeared that I was his

own daughter, and the General a son-in-law, by

the manner in which he renewed his attack on the

innocent man. Several years afterward it cost

Lieutenant James Calhoun long pleading, and a

probationary state of two years, before the old

man would consent to his taking his daughter

Margaret into the army. He shook his gray head

determinedly, and said, ” Oh, no ; you don’t get

me to say she shall go through what Libbie has.”

But the old gentleman was soon too busy with his

own affairs, defending himself against not only

the ingenious attacks of his two incorrigible boys,

but the staff, some of whom had known him in

Monroe. His eyes twinkled, and his face wrinkled

itself into comical smiles, as he came every morn-

ing with fresh tales of what a ” night of it he had

put in.” He had a collection of mild vituperations

for the boyc^ .gathered from Maryland, Ohio and

Mklifgan, where he had lived, which, extensive as

the list was, did not, in my mind, half meet the

situation.

CAMP A T HEMPSTEAD. 1 c r

The stream on which we had encamped was

wide and deep, and had a current. Our tents

were on the bank, which gently sloped to the

water. We had one open at both ends, over which

was built a shade of pine boughs, which was ex-

tended in front far enough for a porch. Some lum-

ber from a ponton bridge was made into the un-

usual luxury of a jfloor. My husband still indulged

my desire to have the traveling-wagon at the rear,

so that I might take up a safe position at night,

when sleep interrupted my vigils, over the insects

and reptiles that were about us constantly. The

cook-tent, with another shade over it, was near us,

where Eliza flourished a skillet as usual. The staff

were at some distance down the bank, while the

Division was stretched along the stream, having, at

last, plenty of water. Beyond us, fifty miles of

prairie stretched out to the sea. We encamped on

an unused part of the plantation of the oldest

resident of Texas, who came forth with a welcome

and offers of hospitality, which we declined, as

our camp was comfortable. His wife sent me over

a few things to make our tent habitable, as I sup-

pose her husband told her that our furniture con-

sisted of a bucket and two camp-stools. There’s

no denying that I sank down into one of the chairs,

which had a back, with a sense of enjoyment of

what seemed to me the greatest luxury I had ever

156

TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

known. The milk, vegetables, roast of mutton,

jelly, and other things which she also sent, were

not enough to tempt me out of the delightful hol-

low, from which I thought I never could emerge

again. But military despots pick up their families

and carry them out to their dinner, if they refuse

to walk. The new neighbors offered us a room

with them, but the General never left his men.

and it is superfluous to say that I thought our

clean, new hospital tent, as large again as a wall-

tent, and much higher, was palatial after the trials

of the pine forest.

The old neighbor continued his kindness, which

was returned by sending him game after the Gen-

eral’s hunt, and protecting his estate. He had owned

130 slaves, with forty in his house. He gave us

dogs and sent us vegetables, and spent many hours

under our shade. He had lived under eight govern-

ments in his Texas experience, and, possibly, the

habit of ” speeding the parting and welcoming the

coming guest ” had something to do with his hos-

pitality. I did not realize how Texas had been

tossed about in a game of battle-door and shuttle-

cock till he told me of his life under Mexican rule,

the Confederacy, and the United States.

I find mention, in an old letter to my parents, of

a great luxury that here appeared, and quote the

words of the exuberant and much underlined girl

ELIZA’S LAUNDRY. I57

missive : ” I rejoice to tell you that I am the happy

possessor of a mattress. It is made of the moss

which festoons the branches of all the trees at the

South. The moss is prepared by boiling it, then

burying it in the ground for a long time, till only

the small thread inside is left, and this looks like

horse-hair. An old darkey furnished the moss for

three dollars, and the whole thing only cost seven

dollars — very cheap for this country. We are

living finely now; we get plenty of eggs, butter,

lard and chickens. Eliza cooks better than ever,

by a few logs, with camp-kettles and stew-pans.

She has been washing this past week, and drying

her things on a line tied to the tent-poles and on

bushes, and ironing on the ground, with her iron-

ing-sheet held down by a stone on each corner.

To-day we are dressed up in white. She invites

us to mark Sunday by the luxury of wearing white.

‘ Her ole miss used to.’ We are regulated by the

doings of that ‘ ole miss,’ and I am glad that

among the characteristics of my venerable pre-

decessor, which we are expected to follow, wear-

ing white gowns is included.”

Eliza, sitting here beside me to-day, has just

reminded me of that week, as it was marked in her

memory by a catastrophe. Eliza’s misfortunes were

usually within the confines of domestic routine. I

quote her words: ” It was on the Gros Creek, Miss

I q;8 • TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

Libbie, that I had out that big wash, and all your

lace-trimmed things, and all the Ginnel’s white

linen pants and coats. I didn’t know nothin’ ’bout

the high winds then, but I ain’t like to forget ’em

ever again. The first thing I knew, the line was

jest lifted up, and the clothes jest spread in every

direction, and I jest stood still and looked at ’em,

and I says, * Is this Texas ? How long am I to con-

tend with this ? ‘ [With hands uplifted and a camp-

meeting roll in her eyes.] But I had to go to

work and pick ’em all up. Some fell in the sand,

and some on the grass. I gathered ’em all, with

the sun boiling down hot enough to cook an ^^%.

While I was a-pickin’ ’em up, the Ginnel was

a-standin’ in the tent entrance, wipin’ down his

moustache, like he did when he didn’t want us to

see him laughin’. Well, Miss Libbie, I was that mad

when he hollered out to me, ‘ Well, Eliza, you’ve

got a spread-eagle thar.’ Oh, I was so mad and

hot, but he jest bust right out laughin’. But there

wasn’t anything to do but rinse and hang ’em up

again.”

We had been in camp but a short time, when the

daughter of the newly appointed collector of the

port came from their plantation near to see us.

She invited me to make my home with them while

we remained, but I was quite sure there was noth-

ing on earth equal to our camp. The girl’s father

SOUTHERN SWEETff EAR TING.

159

had been a Union man during the war, and was

hopelessly invalided by a long political imprison-

ment. I remember nothing bitter, or even gloomy,

about that hospitable, delightful family. The

young girl’s visit was the precursor of many more,

and our young officers were in clover. There

were three young women in the family, and they

came to our camp, and rode and drove with us,

while we made our first acquaintance with South-

ern home life. The house was always full of

guests. The large dining-table was not long

enough, however, unless placed diagonally across

the dining-room, and it was sometimes laid three

times before all had dined. The upper part of the

house was divided by a hall running the length of

the house. On one side the women and their

guests, usually a lot of rollicking girls, were quar-

tered, while the men visitors had rooms opposite ;

and then I first saw the manner in which a South-

ern gallant comes courting or flirting. He rode up

to the house, with his servant, on another horse,

carrying a portmanteau. They came to stay sev-

eral weeks. I wondered that there was ever an un-

congenial marriage at the South, when a man had

such a chance to see his sweetheart. This was

one of the usages of the country that our North-

ern men adopted when they could get leave to be

absent from camp, and delightful visits we all had.

l6o TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

It seemed a great privilege to be again with

women, after the long season in which I had only

Eliza to represent the sex. But I lost my presence

of mind when I went into a room for the first time

and caught a glimpse of myself in a mirror. The

only glass I had brought from the East was broken

early in the march, and I had made my toilet by

feeling. The shock of the apparition comes back

to me afresh, and the memory is emphasized by

my fastidious mother’s horror when she saw me

afterward. I had nothing but a narrow-brimmed

hat with which to contend against a Texas sun.

My face was almost parboiled, and swollen with

sunburn, while my hair was faded and rough. Of

course, when I caught the first glimpse of myself

in the glass, I instantly hurried to the General and

Tom, and cried out indignantly, ” Why didn’t

you tell me how horridly I looked ?” — the incon-

sistent woman in me forgetting that it would not

have made my ugliness any easier to endure. My

husband hung his head in assumed humility

when he returned me to my mother, six

months later ; my complexion seemingly hope-

lessly thickened and darkened, for, though

happily it improved after living in a house, it

never again looked as it did before the Texas

life. My indignant mother looked as if her

son-in-law was guilty of an unpardonable crime.

HOSPITALITY OF PLANTERS. ‘ 1 6 I

I told her, rather flippantly, that it had been

offered up on the altar of my country, and she

ought to be glad to have so patriotic a family,

but she withered the General with a look that

spoke volumes. He took the first opportunity to

whisper condescendingly that, though my mother

was ready to disown me, and quite prepared to

annihilate him, he would endeavor not to cast me

off if I was black, and would try to like me ” not-

withstanding all.”

The planters about the country began to seek

out the General, and invite him to go hunting ; and,

as there was but little to do while the command

was recruiting from the march, he took his father

and the staff and went to the different plantations

where the meet was planned. The start was made

long before day, and breakfast was served at the

house where the hunters assembled ; dinner being

enjoyed at the same hospitable board on the re-

turn at night. Each planter brought his hounds,

and I remember the General’s delight at his first

sight of the different packs— thirty-seven dogs in

all— and his enthusiasm at finding that every dog

responded to his master’s horn. He thereupon

purchased a horn, and practiced in camp until he

nearly split his cheeks in twain, not to mention the

spasms into which we were driven ; for his five

hounds, presents from the farmers, ranged them-

I 62 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

selves in an admiring and sympathetic semicircle,

accompanying all his practicing by tuning their

voices until they reached the same key. I had no

idea it was such a difficult thing to learn to sound

notes on a horn. When we begged off sometimes

from the impromptu serenades of the hunter and

his dogs, the answer was, ” I am obliged to prac-

tice, for if anyone thinks it is an easy thing to blow

on a horn, just let him try it.” Of course Tom

caught the fever, and came in one day with the

polished horn of a Texas steer ready for action.

The two were impervious to ridicule. No detailed

description of their red, distended cheeks, bulging

eyes, bent and laborious forms, as they strug-

gled, suspended the operation. The early stages

of this horn music gave little idea of the gay pict-

ure of these debonair and spirited athletes, as

they afterward appeared. When their musical

education was completed, they were wont to leap

into the saddle, lift the horn in unconscious grace

to their lips, curbing their excited and rearing

horses with the free hand, and dash away amidst

the frantic leaping, barking and joyous demon-

stration of their dogs.

At the first hunt, when one of our number killed

a deer, the farmers made known to our officers, on

the sly, the old-established custom of the chase.

While Captain Lyon stood over his game, volubly

A BAPTISM OF GORE. I 63

narrating, in excited tones, how the shot had been

sent and where it had entered, a signal, which he

was too absorbed to notice, was given, and the

crowd rushed upon him and so plastered him

with blood from the deer that scarcely an inch of

his hair, hands and face was spared, while his gar-

ments were red from neck to toes. After this

baptism of gore, they dragged him to our tent on

their return to exhibit him, and it was well that he

was one of the finest-hearted fellows in the world,

for day and night these pestering fellows kept up

the joke. Notwithstandmg he had been subjected

to the custom of the country, which demands that

the blood of the first deer killed in the chase shall

anoint the hunter, he had glory enough through

his success to enable him to submit to the penalty.

Tom also shot a deer that day, but his glory was

dimmed by a misfortune, of which he seemed fated

never to hear the last. The custom was to place one

or two men at stated intervals in different parts

of the country where the deer were pretty sure to

run, and Tom was on stand watching through the

woods in the direction from which the sound of

the dogs came. As the deer bounded toward

him, he was so excited that when he fired, the shot

went harmlessly by the buck and landed in one

of the General’s dogs, killing the poor hound in-

stantly. Though this was a loss keenly felt, there

164 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

was no resisting the chance to guy the hunter.

Even after Tom had come to be one of the best

shots in the Seventh Cavalry, and when the Gen-

eral never went hunting without him, if he could

help it, he continued to say, ” Oh, Tom’s a good

shot, a sure aim — he’s sure to hit something ! “

Tom was very apt, also, to find newspaper clippings

laid around, with apparent carelessness by his

brother, where he would see them. For example,

like this one, which I have kept among some old

letters, as a reminder of those merry days : ” An

editor went hunting the other day, for the first

time in twenty-two years, and he was lucky enough

to bring down an old farmer by a shot in the leg.

The distance was sixty-six yards.”

We had long and delightful rides over the level

country. Sometimes, my husband and I, riding

quietly along at twilight, for the days were still too

warm for much exercise at noon-time, came upon

as many as three coveys of quail scurrying to the

underbrush. In a short walk from camp he could

bag a dozen birds, and we had plenty of duck in

the creek near us. The bird dog was a perpetual

pleasure. She was the dearest, chummiest sort of

house-doof, and when we took her out she still

visited with us perpetually, running to us every

now and again to utter a little whine, or to have

us witness her tail, which, in her excitement in

RIDING AS A PASTIME. 1 65

rushing through the underbrush, cacti and weeds,

was usually scratched, torn and bleeding. The

country was so dry that we could roam at will, re-

gardless of roads. Our horses were accustomed

to fording streams, pushing their way through

thickets and brambles, and becoming so interested

in making a route through them that my habit

sometimes caught in the briars, and my hat was

lifted off by the low-hanging moss and branches;

and if I was not very watchful, the horse would

go through a passage between two trees just wide

enough for himself, and wipe me off, unless I

scrambled to the pommel. The greater the ob-

stacles my husband encountered, even in his sports,

the more pleasure it was to him. His own horses

were so trained that he shot from their backs with-

out their moving. Mine would also stand fire, and

at the report of a gun, behaved much better than

his mistress.

Eliza, instead of finding the General wearing

his white linen to celebrate Sunday, according to

her observances, was apt to get it on week-days

after office-hours, far too often to suit her. On

the Sabbath, she was immensely puffed up to see

him emerge from the tent, speckless and spotless,

because she said to me, “Whilst the rest of the

officers is only too glad to get a white shirt, the

Ginnel walks out among ’em all, in linen from

1 66 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

top to toe.” She has been sitting beside me, talk-

ing- over a day at that time. ” Do you mind, Miss

Libbie, that while we was down in Texas the

Ginnel was startin’ off on a deer-hunt, I jest went

up to him and tole him, ‘ Now, Ginnel, you go take

off them there white pants.’ He said so quiet,

sassy, cool, roguish-like, ‘The deer always like

something white ‘ — telling me that jest ’cause he

wanted to keep ’em on. Well, he went, all the

same, and when he came back, I says, ‘ I don’t

think the deer saw you in those pants.’ He was

covered with grass-stains and mud, and a young

fawn swinging across the saddle. But them pants

was mud and blood, and green and yellow blotches,

from hem to bindin’. But he jest laughed at me

because I was a-scoldin’, and brought the deer

out to me, and I skinned it the fust time I ever

did, and cooked it next day, and we had a nice

dinner.”

At that time Eliza was a famous belle. Our color-

ed coachman, Henry, was a permanent fixture at the

foot of her throne, while the darkies on the neigh-

boring plantations came nightly to worship. She

bore her honors becomingly, as well as the fact

that she was the proud possessor of a showy out-

fit, including silk dresses. The soldiers to whom

Eliza had been kind in Virginia, had given her

clothes that they had found m the caches where

ESC A PE FROM AN EXPLOSION. 1 6 /

the farmers endeavored to hide their valuables

during the war. Eliza had made one of these

very receptacles for her ” ole miss ” before she left

the plantation, and while her conscience allowed

her to take the silken finery of some other woman

whom she did not know, she kept the secret of the

hiding-place of her own people’s valuables until

after the war, when the General sent her home in

charge of one of his sergeants to pay a visit.

Even the old mistress did not know the spot that

Eliza had chosen, which had been for years a

secret, and she describes the joy at sight of her,

and her going to the place in the field and dig-

ging up the property ” with right smart of money,

too, Miss Libbie— enough, with that the Ginnel

gave me to take home, to keep ’em till the crops

could be harvested.”

This finery of Eliza’s drove a woman servant at

the next place to plan a miserable revenge, which

came near sending us all into another world. We

were taking our breakfast one morning, with the

table spread under the awning in front of our tent.

The air, not yet heated by the sun, came over the

prairie from the sea. The little green swift and

the chameleon, which the General had found in

the arbor roof and tamed as pets, looked down

upon as reposeful and pretty a scene as one could

wish, when we suddenly discovered a blaze in the

1 68 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

cook-tent, where we had now a stove — but EHza

shall tell the story : ” When I fust saw the fire,

Miss Libbie, I was a-waitin’ on you at breakfast.

Then the first thought was the Ginnel’s powdfer-

can, and I jest dropped everythin’ and ran and

found the blaze was a-runnin’ up the canvas of

my tent, nearly reachin’ the powder. The can

had two handles, and I ketched it up and ran out-

side. When I first got in the tent, it had burnt

clar up to the ridge-pole on one side. Some things

in my trunk was scorched mightily, and one side

of it was pretty well burnt. The fire was started

right behind my trunk, not very near the cook-stove.

The Ginnel said to me how cool and deliberate I

was, and he told me right away that if my things

had been destroyed, I would have everythin’ re-

placed, for he was bound I wasn’t going to lose

nothin’.”

My husband, in this emergency, was as cool

as he always was. He followed Eliza as she ran

for the powder-can, and saved the tent and its con-

tents from destruction, and, without doubt, saved

our lives. The noble part that I bore in the

moment of peril was to take a safe position m

our tent, wring my hands and cry. If there

was no one else to rush forward in moments of dan-

ger, courage came unexpectedly, but I do not recall

much brave volunteering on my part.

HOSPITALITY OF THE KITCHEN. j 6q

Eliza put such a broad interpretation upon the

General’s oft-repeated instruction not to let any

needy person go away from our tent or quarters

hungry, that occasionally we had to protest. She

describes to me now his telling her she was carry-

ing her benevolence rather too far, and her reply-

ing, ” Yes, Ginnel, I do take in some one once and

a while, of and on.” ” Yes,” he replied to me, ” more

on than off, I should say.” ” One chile I had to hide

in the weeds a week. Miss Libbie. The Ginnel

used to come out to the cook-tent and stand there

kinder careless like, and he would spy a Httle path

running out into the weeds. Well, he used to carry

me high and dry about them httle roads leading

off to folks he said I was a-feedin’. I would say,

when I saw him lookin’ at the little path in the

weeds, ‘Well, what is it, Ginnel ?’ He would look

at me so keen-like out of his eyes, and say, ‘ That’s

what /say.’ Then he’d say he was goin’ to get a

couple of bloodhounds, and run ’em through the

bushes to find out just how many I was a-feedin’.

Then, Miss Libbie, we never did come to a brush

or a thicket but that he would look around at me

so kinder sly like, and tell me that would be a fust-

rate ranch for me. Then I would say, ‘ Well, it’s

a good thing I do have somebody sometimes,

’cause my cook-tent is alius’ stuck way off by itself,

and its lonesome, and sometimes I’m so scart.’

170

TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

” But you know, Miss Libbie,” she added, afraid

that I might think she reflected on one whose

memory she reveres, ” my tent was obhged to be a

good bit off, ’cause the smell of the cookin’ took

away the Ginnel’s appetite ; he was so uncertain

like in his eatin’, you remember.”

In Texas, two wretched little ragamuffins – one

of the poor white trash and another a negro— -were

kept skulking about the cook-tent, making long,

circuitous detours to the creek for water, for fear

we would see them, as they said ” Miss Lize

tole us you’d make a scatter if you knew ‘ no

count ‘ chillern was a-bein’ fed at the cook-tent.”

They slipped into the underbrush at our approach,

and lay low in the grass at the rear of the tent if

they heard our voices. The General at first thought

that, after Eliza had thoroughly stuffed them and

made them fetch and carry for her, they would

disappear, and so chose to ignore their presence,

pretending he had not seen them. But at last they

appeared to be a permanent addition, and we con-

cluded that the best plan would be to acknowledge

their presence and make the best of the infliction ;

so we named one Texas, and the other Jeff. Eliza

beamed, and told the orphans, who capered out

boldly in sight for the first time, and ran after

Miss ” Lize ” to do her bidding. Both of them,

from being starved, wretched, and dull, grew quite

OUR BUNKIES.

171

” peart ” under her good care. The first evidence

of gratitude I had was the creeping into the tent of

the little saffron-colored

white boy, with downcast

eyes, mumbling that ” Miss

Lize said that I could pick

the scorpions out of your

shoes.” I asked, in wonder

-one spark of generosity

blazing up before its final

obliteration — ” And how in

the name of mercy do you

get on with the things your-

self ?” He lifted up a di-

minutive heel, and proudly showed me a scar.

The boy had probably never had on a pair

172 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

of shoes ; consequently this part of his pedal

extremity was absolutely so callous, so evidently

obdurate to any object less penetrating than a

sharpened spike driven in with a hammer, I found

myself wondering- how a scorpion’s little spear

could have effected an entrance through the

seemingly impervious outer cuticle. Finally, I

concluded that at a more tender age that ” too

solid flesh ” may have been susceptible to an ” hon-

orable wound.” It turned out that this cowed and

apparently lifeless little midget was perfectly in-

difi”erent to scorpions. By this time, I no longer

pretended to courage of any sort ; I had found

one in my trunk, and if, after that, I was com-

pelled to go to it, I flung up the lid, ran to the

other side of the tent, and ” shoo-shooed ” with that

eminently senseless feminine call which is used

alike for cows, geese, or any of these acknowledged

foes. Doubtless a bear would be greeted with

the same word, until the supposed occupants had

run off. Night and morning my husband shook

and beat my clothes while he helped me to dress.

The officers daily came in with stories of the

trick, so common to the venomous reptiles, of hid-

ing between the sheets, and the General then even

shook the bedding in our eyrie bedroom. Of all

this he was relieved by the boy that Eliza called

^’ poor little picked sparrow,” who was appointed

THE BITE OF A CENTIPEDE. j -i-y

as my maid. Night and morning the yellow dot

ran his hands into shoes, stockings, night-gown,

and dress-sleeves, in all the places where the scor-

pions love to lurk ; and I bravely and generously

gathered myself into the armchair while the

search went on.

Eliza has been reminding me of our daily terror

of the creeping, venomous enemy of those hot

lands. She says, ” One day. Miss Libbie, I got a

bite, and I squalled out to the Ginnel, ‘ Somethin’s

bit me ! ‘ The Ginnel, he said, ‘ Bit you ! bit you

whar ? ‘ I says ‘ On my arm; ‘ and, Miss Libbie, it

was pizen, for my arm it just swelled enormous

and got all up in lumps. Then it pained me so

the Ginnel stopped a-laughin’ and sent for the

doctor, and he giv’ me a drink of whisky. Then

what do you think ! when I got better, didn’t he go

and say I was playin’ off on him, just to get a

big drink of whisky. But I clar’ to you, Miss

Libbie, I was bad off that night. The centipede

had crept into my bedclothes, and got a good

chance at me, I can tell you.”

Our surgeon was a naturalist, and studied up

the vipers and venomous insects of that almost

tropical land. He showed me a captured scorpion

one day, and, to make me more vigilant, infuriated

the loathsome creature till it flung its javelin of

a tail over on its back and stung itself to death.

174

TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

Legends of what had happened to army women

who had disregarded the injunctions for safety

were handed down from elder to subaltern, and a

plebe fell heir to these stories as much as to the

tactics imparted by his superiors, or the campaign-

ing lore. I hardly know when I first heard of the

unfortunate woman who lingered too far behind

the cavalcade, in riding for pleasure or marching,

and was captured by the Indians, but for ten years

her story was related to me by officers of all

ages and all branches of the service as a warning.

In Texas, the lady who had been frightfully stung

by a centipede pointed every moral. The sting

was inflicted before the war, and in the far back

days of ” angel sleeves,” which fell away from the

arm to the shoulder. Though this misfortune

dated back from such a distant period, the young

officers, in citing her as a warning to us to be

careful, described the red marks all the way up

the arm, with as much fidelity as if they had seen

them. No one would have dreamed that the

story had filtered through so many channels. But

surely one needed little warning of the centipede.

Once seen, it made as red stains on the memory

as on the beautiful historic arm that was used to

friofhten us. The Arabs call it the mother of

forty-four, alluding to the legs; and the swift man-

ner in which it propels itself over the ground, aid-

WARFARE ON THE TARANTULA. i yc

ed by eight or nine times as many feet as are al-

lotted to ordinary reptiles, makes one habitually

place himself in a position for a quick jump or

flight, while campaigning in Texas. We had to be

watchful all the time we were in the South. Even

in winter, when wood was brought in and laid

down beside the fire-place, the scorpions, torpid

with cold at first, crawled out of knots and crevices,

and made a scattering till they were captured.

One of my friends was stationed at a post where

the quarters were old and of adobe, and had been

used during the war for stables by the Confed-

erates. It was of no use to try to exterminate

these reptiles ; they run so swiftly it takes a deft

hand and a sure stroke to finish them up. Our

officers grew expert in devising means to protect

themselves, and, in this instance, a box of moist

mud, with a shingle all ready, was kept in the quar-

ters. When a tarantula showed himself, he was

plastered on the wall. It is impossible to describe

how loathsome that great spider is. The round

body and long, far-reaching legs are covered with

hairs, each particular hair visible; and the satanic

eyes bulge out as they come on in your direction,

making a feature of every nightmare for a long

time after they are first seen. The wife of an

officer, to keep these horrors from dropping on her

bed as they ran over the ceiling, had a sheet fas-

I 76 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

tened at the four corners and let down from the

rough rafters to catch all invaders, and thus en-

sured herself undisturbed sleep.

Officers all watch and guard the women who

share their hardships. Even the young, unmarried

men — the bachelor officers, as they are called —

patterning after their elders, soon fall into a sort of

fatherly fashion of looking out for the comfort and

safety of the women they are with, whether old

or young, pretty or ugly. It often happens that a

comrade, going on a scout, gives his wife into

their charge. I think of a hundred kindly deeds

shown to all of us on the frontier; and I have

known of acts so delicate that I can hardly refer

to them with sufficient tact, and wish 1 might

write with a tuft of thistle-down. In the instance

of some very young women — with hearts so pure

and souls so spotless they could not for one

moment imagine there lived on earth people de-

praved enough to question all acts, no matter how

harmless in themselves — I have known a little word

of caution to be spoken regarding some exuber-

ance of conduct that arose from the excess of a

thoughtless, joyous heart. The husband who re-

turned to his wife could thank the friend who had

watched over his interests no more deeply than

the wife who owed her escape from criticism to

his timely word. And sometimes, when we went

TR UE FRIENDSHIP. I 7 7

into the States, or were at a post with strange

officers, it would not occur to us, gay and thought-

less as we were, that we must consider that we

were not among those with whom we had

“summered and wintered;” and the freedom and

absolute naturalness of manner that arose from

our long and intimate relationship in isolated

posts, ought perhaps to give way to more formal

conduct. If the women said to the men, ” Now we

are among strangers, do you not think they would

misunderstand our dancing or driving or walking

together just as fearlessly as at home ?” that was

sufficient. The men said, ” Sure enough ! It never

occurred to me. By jove ! I wish we were back

where a fellow need not be hampered by having

every act questioned;” and then no one sought

harder or more carefully so to act that we might

satisfy the exactions of that censorious group of

elderly women who sat in hotel parlors, looking

on and remarking, ” We did not do so when we

were girls,” or even some old frump in a gar-

rison we visited, who, having squeezed dry her

orange of life, was determined that others should

get no good out of theirs, if she could insert one

drop of gall.

Occasionally the young officers, perhaps too

timid to venture on a personal suggestion, sent us

word by roundabout ways, that they did not want

I 78 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

US to continue to cultivate someone of whom we

knew nothing, save that he was agreeable. How

my husband thanked them. He walked the floor

with his hands behind him, moved so that his

voice was unsteady, and said his say about what

he owed to men who would not let a woman they

valued be even associated with any one who

might reflect on them. He was a home-lover, and,

not being with those who daily congregated at the

sutler’s store, the real ” gossip-mill” of a garrison, he

heard but little of what was going on. A man is

supposed to be the custodian of his own house-

hold in civil life ; but it must be remembered that

in our life a husband had often to leave a young

and inexperienced bride to the care of his com-

rades, while he went off for months of field duty.

The grateful tears rise now in my eyes at the rec-

ollection of men who guarded us from the very

semblance of evil as if we had been their sisters.

CHAPTER VI.

A TEXAS NORTHER— A SCHOOL-GIRl’s FIRST IMPRESSION

OF TEXAS THE ANTS AS OUR THRIVING NEIGHBORS

GENERAL CUSTER ILL OF BREAK-BONE FEVER

MEASURING AN ALLIGATOR THE MARCH TO AUSTIN

CHASING JACK-RABBITS BYRON THE GREYHOUND.

‘Yy E had not been long in our camp at Hemp-

stead, before the waives of two of the staff

arrived by way of Galveston. Their tents were

put on a line with or near ours, and arbors built

over them. One of these women, Mrs. Greene, had

been one of my dearest girlhood friends, and every

pleasure of my happy life was enhanced by the

presence of this lovely woman. We all went out,

after the heat of the day, on long- rides about the

country. Our father Custer was a fine rider, and not

only sat his horse well, but it was almost impossible

to unseat him. He grew more wary and watchful

of his tormenting sons every day. If they halted,

apparently only to say a casual word or so to their

paternal, that keen old man spurred his horse to

one side with the agility of a circus-rider, just in

179

1 80 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

time to avoid the flying heels of the horse of his

offspring in front of him, which had been taught

to fling his hoofs up when touched just back of

the saddle. If both boys came together and rode

one on each side of him, he looked uneasily from

one to the other, suspicious of this sudden exhibi-

tion of friendship ; and well he might, for while

one fixed his attention by some question that pro-

voked an answer, usually about politics, the other

gave a quick rap on the back of the horse, and the

next thing, the father was grasping the pommel to

keep from being flung forward of the animal as

he threw up his heels and plunged his head down,

making the angle of an incline plane. Even when,

after a concerted plan, one rode up and pulled the

cape of the elder man’s overcoat over his head and

held it there a moment, while the other gave the

horse a cut, he sat like a centaur, and no surprise

unseated or loosened his grip on the reins. They

knew his horsemanship well, as he had ridden af-

ter the hounds in Maryland and Virginia in his

younger days, and had taught them to sit a horse

bareback, when their little fat legs were too short

to describe a curve on the animal’s side. Of course

I was always begging to have them spare father,

but it was needless championship. He enjoyed

their pranks with all his fun-loving soul.

It was very hard to get postage, and he was un-

• A COON HUNT. l8l

wary enough one day — on account of the color

being the same as the issue of that year — to buy

a dollar’s worth of his eldest scion, only to find

them old ones, such as were used before the war.

Whether he considered the joke worth a dollar, I

could not decipher, for he was silent ; but soon

afterward he showed me an envelope marked in

the writing of his son Armstrong, ” Conscience-

money,” containing the $i unlawfully obtained.

We were invited one night to go to a coon-hunt,

conducted in the real old Southern style. The

officers wanted us to see some hunting, but were

obliged to leave us behind hitherto when they

crossed the Brazos River on deer-hunts, and were

the guests of the planters in the chase, that began

before dawn and lasted all day. We had thickets,

underbrush and ditches to encounter, before the

dogs treed the coon ; then a little darkey, brought

along for the climbing, went up into the branches

and dislodged the game, which fell among our and

the neighbors’ dogs. No voice excited them more

wildly than the ” Whoop-la ! ” of our old father,

and when we came home at 2 a. m., carrying a

coon and a possum, he was as fresh as the young-

est of us.

The citizens surrounding us were so relieved to

find that our troops left them unmolested, they

frankly contrasted the disciplined conduct with the

1 82 TENTING ON TlJE PLAINS.

lawlessness to which they had been witness, in

States where the Confederate army was stationed.

But they scarcely realized that an army in time of

peace is much more restricted. They could

hardly say enough about the order that was car-

ried out, preventing the negroes from joining the

column as it marched into Texas. There was no

way of taking care of them, and the General di-

rected that none should follow, so they went back,

contented to work where they would be fed and

clothed.

One reason that our life seemed to me the very

perfection of all that is ever attained on earth

was, that the rumors of trouble with Mexico had

ceased. The demands of our Government had

been complied with ; but it was thought best to

keep the troops in the field the rest of the year,

though there was to be no war.

Our first experience with a Texas norther sur-

prised and startled us. It came on in the

night, preceded by the usual heavy, suffocating

air which renders breathing an effort. After this

prelude, the wild blast of wind swept down on us

with a fury indescribable. We heard the roar

as it approached over the stretch of prairie be-

tween us and the sea. Our tent, though it was

guyed by ropes stretched from the ridge-pole to a

strong post driven far into the ground, both in

0 UR FIRST ‘ ‘ NOR TIIERr 1 8 3

front and at the rear, shook, rattled, and flapped

as if with the rage of some human creature. It

was twisted and wrenched from side to side ; the

arbor overhead seemed to toss to and fro, and the

wagon rocked in a crazy effort to spill us out.

Though the ropes stretched and cracked like

cordage at sea, and the canvas flapped like loosen-

ed sails, we did not go down. Indeed, rocked in

this improvised ” cradle of the deep,” it was hard

to tell whether one was at sea or on land. I begged

to get up and dress for the final collapse that I was

sure was coming, but my husband quieted me and

calmed my fears, believing that the approaching

rain would still the wind, as it eventually did.

Next morning a scene of havoc was visible. Our

neighbors crept out of their tents, and we women,

in a little whispered aside, exchanged our opinions

upon the climate of the “Sunny South.”

They, also, had passed a night of terror, but

fortunately their tents did not go down. Mrs.

Lyon had just come from the North, and expected

to join her husband; meanwhile she was our guest,

and the General and I had endeavored to give her

as cordial a welcome as we could, feeling that all

must be so strange to her after the security and

seclusion of her girlhood’s home. The night pre-

ceding the norther we took her to her tent near

ours, and helped her arrange for the night, assur-

1 84 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

ing her that we were so near that we could hear

her voice, if she was in the least afraid. We, being

novices in the experience of that climate and its

gales, had no idea the wind would rise to such

concert pitch that no voice could be distinguished.

She said that when we fastened her in from the

outside world with two straps, she felt very uncer-

tain about her courage holding out. We kept

on assuring her not to be afraid, but on bid-

ding her good-night and saying again not to be

in the least disturbed, that the sentinel walked his

beat in front of her tent all night, she dared not

own up that this assurance did not tend to soothe

her anxious fears, for she thought she would be

more afraid of the guard than of anything else.

And as I think of it, such a good-night from us was

rather unsatisfactory. My husband, soldier-like,

put the utmost faith in the guard, and I, though

only so short a tim.e before mortally afraid of the

stern, unswerving warrior myself, had soon for-

gotten that there were many timid women in the

world who knew nothing of sleepmg without locks

or bolts, and thought, perhaps, that at the slightest

ignorance or dereliction of duty the sentinel would

fire on an offender, whether man or woman.

Added to this fear of the sentinel, the storm took

what remnant of nerve she had left; and though she

laughed next morning about her initiation into the

WRECJ^S FROM THE HURRICANE. 1S5

service of the Government, there were subsequent

confessions to the horror of that unending night.

In talking with Major and Mrs. Lyon nowadays,

when it is my privilege to see them, there seem to

be no memories but pleasant ones of our Texas

life. They might well cherish two reminiscences

as somewhat disturbing, for Mrs. Lyon’s reception

by the hurricane, and the Major’s baptism of gore

when he killed his first deer, were not scenes that

would bear frequent repetition and only leave

pleasant memories.

The staff-officers had caused a long shade to be

built, instead of shorter ones, which would have

stood the storms better. Under this all of their

tents were pitched in two rows facing each other ;

and protected by this arbor, they daily took the

siesta which is almost compulsory there in the

heat of the noontide. Now the shade was lifted

off one side and tilted over, and some of the tents

were also flat. Among them was that of our

father Custer. He had extricated himself with

difficulty from under the canvas, and described his

sensations so quaintly that his woes were greeted

with roars of laughter from us all. After nar-

rating the downfall of his ” rag house,” he dryly

remarked that it would seem, owing to the cli-

mate and other causes, he was not going to have

much uninterrupted sleep, and, looking slyly at

1 86 TENrlNG ON THE PLAINS.

the staff, he added that his neighborhood was not

the quietest he had ever known.

The letters home at that time, in spite of their

description of trivial events, and the exuberant

underlined expressions of girlish pleasure over

nothings, my father enjoyed and preserved. I

find that our idle Sundays were almost blanks in

life, as we had no service and the hunting and

riding were suspended. I marked the day by

writing home, and a few extracts will perhaps pre-

sent a clearer idea of the life there than anything

that could be written now :

“Every Sunday I wake up with the thought of

home, and wish that we might be there and go to

church with you. I can imagine how pleasant

home is now. Among other luxuries, I see with

my ‘ mind’s eye ‘ a large plate of your nice apples

on the dining-room table. I miss apples here ;

none grow in this country ; and a man living near

here told our Henry that he hadn’t seen one for

five years. Father Custer bought me some small,

withered-looking ones for fifty cents apiece. It

seems so strange that in this State, where many

planters live who are rich enough to build a

church individually, there is such a scarcity of

churches. Why, at the North, the first knowledge

one has of the proximity of a village is by seeing

a spire, and a church is almost the first building

• SCaoOL-GIRL LETTERS. 187

put Up when a town is laid out. Here in this

country it is the last to be thought of. Cotton is

indeed king. The cake you sent to me by Nettie

Green, dear mother, was a perfect godsend. Oh,

anything you make does taste so good !

” Our orderly has perfected a trade for a beau-

tiful little horse for me, so that when Custis Lee’s

corns trouble him, I am not obliged to take the

choice of staying at home or riding one of Arm-

strong’s prancers. The new horse has cunning

tricks, getting down on his knees to let me get on

and off, if I tell him to do so. He is very affec-

tionate, and he racks a mile inside of three min-

utes. We talk ‘ horse ‘ a great deal here, dear

father, and my letters may be like our talk ; but

any man who has kept in his stable, for months

at a time, a famous race-horse worth $9,000, as

you have kept Don Juan,* ought not to object to

a little account of other people’s animals. We

had an offer of $500 for Custis Lee at Alex-

andria.”

” I sometimes have uninvited guests in my tent.

Friday, Nettie saw something on the tray that

Eliza was carrying. It had a long tail, and proved

*Don Juan was a horse captured by our soldiers during the war,

and bought, as was the custom, by the General, for the appraised

value of a contract horse. It was the horse that ran away with

him at the grand review, and it afterward died in Michigan.

l8S TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

to be a stinging scorpion. The citizens pooh-pooh

at our fear of scorpions, and insist that they are

not so very dangerous ; but 1 was glad to have

that particular one killed by Armstrong planting

his gun on it. I feel much pleased, and Armstrong

is quite proud, that I made myself a riding-habit.

You know I lost the waist of mine in the forest.

It took me weeks to finish it, being my first at-

tempt. I ripped an old waist, and copied it by

drawing lines with a pencil, pinning and basting ;

but it fits very well. I remember how you both

wanted me to learn when I was at home, and I al-

most wished I had, when I found it took me such

ages to do what ought to have been short work.

“Our letters take twenty days in coming, and

longer if there are storms in the Gulf. The papers

are stale enough, but Armstrong goes through

them all. I feel so rich, and am luxuriating in

four splint-bottom chairs that we hired an old

darkey to make for us. I want to sit in all four

at once, it seems so good to get anything in which

to rest that has a back.

” Our dogs give us such pleasure, though it

took me some time to get used to the din they set

up when Armstrong practiced on the horn. They

call it ‘ giving tongue ‘ here, but I call that too

mild a word. Their whole bodies seem hollow,

they bring forth such wild cries and cavernous

A LAWLESS LAND. 1 89

howls. We call them Byron, Brandy, Jupiter,

Rattler, Sultan and Tyler.”

” Something awful is constantly occurring-

among the citizens. It is a lawless country. A

relative of one of our old army officers, a promi-

nent planter living near here, v/as shot dead in

Houston by a man bearing an old grudge against

him. It is a common occurrence to shoot down

men here for any offense whatever. Armstrong

never goes anywhere except for hunting, and as

we have plenty of books and our evening rides,

we enjoy life thoroughly. Nettie fell from her

horse, and we were frightened for a time, but she

was only lamed. Though she weighs 165 pounds,

Autie * picked her up as if she were a baby, and

carried her into their tent.”

” Besides visiting at the house of the collector

of the port, where there is a houseful of young

girls, we have been hospitably treated by some

people to whom Armstrong was able to be of use.

One day, a gentle, well-bred Southern woman

came into our tent to see Armstrong, and asked

his protection for her boy, telling him that for

* An abbreviation of the General’s second name, Armstrong, given

him by his elder sister’s children, when they were too young to

pronounce the full name Armstrong.

I go

TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

some childish carelessness the neighboringr colored

people had threatened his life. Armstrong be-

lieved her, and melted. He afterward inquired

elsewhere into the matter, and was convinced that

the boy had not intentionally erred. The child

himself was proof, by his frank manner and his

straightforward story, of his innocence.

” I suppose we were the first Yankees these

people had ever known, and doubtless nothing

but gratitude induced them even to speak with

us ; yet they conquered prejudice, and asked us

to dinner. They had been so well dressed when

they called — and were accounted rich, I believe, by

the neighbors — that I could scarcely believe we

had reached the right house when we halted. It

was like the cabins of the ” poor white trash ” in

the forest, only larger. I thought we had mis-

taken the negro quarters for the master’s. Two

large rooms, with extensions at the rear, were

divided by an open space roofed over, under

which the table was spread. The house was of

rough logs, and unpainted. Unless the Texans

built with home materials, their houses cost as

much as palaces abroad, for the dressed lumber

had to be hauled from the seacoast.

” The inside of this queer home was in marked

contrast with the exterior. The furniture was

modern and handsome, and the piano, on which

A GENEROUS NEIGHBOR. igl

the accomplished mother, as well as her little son,

gave us music, was from one of our best Northern

manufactories. The china, glass and linen on the

dinner-table were still another surprise.

“They never broached politics, gave us an ex-

cellent dinner, and got on Armstrong’s blind side

forever, by giving him a valuable full-blooded

pointer, called Ginnie, short for Virginia. With

four game chickens, a Virginia cured ham (as that

was their former State), and two turkeys, we were

sent on our way rejoicing.”

• • • • • . • . ,

” Our Henry has gone home, and we miss him,

for he is fidelity itself. He expects to move

his entire family of negroes from Virginia to

Monroe, because he says, father, you are the

finest man he ever did see. Prepare, then, for the

dark cloud that is moving toward you, and you

may have the privilege of contributing to their

support for a time, if he follows Eliza’s plan of

billeting the orphan upon us.

“We have a new cook called Uncle Charley,

who has heretofore been a preacher, but now con-

descends to get up good dinners for us. We had

eleven to dine to-day, and borrowed dishes of our

Southern neighbors. We had a soup made out of

an immense turtle that Armstrong killed in the

stream yesterday. Then followed turkeys, boiled

192

TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

ham — and roast beef, of course, for Armstrong

thinks no dinner quite perfect without his beef.

We are Hving well, and on so little. Armstrong’s

pay as a major-general will soon cease, and we are

trying now to get accustomed to living on less.

” I listen to the citizens talking over the pros-

pects of this State, and I think it promises

wonders. There are chances for money-making

all the time thrown in Armstrong’s way ; but he

seems to think that while he is on duty he had

better not enter into business schemes.

” Armstrong has such good success in hunting

and fishing that he sends to the other officers’

messes, turtle, deer, duck, quail, squirrels, doves

and prairie chickens. The possums are accepted

with many a scrape and flourish by the ‘ nigs.’ I

forgot to tell you that our nine dogs sleep round

our wagon at night, quarreling, growling, snor-

ing, but I sleep too soundly to be kept awake by

them.”

The very ants in Texas, though not poisonous,

were provided with such sharp nippers that they

made me jump from my chair with a bound, if,

after going out of sight in the neck or sleeves of

my dress, they attempted to cut their way out.

They clipped one’s flesh with sharp little cuts that

were not pleasant, especially when there remained

a doubt as to whether it might be a scorpion. We

DESTRUCTIVE ANTS. Iq^

had to guard our linen carefully, for they cut it up

with ugly little slits that were hard to mend. Be-

sides, we had to be careful, as we were so cut off

that we could not well replace our few clothes,

and it costs a ruinous sum to send North, or even

to New Orleans, for anything. I found this out

when the General paid an express bill on a gown

from New York — ordered before we left the East —

far larger than the cost of the material and the

dressmaker’s bill together. The ants besieged the

cook-tent and set Uncle Charley and Eliza to growl-

ing ; but an old settler told them to surround the

place with tan-bark, and they were thus freed. It

was all I could do to keep the General from digging

down into the ant-mounds, as he was anxious to

see into their mechanism. The colored people

and citizens told us what fighters they were, and

what injuries they inflicted on people who molested

them. We watched them curiously day by day,

and wanted to see if the residents had told us

stories about their stripping the trees of foliage

just to guy us. It has long been the favorite

pastime of old residents to impose all sorts of im-

probable tales on the new-comer. Whether this

occurrence happens often or not I cannot say, but

it certainly took place once while we were there.

One morning my husband ran into the tent and

asked me to hurry up with my dressing ; he had

194

TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

something strange to show me, and helped me

scramble into my clothes.

The carriage-road in front of our tents cut rather

deep ruts, over which the ants found a difficult

passage, so they had laid a causeway of bits of

cut leaves, over which they journeyed between a

tree and their ant-hills, not far from our tents on

the other side of the road. They were still travel-

ing back and forth, each bearing a bit of leaf

bigger than itself ; and a half-grown tree near us,

which had been full of foliage the day before, was

entirely bare.

For some reason unexplainable, malarial fever

broke out among our staff. It was, I suppose, the

acclimation to which we were being subjected.

My father Custer was ill, and came forth from

his siege whitened out, while the officers disap-

peared to mourn over the number of their bones

for a few days, and then crept out of the tents as

soon as they could move. My husband all this

time had never even changed color. His powers

of endurance amazed me. He seemed to have set

his strong will against yielding to climatic in-

fluences ; but after two days of this fighting he

gave in and tossed himself on our borrowed

lounge, a vanquished man. He was very sick.

Break-bone fever had waited to do its worst with its

last victim. Everything looked very gloomy to

A FEVER.RACKED PATIENT.

195

me. We had not even a wide bed, on which it is

a little comfort if a fever-tossed patient can fling-

himself from side to side. We had no ice, no fruit,

indeed, nothing but quinine. The supplies of that

drug to the hospital department of Texas must be

sent by the barrel, it seemed to me, from the

manner in which it was consumed.

Our devoted surgeon came, of his own accord,

over and over again, and was untiring in his

patience in commg when I sent for him in-between-

times, to please me in my anxiety. My husband

was so racked and tormented by pain, and burnt

up with fiery heat, that he hardly made the

feeblest fight about the medicine, after having at-

tained the satisfaction of my tasting it, to be sure

that I knew how bitter it was. As the fever

abated every hour, I resorted to new modes of

bribery and corruption to get him to swallow the

huge pill. My step-mother’s cake had come in the

very best time, for I extracted the raisins and hid

the quinine in them, as my father had done

when giving me medicine as a child. It

seemed to me an interminable time before

the disease began to yield to the remedies.

In reality, it was not long, as the General

was unaccustomed to medicine, and its effect

was more quickly realized on that account. Even

when my husband began to crawl about again.

196

TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

the doctor continued the medicine, and I as nurse

remorselessly carried out his directions, though I

had by no means a tractable patient, as with re-

turning health came restored combative powers.

My husband noticed the rapid disappearance of

the pills from the table when he lay and watched

the hated things with relief, as he discovered that

he was being aided in the consumption by some

unknown friend. One morning we found the

plate on which the doctor had placed thirty the

night before, empty. Of course I accused the

General of being the cause of the strange disap-

pearance, and prepared to send for more, inexora-

ble in my temporary reign over a weak man. He

attempted a mild kicking celebration and clapping

accompaniment over the departure of his hated

medicine, as much as his rather unsteady feet and

arms would allow, but stoutly denied having done

away with the offending pills. The next night

we kept watch over the fresh supply, and soon

after dark the ants began their migrations up the

loose tent-wall on the table-cover that fell against

the canvas, and while one grasped the flour-mixed

pill with his long nippers, the partner pushed,

steered and helped roll the plunder down the side

of the tent on to the ground.

The triumph of the citizens was complete.

Their tales were outdone by our actual experience.

AN OLD ENEMY.

197

After that, there was no story they told us which

we did not take in immediately without question.

The hunting included alligators also. In the

stream below us there were occasional deep pools,

darkened by the overhanging trees. As we

women walked on the banks, we kept a respect-

ful distance from the places where the bend in the

creek widened into a pond, with still water near

the high banks. In one of these dark pools lived

an ancient alligator, well known to the neighbors,

on which they had been unsuccessfully firing for

years. The darkies kept aloof from his fastness,

and even Eliza, whose Monday-morning soul

longed for the running water of the stream, for she

had struggled with muddy water so long, trem-

bled at the tales of this monster. She reminds

me now ” what a lovely place to wash that Gros

w^ash-house was, down by the creek. But it was

near the old alligator’s pool, and I know I hurried

up my wash awfully, for I was afraid he might

come up ; for you know. Miss Libbie, it was

reckoned that they was mighty fond of children

and colored people.”

One of the young officers was determined to

get this veteran, and day after day went up

and down the creek, coming home at night to

meet the jeers of the others, who did not believe

that alligator-hunting in a hot country paid. One

198

TEN7ING ON THE PLAINS.

night he stopped at our lent, radiant and jubilant.

He had shot the old disturber of the peace, the

intimidator of the neighborhood, and was going

for help to haul him up to the tents. He was a

monster, and it cost the men tough pulling to get

him up the bank, and then to drag him down near

our tent. There he was left for us women to see.

We walked around and around him, very brave,

and quite relieved to think that we were rid of so

dangerous a neighbor, with a real old Jonah-and-

the-whale mouth. The General congratulated the

young officer heartily, and wished it had been his

successful shot that had ended him. Part of the

jaw had been shot away, evidently years ago, as

it was then calloused over. It was distended to

its utmost capacity, and propped open with a

stick. Nettie brought out a broom from her tent,

with which to get a rough estimate of his length,

as we knew well that if we did not give some

idea of his size in our letters home, they would

think the climate, which enervates so quickly, had

produced a total collapse in our power to tell the

truth. The broom did not begin to answer, so we

pieced out the measure with something else, in

order to arrive at some kind of accuracy. Then

we thouofht we would like to see how the beast

looked with his mouth closed, and the officers,

patient in humoring our whims, pulled out the

200 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

props. There was a sudden commotion. The

next thing visible was three sets of flying- petti-

coats making for the tent, as the alUgator, revived

by the sudden let-down of his upper jaw, sprawled

out his feet and began to walk off over the grass.

The crack of the rifle a moment after brought out

the heads of three cowards from their tents, but

after that no woman hovered over even his dead

hide. The General was convulsed over our re-

treat. The drying skin of his majesty, the lord

of the pool, flung and flapped in the wind, sus-

pended to the pole of the officers’ arbor for weeks,,

and it was well tanned by the air long before they

ceased to make sly allusions to women’s curi-

osity.

At last, in November, the sealed proposals from

citizens to the quartermaster for the contract for

transporting the camp equipage and baggage, for-

age, etc., over the country, were all in, and the

most reasonable of the propositions was accepted.

Orders had come to move on to Austin, the capi-

tal, where we were to winter. It was with real

regret that I saw our traps packed, the tents of

our pretty encampment taken down, the arbors

thrown over, and our faces turned toward the in-

terior of the State. The General, too buoyant not

to think that every move would better us, felt

nothing but pleasure to be on the march again.

MARCHING TO AUSTIN. 20I

The journey was very pleasant through the day,

and we were not compelled to rise before dawn,

for the sun was by no means unbearable, as it had

been in August. It was cold at night, and the

wind blew around the wagon, flapping the curtains,

under which it penetrated, and lifting the covers

unless they were strongly secured. As to trying

to keep warm by a camp-fire in November, I rather

incline to the belief that it is impossible. Instead

of heat coming into the tent where I put on my

habit with benumbed fingers, the wind blew the

smoke in. Sometimes the mornings were so cold

I begged to be left in bed, and argued that the

mules could be attached and I could go straight

on to camp, warm all the way. But my husband

woke my drowsy pride by saying ” the officers

will surely think you a ‘ feather-bed soldier,’ ” which

term of derision was applied to a man who sought

soft places for duty and avoided hardships, driv-

ing when he ought to ride.

If we all huddled around one of my husband’s

splendid camp-fires, I came in for the smoke. The

officers’ pretty little gallantries about ” smoke al-

ways following beauty,” did not keep my eyes

from being blistered and blinded. It was, after

all, not a very great hardship, as during the day

we had the royal sun of that Southern winter.

My husband rode on in advance every day to

202 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

select a camp. He gave the choice into my hands

sometimes, but it was hard to keep wood, water

and suitable ground uppermost; I wanted always

the sheltered, pretty spots. We enjoyed every

mile of our march. It rained sometimes, pouring

down so suddenly that a retreat to the traveling

wagons was impossible. One day I was wet to

the skin three times, and my husband wondered

what the anxious father and mother, who used

frantically to call ” rubbers ” after me, as a girl,

when I tried to slip out unnoticed, would say to

him then ; but it did not hurt me in the least.

The General actually seemed unconscious of the

shower. He wore a soldier’s overcoat, pulled his

broad hat down to shed the rain, and encouraged

me by saying I was getting to be a tough

veteran, which among us was very high praise.

Indeed, we were all then so well, we snapped our

fingers at the once-dreaded break-bone fever. If

we broke the ice in the bucket for our early ablu-

tions, it became a matter to joke over when the

sun was up and we all rode together, laughing and

joking, at the head of the column.

Our march was usually twenty-five miles, some-

times thirty, in a day. The General and I foraged

at the farms we passed, and bought good butter,

eggs and poultry. He began to collect turkeys

for the winter, until we had enough for a year.

THE SACERDOTAL COOK. 203

Uncle Charley was doing his best to awe Eliza

with his numerous new dishes. Though he was a

preacher, he put on that profession on Sundays as

he did his best coat ; and if during the week the

fire smoked, or a dog stole some prepared dish

that was standing one side to cool, he expressed

himself in tones not loud but deep, and had as ex-

tensive a collection of negro oaths as Texas afford-

ed, which, I believe, is saying a good deal. My

husband, observant as he always was, wondered

what possessed the old fellow when preparing

poultry for dinner. We used slyly to watch him

go one side, seize the chicken, and, while swift-

ly wringing its neck, mumble some unintelligible

words to himself, then throw down the fowl

in a matter-of-fact way, and sit down to pluck it.

We were mystified, and had to get Eliza to explain

this peculiar proceeding that went on day after

day. She said that ” though Uncle Charley does

swear so powerful, he has a kind of superstition

that poultry has a hereafter.” Evidently he

thought it was not right to send them to their last

home without what he intended for a funeral

oration. Sometimes he said, as fast as his nimble

old tongue could clatter :

Hark, from the tombs a doleful sound,

Mine ears attend the cry I

Ye living hens, come view the ground

Where you must shortly die.

204

TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

Once after this my husband, by hiding, con-

trived to be present, though unseen, at one of these

funeral ceremonies :

Princes, this clay must be your bed,

In spite of all your towers,

The tall, the wise, the reverend head.

Must lie as low as yours.

He so timed his verses that w^ith one wrench he

gave the final turn to the poor chicken’s head as

he jerked out the last line. My husband, per-

fectly convulsed himself, was in terror for fear

Uncle Charley would have his feelings hurt by

seeing us, and hearing my giggling, and I nearly

smothered myself in the attempt to get back to

our tent, where the General threw himself down

with shrieks of laughter.

We varied our march by many an exciting race

after jack-rabbits. The chapparral bushes defeated

us frequently by making such good hiding-places

for the hare.* If we came to a long stretch of

open prairie, and a rabbit lifted his doe-like head

above the grass, the General uttered a wild whoop

to his dog, a ” Come on ! ” to me, and off we

dashed. Some of the staff occasionally joined,

while our father Custer bent over his old roan

horse, mildly struck him with a spur, and was in

* I never liked hunting when the game was killed, and I was

relieved to find how often the hare rabbit escaped into the thickets.

THE L ORDL Y B YRON. 2O5

at the death. The ground was excellent for a run —

level and grassy. We had a superb greyhound

called Byron, that was devoted to the General,

and after a successful chase it was rewarded with

many a demonstration of affection. He was the

most lordly dog, I think, I ever saw, powerful,

with deep chest, and carrying his head in a royal

way. When he started for a run, with his nostrils

distended and his delicate ears laid back on his

noble head, each bound sent him flying through

the air. He hardly touched the elastic cushions

of his feet to earth, before he again was spread

out like a dark, straight thread. This gathering

and leaping must be seen, to realize how marvel-

ous is the rapidity and how the motion seems flying,

almost, as the ground is scorned except at a sort

of spring bound. He trotted back to the General,

if he happened to be in advance, with the rabbit

in his mouth, and, holding back his proud head,

delivered the game only to his chief. The tribute

that a woman pays to beauty in any form, I gave

to Byron, but I never cared much for him. A

greyhound’s heart could be put into a thimble.

Byron cared for the General as much as his cold

soul could for any one, but it was not to be com-

pared with the dear Ginnie : she was all love, she

was almost human.

The dog was in an injured state with me much

2o6 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

of the time. In quarters he resented all my

rights. My husband had a great fashion of fling-

ing himself on the bed, or even on the floor, if it

was carpeted. He told me he believed he must

unconsciously have acquired the habit at West

Point, where the zeal of the cadet seems divided

between his studies and an effort to keep the

wrinkles out of the regulation white pantaloons,

which, being of duck, are easily creased. What

punishment Government sees fit to inflict for each

separate crease, I don’t know, but certainly its

embryo soldiers have implanted in them a fear of

consequences, even regarding rumpled linen. As

soon as the General tossed himself on the bed,

Byron walked to him and was invited to share the

luxury. ” Certainly,” my husband used to say, sar-

castically; ” walk right up here on this clean white

spread, without troubling yourself to care whether

your feet are covered with mud or not. Your

Aunt Eliza wants you to lie on nice white counter-

panes ; she washes them on purpose for you.”

Byron answered this invitation by licking his host’s

hand, and turning in the most scornful manner on

me, as I uttered a mild protest regarding his

muddy paws. The General quickly remarked that

I made invidious distinctions, as no spread seemed

too fine or white for Ginnie, in my mind, while

if Eliza happened to enter, a pair of blazing eyes

A JEALOUS DOG. 20/

and an energetically expressed opinion of Byron

ensued, and he retorted by lifting his upper lip over

some of the whitest fangs I ever saw. The Gen-

eral, still aiding and abetting, asked the dog to let

Aunt Eliza see what an intelligent, knowing animal

he was, how soon he distinguished his friends from

his foes. Such an exasperating brute, and such a

tormenting master, were best left alone. But I

was tired, and wanted to lie down, so I told Eliza

that if she would stand there, I would try the

broom, a woman’s weapon, on his royal highness.

Byron wouldn’t budge, and growled even at me.

Then I quite meekly took what little place was

left, the General’s sense of mischief, and his

peculiar fondness for not interfering in a fight,

now coming in to keep him silent. The

dog rolled over, and shammed sleep, but soon

planting his feet against my back, which was

turned in high dudgeon, he pushed and pushed,

seemingly without premeditation, his dreadful

eyes shut, until I was nearly shoved off. I

was conquered, and rose afraid of the dog and

momentarily irritated at my defeat and his

tyranny, while Eliza read a lesson to the General.

She said, ” Now see what you’ve done. You keer

more for that pesky, sassy old hound than you does

for Miss Libbie. Ginnel, I’d be ‘shamed, if I was

you. What would your mother Custer think of

208 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

you now ? ” But my feelings were not seriously

hurt, and the General, having watched to the last

to see how far the brute would carry his jealousy,

gave him a kick that sent him sprawling on the

floor, springing up to restore me to my place and

close the colored harangue that was going on at

the foot of the bed. Eliza rarely dignified me

with the honor of being referee in any disputed

question. She used to say, ” No matter whether

it’s right or wrong, Miss Libbie’s sho’ to side with

the Ginnel.” Her droll way of treating him like a

big boy away from home for the first time,

always amused him. She threatened to tell his

mother, and brought up that sainted woman in all

our encounters, as she did in the dog episode

just mentioned, as if the very name would restore

order at once, and give Eliza her own way in

regulating us. But dear mother Custer had been

in the midst of too many happy scuffles, and the

centre of too many friendly fisticuffs among her

active, irrepressible boys, in the old farm-days,

for the mention of her name to restore order in

our turbulent household.

CHAPTER VII.

BYRON AS A THIEF— AN EQUESTRIAN DUDE— MEXICAN

HORSE-EQUIPAGE AND BLANKETS GENERAL CUSTER

VISITS A DEAF AND DUMB ASYLUM TALES OF

LAWLESSNESS— PISTOLS EVERYWHERE— ENTERTAIN-

MENTS AT OUR QUARTERS— ELIZA’S COLORED BALL.

ONE day we heard shout upon shout from

many a soldier’s throat in camp. The head-

quarters guard and officers’ servants, even the’

officers themselves, joined in the hallooing, and we

ran out to see what could be the matter. It was

our lordly Byron. Stately and superb as he usu-

ally was, he had another side to his character, and

now he was racing up from camp, a huge piece of

meat in his jaws, which he had stolen from the

camp-kettle where it was boiling for the soldiers’

dinner. His retreat was accompanied with every

sort of missile— sticks, boots and rocks— but this

dog, that made himself into a ” greased streak of

Hghtning,” as a colored woman described him,

bounded on, untouched by the flying hail of the

soldiers’ wrath. The General did not dare to shout

and dance in siaht of the men, over what he

2IO TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

thought so cunning- in this hateful dog, as he was

not protected by the friendly walls of our tent ;

but he chuckled, and his eyes danced, for the brute

dropped the hot meat when he had looked about

to discover how close his pursuers were, and then,

seeing the enemy nearing him, picked it up and

distanced them all. The General went back to his

tent, and called Eliza, to torment her with an

account of what “her favorite” had done all by

himself. She spared no words to express her opin-

ion of the hated hound, for Byron was no respecter

of persons when the sneaky side of his character

was uppermost. He stole his master’s dinner just

as readily as the neighbors’. Eliza said no one

could tell how many times he had made off with

a part of her dinner, just dished up to be served,

and then gone off on a prowl, “after he’d gorged

hissel,” as she expressed it, ” hidin’ from the other

dogs, and burying it in jest such a stingy way you

might ‘spect from such a worthless, plunderin’

old villain.”

The march to Austin was varied by fording.

All the streams and rivers were crossed in that

manner, except one, where we used the ponton

bridge. The Colorado we found too high to ford,

and so made a detour of some miles. The citi-

zens were not unfriendly, while there was a total

cessation of work on the part of the negroes until

TEXAS THOROUGHBREDS. 211

our column went by. They sat on the fences Hke

a row of black crows,* and with their usual polite-

ness made an attempt to answer questions the

troops put to them, which were unanswerable,

even in the ingenious brain of the propounder.

“Well, uncle, how far is it ten miles down the

road from here ?” If their feelings w^ere hurt by

such irrepressible fun, they were soon healed by

the lively trade they kept up in chickens, eggs

and butter.

The citizens sometimes answered the General’s

salute, and his interested questions about the horse

they rode, by joining us for a short distance on

the march. The horse-flesh of Texas was a delight

to him ; but I could not be so interested in the

fine points as to forget the disfiguring brands that

were often upon the fore-shoulder, as well as the

flank. They spoke volumes for the country where

a man has to sear a thoroughbred with a hot iron,

to ensure his keeping possession. Father Custer

used to say, “What sort of country is this, any-

how, when a man, in order to keep his property,

has got to print the whole constitution of the

United States on his horse?” The whole get up

of the Texans was rather cumbersome, it seemed

to me, though they rode perfectly. They fre-

quently had a Mexican saddle, heavily ornamented

with silver on the high pommel, and everywhere

2 I 2 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

else that it could be added. Even the design of

the stamped leather, for which Mexico is famous,

was embroidered with silver bullion. The stirrup

had handsome leather covers, while a fringe of

thongs fell almost to the ground, to aid in pushing

their way through the tall prairie grass. Some-

times the saddle-cloth, extending to the crupper,

w^as of fur. The bridle and bit were rich with

silver also. On the massive silver pommel hung

an incongruous coil of horse-hair rope, disfiguring

and ugly. There was an iron picket-pin attached

to the lariat, which we soon learned was of ines-

timable value in the long rides that the Texans

took. If a man made a halt, he encircled himself

with this prickly lariat and lay down securely,

knowing that no snake could cross that barrier.

In a land of venomous serpents, it behooved a

man to carry his own abatis everywhere. The

saddle was also secured by a cinch or girth of cow’s-

hair, which hard riders found a great help in keep-

ing the saddle firm. The Texan himself,though not

often wearing the high-crowned, silver-embroid-

ered Mexican sombrero, wore usually a wide-

brimmed felt hat, on which the General afterward

doted, as the felt was of superior quality. If the

term ” dude ” had been invented then, it would

often have applied to a Texan horseman. The hair

was frequently long, and they wore no waistcoat.

AN EQUESTRIAN “DUDE:* 2 1 1

I concluded, because they could better display the

vast expanse of shirt-front. While the General

and his casual companion in our march talked

horse, too absorbed to notice anything else, I

used to lose myself in the contemplation of the

maze of tucks, puffs and embroidery of this cam-

bric finery, ornamented with three old-fashioned

bosom-pins. The wearer seemed to me to repre-

sent two epochs : the fine linen, side-saddle and

blooded horse belonged to ” befo’ the war ;” while

the ragged elbows of the coat-sleeves, and the

worn boots, were decidedly “since the war.” If

the shirt-front was intricate in its workmanship,

the boots were ignored by the placid owner.

They usually had the Mexican serape strapped to

the back of the saddle, or, if it was cold, as it was

in our late November march, they put their head

through the opening in the middle, so woven for

that purpose, and flung the end across their breast

and over one shoulder in a picturesque manner.

The bright hues of the blanket, dyed by the

Indians from the juice of the prickly pear, its soft,

flexible folds having been woven in a hand-loom,

made a graceful and attractive bit of color, which

was not at all out of place in that country. These

blankets were valuable possessions. They were

so pliable and perfectly water- proof, that they pro-

tected one from every storm. We had a pair,

214 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

which we used through every subsequent cam-

paign, and when the cold in Kansas and Dakota

became almost unbearable, sometimes, after the

the long trial of a journey in the wagon, my

husband used to say, ” We will resort to extreme

measures, Libbie, and wrap you in the Mexican

blankets.” They were the warmest of all our

wraps. Nothing seemed to fade them, and even

when burnt with Tom’s cigarette ashes, or stuck

through with the General’s spurs, they did not

ravel, as do other fabrics. They have hung as por-

tieres in my little home, and the design and color-

ing are so like the Persian rug on the floor, that it

seems to be an argument to prove that Mr. Igna

tius Donnelly, in his theory of Atlantis, is right,

and that we once had a land highway between

the East and Mexico, and that the reason the Aztec

now uses the designs on his pottery and in his

weaving is, that his ancestors brought over the

first sketches on papyrus.^*

*Ina town of Mexico last year I saw these small looms with

blankets in them, in various stages of progress, in many cot-

tages. Among the Indians the rude loom is carried about in the

mountain villages, and with some tribes there is a superstition

about finishing the blankets in the same place where they were be-

gun. A squaw will sometimes have one half done, and if an

order is given her she will not break over her rule to finish it if a

move is made in the midst of her work. She waits until the next

year, when her people return to the same camp, as is the custom

when the Indian seeks certain game or grazing, or to cut longer

poles.

SHIFTLESS STABLING. 2 I 5

A Texan travels for comfort and safety rather

than for style. If a norther overtakes him, he

dismounts and drives the picket-pin into the

ground, thus tethering his horse, which turns his

back, the better to withstand the oncoming wind.

The master throws himself face down in the long

grass, buried in his blanket, and thus awaits the

termination of the fury with which the storm

sweeps a Texas prairie.

Sometimes one of the planters, after riding a

distance with us, talking the county over, and

taking in every point of our horses as he rode,

made his adieus and said he was now at his own

place, where he turned in. The General followed

his fine thoroughbred with longing eyes, and was

more than astonished to find in what stables they

kept these valuable and delicate animals. No

matter if the house was habitable, the stable was

usually in a state of careless dilapidation. Doors

swung on one hinge, and clap-boards were torn

off here and there, while the warped roof was far

from weather-proof. Even though Texas is in

the ” Sunny South,” the first sharp norther

awakens one to the knowledge that it is not

always summer. Sometimes these storms are

quickly over, but frequently they last three days.

This carelessness about stabling stock was not

owing to the depredations of an invading army.

2 i6 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

We were the first ” Yankees ” they had seen. It

was the general shiftlessness that creeps into one’s

veins. We were not long there ourselves before

climatic influence had its effect on even the most

active among us.

Before we reached Austin, several citizens sent

out invitations for us to come to their houses ; but

I knew the General would not accept, and, cold

as the nights were, I felt unwilling to lose a day

of camp life. We pitched our tents on rolling

ground in the vicinity of Austin, where we over-

looked a pretty town of stuccoed houses that

appeared summery in the midst of the live-oak’s

perennial green. The State House, Land Office,

and governor’s mansion looked regal to us, so

long bivouacking in the forest and on uncultivated

prairies. The governor offered for our head-

quarters the Blind Asylum, which had been closed

during the war. This possessed one advantage

that we were glad to improve: there was room

enough for all the staff, and a long saloon parlor

and dining-room for our hops during the winter.

By this time two pretty, agreeable women, wives

of staff – officers, were added to our circl-“

Still, I went into the building with regret,

wagon in which the wind had rocked me to si

so often, and which had proved such a stronghc

against the crawling foes of the country, was coi

A GAM UNDER A ROOF. 217

signed to the stable with a sigh. Camp hfe had

more pleasures than hardships.

There were three windows in our room, which

we opened at night ; but, notwithstanding the air

that circulated, the feeling, after having been so

long out of doors, was suffocating. The ceiling

seemed descending to smother us. There was

one joy: reveille could ring out on the dawning

day, and there was no longer imperative necessity

to spring from a warm bed and make ablutions

in ice-water. There is a good deal of that sort of

mental snapping of the fingers on the part of

campaigners when they are again stationary and

need not prepare for a march. Civilization and a

looking-glass must now be assumed, as it would

no longer do to rough it and ignore appearances,

after we had moved into a house, and were to

live like ” folks.” Besides, we soon began to be

invited by the townspeople to visit them. Re-

fined, agreeable and well-dressed women came

to see us, and, woman-like, we ran our eyes over

their dresses. They were embroidered and trim-

med richly with lace, ” befo’ the war ” finery or

from the cargo of a blockade runner ; but it was

all strange enough in such an isolated State. Al-

most everything was then brought from the ter-

minus of the Brenham Railroad to Austin, 150

miles, by ox-team. We had been anxiously ex-

2 I 8 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

pected for some time, and there was no manner of

doubt that the arrival of the Division was a great

reUef to the reputable of both sides. They said

so frankly — the returned Confederate officers and

the ” stay at-home rangers,” as well as the newly

appointed Union governor.

Texas was then a ” go-as-you-please ” State, and

the lawlessness was terrible. The returned Con-

federate soldiers were poor, and did not know

how to set themselves to work, and in many

instances preferred the life of a freebooter. It

was so easy, if a crime was committed, to slip

into Mexico, for though it was inaccessible except

by stage or on horseback, a Texan would not

mind a forced march over the country to the Rio

Grande. There were then but one or two short

railroads in operation. The one from Galveston

to Brenham was the principal one, while telegraph

lines were not in use. The stage to Brenham was

our one means of communication with the out-

side world.

It was hard for the citizens who had remained

at home to realize that war was over, and some

were unwilling to believe there ever had been an

emancipation proclamation. In the northern part

of the State they were still buying and selling

slaves. The lives of the newly appointed United

States officers were threatened daily, and it was

A PATRIOTIC GIRL.

219

an uneasy head that wore the gubernatorial crown.

I thought them braver men than many who had

faced the enemy in battle. The unseen, lurking-

foe that hides under cover of darkness was their

terror. They held themselves valiantly; but one

wife and daughter were on my mind night after

night, as from dark till dawn they slept un-

easily, and started from their rooms out into

the halls at every strange sound. The Gen-

eral and I thought the courageous daughter

had enough brave, devoted blood in her veins

to distill a portion into the heart of many a

soldier who led a forlorn hope. They told us that

in the early part of the war the girl had known of

a Union flag in the State House, held in derision

and scornfully treated by the extremists. She and

her younger brother climbed upon the roof of a

wing of the building, after dark, entered a window

of the Capitol, found the flag, concealed it in the

girl’s clothing, and made their perilous descent

safely. The father of such a daughter might well

prize her watchfulness of his safety, as she

vigilantly kept it up during our stay, and was

equal to a squadron of soldiers. She won our ad-

miration; and our bachelor officers paid the tribute

that brave men always pay to courageous, unsel-

fish women, for she danced, rode and walked

with them, and when she was not so engaged.

2 20 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

their orderlies held their horses before the official

door, while they improved every hour allowed

them within the hospitable portal.

It was a great relief to find a Southern State

that was not devastated by the war. The homes

destroyed in Virginia could not fail to move a

woman’s heart, as it was women and children that

suffered from such destruction. In Texas nothing

seemed to have been altered. I suppose some

profited, for blockade-running could be carried on

from the ports of that great State, and there was

always Mexico from which to draw supplies.

In our daily rides we found the country about

Austin delightful. The roads were smooth

and the surface rolling. Indeed, there was one

high hill, called Mount Brunnel, where we had

picnics and enjoyed the fine view, far and near,

taking one of the bands of the regular regiments

from the North that joined us soon after our ar-

rival. Mount Brunnel was so steep we had to dis-

mount and climb a part of the distance. The band

played the “Anvil Chorus,” and the sound descend-

ed through the valley grandly. The river, filled

with sand-bars and ugly on close examination,

looked like a silver ribbon. At that height, the

ripened cotton, at certain seasons of the year,

looked like fields of foam. The thermometer was

over eighty before we left the lowlands; but at the

CHILDREN ‘ S SIGN LANG UA GE. 2 2 I

altitude to which we climbed the air was cool. We

even went once to the State Insane Asylum, taking

the band, when the attendants asked if dancing-

music might be played, and we watched with

wonder the quadrille of an insane eight.

The favorite ride for my husband was across

the Colorado, to the Deaf and Dumb Asylum.

There seemed to be a fascination for him in the

children, who were equally charmed with the

young soldier that silently watched their pretty,

pathetic exhibitions of intelligent speech by

gesture. My husband riveted his gaze on their

speaking eyes, and as their instructor spelt the

passions of love, hatred, remorse and reverence

on his fingers, one little girl represented them by

singularly graceful gestures, charming him, and

filling his eyes with tears, which he did not seek

to hide. The pupils were from ten to sixteen

years of age. Their supple wrists were a

delight to us, and the tiny hands of a child of the

matron, whom the General held, talked in a

cunning way to its playmates, who, it knew,

could not comprehend its speech. It was well

that the Professor was hospitality itself, and did

not mind a cavalcade dashing up the road to his

house. My husband, when he did not openly

suggest going, used some subterfuge as trivial as

going for water-cress, that grew in a pond near

222 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

the Asylum. The children knew him, and wel-

comed him with lustrous, eloquent eyes, and went

untiringly through their little exhibitions, learn-

ing to bring him their compositions, examples

and maps, for his commendation. How little we

thought then that the lessons he was taking,

in order to talk with the children he learned

to love, would soon come into use while sitting

round a camp-fire and making himself understood

by Indians. Of course, their sign-language is

wholly their own, but it is the same method of

using the simplest signs as expressive of thought.

It was a long, pleasant ride; its only drawback to

me being the fording of the river, which had

quicksands and a rapid current. The Colorado

was low, but the river-bed was wide and filled

with sand-bars. The mad torrent that the citizens

told us of in freshets, we did not see. If I fol-

lowed my husband, as Custis Lee had learned to

do, I found myself guided safely, but it some-

times happened that our party entered the river,

laughing and talking so earnestly, noisily and

excitedly that we forgot caution. One lesson was

enough ; the sensation of the sinking of the

horse’s hind legs in quicksands is not to be for-

gotten. The loud cry of the General to ‘* saw on

the bit” or whip my horse, excited, frightened

directions from the staff to turn to the right or the

PISTOLS AND BOWIE-KNIVES. 223

left, Custis Lee trembling and snorting with fear,

but responding to a cruel cut of my whip (for I

rarely struck him), and we plunged on to a firmer

soil, wiser for all the future on account of that

moment of serious peril.

We seldom rode through the town, as my hus-

band disliked the publicity that a group of

cavalrymen must necessarily cause in a city street.

If we were compelled to, the staff and Tom

pointed out one after another of the loungers

about the stores, or the horseman who had killed

his man. It seemed to be thought the necessary

thing, to establish the Texan’s idea of courage, to

have either fought in duels, or, by waylaying the

enemy, to have killed from one to five men. The

Southern climate seems to keep alive a feud that

our cold Northern winters freeze out. Bad blood

was never kept in abeyance ; they had out their

bursts of temper when the attack of rage came on.

Each man, even the boys of twelve, went armed.

I used to wonder at the humped-up coats until a

norther, before which we were one day scudding

for safety, lifted the coats of men making a

similar dash, and the pistol was revealed.

It was the favorite pastime of our men (having

concocted the scheme with the General) to ride

near some of the outskirts, and, when we reached

some lone tree, tell me that from that limb a mur-

2 24 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

dered man had lately swung-. This grim joke was

often practiced on me, in order that the shuddering

horror and the start Custis Lee and I made, to

skim over the country away from such a hated

spot, might be enjoyed. I came to think the

Texas trees bore that human fruit a little too often

for truth ; but some of the citizens gloated over

these scenes of horror, and added a lamp-post in

town to the list of localities from which, in future,

I must turn away my head.

The negroes of Texas and Louisiana were the

worst in all the South. The border States had

commonly sold their most insubordinate slaves in-

to these two distant States.”^ Fortunately, our now

well-disciplined Division and the regular cavalry

kept everything in a better condition ; but there

were constantly individual cases of outrageous con-

duct, and often of crime, among whites and blacks.

*ln order to gain some idea of the immense territory in which our

troops were attempting to restore order, I have only to remind the

reader that Texas is larger than either the German or the Austrian

Empire. The area of the State is 274,356 square miles. It is as

large as France, Belgium, England and Wales all combined. If we

could place the northwestern corner of Texas at Chicago, its most

southerly point would be at Jacksonville, Fla., its most easterly

at Petersburg, Va., and its most westerly in the interior of Missouri.

It would thus cover the entire States of Indiana, Kentucky and the

two Carolinas, and nearly all of Tennessee, with one-third of Ohio,

two-thirds of Virginia, half of Georgia, and portions of Florida. Ala

bama, Illinois and Missouri. The cities of Chicago, Toledo, Cin-

cinnati, Washington, Richmond, Charleston, Atlanta and Nashville

would all be included within its borders.

HOME OF THE DESPERADO. 225

high and low. Texas had so long been looked upon

as a sort of ” city of refuge ” by outlaws, that those

whom the other States refused to harbor came to

that locality. A country reached only by sea from

the south or by a wagon-train from the north, and

through which no telegraph lines ran until after

we came,would certainly offer an admirable hiding-

place for those who leave their country for their

country’s good. I have read somewhere that Texas

derived its name from a group of rascals, who, sit-

ting round a fire on their arrival on the soil that

was to protect them, composed this couplet :

” If every other land forsakes us,

This is the land that freely takes us (Texas).”

As story after story reached us, I began to think

the State was well named. There were a great

many excellent, law-abiding citizens, but not

enough to leaven the lump at that chaotic period.

Even the women learned to defend themselves,

as the war had deprived them of their natural

protectors, who had gone either in the Northern or

the Southern army — for Texas had a cavalry regi-

ment of refugees in our service. One woman, while

we were there, found a teamster getting into her

window, and shot him fatally. Fire-arms were so

constantly about — for the men did not dress with-

out a pistol in their belts — that women grew ac-

226 TEN71NG ON THE TLA INS.

customed to the sight of weapons. There was a

lady of whom I constantly heard, rich and re-

fined, but living- out of town on a plantation that

seemed to be fit only for negroes. She rode fear-

lessly, and diverted her monotonous life by hunt-

ing. The planters frequently met her with game

slung upon her saddle, and once she lassoed and

brought in a wolf alone. Finally this woman

came to see me, but curiosity made me hardly

civil for a few moments, as I was trying to recon-

cile myself to the knowledge, that the quiet, grace-

ful woman before me, with rich dress, jewels and

a French hat, could take her gun and dogs, mount

a fiery horse, and go hunting alone. We found,

on returning the visit, that, though they were rich,

owning blooded horses, a plantation and a mill,

their domicile was anything but what we at the

North would call comfortable. It was a long,

one-storied, log building, consisting of a parlor,

dining-room, bedroom and two small ” no-‘count “

rooms, as the servants said, all opening into one

another and upon the porch. The first surprise

on entering was, that the roof did not fit down

snugly on the side wall. A strip of the blue sky

was visible on three sides, while the partition of the

dining-room only came up part way. There

seemed to be no sort of provision for ” Caudle

lectures.” The walls were roughly plastered, but

WALLS HA VE EARS. 22 7

this space just under the roof was for ventilation,

and I fancied they would get enough of it during

a norther.

I am reminded of a story that one of the witty

Southern women told me, after repeating some

very good comic verses, in which they excel. She

said the house I described was not uncommon in

Texas, and that once she was traveling over a por-

tion of the State, on a journey of great suffering,

as she was accompanying her husband’s remains

to a family burial-ground. They assisted her

from her carriage into one of the rooms of a long

log house, used as a wayside inn, and the landlady

kindly helped her into bed, as she was prostrated

with suffering and fatigue. After she left her,

the landlady seemed to forget that the partition

did not extend to the rafters, and began question-

ing her servant as to what was the matter, etc.

Hearing that the lady had lost her husband, the

old dame exclaimed, sympathetically, ” Poor

thing ! Poor thing ! I know how it is; I’ve lost

three of ’em.”

The General and his staff got a good deal of

sport out of the manner in which they exagger-

ated the tales of bloodshed to me, and aroused

the anger, grief and horror that I could not sup-

press. I must defend myself from the supposition

that I may have been chronicling their absurd and

2 28 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

highly colored tales. All that 1 have written, I

have either seen or have reliable authority for.

Their astounding stories, composed among them-

selves, began with a concocted plan by which one

casually started a story, the others met it with

surprise and with an “Is it possible?” and the

next led up to some improbable narrative of the

General’s — I growing more and more shivery as

the wicked tormentors advanced. Always rather

gullible, I suppose, I must confess the torn and

distracted state of society in Texas made every-

thing they said seem probable. I don’t know how

long I kept up a fashion of starting and shudder-

ing over the frequent crack of a rifle or pistol, as

we rode through the woods about the town. My

husband and his attendant scamps did all they

could to confirm my belief that the woods were

full of assassins, and I rode on after these sharp

reports, expecting to come upon the lifeless re-

mains of a murdered man. They all said, with

well assumed feeling, that Texas was an awful

country in which to live, where a man’s life was

not safe an hour, and excitedly exclaimed at each

shot, “There goes some other poor fellow!” I

have reason to believe it was a serious disappoint-

ment to the whole confederation of jokers, to have

me actually see a Mexican driver (a greaser) crack

his whip over the heads of his oxen, as they

SOMETHING OF SOCIAL LIFE.

229

crawled along in front of us one day when we

were riding. There is no sound like the snap of

the lash of a “bull-whacker,” as they are called,

and perhaps brighter women than I am might have

been taken in by it, and thought it a pistol-shot.

This ended my taking it as the signal of a death.

The lawlessness of the State was much dimin-

ished by the troops scattered through the country.

General Custer was much occupied in answering

communications that came from distant parts

of Texas, describing the demoralized state of the

country, and asking for troops. These appeals

were from all sides. It was felt more and more

that the presence of the troops was absolutely

necessary, and it was certainly agreeable to us

that we were not looked upon as invaders. The

General then had thirteen regiments of infantry

and as many of cavalry, scattered in every part

of the State comprised in his district. The regular

troops arriving, brought their wives and daughters,

and it was a great addition, as we had constant en-

tertainments, in which the civilians, so long cut off

from all gayety, were glad to participate. The

staff assisted me greatly in my preparations. We

dressed the long parlors in evergreens, made cano-

pies of flags, arranged wax-lights in impromptu

wooden sconces, and with the waxed floor it was

tempting enough to those who cared for dancing.

230 TENTWG ON THE PLAIN’S.

The soldiers soon organized a string band, and a

sergeant called off the quadrilles. Sometimes my

husband planned and arranged the suppers alone,

but usually the staff divided the duty of prepar-

ing the refreshments. Occasionally we attempted

a dinner, and, as we wanted to invite our own

ladies as well as some from the regular regiments,

the table was a subject of study ; for when twenty

came, the dishes gave out. The staff dined early,

so that we could have theirs, and the Southern

woman who occupied two rooms in the building

lent everything she had. Uncle Charley, our

cook, who now had found a colored church in

which to preach on Sunday, did up all his religion

on that day, and swore all the week, but the cellar-

kitchen was distant, and, besides, my husband

used to argue that it was just as well to endure

placidly the evils right about us, but not to seek

for more. The swearing did not interfere with

the cooking, and Charley thought it necessary to

thus clear the kitchen, as our yard at that time

was black with the colored race. Each officer’s

servant had his circle of friends, and they hovered

round us like a dark cloud. The dishes that

Uncle Charley sent up were excellent. The Texas

beef and poultry were of superior quality, and we

even had a respite from condensed milk, as a

citizen had lent us a cow.

CHAGRIN OF A HOSTESS. 23 1

At one of these dinners Eliza had enhsted a

colored boy to help her wait on the table. I had

tried to borrow enough dishes, and thought the

table was provided. But the glory of the occa-

sion departed when, after soup, roast game, etc.,

all served with the great luxury at that place of

separate plates. Uncle Charley bethought himself

that he would add, as a surprise, a dessert. It is

almost unnecessary to say that a dessert at that

time was an event. Uncle Charley said his “best

holt ” was on meats, and his attempts at pastry

would not only have ruined the remnant of his

temper, but, I am afraid, if often indulged in,

would have effectually finished our digestion.

For this I had not counted, and, to my dismay,

after the pudding had been deposited with great

salaam and ceremony before the General, the

colored boy rushed around and gathered every-

body’s coffee-saucer. Until he returned them

washed, and placed them at the head of the table,

I did not imagine what he was doing ; I simply

waited, in that uncertain frame of mind that a

hostess well knows. My husband looked at the

array of cups down the long table, standing bereft

of their partners, laid his head back, and shouted.

Then everybody else laughed, and, very red and

very mortified, I concluded to admit that I had

not arranged for this last course, and that on that

23^2 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

table were the united contents of all our mess-

chests, and there were no saucers or dessert-plates

nearer than town. We were aware that our

stay in the South was limited, and made no

effort to keep enough crockery for dinners of

twenty.

After many enjoyable parties in our parlor, we

received a pathetic and carefully worded hint

from Eliza, who was now a great belle, that she

would like to return some of the hospitality

shown her by the colored people of the town, and

my husband was only too glad to prove to Eliza

how we valued her faithful, self-denying life in

our service. We composed an invitation, in which

Miss Eliza Brown presented her compliments to

Mr.Washington or Mr. Jefferson, as the case might

be, and would be happy to see him on such an

evening, with the word “dancing” in the left-

hand corner. A gathering of the darkies seemed

equally jubilant, whether it was a funeral, a camp-

meeting or a dance ; but it seemed they made a

difference in dress for these occasions, if not in

manners. So it was best, Eliza thought, to add

” dancing,” though it was only at first a mirthful

suggestion of the General’s fertile brain. He gave

the copying to the office clerk, who, being a profes-

sional penman, put as many tails to his capitals

and flourishes to his words as he did for the white

A NEGRO BALL. 21′>

folks, Eliza’s critical eye watching for any less

elaborate embellishment.

The lower part of the house was given over to

the negroes, who polished the floor, trimmed the

windows, columns and chimney with garlands of

live-oak, and lavished candles on the scene, while

at the supper they had a heterogeneous jumble of

just what they asked for, including coon, the dish

garnished with watercress and bits of boiled beet.

I think we were not asked ; but as the fiddle

started the jigs, the General’s feet began to keep

time, and he executed some pas senl around our

bedroom, and then, extracting, as usual, a promise

from me not to laugh, he dragged me down the

steps, and we hid where we saw it all. The quadrille

ended, the order of ceremonies seemed to consist

in the company going down to one end of the room

in response to an order from Uncle Charley to

” clar the flo’.” Then the old man of sixty, a grand-

father, now dressed in white tie, vest and gloves,

with shining black clothes, took the floor. He knew

himself to be the cynosure of all eyes, and bore

himself accordingly. He had previously said to

me, ” To-night, I expects, Miss Libbie, to put

down some steps those colored folks has never

seen befo’.” And surely he did. He ambled out,

as lithe as a youngster, cut some pigeon-wings,

and then skipped and flung himself about with

234 TENTL\G ON THE PLAINS.

the agility of a boy, stopping” not on?y for breath,

but to watch the expressions, envious and admir-

ing, of the spectators at the end of the room.

When his last breath was exhausted, Aunt Ann,

our old laundress, came tripping down the polished

floor, and executed a shuffle, most decorous at

first, and then, reviving her youth, she struck into

a hoydenish jig, her son encouraging her by pat-

ting time. More quadrilles, then another clearing

of the floor, and a young yellow woman pirouet-

ted down the room, in bright green tarlatan

petticoats, very short and airy. She executed a

hornpipe and a reel, and, like Uncle Charley, im-

provised some steps for the occasion. This black

sylph was surrounded with a cloud of diaphanous

drapery; she wreathed her arms about her head,

kept on the smirk of the ballet-girl, and coquetted

and skipped about, with manners that brought

down the house. The fattest darkey of all wad-

dled down next and did a break-down, at which

all the assembly patted juba, and with their

woolly heads kept time to the violin. My husband

never moved from his hiding-place, but chuckled

and shook over the sight, novel to us, till Eliza

found us out and forgave the ” peeking.”

The clothes worn, looked as if the property-

room of a third-rate theatre had been rifled — faded

finery, fag ends of old lace, tumbled flowers that

TOILETS OF THE DANCERS.

235

had done duty at many a ” white folks'” ball, on

the pretty costume of the missus, old feathers set

up in the wool, where what was left of the plume

bobbed and quavered, as the head of the owner

moved to the time of the music, or nodded and

swayed back and forth while conver£^ation went

on. The braiding, oiling and smoothing had

gone on for days previous, to straighten the wool

and make it lie flat ; but the activity in the pur-

suit of pleasure soon set the little kinks free, and

each hair stood on tip-toe, joining in a jig of its

own. The powder begged from the toilet-table

of the missus was soon swept away in the general

shine ; but the belles cared little for having sus-

pended temporarily the breath of their rivals by

the gorgeousness of their toilets ; they forgot ap-

pearances and yielded to that absorption of

excitement in which the colored soul is spell-

bound.

Eliza moved about, ” queening it ” as she knew

how to do, and it was a proud hour of triumph to

her, as she cast a complacent side glance at the

tail of her gown, which she had wheedled out of

me by cunning arguments, among which the most

powerful was that ” ’twas getting so mussed and

’twasn’t no sort of a dress for a Ginnel’s wife, no

how.” The General lost nothing, for he sat in our

hidden corner, shaking and throwing his head back

236 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

in glee, but keeping a close and warning hold on

my arm, as I was not so successful in smothering a

titter as he was, having no mustache to deaden

the sound. After Eliza discovered us, she let no

one know of our perfidy, and the company, be-

lieving they were alone, abandoned themselves

to complete enjoyment as the fiddle played havoc

with the heels of the entire assembly.

CHAPTER VIII.

LETTERS HOME EXTRACTS CAUGHT BY A NORTHER

LONGING FOR A YANKEE WOOD-l’ILE COLONEL

GROOME OF l8l2 JACK RUCKER BEATEN IN A

HORSE-RACE GINNIE AND HER FAMILY OUR

FATHER Custer’s dog.

‘ I “HE trivial events of our daily life were

chronicled in a weekly letter home, and from

a number of these school-girl effusions I cull a few

items, as they give an idea of my husband’s recre-

ations as well as his duties.

” We are quartered in the Blind Asylum, which

is large and comfortable. The large rooms in the

main part of the building we can use for enter-

taining, while the staff occupy the wings and the

building in the yard, that was used for a school-

room. Out there they can have all the ‘ walk-

arounds ‘ and ‘ high-jinks ‘ they choose, without

any one hearing them.”

” Our room is large, and, mother, I have two

bureaus and a wardrobe, and lose my things con-

238 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

stantly, I am so unused to so much room. We

women hardly knew what to make of the absence of

looking-glasses, as the house is otherwise furnished,

until it occurred to us that the former occupants

wouldn’t get much good out of a mirror. It isn’t

so necessary to have one, after all, as I got on all

summer very well, after I learned to brush my

hair straight back and not try to part it. 1 have

a mirror now, and am wrestling with back hair

again.

” I confess to you, mother, it is a comfort to get

out of bed on to a carpet, and dress by a fire ; but

don’t tell Armstrong I said so, as I never men-

tioned to him that dressing before day, my eyes

streaming with tears from the camp-fire while I

took an ice-water bath, was not the mode of serv-

ing my country that I could choose.”

” Last Sunday it was uncomfortably warm. We

wore thin summer clothes, and were languid from

the heat. The thermometer was eighty-two in

the shade. On Monday the weather changed from

heat to cold in five minutes, in consequence of the

sudden and violent winds, which are called

‘ northers.’ “

” No one prepares for the cold in this country,

but there was a general scattering when our first

norther attacked us. Tom rushed for wood, and

PYROTECHNICS FOR A PARENT. 239

of course none was cut. He fished Tex out from

the kitchen, borrowed an axe from one of the

headquarters men, and soon appeared with an arm-

ful. As he took the sticks from Tex to build the fire,

out dropped a scorpion to add to the excitement.

It was torpid, but nevertheless it was a scorpion,

and I took up my usual safe position, in the middle

of the bed, till there was an auto da fe. The

loose windows rattled, and the wind howled

around the corner of our room. I put a sack and

shawl over my summer dress, and we shivered

over Tom’s fire. I rather wondered at Armstrong’s

huddling, he is usually so warm, but each act of

these boys needs investigating. By and by he

went off to write, while father Custer took out his

pipe, to calm the troubled scene into which the

rush of Nova Zembla had thrown us. He sat ‘way

under the mantel to let the tobacco-smoke go up

the chimney. Pretty soon Autie returned and

threw some waste paper on the fire, and the next

thing we all started violently back from a wild

pyrotechnic display. With the papers went in a

handful of blank cartridges, and these innocent

looking scamps faced their father and calmly

asked him why he had jumped half-way across

the room. They often repeat this Fourth-of-July

exhibition with fire-crackers, either tied to his chair,

or tossed carelessly on the burning logs, when his

240 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

attention is attracted elsewhere. But don’t pity

him, mother. No matter what trick they play, he

is never phased. He matches them too, and I

help him, though I am obliged to confess I often

join in the laugh, it is all so funny. This was not

the last of the hullaballoo. The w^ood gave out,

and Autie descended for more. Tex took this

occasion, when everyone was hunting a fire and

shelter from the cold, to right what he considered

a grievous wrong. Autie found him belaboring

another colored boy, whom he had “downed.”

Autie investigated, for if Tex was right he was

bound to let the fight proceed. You know in his

West Point days he was arrested for allowing a

fisticuff to go on, and because he said, ‘ Stand back,

boys, and let’s have a fair fight.’ But finding our

boy in the wrong, he arraigned him, and began,

‘ Did you strike Jake with malice aforethought ? ‘

‘ No, sah ! no, sah ! I dun struck him with the

back of the hatchet.’ At this Autie found himself

no longer a ‘most righteous judge.’ This Daniel

beat a quick retreat, red with suppressed laughter,

and made Tom go down to do the punishing.

Tom shut Tex in the chicken-coop ; but it was too

hard for me to see from my window his shiny

eyes looking out from between the slats, so they

made the sentence light, and he was set free in

the afternoon.

A TEXAS NORTHER. 241

( –■ ^

” Now, mother, I have estabUshed the only

Yankee wood-pile in Texas. I don’t mean to be

caught again, and shrivel up as we did this time.

You don’t know how these storms deceive you. One

hour we are so suffocated with the heavy, oppres-

sive air, we sit in the deep window-sills and pant for

breath. Along comes a roaring sound through the

tree-tops, and there’s a scatter, I can tell you. We

bang down the windows, and shout for Texas to

hunt the wood-pile, jump into warm clothes, and

before we are fairly prepared, the hurricane is

upon us. We really don’t mind it a bit, as it

doesn’t last long (once it lasted three days),

besides, it is so good to be in something that isn’t

going to blow down, as we momentarily expected

in a tent. Our Sundays pass so slowly ! The

traveling-wagon holds a good many, and we don’t

mind close quarters, so we all squeeze in, and the

bachelor officers ride with us to church. The Epis-

copal church is still open, but as they have no

fires we would be glad if the rector warmed

us up with his eloquence a little more. However,

it’s church, and we begin to feel semi-civilized.

“The citizens are constantly coming to pay

their respects to Armstrong. You see, we were

welcomed instead of dreaded, as, Yankees or no

Yankees, a man’s life is just as good, preserved by

242 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

a Federal soldier as by a Confederate, and every-

body seems to be in a terrified state in this law-

less land. Among- the callers is one man that

will interest you, father. I believe you are con-

sidered authority on the history of the fight that

took place at Monroe, when the Kentucky regi-

ment fought the British in 1812. Well, whom do

you think we have found down here, but the old

Colonel Groome who distinguished himself that

day ? He is a white-headed old soldier, and when

Autie told him that we were right from Monroe,

he was so affected the tears came to his eyes. It

was he that set the barn on fire, to prevent the

British using it as a fortification for sharp-shoot-

ers. He crawled away from the burning building

on his hands and knees, while their bullets cut his

clothes and wounded him several times. Years

afterward he met an old British officer, who told

him, in their talk, that the man who fired the barn

was killed by his own army, but Colonel Groome,

in quite a dramatic way, said, ‘ No ! I am the

man.’ He says that he would like to see you so

much. Autie is greatly interested in this veteran,

and we are going to call on him, and get two

game chickens he is to give us.

” Now, father, don’t wrinkle up your brows

when I tell you that we race horses. Even I race

with Mrs. L , and, much as you may disapprove,

HARMLESS HORSE-RACING. 243

I know my father too well, not to be sure he will

be glad that his only daughter beat. But let me

explain to you that racing among ourselves is not

your idea of it. There is no money at stake, no

rough crowd, none of the evils of which you may

well disapprove, as we know horse-racing at home.

Armstrong is considered the best judge of a horse

here. The Texans supposed no one in the world

could ride as well as themselves, and they do

ride splendidly, but those who saw Armstrong

keep his place in the saddle, when Don Juan ran

away with him at the grand review in Washing-

ton, concede that he does know how to ride,

however mistaken his views on patriotism may

be. We have now three running horses and a

fast pony, none of which has been beaten.

Autie’s bay pony beat a crack runner of which

the town boasts, by three full lengths. The races

are near our quarters, so we women can be in it

all. Indeed, there is nothing they do not share

with us.

” Our stable-boy is a tiny mulatto, a handsome

little fellow, weighing about eighty pounds.

Armstrong thinks he is the finest rider he has ever

seen. I have just made him a tight-fitting red

jacket and a red-white-and-blue skull-cap, to ride

in at races. We are running out to the stables

half our time. Armstrong has the horses exercised

244 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

on a quarter-of-a-mile track, holds the watch and

times them, as we sit round and enjoy their speed.”

” When I am so intent on my amateur dress-

making, and perplexed and tired, dear mother,

you wouldn’t wonder when I tell you that one

dress, of which I am in actual need, I cut so that

the figure ran one way on the skirt and another

on the waist, and caused Armstrong to make

some ridiculous remarks that I tried not to notice,

but he was so funny and the dress itself was so

very queer when I put it on, I had to give in.

Well, when I am so bothered, he comes in and

throws my things all over the room, kicks over

the lapboard, and picks me up for a tramp to the

stable. Then he rubs down the horses’ legs, and

asks me to notice this or that fine point, which is

all Greek to me. The truth is, that I would rather

see a fine mane and tail, than all the sinew, length

of limb, etc. Then we sit down on kegs and

boxes, and contemplate our wealth. Custis Lee

greets me with a whinny. Dear mother, you

would be simply horrified by our back yard.

Autie and I march to the stables through a dark

cloud of spectators. The negroes are upon us

like the locusts of Egypt. It is rumored that our

Uncle Charley keeps a flourishing colored board-

ing-house in the town, from what is decidedly

SCHOOLMA TES MEE T AS SOLDIERS. 245

more than the crumbs that fall from his master’s

table. After all, though, considering our house

is filled with company, and we constantly give

evening parties, I don’t think our mess-bills are

very large. Autie teases father Custer, by telling

him he is going to brigade the colored troops, and

make him chaplain. You are well aware how

father Custer feels over the ‘ nigger ‘ question, and

how he would regard a chaplaincy. I must not

forget to tell you that the wheel of time has rolled

around, and among the regiments in Armstrong’s

command is the Fourth Michigan Infantry. Don’t

you remember that when he was a second lieuten-

ant, he crossed the Chickahominy with that regi-

ment, and how, having started before dawn, his

comrades among whom he had just come, did not

know him, till, while they were lying low, he

would pop up his head and call out their first

names, or their nick-names at school in Monroe,

and when it was daylight, and they recognized

him, how glad they were to see him.”

” We had a lovely Christmas. I fared beauti-

fully, as some of our staff had been to San Antonio,

where the stores have a good many beautiful

things from Mexico. Here, we had little oppor-

tunity to buy anything, but I managed to get up

some trifle for each of our circle. We had a large

246 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

Christmas-tree, and Autie was Santa Glaus, and

handed down the presents, making side-spHtting

remarks as each person walked up to receive his

gift. The tree was well lighted. I don’t know how

so many tapers were gotten together. Of course

it would not be us if, with all the substantial gifts,

some jokes were not slipped in. You know well

father Custer’s antipathy to the negro, and every-

body gathered round to see him open a box con-

taining a nigger doll baby, while two of his other

parcels held a bunch of fire-crackers and a bunch

of cards. Lately his sons have spent a good deal

of time and argument, trying to induce him to

play. They, at last, taught him some simple game,

easy enough for even me to master. The rogues

let him beat at first, but finally he discovered his

luck was so persistently bad there must be a screw

loose, and those boys up to some rascality. They

had put him, with no apparent intention, with his

back to the mirror, and, of course, saw his hand,

which, like an amateur, he awkwardly held just

right to enable them to see all his cards. This

ended his lessons, and we will return him to Mon-

roe the same good old Methodist that he left it.

Everybody is fond of him, and his real presents

were a hat, handkerchief, necktie, pipe and tobacco.

” One of our lieutenants, having just received

his brevet as major, had a huge pair of yellow

CHRISTMAS MISTLETOE. 247

leaves cut out of flannel, as his insignia for the new

rank.

” One of the staff, now a teetotaler, was remind-

ed of his past, which I hoped everyone would ig-

nore, by the present of a wooden faucet. No one

escapes in such a crowd.

” Tom, who is always drumming on the piano,

had a Jew’s-harp given him, with an explanatory

line from Autie attached, ” to give the piano a

rest.” Only our own military family were here,

and Armstrong gave us a nice supper, all of his

own getting up. We played games, sang songs,

mostly for the chorus, danced, and finally the

merriest imitated the darkies by jigs and patting

juba, and walk-arounds. The rooms were pretti-

ly trimmed with evergreens, and over one door a

great branch of mistletoe, about which the officers

sang :

Fair mistletoe !

Love’s opportunity !

What trees that grow

Give such sweet impunity ?

” But it is too bad that, pretty as two or three of

our women are, they belong to some one else. So

kissing begins and ends with every man saluting

his own wife.

” I wish you could see the waxen white berries

and the green leaves of the parasite on the naked

branches of the trees here, mother ; and, oh ! to

248 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

have you get one sniff of the December roses,

which rival the summer ones in richness of color

and perfume, would make my pleasure greater, I

assure you. It is nearly spring here, and the grass

on our lawn is getting green, and the farmers be-

gan to plough in January.

” Nettie is such a nurse here ! Her name is up

for it, and she has even to go out to the servants’

quarters if the little nigs burn their heels or toes.

She is a great pleasure to us all, and enjoys every

moment.”

It seems that the general racing of which I

wrote to my father, was too tempting for me to re-

sist entirely, and our household was beguiled one

day into a promise to bring my husband’s war-

horse. Jack Rucker, down to the citizens’ track.

Every one was confident of success, and no one

took into consideration that the experiment of

pitting gentlemen against turf roughs has never

been successful. Our officers entered into all the

preparations with high hopes, thinking that with

one good whipping the civilians would cease to

send bantering messages or drag presuming coat-

tails before their eyes. They were accustomed to

putting their steeds to their best speed when a

party of equestrians from our headquarters were

riding in their vicinity. Too fond of good horse-

flesh not to admire the pace at which their

OUR HORSE ”JACK.” 249

thoroughbreds sped over the smooth, firm roads

about Austin, there was still a murmured word

passed around that the owners of these fleet ani-

mals would hang their proud heads when ” Jack “

came into the field. We women were pressed

mto going. All of us liked the trial of speed on

our own territory, but the hatred of a horse-track

that was not conducted by gentlemen was imbed-

ded deep in our minds. The officers did not ask

us to go for good luck, as army women are so

often told they bring it, but they simply said,

‘ You could not miss seeing our Jack beat !’ Off

we went, a gay, boisterous party, till we reached

the track ; there we put on our quietest civilian

manners and took our place to watch the coming

triumph. The track was good, and the Texas men

and women, more enthusiastic over a horse than

over anything else in the world, cheered their

blanketed favorite as he was led up and down

before the judge’s stand.

When the judge gave the final ” Go !” our party

were so excited, and our hearts so swelling with

assured success, I would have climbed up on the

saddle to see better, if it had not been that we

were surrounded with strangers. Off went the

beautiful Texas horse, like an arrow from a bow ;

but our Jack, in spite of the rider sticking the spur

and cruelly cutting his silken neck with the whip.

250 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

only lumbered around the first curve, and in this

manner laboriously made his way the rest of the

distance. Of course it was plain that we were

frightfully beaten, and with loud and triumphant

huzzas, the Texans welcomed their winning horse,

long before poor Jack dragged himself up to the

stand. Our officers hurried out to look him over,

and found the poor brute had been drugged by

the contesting side. There was no serious injury,

except to our pride. We were too disappointed,

humiliated and infuriated to stand upon the order

of our going. We all turned our backs upon the

crowd and fled. The clatter of our horses’ hoofs

upon the hard road was the only sound, as none

of us spoke.

My husband met that, as everything else, as

nothing worthy of serious regret, and after the

tempest of fury over our being so imposed upon,

I rather rejoiced, because the speed of our horses,

after that first and last essay, was confined to our

own precincts. Nobody’s pocket suffered, and

the wounded spirits of those who race horses are

more easily soothed, if a wounded purse has not

to be borne in addition.

There was one member of our family, to whom

I have only referred, who was our daily joy. It

was the pointer Ginnie, whom the Virginia family

in Hempstead had given us. My husband made

DOGS AS COMPANIONS. 25 I

her a bed in the hall near our room, and she did

every cunning, intelligent act of which a dog is

capable. She used to go hunting, walking and

riding with us, and was eti rapport with her master

at all times. I often think, Who among our

friends pleases us on all occasions? How few

there are who do not rub us up the wrong way, or

whom we ourselves are not conscious sometimes

of bormg, and of taxing their patience ! And do

we not find that we sometimes approach those of

whom we are fond, and discover intuitively that

they are not in sympathy with our mood, and we

must bide their time for responding to our over-

tures ? With that dear Ginnie there was no ques-

tion. She received us exactly in the spirit with

which we approached her, responded, with

measure pressed down and running over, to our

affectionate demonstrations, and the blessed old

girl never sulked if we dropped her to attend to

something else. George Eliot says, ” Animals are

such agreeable friends! they ask no questions,

they pass no criticisms.”

A dog is so human to me, and dogs have been

my husband’s chosen friends so many years, I can-

not look upon the commonest cur with indifference.

Sometimes, as I stand now at my window, long-

ing for the old pack that whined with delight,

quarreled with jealousy for the best place near us,

25^

7-ENTING ON THE PLAINS.

capered with excitement as we started off on a

ride or walk, my eyes involuntarily follow each

dog that passes on the street. I look at the

master to see if he realizes that all that is faithful

and loving” in this world is at his heels. If he

stops to talk to a friend, and the dog leaps about

him, licks his hand, rubs against him, and tries, in

every way that his devoted heart teaches him, to

attract the attention of the one who is all the

world to him, all my sympathies are with the dog.

I watch with jealous solicitude to see if the affec-

tionate brute gets recognition. And if by instinct

the master’s hand goes out to the dog’s head, I am

quite as glad and grateful as the recipient. If the

man is absorbed and lets the animal sit patiently

and adoringly watching his very expression, it

seems to me I cannot refrain from calling his

attention to the neglect.

My husband was as courteous in responding to

his dogs’ demonstrations, and as affectionate, as he

would be to a person. If he sent them away, he

explained, in dog talk, the reason, which might

seem absurd, if our canine family had not been our

companions so constantly that they seemed to

understand and accept his excuses as something

unavoidable on his part. The men of our family

so appreciated kindness to dogs that I have found

myself this winter, involuntarily almost, calling to

ALTERING THE DOG CENSUS.

25:

them to see an evidence of affection. One of

my neighbors is a beer saloon, and though I am

too busy to look out of the window much, I have

noticed occasionally an old express horse waiting

for his master to take “something warming.” The

blanket was humped up on his back mysteriously.

It turned out to be a dear little cur, which was thus

kept warm by a fond master. It recalls our men

and the ways they devised for keeping their dogs

warm, the times innumerable when they shared

their own blankets with them, when caught out in

a cold snap, or divided short rations with the dogs

they loved.

Returning to Ginnie, I remember a day when

there was a strange disappearance ; she did not

thump her tail on the door for entrance, fetching

our stockings in her mouth, as a gentle hint that it

was time to get up and have a fire, if the morning

was chilly. It did not take the General long to

scramble into his clothes and go to investigate, for

he dearly loved her, and missed the morning call.

Soon afterward he came bounding up the stairs,

two steps at a time, to announce that no harm had

come to our favorite, but that seven other little

Ginnies were now taking the breakfast provided

by their mother, under the negro quarters at the

rear of the house. There was great rejoicing, and

preparations to celebrate this important event in

2 54 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

our family. Eliza put our room in order, and de-

scended to the kitchen to tell what antics the

General was performing over the animal. When

she was safely down-stairs, where she could not in-

timidate us, my husband and I departed to fetch

the new family up near us. The General would

not trust any one with the responsibility of the

removal. He crawled under the building, which

was set up on low piles, and handed out the baby

canines, one by one, to me. Ginnie ran beside us,

frantic with anxiety, but her eloquent eyes full of

love and trust in our intentions.

Her bed in the hall was hardly good enough for

such an epoch in her life, so the whole litter, with

the proud mother in their midst, was safely de-

posited in the middle of our bed, where we paid

court to this royalty. My husband went over each

little shapeless body, and called my special atten-

tion to fine points, that, for the life of me, dog-lover

as I was, I could not discover in the pulpy, silken-

sk inned little rolls. As he took them up, one by one

Ginnie understood every word of praise he uttered.

After all of these little blind atoms had been re-

turned to their maternal, and the General had con-

gratulated the mother on a restaurant where, he

said, the advertisement of “warm meals at all

hours” was for once true, he immediately set

about tormenting Eliza. Her outraged spirit had

VIALS OF WRATH.

255

suffered often, to see the kingly Byron reposing-

his head on the pillow, but the General said, ” We

must get her up-stairs, for there will be war in

the camp now.”

Eliza came peacefully up the stairs into our

room, but her eyes blazed when she saw Ginnie.

She asked her usual question, ” Did I come way

off down in this here no ‘count country to wash

white counterpanes for dogs ? ” At each speech

the General said something to Ginnie in reply, to

harrow her up more and more, and at last she had

to give in and laugh at some of his drolleries. She

recalls to me now her recollection. ” Miss Libbie,

do you mind how the Ginnel landed Ginnie and

her whole brood of pups in the middle of the bed,

and then had the ‘dacity to send for me ? But,

oh ! it was perfectly heart-rendin’, the way he

would go on about his dogs when they was sick.”

And we both remembered, when one of these lit-

tle puppies of our beloved Ginnie was ill, how he

walked the floor half the night, holding, rubbing,

trying to soothe the suffering little beast. And in

spite of his medical treatment — for he kept the dog-

book on his desk, and ransacked it for remedies^ —

and notwithstanding the anointing and the cod-

dling, two died.

After Eliza had come down from her ram-

pagious state, she was invited to take notice of what

256

TENTING OX THE PLAINS.

a Splendid family Ginnie had. Then all the staff

and the ladies came up to call. It was a great occa-

sion for Ginnie, but she bore her honors meekly,

and offered her paw, as was her old custom, to

each new-comer, as if prepared for congratulations.

When they were old enough to run about and

bark, Ginnie took up her former habit of following

at the General’s heels; and as he crossed the yard

to the stables there was so absurd a procession

that I could not help laughing at the commanding

officer, and question if he himself thought it added

to the dignity of his appearance, to see the court-

like trail of mother and five puppies in his wake.

The independence of the chief was too inborn to

be laughed to scorn about appearances, and so he

continued to go about, as long as these wee tod-

dlers followed their mother in quest of supplies.

I believe there were twenty-three dogs at this time

about our house, most of them ours. Even our

father Custer accepted a bulky old cur as a gift.

There was no manner of doubt about the qualities

that had influenced our persecuted parent in select-

ing this one from the numerous dogs offered him

by his farmer friends. His choice was made

neither on account of breeding nor speed. The

cur was selected solely as a watch-dog. He was

all growl and bark, and as devotion is not

confined, fortunately, to the canines of exalted

A BODY-GUARD.

257

paternity, the lumbering old fellow was faithful.

Nothing describes him better than some lines from

” The Outside Dog in the Fight ;” for though he

could threaten with savage growls, and, I fancy,

when aggravated, could have set savage teeth in

the enemy of his master, he trotted beside our

father’s horse very peacefully, unmindful of the

quarrelsome members of our canine family, who

bristled up to him, inviting an encounter merely

to pass the time.

” You may sing of your dog, your bottom dog,

Or of any dog that you please ;

I go for the dog, the wise old dog,

That knowingly takes his ease,

And wagging his tail outside the ring,

Keeping always his bone in sight,

Cares not a pin, in his wise old head,

For either dog in the fight.

‘ Not his is the bone they are fighting for,

And why should my dog sail in,

With nothing to gain but a certain chance

To lose his own precious skin ?

There may be. a few, perhaps, who fail

To see it in quite this light ;

But when the fur flies I had rather be

The outside dog in the fight.”

Affairs had come to such a pass that our father

took his yellow cur into his bedroom at night. It

was necessary to take prompt, precautionary

measures to keep his sons from picking the lock of

2 eg TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

the door and descending on him in their maraud-

ing expeditions. The dog saw comparatively

Httle of outside Hfe, for, as time rounded, it be-

came necessary for the old gentleman to shut up

his body-guard daytimes also, as he found in his

absence these same sons and their confederates

had a fashion of dropping a little ” nig ” over the

transom, with directions to fetch back to them

anything he could lay his hands on. I have seen

them at the door while our father was away, try-

ing to soothe and cajole the old guardian of his

master’s effects into terms of peace. After all

overtures were declined, and the little bedroom

was simply filled up with bark and growl, the in-

vaders contented themselves with tossing all sorts

of missiles over the transom, which did not

sweeten the enraged dog’s temper. Nor did it

render our father’s bed as downy as it might have

been.

I find myself recalling with a smile the perfectly

satisfied manner in which this ungainly old dog

was taken out by his venerable owner on our rides

over the country. Father Custer had chosen him,

not for his beauty, but as his companion, and find-

ing him so successful in this one capacity, he was

just as serene over his possession as ever his sons

were with their high-bred hunters. The dog

looked as if he were a make-up from all the rough

BOWSER AND HIS MASTER. 259

clay that was discarded after modeling the sleek,

high-stepping, springy, fleet-footed dogs of our

pack. His legs were massive, while his cumber-

some tail curled over his plebeian back in a

tight coil, until he was tired — then, and only

then, did it uncurl. The droop of his head was

rendered even more ” loppy ” by the tongue, which

dropped outside the sagging jaw. But for all that,

he lumbered along, a blotch of ungainly yellow,

beside our splendid thoroughbreds; he was never

so tired that he could not understand the voice of

a proud old man, who assured his retrograde sons

that he ” would match his Bowser ‘gainst any of

their new-fangled, unreliable, high-falutin lot.”

It was a strange sight, though, this one plebeian

among patricians. Our horses were fine, our

father got good speed and some style out of his

nag, our dogs leaped over the country like deer,

and there in the midst, panting and faithfully

struggling to keep up, was the rough, uncouth old

fellow, too absorbed in endeavoring not to be left

behind, to realize that he was not all that a dog

could be, after generations of training and breed-

ing had done its refining work.

CHAPTER IX.

DISTURBED CONDITION OF TEXAS A WOMAN’s HORSE-

EDUCATION AT THE STABLES LEAVING AUSTIN FOR

HEMPSTEAD SAM HOUSTON A HERO AMONG OUR

OFFICERS DETENTION IN GALVESTON A TEXAS

NORTHER ON THE GULF OF MEXICO NARROW

ESCAPE FROM SHIPWRECK RETURN HOME ON A

MISSISSIPPI STEAMER.

” I “EXAS was in a state of ferment from one end

to the other. There was then no network of

railroads running over its vast territory as there is

now. Lawless acts might be perpetrated, and the

inciters cross the Rio Grande into Mexico, before

news of the depredations came to either military

or civil headquarters. The regiments stationed at

various points in the State had no easy duty. Jay-

hawkers, bandits and bush-whackers had every-

thing their own way for a time. I now find,

through official reports, what innumerable per-

plexities came up almost daily, and how difficult

it was for an officer in command of a division to

act in perfect justice to citizen, soldier and negro.

It was the most natural result in the world that

i6o

A DE VO TED PA TRIO T. 2 6 1

the restless throng let loose over the State from

the Confederate service, should do what idle

hands usually find to do. Consider what a land

of tramps we were at the North, after the war; and

if in our prosperous States and Territories, when so

many business industries were at once resumed,

we suffered from that class of men who refused to

work and kept outside the pale of the law by

a sneaking existence, what would naturally be the

condition of affairs in a country like Texas, for

many years the hiding-place of outlaws ?

My own father was one of the most patriotic men

1 ever knew. He was too old to enter the service

—an aged man even in my sight, for he had not

married till he was forty ; but in every way that

he could serve his country at home, he was fore-

most among the elderly patriots of the North. I

remember how little war moved me. The clash

of arms and glitter of the soldiery only appealed

to me as it did to thoughtless, light-hearted young

girls still without soldier lovers or brothers, who

lived too far from the scenes of battle to know the

tragic side. But my father impressed me by his

sadness, his tears, his lamentations, over our coun-

try’s misfortunes. He was the first in town to get

the news from the front, and so eager to hear the

result of some awful day, when lives were being

lost by thousands on a hotly contested field, that

262 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

he walked a bleak, lonely mile to the telegraph

station, waiting till midnight for the last de-

spatches, and weeping over defeats as he wearily

trod the long way homeward. I remember his

striding up and down the floor, his grand head

bent over his chest in grief, and saying, so solemnly

as to arrest the attention of my step-mother,

usually absorbed in domestic affairs, and even of

me, too happy then with the very exuberance of

living to thmk, while the sadness of his voice

touched even our thoughtlessness : ” Oh ! the

worst of this calamity will not be confined to war:

our land, even after peace is restored, will be filled

with cut-throats and villains.”

The prediction came true immediately in Texas,

and the troops had to be stationed over the ex-

tensive territory. Before the winter was over, the

civil authorities began to be able to carry out the

laws; they worked, as they were obliged to do, in

connection with the military, and the rioting, op-

pressions and assassinations were becoming less

common. It was considered unnecessary to retain

the Division of cavalry as an organization, since all

anticipated trouble with Mexico was over, and the

troops need no longer be massed in great numbers^

The necessity for a special commander for the

cavalry in the State was over, and the General

was therefore mustered out of service as a major-

‘BOOTS AND SADDLES.” 263

general of volunteers, and ordered North to await

his assignment to a new station.

We had very little to do in preparation, as our

camp outfit was about all our earthly possessions

at that time. It was a trial to part with the

elderly dogs, which were hardly worth the experi-

ment of transporting to the North, especially as

we had no reason to suppose we should see

another deer, except in zoological gardens. The

hounds fell into good and appreciative hands, be-

ing given either to the planter who had presented

them, or to the officers of the regular regiment

that had just been stationed in Texas for a five-

years’ detail. The cow was returned to the gen-

erous planter who lent her to us. She was now

a fat, sleek creature, compared with her appear-

ance when she came from among the ranch cattle.

The stables were emptied, and our brief enjoy-

ment of an embryo blue-grass farm, with a diminu-

tive private track of our own, was at an end.

Jack Rucker, Custis Lee, Phil and the blooded

mare were to go ; but the great bargains in fast

ponies had to be sacrificed.

My old father Custer had been as concerned

about my horse-education as his sons. He also

tried, as well as his boys, to attract my attention

from the flowing manes and tails, by which alone

I judged the merits of a horse, to the shoulders,

264 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

length of limb, withers, etc. One day there came

an incentive for perfecting myself in horse lore,

for my husband said that if I would select the best

pony in a number we then owned, I should have

him. I sat on a keg in the stable-yard, contem-

plating the heels of the horses, and wishing fer-

vently I had listened to my former lessons in

horse-flesh more attentively. All three men

laughed at my perplexities, and even the soldiers

who took care of the stable retired to a safe place

to smile at the witticisms of their commanding

officer, and were so deplorably susceptible to fun

that even the wife of their chief was a subject for

merriment. I was in imminent danger of losing

my chance at owning a horse, and might to this

day have remained ignorant of the peculiarly

proud sensation one experiences over that posses-

sion, if my father Custer had not slyly and surrep-

titiously come over to my side. How he cunningly

imparted the information, I will not betray ; but,

since he was as good a judge of a horse as his

sons, and had taught them their wisdom in that

direction, it is needless to say that my final judg-

ment, after repeated returns to the stable, was

triumphant. Texas made the old saw read.

All is fair in love, war and horse-trades, so I

adapted myself to the customs of the country, and

kept the secret of my wise judgment until the

GENERAL CUSTER AT THE CLOSE OF THE WAR -AGED 25.

265

266 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

money that the pony brought — forty dollars in

silver-— was safely deposited in my grasping” palm.

I will not repeat the scoffing of the outwitted pair,

after I had spent the money, at ” Libbie’s horse-

dress,” but content myself with my father’s praise

at the gown he had secured to me, when I enjoyed

at the North the serenity of mind that comes of

silken attire.

The planters came to bid us good-by, and we

parted from them with reluctance. We had come

into their State under trying circumstances, and

the cordiality, generosity and genuine good feel-

ing that I know they felt, made our going a regret.

There was no reason why they should come from

their distant plantations to say good-by and wish

us godspeed, except from personal friendship,

and we all appreciated the wish they expressed,

that we might remain.

The journey from Austin to Hempstead was

made much more quickly than our march over.

We had relays of horses, the roads were good, and

there was no detention. I only remember one

episode of any importance. At the little hotel at

which we stopped in Brennan, we found loitering

about the doors and stoop and inner court a

lounging, rough lot of men, evidently the lower

order of Confederate soldiers, the lawless set that

infest all armies, the tramp and the bummer.

BARKING FOES. 26/

They gathered in knots, to watch and talk of us.

As we passed them on our way to the dining-

room, they muttered, and even spoke audibly,

words of spiteful insult. At every such word I

expected the fiery blood of the General and his

staff would be raised to fighting heat. But they

would not descend to altercation with fellows to

whom even the presence of a woman was no re-

straint. It was a mystery, it still is, to me, that

hot-blooded men can control themselves if they

consider the foeman unworthy of the steel.

My husband was ever a marvel to me, in that he

could in this respect carry out his own oft-re-

peated counsel. I began very early with that old

maxim, ” consider the source,” as a subterfuge for

the lack of repartee, in choking senseless, childish

wrath ; but it came to be a family aphorism, and

I was taught to live up to its best meaning. The

Confederates were only ” barking,” not “biting,” as

the General said would be the case ; but they gave

me a genuine scare, and I had serious objections

to traveling in Texas, unaccompanied by a Divi-

sion of cavalry. I think the cold nights, smoky

camp-fires, tarantulas, etc., that we encountered on

our march over, would have been gladly under-

taken, rather than run into the face of threatening

men, unaccompanied by a single trooper, as we

then traveled.

268 * TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

I wonder what the present tourist would think

of the bit of railroad over which we journeyed

from Brennan to Galveston ! I scarcely think it

had been touched, in the way of repairs, during the

war. The coaches were not as good as our present

emigrant-cars. The rails were worn down thin,

and so loosely secured that they moved as we rolled

slowly over them. We were to be constantly

in some sort of peril, it seemed. There was

a deep gulley on the route, over which was

stretched a cobweb trestle, intended only as a

temporary bridge. There was no sort of ques-

tion about its insecurity ; it quivered and mena-

cingly swayed under us. The conductor told us

that each time he crossed he expected to go down.

I think he imagined there could be no better time

than that, when it would secure the effectual de-

parture of a few Yankee officers, not only from

what he considered his invaded State, but from the

face of the earth. At any rate, he so graphically

described to me our imminent peril that he put me

through all the preliminary stages of sudden death.

Of course our officers, inured to risks of all sorts,

took it all as a matter of course, and the General

slyly called the attention of our circle to the usual

manner in which the ‘* old lady ” met danger,

namely, with her head buried in the folds of a

cloak.

A SOLDIER PIONEER. 269

My husband knew what interest and admiration

my father Bacon had for “old Sam Houston,” and

he himself felt the delight that one soldier takes in

the adventures and vicissitudes of another. Con-

sequently, we had listened all winter to the Texans’

laudation of their hero, and [many a story that

never found its way into print was remembered

for my father’s sake. We were only too sorry that

Houston’s death, two years previous, had prevent-

ed our personal acquaintance. He was not, as I

had supposed, an ignorant soldier of fortune, but

had early scholarly tastes, and, even when a boy,

could repeat nearly all of Pope’s translation of the

Iliad. Though a Virginian by birth, he early

went with his widowed mother to Tennessee, and

his roving spirit led him among the Indians, where

he lived for years as the adopted son of a chief.

He served as an enlisted man under Andrew

Jackson in the war of 1812, and afterward became

a lieutenant in the regular army. Then he assumed

the office of Indian agent, and befriended those

with whom he had lived.

From that he went into law in Nashville, and

eventually became a Congressman. Some mari-

tal difficulties drove him back to barbarism, and

he rejoined the Cherokees, who had been removed

to Arkansas. He went to Washington to plead

for the tribe, and returning, left his wigwam

270

TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

among the Indians after a time, and went to Texas.

During the tumuhuous history of that State, when

it was being shifted from one government to

another with such vehemence, no citizen could tell

whether he would rise in the morning a Mexican,

or a member of an independent republic, or a

citizen of the United States.

With all that period Sam Houston was identi-

fied. He was evidently the man for the hour, and

it is no wonder that our officers dwelt with delight

upon his marvelous career. In the first revolution-

ary movement of Texas against Mexican rule, he

began to be a leader, and was soon commander-

in-chief of the Texan army, and in the new Re-

public he was re-elected to that office. The

dauntless man confronted Santa Anna and his

force of 5,000 men with a handful of Texans —

783 all told, undisciplined volunteers, ignorant of

war. But he had that rare personal magnetism,

which is equal to a reserve of armed battalions, in

giving men confidence and inciting them to

splendid deeds. Out of 1,600 regular Mexican

soldiers, 600 were killed, and Santa Anna, dis-

guised as a common soldier, was captured. Then

Houston showed his magnanimous heart ; for after

rebuking him for the massacres of Goliad and the

Alamo, he protected him from the vengeance of

the enraged Texans. A treaty made with the

TEX A S’ EARL V HIS TOR V.

271

captive President resulted in the independence of

Texas. When, after securing this to the State of

his adoption, Houston was made President of

Texas, he again showed his wonderful clemency —

which I cannot help believing was early fostered

and enhanced by his labors in behalf of the

wronged Cherokees — in pardoning Santa Anna,

and appointing his political rivals to offices of trust.

If Mr. Lincoln gave every energy to promoting the

perpetual annexation of California, by tethering

that State to our Republic with an iron lariat cross-

ing the continent, how quickly he would have

seen, had he then been in office, what infinite peril

we were in of losing that rich portion of our

country.

The ambition of the soldier and conqueror was

tempered by the most genuine patriotism, for Sam

Houston used his whole influence to annex Texas

to the Union, and the people in gratitude sent him

to Washington as one of their first Senators. As

President he had overcome immense difficulties,

carried on Indian wars, cleared off an enormous

debt, established trade with Mexico, made suc-

cessful Indian treaties, and steadily stood at the

helm, while the State was undergoing all sorts of

upheavals. Finally he was made Governor of the

State, and opposed secession, even resigning his

office rather than take the oath required by the

272 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

convention that assembled to separate Texas from

the Union. Then, poor old man, he died before

he was permitted to see the promised land, as the

war was still in progress. His name is perpet-

uated in the town called for him, which, as the

centre of large railroad interests, and as a leader

in the march of improvement in that rapidly pro-

gressing State, will be a lasting monument to a

great man who did so much to bring out of chaos

a vast extent of our productive land, sure to be-

come one of the richest of the luxuriant Southern

States.

At Galveston we were detained by the non-

arrival of the steamer in which we were to go

to New Orleans. With a happy-go-lucky party like

ours, it mattered little ; no important . interests

were at stake, no business appointments awaiting

us. We strolled the town over, and commented,

as if we owned it, on the insecurity of its founda-

tions. Indeed, for years after, we were surprised,

on taking up the morning paper, not to find that

Galveston had dropped down into China. The

spongy soil is so porous that the water on which

rests the thin layer of earth appears as soon as a

shallow excavation is attempted. Of course there

are no wells, and the ungainly cistern rises above

the roof at the rear of the house. The hawkers of

water through the town amused us vastly, especi-

AN INSECURE TOWN.

27.

ally as we were not obliged to pay a dollar a gal-

lon, except as it swelled our hotel-bill. I remember

how we all delighted in the oleanders that grew

as shade trees, whose white and red blossoms were

charming. To the General, the best part of all our

detention was the shell drive along the ocean. The

island on which Galveston has its insecure footing

is twenty-eight miles long, and the white, firm

beach, glistening with the pulverized shells ex-

tending all the distance, was a delight to us as we

spent hours out there on the shore.

It must surely have been this white and spark-

ling thread bordering the island, that drew the

ships of the pirate Lafitte to moor in the harbor

early in 1800. The rose pink of the oleander, the

blue of the sky, the luminous beach, with the long,

ultramarine waves sweeping in over the shore,

were fascinating; but on our return to the town,

all the desire to remain was taken away by the tale

of the citizens, of the frequent rising of the ocean,

the submerging of certain portions, and the evi-

dence they gave, that the earth beneath them was

honey-combed by the action of the water.

We paid little heed at first to the boat on which

we embarked. It was a captured blockade-runner,

built up with two stories of cabins and staterooms

for passengers. In its original condition, the crew

and passengers, as well as the freight, were down

2 74

TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

in the hull. The steamer was crowded. Our

staterooms were tiny, and though they were on

the upper deck, the odor of bilge water and the

untidiness of the boat made us uncomfortable

from the first. The day was sunny and clear as

we departed, but we had hardly left the harbor

before w^e struck a norther. Such a hurricane as

it was at sea ! We had thought ourselves versed

in all the wind could do on land ; but a norther in

that maelstrom of a Gulf, makes a land storm mild

in comparison. The Gulf of Mexico is almost

always a tempest in a tea-pot. The waves

seem to lash themselves from shore to shore, and

after speeding with tornado fleetness toward the

borders of Mexico, back they rush to the Florida

peninsula. No one can be out in one of these

tempests, without wondering why that thin jet of

land which composes Florida has not long ago

been swept out of existence. How many of our

troops have suffered from the fury of that ungov-

ernable Gulf, in the transit from New Orleans to

Matamoras or Galveston ! And officers have

spoken, over and over again, of the sufferings of

the cavalry horses, condemned to the hold of a

Government transport. Ships have gone down

there with soldiers and officers who have encoun-

tered over and over again the perils of battle.

Transports have only been saved from being en-

A TEMPEST AT SEA. 275

gulfed in those rapacious waves by unloading the

ship of hundreds of horses ; and to cavalrymen the

throwing overboard of noble animals that have

been untiring in years of campaigning, and by

their fleetness and pluck have saved the lives of

their masters, is like human sacrifice. Officers and

soldiers alike bewail the loss, and for years after

speak of it with sorrow.

Though the wind seems to blow in a circle much

of the time on the Gulf, we found it dead against

us as we proceeded. The captain was a resolute

man, and would not turn back, though the ship

was ill prepared to encounter such a gale. We

labored slowly through the constantly increasing

tempest, and the last glimpse of daylight lighted

a sea that was lashed to white foam about us.

At home, when the sun sets the wind abates ; but

one must look for an entire change of programme

where the norther reigns. There was no use in

remaining up, so I sought to forget my terror in

sleep, and crept onto one of the little shelves

allotted to us. The creaking and groaning of the

ship’s timbers filled me with alarm, and I could

not help calling up to my husband to ask if it did

not seem to him that all the new portion of the

steamer would be swept off into the sea. Though

I was comforted by assurances of its impossibility,

I wished with all my heart we were down in the

276

TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

hold. Sleep, my almost never-failing friend, came

to calm me, and I dreamed of the strange days of

the blockade – runner, when doubtless other

women’s hearts were pounding against their ribs

with more alarming terrors than those that agi-

tated me. For we well knew what risks Confed-

erate women took to join their husbands, in the

stormy days on sea as well as on land.

In the night I was awakened suddenly by a fear-

ful crash, the quick veering of the boat, and her

violent rolling from side to side. At the same in-

stant, the overturning of the water-pitcher deluged

me in my narrow berth. My husband, hearing my

cry of terror, descended from his berth and was

beside me in a moment. No one comprehended

what had happened. The crashing of timber, and

the creaking, grinding sounds rose above the

storm. The machinery was stopped, and we

plunged back and forth in the trough of the sea;

each time seeming to go down deeper and deeper,

until there appeared to be no doubt that the

ship would be eventually engulfed. There

seemed to be no question, as the breaking of

massive beams went on, that we were going to

pieces. The ship made a brave fight with the ele-

ments, and seemed to writhe and struggle like

something human.

In the midst of this, the shouts of the sailors,

WAVES ” MOUNTAIN high:’

277

the trumpet of the captain giving orders, went on,

and was followed by the creaking of chains, the

strain of the cordage, and the mad thrashing to

and fro of the canvas, which we supposed had

been torn from the spars. Instant disorder took

possession of the cabin. Everything moveable

was in motion. The trunks, which the crowded

condition of the hold had compelled us to put in

the upper end of the cabin, slid down the carpet,

banging from side to side. The furniture broke

from its fastenings, and slipped to and fro ; the

smashing of lamps in our cabin was followed by

the crash of crockery in the adjoining dining-

room ; while above all these sounds rose the cries

and wails of the women. Some, kneeling in their

night-clothes, prayed loudly, while others sank in

heaps on the floor, moaning and weeping in their

helpless condition. The calls of frantic women

asking for some one to go and find if we were go-

ing down, were unanswered by the terrified men.

Meanwhile my husband, having implored me to

remain in one spot, and not attempt to follow him,

hastily threw on his clothes and left me, begging

that I would remember, while he was absent, that

the captain’s wife and child were with us, and if a

man ever was nerved to do his best, that brave

husband and father would do so to-night.

It seemed an eternity to wait. I was obliged to

278

TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

cling to the door to be kept from being dashed

across the cabin. While I wept and shivered, and

endured double agony, knowing into what peril

my husband had by that time struggled, I felt

warm, soft arms about me, and our faithful Eliza

was crooning over me, begging me to be com-

forted, that she was there holding me. Awakened

at the end of the cabin, where she slept on a sofa,

she thought of nothing but making her way

through the demolished furniture, to take me in

her protecting arms. Every one who knows the

negro character is aware what their terrors are at

sea. How, then, can I recall the noble forgetful-

ness of self of that faithful soul, without tears of

gratitude as fresh as those that flowed on her

tender breast when she held me ? There was not

a vestige of the heroic about me. I simply cow-

ered in a corner, and let Eliza shelter me. Besides,

I felt that I had a kind of right to yield to selfish

fright, for it was my husband of all the men on

ship-board, who had climbed laboriously to the

deck to do what he could for our safety, and calm

the agitated women below.

Some of the noble Southern women proved how

deep was their natural goodness of heart ; for the

very ones who had coldly looked me over and

shrunk from a hated Yankee when we met the

day before, crept slowly up to calm my terrors

A PERILOUS RISK. 279

about my husband, and instruct Eliza what to do

for me. At last — and oh, how interminable the

time had seemed ! — the General opened the cabin

door, and struggled along to the weeping women.

They all plied him with questions, and he was

able to calm them, so the wailing and praying

subsided somewhat. When he climbed up the

companionway, the waves were dashing over the

entire deck, and he was compelled to creep on his

hands and knees, clinging to ropes and spars as

best he could, till he reached the pilot-house.

Only his superb strength kept him from being

swept overboard. Every inch of his progress was

a deadly peril. He found the calm captain willing

to explain, and paid the tribute that one brave man

gives another in moments of peril. The norther

had broken in the wheel-house, and disabled the

machinery, so that, but for the sails, which we

who were below had heard raised, we must have

drifted and tossed to shipwreck. If he could make

any progress, we were comparatively safe, but

with such a hurricane all was uncertain. This

part of the captain’s statement the General sup-

pressed. ,We women were told, after the fashion

of men who desire to comfort and calm our sex,

only a portion of the truth.

The motion of the boat as it rolled from side

to side, made every one succumb except Eliza

28o TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

and me. The General, completely subdued and

intensely wretched physically, crept into his berth,

and though he was so miserable, I remember,

toward morning-, a faint thrust of ridicule at our

adjoining neighbors, the Greens, who were suffer-

ing also the tortures of sea-sickness. A sarcastic

query as to the stability of their stomachs, called

forth a retort that he had better look to his own.

Eliza held me untiringly, and though the terror

of uncertainty had subsided somewhat, I could

not get on without an assurance of our safety

from that upper berth. My husband, in his help-

lessness, and abandoned as he was to misery,

could scarcely turn to speak more than a word or

two at a time, and even then Eliza would tell him,

” Ginnel, you jest ‘tend to your own self, and I’ll

‘tend to Miss Libbie.”

It is difficult to explain what a shock it is to find

one who never succumbs, entirely subjugated by

suffering ; all support seems to be removed. In

all our vicissitudes, I had never before seen the

General go under for an instant. He replied that

he was intensely sorry for me ; but such deadly

nausea made him indifferent to life, and for his

part he cared not whether he went up or down.

So the long night wore on. I thought no dawn

ever seemed so sfrateful. The waves were mount-

ains high, and we still plunged into what appeared

THE STORM SUBSIDES. 28 1

to be solid banks of green, glittering crystal, only to

drop down into seemingly hopeless gulfs. But day-

light diminishes all terrors, and there was hope with

the coming of light. A few crept out, and some

even took courage for breakfast. The feeble notes

disappeared from my husband’s voice, and he be-

gan to cheer me up. Then he crept to our witty

Mrs. Green (the dear Nettie of our home days), to

send more sly thrusts in her stateroom, regarding

his opinion of one who yielded to sea-sickness ; so

she was badgered into making an appearance.

While all were contributing experiences of the

awful night, and commenting on their terrors, we

were amazed to see the door of a stateroom

open, and a German family walk out uncon-

cernedly from what we all night supposed was an

unoccupied room. The parents and three children

showed wide-eyed and wide-mouthed wonder,

when they heard of the night. Through all the

din and danger they had peacefully slept, and

doubtless would have gone down, had we been

shipwrecked, unconscious in their lethargy that

death had come to them.

Then the white, exhausted faces of our officers,

who had slept in the other cabin, began to appear.

Our father Custer came tottering in, and made his

son shout out with merriment, even in the midst

of all the wretched surroundino^s, when he lacon-

282 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

ically said to his boy, that “next time I follow

you to Texas, it will be when this pond is

bridged over.” Two of the officers had a state-

room next the pilot-house, and beg-ged the Gen-

eral to bring- me up there. My husband, feeling

so deeply the terrible night of terror and entire

wakefulness for me, picked me up, and carried

me to the upper deck, where I was laid in the

berth, and restored to some sort of calm by an

opportune glass of champagne. The wine seemed

to do my husband as much good as it did me,

though he did not taste it ; all vestige of his pros-

tration of the preceding night disappeared, and

no one escaped his comical recapitulation of how

they conducted themselves when we were threat-

ened with such peril. My terrors of the sea were

too deep-rooted to be set aside, and even after we

had left the hated Gulf, and were safely moving

up the Mississippi to New Orleans, I felt no secur-

ity. Nothing but the actual planting of our feet on

terra firmax^stox^^ my equanimity. Among the

petitions of the Litany, asking our Heavenly Father

to protect us, none since that Gulf storm has ever

been emphasized to me as the prayer for preserva-

tion from ” perils by land and by sea.”

New Orleans was again a pleasure to us, and

this time we knew just whereto go for recreation

or for our dinner. Nearly a year in Texas had

HIGH ART DINNERS. 283

prepared us for gastronomic feats, and though the

General was by no means a don-vivant, any one

so susceptible to surroundings as he would be

tempted by the dainty serving of a French din-

ner. Our party had dined too often with Duke

Humphrey in the pine forests of Louisiana and

Texas, not to enjoy every delicacy served. All

through the year it had been the custom to refer

to the luxuries of the French market, and now,

with our purses a little fuller than when we were

on our way into Texas, we had some royal times —

that is, for poor folks.

We took a steamer for Cairo, and though the

novelty of river travel was over, it continued to be

most enjoyable. And still the staff found the

dinner-hour an event, as they were making up for

our limited bill of fare the year past. A very

good string band ” charmed the savage “

while he dined. It was the custom, now obsolete,

to march the white coated and aproned waiters

in file from kitchen to dining-room, each carry-

ing aloft some feat of the cook, and as we

had a table to ourselves, there was no lack of

witty comments on this military serving of our

food, and smacking of lips over edibles we had

almost forgotten in our year of semi-civilization.

The negroes were in a state of perpetual guffaws

over the remarks made, soiio voce, by our merry

284 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

table, and they soon grew to be skillful confeder-

ates in all the pranks practiced on our father

Custer. For instance, he slowly read over the bill

of fare, or his sons read it, and he chose the viands

as they were repeated to him. Broiled ham on

coals seemed to attract his old-fashioned taste.

Then my husband said, ” Of course, of course ;

what a good selection ! ” and gave the order, ac-

companied by a significant wink to the waiter.

Presently our parent, feeling an unnatural warmth

near liis ear, would look around to find his order

filled literally, and the ham sizzling on red coals.

He naturally did not know what to do with the

dish, fearing to set the boat on fire, and his sons

were preternaturally absorbed in talking with

some one at the end of the table, while the waiter

slid back to the kitchen to have his laugh out.

Our father Custer was of the most intensely

argumentative nature. He was the strongest sort

of politician ; he is now, and grows excited and

belligerent over his party affairs at nearly eighty,

as if he were a lad. He is beloved at home in

Monroe, but it is considered too good fun not to

fling little sneers at his candidate or party, just to

witness the rapidity with which the old gentleman

plunges into a defense. Michigan’s present Sec-

retary of State, the Hon. Harry Conant, my

husband’s, and now my father’s, faithful friend,

A BELLIGERENT POLITICIAN. 285

early took his cue from the General, and loses

no opportunity now to get up a wordy war with

our venerable Democrat, solely to hear the defense.

And then, too, our father Custer considers it time

well spent to “labor with that young man” over

the error he considers he has made in the choice

of politics. As the old gentleman drives or rides

his son’s war-horse, Dandy, through the town, his

progress is slow, for some voice is certain to be

raised from the sidewalk calling out, ” Well,

father Custer, to-day’s paper shows your side well

whipped,” or a like challenge to argument. Dandy

is drawn up at once, and the flies can nip his sides

at will, so far as his usually careful master is

conscious of him, as he cannot proceed until

the one who has good-naturedly agitated him has

been struggled over, to convince him of the error

of his belief.

I was driving with him in Monroe not long

since, and as the train was passing through the

town, Dandy was driven up to the cars. I ex-

postulated, asking if he intended him to climb

over or creep under ; but he persisted, only ex-

plaining that he wished me to see how gentle

Dandy could be. Suddenly the conductor swung

himself from the platform, and called out some

bantering words about politics. Our father was

then for driving Dandy directly into the train. He

286 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

fairly yelled a slur upon the other party, and then

kept on talking, gesticulating with his whip and

shaking it at the conductor, who laughed immod-

erately as he was being carried out of sight. I

asked what was the matter — did he have any

grudge or hatred for the man ? ” Oh, no, daughter,

he’s a good enough fellow, only he’s an onery

scamp of a Republican.”

His sons never lost a chance to enter into dis-

cussion with him. I have known the General to

” bone up,” as his West Point phrase expressed it,

on the smallest details of some question at issue

in the Republican party, for no other reason than

to fire his parent into a defense. The discussion

was so earnest, that even I would be deceived into

thinking it something my husband was all on fire

about. But the older man was never rasped or

badgered into anger. He worked and struggled

with his boy, and mourned that he should have a

son who had so far strayed from the truth, as he

understood it. The General argued as vehement-

ly as his father, and never undeceived him for

days, but simply let the old gentleman think how

misguided he really was. It served to pass many

an hour of slow travel up the river. Tom con-

nived with the General to deprive their father

temporarily of his dinner. When the plate was

well prepared, as was the old-time custom, the

BADGERING SONS.

287

potato and vegetables seasoned, the meat cut, it

was the signal for my husband to fire a bomb of

inflammable information at the whitening hairs of

his parent. The old man would rather argue

than eat, and, laying down his knife and fork, he

fell to the discussion as eagerly as if he had not

been hungry. As the argument grew energetic

and more absorbing, Tom slipped away the

father’s plate, ate all the nicely prepared food, and

returned it empty to its place. Then the General

tapered off his aggravating threats, and said,

“Well, come, come, come, father, why don’t you

eat your dinner ?” Father Custer’s blank face at

the sight of the empty plate was a mirth-provok-

ing sight to his offspring, and they took good care

to tip the waiter and order a warm dinner for the

still argumg man. In a quaint letter, a portion of

which I give below, father Custer tells how early

in life he began to teach his boys politics.

” Tecumseh, Mich., Feb. 3, 1887.

” My Dear Daughter Elizabeth : I received

your letter, requesting me to tell you something

of our trip up the Mississippi with my dear boys,

Autie and Tommy. Well, as I was always a boy

with my boys, I will try and tell you of some of

our jokes and tricks on each other. I want to tell

you also of a little incident when Autie was about

four years old. He had to have a tooth drawn,

and he was very much afraid of blood. When I

took him to the doctor to have the tooth pulled.

288 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

it was in the night, and I told him if it bled well

it would get well right away, and he must be a

good soldier. When he got to the doctor he took

his seat, and the pulling began. The forceps

slipped off, and he had to make a second trial.

He pulled it out, and Autie never even scrunched.

Going home, I led him by the arm. He jumped

and skipped, and said, ‘ Father, you and me can

whip all the Whigs in Michigan.’ I thought that

was saying a good deal, but I did not contra-

dict him.

” When we were in Texas, I was at Autie’s

headquarters one day, and something came up,

I’ve forgotten what it was, but I said I would bet

that it was not so, and he said ‘ What will you

bet?’ I said, ‘I’ll bet my trunk.’ I have for-

gotten the amount he put up against it, but ac-

cording to the rule of betting he won my trunk.

I thought that was the end of it, as I took it just

as a joke, and I remained there with him for some

time. To my great astonishment, here came an

orderly with the trunk on his shoulder, and set

it down before Autie. Well, I hardly knew what

to think. I hadn’t been there long, and didn’t

know camp ways very well. I had always under-

stood that the soldiers were a pretty rough set of

customers, and I wanted to know how to try and

take care of myself, so I thought I would go up

to my tent and see what had become of my goods

and chattels. When I got there, all my things

were on my bed. Tom had taken them out, and

he had not been very particular in getting them

out, so they were scattered helter-skelter, for I

suppose he was hurried and thought I would

catch him at it. I began to think that I would

have to hunt quarters in some other direction.

” The next trick Autie played me was on ac-

BO YISH PRANKS. 289

count of his knowing that I was very anxious to

see an alhgator. He was out with his gun one

day, and 1 heard him shoot, and when he came up

to his tent I asked him what he had been firing at.

He said an alHgator, so I started off to see the

animal, and when I found it, what do you think it

was, but an old Government mule that had died

because it was played out ! Well, he had a hearty

laugh over that trick.

” Then, my daughter, I was going over my mess

bill and some of my accounts with Tommy, and

to my great astonishment I found I was out a

hundred dollars. I could not see how I could

have made such a mistake, but I just kept this to

myself. I didn’t say a word about it until Autie

and Tom could not stand it any longer, so Autie

asked me one day about my money matters. I

told him I was out a hundred dollars, and I could not

understand it. Then he just told me that Tonnny

had hooked that sum from me while he was pre-

tending to help me straighten up. I went for

Tom, and got my stolen money back.

“The next outrage on me was about the mess

bill. There was you, Libbie ; Autie, Tom, Colonel

and Mrs. Green, Major and Mrs. Lyon, and we

divided up the amount spent each month, and all

took turns running the mess. Somehow or

other, my bill was pretty big when Autie and

Tom had the mess. I just rebelled against

such extravagance, and rather than suffer myself

to be robbed, I threatened to go and mess

with the wagon-master or some other honest

soldier, who wouldn’t cheat an old man. That

tickled the boys ; it was just what they were aim-

ing at. I wouldn’t pay, so what do you think

Tommy did, but borrow the amount of me to buy

supplies, and when settling time came for mess

290

TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

bills, they said we came out about even in money

matters !

“And so they were all the time playing tricks on

me, and it pleased them so much to get off a good

joke ; besides, they knew I was just as good a boy

with them as they were.”

Your affectionate father,

E. H. Custer.

CHAPTER X.

FATHER CUSTER GIVES AN ACCOUNT OF HOW HE

WAS A BOY WITH HIS BOYS ON THE MISSISSIPPI

RIVER A FAMILY ROBBERY GENERAL CUSTER

PARTS WITH HIS STAFF AT CAIRO AND DETROIT

THE SILENT HEROES TEMPTATIONS TO IN-

DUCE GENERAL CUSTER TO RESIGN OFFERS

FROM MEXICO ONE OF HIS CLASSMATES ENTERS

THE MINISTRY.

A LL the smaller schemes to tease our father

Custer gave way to a grand one, concocted

in the busy brains of his boys, to rob their parent.

While the patriarch sat in the cabin, reading aloud

to himself — as is still his custom — what he consid-

ered the soul-convincing editorial columns of a

favorite paper, his progeny were in some sheltered

corner of the guards, plotting the discomfiture of

their father. The plans were well laid ; but the

General was obliged to give as much time to it,,

in a way, as when projecting a raid, for he knew

he had to encounter a wily foe who was always

on guard. The father, early in their childhood,

playing all sorts of tricks on his boys, was on the

292 TENTIXG O.V THE PLAINS.

alert whenever he was with them, to parry a re-

turn thrust. I beheve several attempts had been

made to take the old gentleman’s money, but he

was too wary. They knew that he had sewed

some bills in his waistcoat, and that his steamer-

ticket and other money were in his purse. These

he carefully placed under his pillow at night. He

continues in his letter: “Tommy and I had a

stateroom together, and on one night in particu-

lar, all the folks had gone to bed in the cabin, and

Tom was hurrying me to go to bed. I was not

sleepy, and did not want to turn in, but he hung

round so, that at last I did go to our stateroom.

He took the upper berth. I put my vest under

the pillow, and was pulling off my boots, when I

felt sure I saw something going out over the

transom. I looked under the pillow, and my vest

was gone. Then I waked Tommy, who was snor-

ing already. I told him both my purse and vest

were gone, and, as the saying is, I ‘ smelt the rat.’

I opened the door, and felt sure that Autie had

arranged to snatch the vest and purse when it was

thrown out. I ran out in the cabin to his state-

room, but he had the start of me, and was locked

in. I did not know for sure which was his room,

so I hit and I thundered at his door. The people

stuck their heads out of their staterooms, and

over the transom came a glass of water. So I,

FAMILY THIEVING.

293

being rather wet, concluded I would give it up

till the next morning. And what do you think

those scamps did ? Tom, though I gave it to him

well, wouldn’t own up to a thing, and just said

‘ it was too bad such robberies went on in a ship

like that ;’ he was very sorry for me, and alluded

to the fact that the door being unlocked was

proof that the thief had a skeleton key, and all

that nonsense. Next morning Autie met me, and

asked what on earth I had been about the night

before. Such a fracas, all the people had come

out to look up the matter, and there I was pound-

ing at a young lady’s door, a friend of Libbie’s,

and a girl I liked (indeed, I had taken quite a

shine to her). They made out — those shameless

rogues, and very solemn Autie was about it, too

• — that it was not a very fine thing for my reputa-

tion to be pounding on a young lady’s door late

at night, frightening her half to death, and oblig-

ing her to defend herself with a pitcher of water.

She thought I had been trying to break in her

door, and I had better go to her at once and apol-

ogize, as the whole party were being compromised

by such scandal. They failed there ; for I knew

I was not at her door, and I knew who it was that

threw the water on me. I was bound to try and

get even with them, so one morning, while they

were all at breakfast, I went to Autie’s stateroom;

294 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

Eliza was making up the bed. I looked for

Autie’s pocket-book, and found it under the pil-

low. I kept out of the way and did not come

near them for some days ; but they got desperate

and were determined to beat me, so they made

it up that Tommy was to get round me, seize

me by my arms at the back, and Autie go through

my pockets. Well, they left me without a dime,

and I had to travel without paying, and those out-

laws of boys got the clerk to come to me and

demand my ticket. I told him I had none, that I

had been robbed. He said he was sorry, but I

would have to pay over again, as some one who

stole the ticket would be likely to use it. I tried

to tell him I would make it right before I left the

boat, but I hadn’t a penny then. Well, daughter,

I came out best at the last, for Autie, having

really all the money, though he wouldn’t own up

to it, had aH the bills to pay, and when I got home

I was so much the gainer, for it did not cost me

anything from the time I left the boat, either, till

we got home, and then Autie gave me up my

pocket-book with all the money, and we all had a

good laugh, while the boys told their mother of

the pranks they had played on me.”

My father’s story ceases without doing justice to

himself ; for the cunning manner in which he cir-

cumvented those mischievous fellows, I remember,

-‘ft’llfl’VWHJ’fl’IIIWflfllipililllWy.^^^^^^^^^^^

STAND THKRE, COWARDS, WILL V

OU, A.ND SLi., AN OLD MAN ROBBED;

296

TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

and it seems my husband had given a full account

to our friend the Hon. Harry Conant. He writes

to me, what is very true, that ” it seems one must

know the quaint and brave old man, to appreciate

how exquisitely funny the incident, as told by

the General, really was. The third day after the

robbery, the General and Tom, thinking their

father engaged at a remote part of the boat, while

talking over their escapade incautiously exhibited

the pocket-book. Suddenly the hand that held it

was seized in the strong grasp of the wronged

father, who, lustily calling for aid, assured the

passengers that were thronging up (and, being

strangers, knew nothing of the relationship of the

parties) that this purse was his, and that he had

been robbed by these two scoundrels, and if they

would assist in securing their arrest and restoring

the purse, he would prove all he said. Seeing the

crowd hesitate, he called out. For shame ! stand

there, cowards, will you, and see an old man

robbed ?” It was enough. The spectators rushed

in, and the General was outwitted by his artful

parent and obliged to explain the situation. But

the consequent restoration of his property did not

give him half the satisfaction that it did to turn

the tables on the boys. Though they never ac-

knowledged this robbery to their father, none were

so proud of his victory as Tom and the General,”

TURNING THE TABLES. 20 7

I must not leave to the imagination of the Hteral-

minded people who may chance to read, the

suspicion that my husband and Tom ever made

their father in the least unhappy by their incessant

joking. He met them half-way always, and I

never knew them lack in reverence for his snowy

head. He was wont to speak of his Texas life

with his sons as his happiest year for many pre-

ceding, and used to say that, were it not for our

mother’s constantly increasing feebleness, he

would go out to them in Kansas.

When he reached his own ground, he made Tom

and the General pay for some of their plots and

plans to render him uncomfortable, by coming to

the foot of the stairs and roaring out (and he had

a stentorian voice) that they had better be getting

up, as it was late. Father Custer thought 6 o’clock

A. M. was late. His sons differed. As soon as

they found the clamor was to continue, assisted

by the dogs, which he had released from the stable,

leaping up-stairs and springing on our beds in ex-

citement, they went to the head of the stairs, and

shouted out for everything that the traveler calls

for in a hotel— hot water, boot-black, cock-tail, bar-

ber, and none of these being forthcoming in the

simple home, they vociferated, in what the out-

sider might have thought angry voices, “What

sort of hotel do you keep, any way ? “

2gS

TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

Father Custer had an answer for every question,

and only by talking so fast and loud that they

talked him down did they get the better of him.

Our mother Custer almost invariably sided with

her boys. It made no sort of difference if father

Custer stood alone, he never seemed to expect a

champion. He did seem to think she was carrying

her views to an advanced point, when she endeav-

ored to decline a new cur that he had introduced

into the house, on the strength of its having ” no

pedigree.” Her sons talked dog to her so much

that one would be very apt to be educated up to

the demand for an authenticated grandfather.

Besides, the ” Towsers ” and “Rovers” and all

that sort of mongrels, to which she had patiently

submitted in all the childhood of her boys and

their boyish father, entitled her to some choice in

after years.

At Cairo our partings began, for there some of

the staff left us for their homes. We dreaded to

give them up. Our harmonious life, and the

friendships welded by the sharing of hardships

and dangers, made us feel that it would be well

if, having tested one another, we might go on in

our future together. At Detroit the rest of our

military family disbanded. How the General re-

gretted them ! The men, scarce more than boys

even then, had responded to every call to charge

LEA VE- TAKINGS.

299

in his Michigan brigade, and afterward in the Third

Cavalry Division. Some, wounded almost to death,

had been carried from his side on the battle-field,

as he feared, forever, and had returned with

wounds still unhealed. One of those valiant men

has just died, suffering all these twenty-three years,

from his wound ; but in writing, speaking in pub-

lic when he could, talking to those who surrounded

him when he was too weak to do more, one name

ran through his whole anguished life, one hero

hallowed his days, and that was his ” boy general.”

Another — oh what a brave boy he was ! — took my

husband’s proffered aid, and received an appoint-

ment in the regular army. He carried always,

does now, a shattered arm, torn by a bullet while

he was riding beside General Custer in Virginia.

That did not keep him from giving his splendid

energy, his best and truest patriotism, to his coun-

try down in Texas even after the war, for he rode

on long, exhausting campaigns after the Indians,

his, wound bleeding, his life sapped, his vitality

slipping away with the pain that never left him

day or night. That summer when we were at

home in Monroe, the General sent for him to come

to us, and get his share of the pretty girls that

Tom and the Michigan staff, who lived near us,

were appropriating. The handsome, dark-haired

fellow carried off the favors ; for though the oth-

■700 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

ers had been wounded — Tom even then bearing”

the scarlet spot on his cheek where the bullet had

penetrated — the last comer won, for he still wore

his arm in a sling. The bewitching girls had be-

fore them the evidence of his valor, and into what

a garden he stepped ! He was a modest fellow,

and would not demand too much pity, but made

light of his wound, as is the custom of soldiers,

who, dreading effeminacy, carry the matter too

far, and ignore what ought not to be looked upon

slightingly. One day he appeared without his

sling, and a careless girl, dancing with him,

grasped the arm in the forgetfulness of glee. The

waves of torture that swept over the young hero’s

face, the alarm and pity of the girl, the instant

biting of the lip and quick smile of the man,

dreading more to grieve the pretty creature by

him than to endure the physical agony — oh, how

proud the General was of him, and I think he

felt badly, that a soldier cannot yield to impulse,

and enfold his comrade in his arms, as is our

woman’s sweet privilege with one another.

Proudly the General followed the career of

those young fellows who had been so near him in

his war-life. Of all those in whom he continued

always to retain an interest, keeping up in some

instances a desultory correspondence, the most

amazing evolution was that of the provost marshal

A METAMORPHOSED SOLDIER.

301

into a Methodist minister. Whether he was at

heart a stern, unrelenting- character, is a question

I doubted, for he never could have developed into

a clergyman. But he had the strangest, most im-

placable face, when sent on his thankless duty by

his commanding officer. He it was who conducted

the ceremonies that one awful day in Louisiana,

when the execution and pardon took place. I

remember the General’s amazement when he re-

ceived the letter in which the announcement of the

new life-work was made. It took us both some

time to realize how he would set about evan-

gelizing. It was difficult to imagine him leading

any one to the throne of grace, except at the point

of the bayonet, with a military band playing the

Dead March in Saul. I know how pleased my

husband was, though, how proud and glad to

know that a splendid, brave soldier had given

his talents, his courage — and oh, what courage,

for a man of the world to come out in youth on

the side of one mighty Captain! — and taken up the

life of poverty, self-denial, and something else that

the General also felt a deprivation, the roving life

that deprives a Methodist minister of the blessings

of a permanent home.

The delightful letters we used to get from our

military family when any epoch occurred in their

lives, like the choice of a profession or business

302 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

(for most of them went back to civil life), their

marriage, the birth of a son — all gave my hus-

band genuine pleasure ; and when their sorrows

came he turned to me to write the letter — a heart-

letter, which was his in all but the manipulation

of the pen. His personal influence he gave, time

and time again, when it was needed in their

lives, and, best of all in my eyes, had patience

with those who had a larger sowing of the wild-

oat crop, which is the agricultural feature in the

early life of most men.

Since I seek to make my story of others, I take

the privilege of speaking of a class of heroes

that I now seldom hear mentioned, and over whom,

in instances of my husband’s personal friends,

we have grieved together. It is to those who,

like his young staff-officer, bear unhealed and

painful wounds to their life’s end, that I wish

to beg our people to give thought. We felt it

rather a blessing, in one way, when a man was

visibly maimed ; for if a leg or an arm is gone, the

empty sleeve or the halting gait keeps his

country from forgetting that he has braved every-

thing to protect her. The men we sorrowed for

were those who suffered silently ; and there are

more, North and South, than anyone dreams of,

scattered all over our now fair and prosperous

land. Sometimes, after they die, it transpires that

FORTITUDE IN SUFFERING. 3O3

at the approach of every storm they have been

obHged to stop work, enter into the seclusion of

their rooms, and endure the racking, torturing-

pain, that began on the battle-field so long ago.

If anyone finds this out in their life-time, it is

usually by accident ; and when asked why they

suffer without claiming the sympathy that does

help us all, they sometimes reply that the war is

too far back to tax anyone’s memory or sympathy

now. Oftener, they attempt to ignore what

they endure, and change the subject in-

stantly. People would be surprised to know

how many in the community, whom they

daily touch in the jostle of life, are silent sufferers

from wounds or incurable disease contracted

during the war for the Union. The monuments,

tablets, memorials, which are strewn with flowers

and bathed with grateful tears, have often tribute

that should be partly given to the double hero

who bears on his bruised and broken body the

torture of daily sacrifice for his country. People,

even if they know, forget the look, the word of

acknowledgment, that is due the maimed patriot.

I recall the chagrin I felt on the Plains one day,

when one of our Seventh Cavalry officers, with

whom we had long been intimately associated —

one whom our people called ” Fresh Smith,” or

” Smithie,” for short — came to his wife to get her

;o4

TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

to put on his coat. I said something in bantering

tones of his Plains Hfe making him look on his

wife as the Indian looks upon the squaw, and tried

to rouse her to rebellion. There was a small blaze,

a sudden scintillation from a pair of feminine eyes,

that warned me of wrath to come. The captain

accepted my banter, threw himself into the sad-

dle, laughed back the advantage of this new order

of things, where a man had a combination, in his

wife, of servant and companion, and tore out of

sight, leaving me to settle accounts with the

flushed madame. She told me, what I never knew,

and perhaps might not even now, but for the out-

burst of the moment, that in the war ” Smithie “

had received a wound that shattered his shoulder,

and though his arm was narrowly saved from

amputation, he never raised it again, except a few

inches. As for putting on his coat, it was an im-

possibility.

One day in New York my husband and I were

paying our usual homage to the shop windows

and to the beautiful women we passed, when he

suddenly seized my arm and said, “There’s Kid-

doo ! Let’s catch up with him.” I was skipped

over gutters, and sped over pavements, the Gen-

eral unconscious that such a gait is not the usual

movement of the New Yorker, until we came up

panting each side of a tail, fine-looking man, ap-

A FIRESIDE CONFESSION.

505

parently a specimen of physical perfection. The

look of longing that he gave us as we ran up,

flushed and happy, startled me, and I could

scarcely wait until we separated to know the

meaning. It was this : General Joseph B. Kid-

doo, shot in the leg during the war, had still the

open wound, from which he endured daily pain

and nightly torture, for he got only fragmentary

sleep. To heal the hurt was to end his life, the

surgeons said. When at last I heard he had been

given release and slept the blessed sleep, what

word of sorrow could be framed ?

In the case of another friend, with whom we

were staying in Tennessee, from whom my hus-

band and I extracted the information by dint of

questions and sympathy, when, late one night,

we sat about the open fire and were warmed into

confidence by its friendly glow, we found that no

single night for the twelve years after the war had

such a boon as uninterrupted sleep been known to

him. A body racked by pain was paying daily its

loyal, uncomplaining tribute to his country. Few

were aware that he had unremitting suffering as

his constant companion. I remember that my

husband urged him to marry, and get some good

out of life, and from the sympathy that wells per-

petually in a tender woman’s heart. But he denied

himself the blessing of such compa-nionship, from

306 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

unselfish motives, declaring he could not ask a

woman to link her fate with such a broken life as

his. When we left his fireside, my husband

counted him a hero of such rare metal that few in

his experience could equal him, and years after-

ward, when we sometimes read his name in print,

he said, ” Poor , I wonder if there’s any

let-up for the brave fellow.”

Our home-coming was a great pleasure to us

and to our two families. My own father was proud

of the General’s administration of civil as well as

military affairs in Texas, and enjoyed the congratu-

latory letter of Governor Hamilton deeply.

The temptations to induce General Custer to leave

the service and enter civil life began at once, and

were many and varied. He had not been sub-

jected to such allurements the year after the war,

when the country was offering posts of honor to

returned soldiers, but this summer of our return

from Texas, all sorts of suggestions were made.

Business propositions, with enticing pictures of

great wealth, came to him. He never cared for

money for money’s sake. No one that does, ever

lets it slip through his fingers as he did. Still, his

heart was set upon plans for his mother and father,

and for his brothers’ future, and I can scarcely see

now how a man of twenty-five could have turned

his back upon such alluring schemes for wealth as

OFFERS FOR A FUTURE. 307

were held out to him. It was at that time much

more customary than now, even, to establish cor-

porations with an officer’s name at the head who

was known to have come through the war with

irreproachable honor, proved possibly as much by

his being as poor when he came out of service as

when he went in, as by his conduct in battle. The

country was so unsettled by the four years of

strife that it was like beginning all over again,

when old companies were started anew. Con-

fidence had to be struggled for, and names of

prominent men as associate partners or presidents

were sought for persistently.

Politics offered another form of temptation.

The people demanded for their representatives

the soldiers under whom they had served, prefer-

ring to follow the same leaders in the political

field that had led them in battle. The old sol-

diers, and civilians also, talked openly of General

Custer for Congressman or Governor. It was a

summer of excitement and uncertainty. How

could it be otherwise to a boy who, five brief

year before, was a beardless youth with no appar-

ent future before him ? I was too much of a girl

to realize what a summer it was. Indeed, we

had little chance, so fast did one proposition for

our future follow upon the other. When the

General was offered the appointment of foreign

^o8 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

Minister, I kept silence as best I could, but it was

desperately hard work. Honors, according to

old saws, ” were empty,” but in that hey-day

time they looked very different to me. I was

inwardly very proud, and if I concealed the fact

because my husband expressed such horror of

inflated people, it was only after violent effort.

Among the first propositions was one for the Gen-

eral to take temporary service with Mexico. This

scheme found no favor with me. It meant more

fighting and further danger for my husband, and

anxiety and separation for me. Besides, Texas

association with Mexicans made me think their

soldiery treacherous and unreliable. But even in

the midst of the suspense pending the decision I

was not insensible to this new honor that was

offered.

Carvajal. who was then at the head of the

Juarez military government, offered the post

of Adjutant-General of Mexico to General Cus-

ter. The money inducements were, to give twice

the salary in gold that a major-general in our

army receives. As his salary had come down

from a major-general’s pay of $8,000 to $2,000,

this might have been a temptation surely. ,There

was a stipulation, that one or two thousand men

should be raised in the United States ; any debts

assumed in organizing this force to be paid by

A COMAIENDATORY LETTER. 3O9

the Mexican Liberal Government. Senor

Romero, the Mexican Minister, did what he could

to further the application of Carvajal, and

General Grant wrote his approval of General

Custer’s acceptance, in a letter in which he speaks

of my husband in unusually flattering terms, as

one ” who rendered such distinguished service as

a cavalry officer during the war,” adding, ”There

was no officer in that branch of the service who

had the confidence of General Sheridan to a

greater degree than General Custer, and there is

no officer in whose judgment I have greater faith

than in Sheridan’s. Please understand, then, that

I mean to endorse General Custer in a high de-

gree.”

The stagnation of peace was being felt by

those who had lived a breathless four years at the

front. However much they might rejoice that

carnage had ceased and no more broken hearts

need be dreaded, it was very hard to quiet them-

selves into a life of inaction. No wonder our

officers went to the Khedive for service ! no won-

der this promise of active duty was an inviting

prospect for my husband ! It took a long time

for civilians even, to tone themselves down to the

jog-trot of peace.

Everything looked, at that time, as if there was

success awaiting any soldier who was resolute

3IO TENT/NG ON’ TUB PLAIN’S.

enough to lead troops against one they considered

an invader. Nothing nerves a soldier’s arm like

the wrong felt at the presence of foreigners on

their own ground, and the prospect of destruction

of their homes. Maximilian was then uncertain

in his hold on the Government he had established,

and, as it soon proved, it would have been what

General Custer then thought comparatively an

easy matter to drive out the usurper. The ques-

tion was settled by the Government’s refusing to

grant the year’s leave for which application was

made, and the General was too fond of his coun-

try to take any but temporary service in another.

This decision made me very grateful, and when

there was no longer danger of further exposure of

life, I was also thankful for the expressions of

confidence and admiration of my husband’s ability

as a soldier that this contemplated move had

drawn out. I was willing my husband should

accept any offer he had received except the last.

I was tempted to beg him to resign ; for this

meant peace of mind and a long, tranquil life for

me. It was my father’s counsel alone, that kept

me from urging each new proposition to take up

the life of a civilian. He advised me to forget

myself. He knew well what a difficult task it was

to school myself to endure the life on which I had

entered so thoughtlessly as a girl. I had never

FA THERL Y COUNSEL. 3 I I

been thrown with army people, and knew nothing

before my marriage of the separations and anxie-

ties of miHtary Ufe. Indeed, I was so young that it

never occurred to me that people could become so

attached to each other that it would be misery to

be separated. And now that this divided exist-

ence loomed up before me, father did not blame

me for longing for any life that would ensure our

being together. He had a keen sense of humor,

and could not help reminding me occasionally,

when I told him despairingly that I could not, I

simply would nQ)\,, live a life where I could not be

always with my husband, of days before I knew

the General, when I declared to my parents, if

ever I did marry it would not be a dentist, as our

opposite neighbor appeared never to leave the

house. It seemed to me then that the wife had a

great deal to endure in the constant presence of

her husband.

My father, strict in his sense of duty, constant-

ly appealed to me to consider only my husband’s

interests, and forget my own selfish desires. In

an old letter written at that time, I quoted to the

General something that father had said to me :

” Why, daughter, I would rather have the honor

which grows out of the way in which the battle of

Waynesboro was fought, than to have the wealth

of the Indies. Armstrong’s battle is better to hand

3 I 2 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

down to posterity than wealth.” He used in those

days to walk the floor and say to me, ” My child,

put no obstacles in the way to the fulfillment of

his destiny. He chose his profession. He is a

born soldier. There he must abide.”

In the midst of this indecision, when the Gen-

eral was obliged to be in New York and Washing-

ton on business, my father was taken ill. The

one whom I so sorely needed in all those ten

years that followed, when I was often alone in the

midst of the dangers and anxieties and vicissi-

tudes attending our life, stepped into heaven as

quietly and peacefully as if going into another

room. His last words were to urge me to do my

duty as a soldier’s wife. He again begged me to

ignore self, and remember that my husband

had chosen the profession of a soldier ; in that life

he had made a name, and there, where he was so

eminently fitted to succeed, he should remain.

My father’s counsel and his dying words had

great weight with me, and enabled me to fight

against the selfishness that was such a temptation.

Very few women, even the most ambitious for

their husbands’ future, but would have confessed,

at the close of the war, that glory came with too

great sacrifices, and they would rather gather the

husbands, lovers and brothers into the shelter of

the humblest of homes, than endure the suspense

AN OFFICER’S WORD HIS NOTE. w*

and loneliness of war-times. I am sure that my fa-

ther was right, for over and over again, in after

years, my husband met his brother officers who had

resigned, only to have poured into his ear regrets

that they had left the service. I have known him

come to me often, saying he could not be too

thankful that he had not gone into civil life. He

believed that a business man or a politician should

have discipline in youth for the life and varied ex-

perience with all kinds of people, to make a suc-

cessful career. Officers, from the very nature of

their life, are prescribed in their associates. They

are isolated so much at extreme posts that they

know little or nothing of the life of citizens. After

resigning, they found themselves robbed of the

companionship so dear to military people, unable,

from want of early training, to cope successfully

with business men, and lacking, from inexperience,

the untiring, plodding spirit that is requisite to

the success of a civilian. An officer rarely gives

a note; his promise is his bond. It is seldom vio-

lated. It would be impossible for me, even in my

twelve years’ experience, to enumerate the times I

have known, when long-standing debts, for which

there was not a scrap of written proof, were paid

without solicitation on the part of the friend who

was the creditor. One of our New York hotels

furnishes proof of how an officer’s word is con-

3 1 4 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

sidered. A few years since, Congress failed to

make the usual yearly appropriation for the pay

of the army. A hotel that had been for many

years the resort of military people, immediately

sent far and wide to notify the army that no bills

would be presented until the next Congress had

passed the appropriation. To satisfy myself, I

have inquired if they lost by this, and been assured

that they did not.

Men reared to consider their word equal to the

most binding legal contract ever made, would

naturally find it difficult to realize, when entering

civil life, that something else is considered neces-

sary. The wary take advantage of the credulity

of a military man, and, usually, the first experience

is financial loss, to an officer who has confidingly

allowed a debt to be contracted without all the

restrictive legal arrangements with which citizens

have found it necessary to surround money trans-

actions. And so the world goes. The capital with

which an officer enters into business, is lost by too

much confidence in his brother man, and when he

becomes richer by experience, he is so poor in

pocket he cannot venture into competition with

the trained and skilled business men among whom

he had entered so sanguinely.

Politics also have often proved disastrous to

army officers. Allured by promises, they have

AMBITIONS DISAPPOINTED. 3 I 5

accepted office, and been allowed a brief success ;

but who can be more completely done for than an

office-holder whose party goes out of power ? The

born politician, one who has grown wary in the

great game, provides for the season of temporary

retirement which the superseding of his party

necessitates. His antagonist calls it ” feathering

his nest,” but a free-handed and sanguine military

man has done no ” feathering,” and it is simply

pitiful to see to what obscurity and absolute pov-

erty they are brought. The men whose chestnuts

the ingenuous, unsuspecting man has pulled out

of the fire, now pass him by unnoticed. Such an

existence to a proud man makes him wish he had

died on the field of battle, before any act of his

has brought chagrin.

All these things I have heard my husband say,

when we have encountered some heart-broken

man ; and he worked for nothing harder than that

they might be reinstated in the service, or lifted

out of their perplexities by occupation of some

sort. There was an officer, a classmate at West

Point, who, he felt with all his heart, did right in

resigning. If he had lived he would have written

his tribute, and I venture to take up his pen to say,

in my inadequate way, what he would have said

so well, moved by the eloquence of deep feeling.

My husband believed in what old-fashioned

3 I 6 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

people term a “calling,” and he himself had felt a

call to be a soldier, when he could scarcely toddle.

It was not the usual early love of boys for adven-

ture. We realize how natural it is for a lad to

enjoy tales of hotly contested fields, and to glory

over bloodshed. The boy in the Sunday-school,

when asked what part of the Bible he best liked,

said promptly, “The fightenest part !” and another,

when his saintly teacher questioned him as to

whom he first wished to see when he reached

heaven, vociferated loudly, ” Goliath !” But the

love of a soldier’s life was not the fleeting desire

of the child, in my husband; it became the steady

purpose of his youth, the happy realization of his

early manhood. For this reason he sympathized

with all who felt themselves drawn to a certain

place in the world. He thoroughly believed in a

boy (if it was not a pernicious choice) having

his “bent.” And so it happened, when it was

our good fortune to be stationed with his class-

mate, Colonel Charles C. Parsons, at Leavenworth,

that he gave a ready ear when his old West Point

chum poured out his longings for a different sphere

in life. He used to come to me after these ses-

sions, when the Colonel went over and over again

his reasons for resigning, and wonder how he

could wish to do so, but he respected his friend’s

belief, that he had another ” calling ” too thor-

FRIENDS IN COUNCIL.

‘7

oughly to oppose him. He thought the place of

captain of a battery of artillery the most inde-

pendent in the service. He is detached from his

regiment, he reports only to the commanding

officer of the post, he is left so long at one station

that he can make permanent arrangements for com-

fort, and, except in times of war, the work is gar-

rison and guard duty. Besides this, the pay of a

‘captain of a battery is good, and he is not subject

to constant moves, which tax the finances of a

cavalry officer so severely. After enumerating

these advantages, he ended by saying, “There’s

nothing to be done, though, for if Parsons thinks

he ought to go into an uncertainty, and leave what

is a surety for life, why, he ought to follow his

convictions.”

The next time we saw the Colonel, he was the

rector of a small mission church on the outskirts

of Memphis. We were with the party of the

Grand Duke Alexis when he went by steamer to

New Orleans. General Sheridan had asked Gen-

eral Custer to go on a buffalo-hunt with the Duke

in the Territory of Wyoming, and he in turn

urged the General to remain with him afterward,

until he left the country. At Memphis, the city

gave a ball, and my husband begged his old com-

rade to be present. It was the first time since his

resignation that the Colonel and his beautiful

3l8 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

wife had been in society. Their parish was poor,

and they had only a small and uncertain salary.

Colonel Parsons was not in the least daunted ; he

was as hopeful and as enthusiastic as such earnest

people alone can be, as certain he was right as if

his duty had been revealed to him, as divine mes-

sages were to the prophets of old. The General

was touched by the fearless manner in which he

faced poverty and obscurity.

It would be necessary for one to know, by

actual observation, what a position of authority,

of independence, of assured and sufficient income,

he left, to sink his individuality in this life that he

consecrated to his Master. When he entered our

room, before we went to the ballroom, he held

up his gloved hands to us and said : ” Custer, I

wish you to realize into what extravagance you

have plunged me. Why, old fellow, this is my first

indulgence in such frivolities since I came down

here.” Mrs. Parsons was a marvel to us. The

General had no words that he thought high

enough praise for her sacrifice. Hers was for her

husband, and not a complaint did she utter.

Here, again, I should have to take my citizen

reader into garrison before I could make clear

what it was that she gave up. The vision of that

pretty woman, as I remember her at Leaven-

worth, is fresh in my mind. She danced and

A WIFE’S SACRIFICE.

319

rode charming-ly, and was gracious and free from

the spiteful envy that sometimes comes when a

garrison belle is so attractive that the gossips say

she absorbs all the devotion. Colonel Parsons,

not caring much for dancing, used to stand and

watch with pride and complete confidence when

the men gathered round his wife at our hops.

There were usually more than twice as many men

as women, and the card of a good dancer and a

favorite was frequently filled before she left her

own house for the dancing-room. I find myself

still wondering how any pretty woman ever kept

her mental poise when queening it at those

Western posts. My husband, who never failed

to be the first to notice the least sacrifice that a

woman made for her husband, looked upon Mrs.

Parsons with more and more surprise and admi-

ration, as he contrasted the life in which we found

her, with her former fascinating existence.

The Colonel, after making his concession and

.coming to our ball, asked us in turn to be present

at his church on the following Sunday, and gave

the General a little cheap printed card, which he

used to find his way to the suburbs of the city.

Colonel Parsons told me, next day, that when he

entered the reading-desk and looked down upon

the dignified, reverent head of my husband, a

remembrance of the last time he had seen him in

320 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

the chapel at West Point, came like a flash of light-

ning into his mind, and he almost had a convul-

sion, in endeavoring to suppress the gurgles of

laughter that struggled for expression. For an

instant he thought, with desperate fright, that he

would drop down behind the desk and have it out,

and only by the most powerful effort did he rally.

It seems that a cadet in their corps had fiery red

hair, and during the stupid chapel sermon Cadet

Custer had run his fingers into the boy’s hair, who

was in front of him, pretending to get them into

white heat, and then, taking them out, pounded

them as on an anvil. It was a simple thing, and a

trick dating many years back, but the drollery and

quickness of action made it something a man

could not recall with calmness.

Colonel Parsons and his wife are receiving the

rewards that only Heaven can give to lives of

self-sacrifice. Mrs. Parsons, after they came

North to a parish, only lived a short time to en-

joy the comfort of an Eastern home. When the

yellow fever raged so in the Mississippi Valley, in

1878, and volunteers came forward with all the

splendid generosity of this part of the world,

Colonel Parsons did not wait a second call from

his conscience to enter the fever-scourged Mem-

phis, and there he ended a martyr life : not only

ready to go because in his Master’s service, but

A MARTYR’S REWARD.

because the best of his Hfe, and one for whom

he continually sorrowed, awaited him beyond the

confines of eternity.

CHAPTER XL

RECEPTION BY THE WAR VETERANS OF THEIR BOY GEN-

ERAL APPOINTED LIEUTENANT-COLONEL OF THE

SEVENTH CAVALRY A RAID AFTER A PRETTY GIRL

OUR FAMILY OF HORSES AND DOGS ORDERS TO

REPORT AT FORT RILEY, KANSAS JOLLIFICATIONS

AT ST. LOUIS FRIENDSHIP FOR LAWRENCE BAR-

RETT.

/^ENERAL CUSTER was the recipient of

much kindness from the soldiers of his

Michigan brigade while he remained in Michigan

awaiting orders, and he went to several towns

where his old comrades had prepared receptions

for him. But when he returned from a re-union

in Detroit to our saddened home, there was no

grateful, proud father to listen to the accounts of

the soldiers’ enthusiasm. My husband missed his

commendation, and his proud way of referring to

his son. His own family were near us, and off he

started, when he felt the absence of the noble

parent who had so proudly followed his career,

and, running through our stable to shorten the

distance, danced up a lane through a back gate

A SOLDIER’S NAMESAKES. 323

into his mother’s garden, and thence into the

midst of his father’s noisy and happy household.

His parents, the younger brother, Boston, sister

Margaret, Colonel Tom, and often Eliza, made up

the family, and the uproar that these boys and

the elder boy, their father, made around the

gentle mother and her daughters, was a marvel

to me.

If the General went away to some soldiers’

re-union, he tried on his return to give me a lucid

account of the ceremonies, and how signally he

failed in making a speech, of course, and his sub-

terfuge for hiding his confusion and getting out

of the scrape by proposing ” Garryowen ” by the

band, or three cheers for the old brigade. It was

not that he had not enough to say : his heart was

full of gratitude to his comrades, but the words

came forth with such a rush, there was little

chance of arriving at the meaning. I think

nothing moved him in this coming together of

his dear soldiers, like his pride at their naming

babies after him. His eyes danced with pleasure,

when he told that they stopped him in the street

and held up a little George Armstrong Custer,

and the shy wife was brought forward to be con-

gratulated. I dearly loved, when I chanced to be

with him, to witness their pride and hear their

few words of praise.

324 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

Not long ago I was in a small town in Michi-

gan, among some of my husband’s old soldiers.

Our sister Margaret was reciting for the benefit of

the Uttle church, and the veterans asked for me

afterward, and I shook hands with a long line of

bronzed heroes, now tillers of the soil. Their

praise of their ” boy General ” made my grateful

tears flow, and many of their eyes moistened as

they held my hand and spoke of war-times. After

all had filed by, they began to return one by one

and ask to bring their wives and children. One

soldier, with already silvering head, said quaintly,

” We have often seen you rding around with our

General in war-days ” and added, with a most

flattering ignoring of time’s treatment of me,

” You XooVJMst the same, though you was a young

gal then ; and now, tho’ you followed your hus-

band and took your hardships with us, I want to

show you an old woman who was also a purty

good soldier, for while I was away at the front

she run the farm.” Such a welcome, such honest

tribute to his ” old woman,” recalled the times

when the General’s old soldiers gathered about

him, with unaffected words, and when I pitied

him because he fidgeted so, and bit his lips, and

struggled to end what was the joy of his life, for

fear he would cry like a woman. Among those

who souofht him out that summer was an officer

Q

A ROY’S HERO WORSHIP.

o^:)

who had commanded a regiment of troops in the

celebrated Michigan brigade. Colonel George^

Grey, a brave Irishman, with as much enthusiasm

in his friendships as in his fighting. His wife and

little son were introduced. The boy had very

light hair, and though taught to reverence and love

the General by his gallant, impulsive father, the

child had never realized until he saw him that his

father’s hero also had a yellow head. Heretofore

the boy had hated his hair, and implored his

mother to dye it dark. But as soon as his inter-

view with my husband was ended, he ran to his

mother, and whispered in eager haste that she

need not mind the dyeing now ; he never would

scold about his hair being light again, since he

had seen that General Custer’s was yellow.

As I look back and consider what a descent the

major-generals of the war made, on returning to

their lineal rank in the regular army after the sur-

render at Appomattox, I wonder how they took

the new order of things so calmly, or that they

so readily adapted themselves to the positions

they had filled before the firing on Sumter in

1861. General Custer held his commission as

brevet major-general for nearly a year after the

close of hostilities, and until relieved in Texas.

He did not go at once to his regiment, the Fifth

Cavalry, and take up the command of sixty men

326 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

in place of thousands, as other officers of the

regular army were obliged to do, but was placed

on waiting orders, and recommended to the lieu-

tenant-colonelcy of one of the new regiments of

cavalry, for five new ones had been formed that

summer, making ten in all. In the autumn, the

appointment to the Seventh Cavalry came, with

orders to go to Fort Garland. One would have

imagined, by the jubilant manner in which this

official document was unfolded and read to me,

that it was the inheritance of a principality. My

husband instantly began to go over the ” good

sides ” of the question. He was so given to

dwelling on the high lights of any picture his im-

agination painted, that the background, which

might mean hardships and deprivations, became

indefinite in outline, and obscure enough in detail

to please the most modern impressionists. Out

of our camp luggage a map was produced, and

Fort Garland was discovered, after long prowling

about with the first finger, in the space given to

the Rocky Mountains. Then he launched into

visions of what unspeakable pleasure he would

have, fishing for mountain trout and hunting

deer. As I cared nothing for fishing, and was

afraid of a gun, I don’t recall my veins bounding

as his did over the prospect ; but the embryo fish-

erman and Nimrod was so sanguine over his-

A MOUNTAIN POST.

127

future, it would have been a stolid soul indeed

that did not begin to think Fort Garland a sort

of earthly paradise. The sober colors in this

vivid picture meant a small, obscure post, then

several hundred miles from any railroad, not

much more than a handful of men to command,

the most complete isolation, and no prospect of

an active campaign, as it was far from the range

of the war-like Indians. But Fort Garland soon

faded from our view, in the excitement and inter-

est over Fort Riley, as soon as our orders were

changed to that post. We had no difficulty in

finding it on the map, as it was comparatively an

old post, and the Kansas Pacific Railroad was

within ten miles of the Government reservation.

We ascertained, by inquiry, that it was better to

buy the necessary household articles at Leaven-

worth, than to attempt to carry along even a sim-

ple outfit from the East. My attention had been

so concentrated on the war, that I found the map

of Virginia had heretofore comprised the only im-

portant part of the United States to me, and it

was difficult to realize that Kansas had a city of

25,000 inhabitants, with several daily papers.

Still, I was quite willing to trust to Leavenworth

for the purchase of household furniture, as it

seemed to me, what afterward proved true,

that housekeepmg in garrison quarters was a

328 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

sort of camping out after all, with one foot in a

house and another in position to put into the stir-

rup and spin ” over the hills and far away.” We

packed the few traps that had been used in camp-

ing in Virginia and Texas, but most of our atten-

tion was given to the selection of a pretty girl,

who, it was held by both of us, would do more

toward furnishing and beautifying our army quar-

ters than any amount of speechless bric-a-brac or

silent tapestry. It was difficult to obtain what

seemed the one thing needful for our new army

home. In the first place, the mothers rose en

masse and formed themselves into an anti-frontier

combination. They looked right into my eyes,

with harassed expression, and said, ” Why, Libbie,

they might marry an officer !” ignoring the fact

that the happiest girl among them had undergone

that awful fate, and still laughed back a denial of

its being the bitterest lot that can come to a

woman. Then I argued that perhaps their

daughters might escape matrimony entirely, under

the fearful circumstances which they shuddered

over, even in contemplation, but that it was only

fair that the girls should have a chance to see the

” bravest and the tenderest,” and, I mentally added,

the ” livest ” men, for our town had been forsaken

by most of the ambitious, energetic boys as soon

as their school-days ended. The ” beau season “

FAILING IN A CAPTURE.

129

was very brief, lasting only during their summer

vacations, when they came from wide-awake

western towns to make love in sleepy Monroe.

One mother at last listened to my arguments, and

said, ” I do want Laura to see what men of the

world are, and she shall go.” Now, this lovely

mother had been almost a second one to me in all

my lonely vacations, after my own mother died.

She took me from the seminary, and gave me

treats with her own children, and has influenced

my whole life by her noble, large way of looking

at the world. But, then, she has been East a great

deal, and in Washington in President Pierce’s

days, and realized that the vision of the outside

world, seen only from our Monroe, was narrow.

The dear Laura surprised me by asking to have

over night to consider, and I could not account

for it, as she had been so radiant over the prospect

of military life. Alas ! next morning the riddle

was solved, when she whispered in my ear that

there was a youth who had already taken into his

hands the disposal of her future, and ” he ” ob-

jected. So we lost her.

Monroe was then thought to have more pretty

girls than any place of its size in the country.

In my first experience of the misery of being para-

graphed, it was announced that General Custer had

taken to himself a wife, in a town where ninety-

330 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

nine marriageable girls were left. The fame of

the town had gone abroad, though, and the

ninety-nine were not without opportunities.

Widowers came from afar, with avant couriers in

the shape of letters describing their wealth, their

scholarly attainments, and their position in the

community. The “boys” grown to men halted

in their race for wealth long enough to rush

home and propose. Often we were all under in-

spection, and though demure and seemingly un-

conscious, I remember the after-tea walks when a

knot of girls went off to ” lovers’ lane ” to ex-

change experiences about some stranger from

afar, who had been brought around by a solicit-

ous match-maker to view the landscape o’er, and

I am afraid we had some sly little congratulations

when he, having shown signs of the conquering

hero, was finally sent on his way, to seek in other

towns, filled with girls, ” fresh woods and past-

ures new.” I cannot account for the beauty of

the women of Monroe; the mothers were the

softest, serenest, smoothest-faced women, even

when white-haired. It is true it was a very quiet

life, going to bed with the chickens, and up early

enough to see the dew on the lawns. There was

very little care, to plant furrows in the cheeks

and those tell-tale radiating lines about the eyes.

Nearly everybody was above want, and few had

SUN-BURN AS A,V ARGUMENT. 331

enough of this world’s goods to incite envy in the

hearts of the neighbors, which does its share in a

younger face. I sometimes think the vicinity of

Lake Erie, and the moist air that blew over the

marsh, kept the complexions fresh. I used to

feel actually sorry for my husband, when we ap-

proached Monroe after coming from the cam-

paigns. He often said : ” Shall we not stop in

Detroit a day or two, Libbie, till you get the

tired look out of your face ? I dread going among

the Monroe women and seeing them cast reproach-

ful looks at me, when your sun-burned face is in-

troduced among their fair complexions. When

you are tired in addition, they seem to think I am

a wretch unhung, and say, ‘ Why, General ! what

have you done with Libbie’s transparent skin?’ I

am afraid it is hopelessly dark and irredeemably

thickened !” In vain I argued that it wouldn’t be

too thick to let them all see the happy light shine

through, and if his affection survived my altered

looks, I felt able to endure the wailing over what

they thought I had lost. After all, it was very

dear and kind of them to care, and my husband

appreciated their solicitude, even when he was

supposed to be in disgrace for having subjected

me to such disfigurement. Still, these mothers

were neither going to run the risk of the peach-

bloom and cream of their precious girls all run-

^3 2 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

ning riot into one broad sun-burn up to the roots

of the hair, and this was another reason, in addi-

tion to the paramount one that “the girls might

marry into the army.” The vagrant Hfe, the ina-

bihty to keep household gods, giving up the privi-

leges of the church and missionary societies, the

loss of the simple village gayety, the anxiety and

suspense of a soldier’s wife, might well make the

mothers opposed to the life, but this latter reason

did not enter into all their minds. Some thought

of the loaves and fishes. One said, in trying to

persuade me that it was better to break my engage-

ment with the General, ” Why, girl, you can’t be

a poor man’s wife, and, besides, he might lose a

leg !” I thought, even then, gay and seemingly

thoughtless as I was, that a short life wuth poverty

and a wooden leg was better than the career sug-

gested to me. I hope the dear old lady is not

blushing as she reads this, and I remind her how

she took me up into a high mountain and pointed

out a house that might be mine, with so many

dozen spoons “solid,” so many sheets and pillow-

slips, closets filled with jars of preserved fruit, all

of which I could not hope to have in the life in

which I chose to cast my lot, where peaches

ripened on no garden-wall and bank-accounts

were unknown.

When we were ready to set out for the West, in

334 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

October, 1866, our caravan summed up some-

thing- like this list ! My husband’s three horses —

Jack Rucker, the thoroughbred mare he had

bought in Texas; a blooded colt from Virginia

named Phil Sheridan ; and my own horse, a fast

pacer named Custis Lee, the delight of my eyes

and the envy of the General’s staff while we were

in Virginia and Texas — several hounds given to

the General by the planters with whom he had

hunted deer in Texas ; a superb greyhound, the

most kingly dog I ever saw; the cushion of his

feet seemed to spring as he stepped, and his head

was carried so loftily as he walked his lordly way

among the other dogs, that I thought he would

have asked to carry his family-tree on his brass

collar, could he have spoken for his rights. Last

of all, some one had given us the ugliest white

bull-dog I ever saw. But in time we came to

think that the twist in his lumpy tail, the curve in

his bow legs, the ambitious nose, which drew the

upper lip above the heaviest of protruding jaws,

were simply beauties, for the dog was so affec-

tionate and loyal, that everything which at first

seemed a draw-back leaned finally to virtue’s side.

He was well named “Turk,” and a “set to” or so

with Byron, the domineering greyhound, estab-

lished his rights, so that it only needed a deep

growl and an uprising of the bristles on his back.

A FAMILY PAR 7 Y.

to recall to the overbearing aristocrat some whole-

some lessons given him when the acquaintance

began. Turk was devoted to the colt Phil, and

the intimacy of the two was comical ; Phil repaid

Turk’s little playful nips at the legs by lifting him

in his teeth as high as the feed-box, by the loose

skin of his back. But nothing could get a whim-

per out of him, for he was the pluckiest of brutes.

He curled himself up in Phil’s stall when he slept,

and in traveling was his close companion in the

box car. If we took the dog to drive with us, he

had to be in the buggy, as our time otherwise

would have been constantly engaged in dragging

him off from any dog that strutted around him,

and needed a lesson in humility. When Turk

was returned to Phil, after any separation, they

greeted each other in a most human way. Turk

leaped around the colt, and in turn was rubbed

and nosed about with speaking little snorts of

welcome. When we came home to this ugly

duckling, he usually made a spring and landed in

my lap, as if he were the tiniest, silkiest little Skye

in dogdom. He half closed his eyes, with that

beatific expression peculiar to affectionate dogs,

and did his little smile at my husband and me by

raising what there was of his upper lip and show-

ing his front teeth. All this with an ignoring of

the other dogs and an air of exclusion, as if we

■5^6 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

three — his master, mistress, and himself — com-

posed all there was of earth worth knowing.

We had two servants, one being Eliza, our

faithful colored woman, who had been with us in

Virginia and Texas, and had come home with me

to care for my father in his last illness. We had

also a worthless colored boy, who had been

trained as a jockey in Texas and had returned

with the horses. What intellect he had was em-

ployed in devising schemes to escape work.

Eliza used her utmost persuasive eloquence on

him without eff’^.ct, and failed equally with a set

of invectives, that had been known heretofore to

break the most stubborn case of lethargy. My

tender-hearted mother Custer screened him, for

he had soon discovered her amazing credulity, and

had made out a story of abuses to which he had

been subjected that moved her to confide his

wrongs to me. Two years before, I too would

have dropped a tear over his history ; but a life

among horses had enlightened me somewhat.

Every one knows that a negro will do almost

anything to become a jockey. Their bitterest

moment is when they find that growing bone and

muscle is making avoirdupois and going to cut

them off from all that makes life worth living.

To reduce their weight, so they can ride at races,

they are steamed, and parboiled if necessary.

A WOMAN’S CREDULITY. 337

This process our lazy servant described to our

mother as having been enforced on him as a tor-

ture and punishment, and such a good story did

he make out, that he did nothing but he in the

sun and twang an old banjo all summer long, all

owing to mother’s pity. We had to take him

with us, to save her from waiting on him, and

making reparation for what she supposed had

been a life of abuse before he came to us.

Last of all to describe in our party was Diana,

the pretty belle of Monroe. The excitement of

anticipation gave added brightness to her eyes,

and the head, sunning over with a hundred curls,

danced and coquetted as she talked of our future

among the ” brass buttons and epaulets.”

My going out from home was not so hard as it

had been, for the dear father had gone home,

saying in his last words, ” Daughter, continue to

do as you have done; follow Armstrong every-

w^here.” It had indeed been a temptation to me,

to use all my influence to induce my husband to

resign and accept the places held out to him. I

do not recollect that ambition or a far look into

his progress in the future entered my mind. I

can only remember thinking with envy of men

surrounding us in civil life, who came home to

their wives after every day’s business. Even

now, I look upon a laborer returning to his home

•1^8 ■ TENTING ON THE PLAINS,

at night with his tin dinner-pail as a creature

to be envied, and my imagination follows the

husband into his humble house. The wife to

whom he returns may have lost much that ambi-

tion and success bring, but she has secured for

herself a lifetime of happy twilights, when all

she cares for is safe under her affectionate eyes.

Our father and mother Custer lived near us,

and Sister Margaret and the younger brother

” Bos,” were then at home and in school. The

parting with his mother, the only sad hour to

my blithe husband, tore his heart as it always

did, and he argued in vain with her, that, as he

had come home after five years of incessant bat-

tles, she might look for his safe return again.

Each time seemed to be the last to her, for she was

so delicate she hardly expected to live to see him

again.

The summer has been one of such pleasure to

her. Her beloved boy, dashing in and out in his

restless manner, was never too absorbed with what-

ever took up his active mind, to be anything but

gentle and thoughtful for her. She found our

Eliza a mine of information, and just as willing as

mother herself to talk all day about the one topic

in common, the General and his war experiences.

Then the dogs and horses, and the stir and life

produced by the introduction of ourselves and our

A DANGER ESCAPED. 339

belongings into her quiet existence, made her re-

call the old farm life when her brood of children

were all around her. Brother Tom had spent the

summer skipping from flower to flower, tasting

the sweets of all the rose-bud garden of girls in

our pretty town. I had already taken to myself

a good deal of the mothering of this wild boy,

and began to worry, as is the custom of mothers,

over the advances of a venturesome woman who

was no longer young and playing for high stakes.

It was no small matter to me, as I knew Tom

would live with us always, if he could manage to

do so, and my prospective sister-in-law would be

my nearest companion. Lad as he was, he

escaped, and preserved his heart in an unbroken

condition during the summer. Much to our rc:

gret, he was appointed to a lieutenancy in a regi-

ment stationed South, after he was mustered out

of the volunteer service ; but the General suc-

ceeded in effecting his transfer to the Seventh Cav-

alry, and after a short service in the South he joined

us at Fort Riley that year.

One of our Detroit friends invited us to go with

a party of pretty women, in a special car, to St.

Louis ; so we had a gay send-off for our new

home. I don’t remember to have had an anxiety

as to the future ; I was wholly given over to the

joy of realizing that the war was over, and, girl-

340

TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

like, now the one great danger was passed, I felt as

if all that sort of life was forever ended. At any

rate, the magnetic influence of my husband’s joy-

ous temperament, which would not look on the

dark side, had such power over those around him

that I was impelled to look upon our future as he

did. In St. Louis we had a round of gayety.

The great Fair was then at its best, for everyone

was making haste to dispel the gloom that our

terrible war had cast over the land. There was

not a corner of the Fair-ground to which my hus-

band did not penetrate. He took me into all sorts

of places to which our pretty galaxy of belles,

with their new conquests of St. Louis beaux, had

no interest in going — the stalls of the thorough-

bred horses, when a chat with the jockeys was in-

cluded ; the cattle, costing per head what, we

whispered to each other, would set us up in a

handsome income for life and buy a Blue-grass

farm with blooded horses, etc., which was my

husband’s ideal home. And yet I do not remem-

ber that money ever dwelt very long in our minds,

we learned to have such a royal time on so

little.

There was something that always came before

the Kentucky farm with its thoroughbreds. If

ever he said, ” If I get rich, I’ll tell you what I’ll

do,” I knew as well before he spoke just what was

AT THE FAIR-GROUNDS.

;4it

to follow. In all the twelve years he never al-

tered the first plan — ” I’ll buy a home for father

and mother.” They owned their home in Monroe

then, but it was not good enough to please him ;

nothing was good enough for his mother, but

the dear woman, with her simple tastes, would

have felt far from contented in the sort of home

in which her son longed to place her. All she

asked was to gather her boys around her, so that

she could see them every day.

As we wandered round the Fair-grounds, side-

shows with their monstrosities came into the

General’s programme, and the prize pigs were

never neglected. If we bent over the pens to see

the huge things rolling in lazy contentment, my

husband went back to his farm days, and explained

what taught him to like swine, in which, I admit,

I could not be especially interested. His father

had given each son a pig, with the promise exacted

in return that they should be daily washed and

combed. When the General described the pink

and white collection of pets that his father dis-

tributed among his sons, swine were no longer

swine to me, they were “curled darlings,” as he

pictured them. And now I recall, that long after

he showed such true appreciation of his friend’s

stock on one of the Blue-grass farms in Kentucky,

where we visited, two pigs of royal birth.

;42

TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

whose ancestors dated back many generations,

were given to us, and we sent them home to our

farmer brother to keep until we should possess a

place of our own, which was one of the mild

indulgences of our imagination, and which we

hoped would be the diversion of our old age. I

think it rather strange that my husband looked so

fearlessly into the future. I hardly know how

one so active could so calmly contemplate the

days when his steps would be slow. We never

passed on the street an old man with gray curls

lying over his coat-collar, but the General slack-

ened his steps to say in a whisper, ” There, Libbie,

that’s me, forty years from now.” And if there

happened to be John Anderson’s obese old wife

by him toddling painfully along, red and out of

breath, he teasingly added, ” And that’s what you

would like to be.” It was a never-ending source

of argument, that I would be much more success-

ful in the way of looks if I were not so slender ;

and as my husband, even when a lad, liked women

who were slenderly formed, he loved to torment

me, by pointing out to what awful proportions a

woman weighing what was to me a requisite num-

ber of pounds sometimes arrived in old age.

A tournament was given in the great amphi-

theatre of the Fair building in St. Louis, which

was simply delightful to us. The horsemanship

KNIGHT. ERRANTR V.

\43

so pleased my husband that he longed to bound

down into the arena, take a horse, and tilt with

their long lances at the rings. Some of the Con-

federate officers rode for the prizes, and their

knights’ costume and good horses were objects of

momentary envy, as they recalled the riding

academy exercises at West Point. Finally, the

pretty ceremony of crowning the Queen of Love

and Beauty, by the successful knight, ended a real

gala day to us. At night a ball at the hotel gave

us an opportunity to be introduced to the beauti-

ful woman, who sat on a temporary throne in the

dancing-hall, and we thought her well worth tilt-

ing lances for, and that nothing could encourage

good horsemanship like giving as a prize the tem-

porary possession of a pretty girl.

While in St. Louis, we heard Mr. Lawrence

Barrett for the first time. He was of nearly the

same age as my husband, and after three years

soldiering in our war, as a captain in the Twenty-

eighth Massachusetts Infantry, had returned to his

profession, full of ambition and the sort of “go”

that called out instant recognition from the

General.

Mr. Barrett, in recalling lately the first time he

met General Custer, spoke of the embarrassing

predicament in which he was placed by the

impetuous determination of one whom from that

;44

TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

hour he cherished as his warmest friend. He

was playing ” Rosedale,” and my husband was

charmed with his rendering of the hero’s part.

He recalled for years the delicate manner with

which the lover allows his wounded hand to be

bound, and the subtle cunning with which he

keeps the fair minister of his hurts winding and

unwinding the bandages. Then Mr. Barrett sang

a song in the play, which the General hummed

for years afterward. I remember his going pell-

mell into the subject whenever we met, even

when Mr. Barrett was justifiably glowing with

pride over his success in the legitimate drama,

and interrupting him to ask why he no longer

played ” Rosedale.” The invariable answer, that

the play required extreme youth in the hero, had

no sort of power to stop the continued demand

for his favorite melodrama. After we had seen

the play — it was then acted for the first time — the

General begged me to wait in the lobby until he

had sought out Mr. Barrett to thank him, and on

our return from theatre we lay in wait, knowing

that he stopped at our hotel. As he was go-

ing quietly to his room — reserved even then,

boy that he was, with not a trace of the impetuous,

ardent lover he had so lately represented before

the footlights — off raced the General up the stairs,

tw^o steps at a time, to capture him. He de-

RAID ON AN ACTOR.

345

murred, saying his rough traveHng suit of gray

was hardly presentable in a drawing-room, but

the General persisted, saying, ” The old lady told

me I must seize you, and go you must, for I don’t

propose to return without fulfilling her orders.”

Mr. Barrett submitted, and was presented to our

party, who had accompanied us on the special

car to St. Louis. The gray clothes were forgotten

in a moment, in the reception we gave him ; but

music came out from the dinino^-room and all

rose to go, as Mr. Barrett supposed, to our rooms.

The General took a lady on his arm, 1, at my

husband’s suggestion, put my hand on Mr. Bar-

rett’s arm, and before he had realized it, he was

being marched into the brilliantly lighted ball-

room, and bowing from force of capture before

the dais on which sat the Queen of Love and

Beauty.

All this delighted the General. Unconven-

tional himself, he nothing heeded the chagrin of

Mr. Barrett over his inappropriate garb, and

chuckled like a schoolboy over his successful raid.

I think Mr. Barrett was not released until he

pleaded the necessity for time to work. He was

then reading and studying far into the night, to

make up for the lapse in his profession that his

army life had caused. He was not so absorbed

in his literary pursuits, however, that he did not

346 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

take in the charm of those beautiful St. Louis

girls, and we three, in many a jolly evening since,

have gone back to the beauty of the bewitching

belles, as they floated by us in that ballroom or

paused to capture the new Riclmtonds on their

already crowded field. Mr. Barrett even remem-

bers that the Queen of Love and Beauty vouch-

safed him the eighth of a dance, for her royal

highness dispensed favors by piece-meal to the

waiting throng about her throne.

Our roving life brought us in contact with

actors frequently. If the General found that Mr.

Barrett was to play in any accessible city, he

hurried me into my traveling-gown, flung his

own dress-coat and my best bonnet in a crumpled

mass into a little trunk, and off we started in per-

suit. It is hard to speak fittingly of the meeting

of those two men. They joyed in each other as

women do, and I tried not to look when they

met or parted, while they gazed with tears into

each other’s eyes and held hands like exuberant

girls. Each kept track of the other’s movements,

through the papers, and rejoiced at every success,

while Mr. Barrett, with the voice my husband

thought perfect in intonation and expression,

always called to him the moment they met, ” Well,

old fellow, hard at work making history, are you ?”

A few evenings since I chanced to see Mr.

DECLINING ARMOR.

347

Barrett’s dresser, the Irish ” Garry,” who had

charge of his costumes in those days when the

General used to haunt the dressing-room in the

last winter we were together in New York. As

Casshis he entered the room in armor, and found

his ” old man Custer ” waiting for him. Garry

tells me that my husband leaped toward the

mailed and helmeted soldier, and gave him some

rousing bangs on the corsleted chest, for they

sparred like boys. Mr. Barrett, parrying the

thrust, said, ” Custer, old man, you ought to have

one of these suits of armor for your work.” ” Ye

gods, no !” said the General, in mimic alarm ;

” with that glistening breast-plate as a target,

every arrow would be directed at me. I’d rather

go naked than in that !”

Kansas in 1866 and Kansas To-day.

In iSbb there were three hundred miles of railroad ; in 1886, six thousand

one hundred and forty -four.

348

CHAPTER XII.

■GOOD-BY TO CIVILIZATION WESTWARD HO ! THE

PRAIRIE-SCHOONER AS WE FIRST SAW IT A FEW-

COMMENTS ON THE WISDOM OF THE ARMY MULE

THE WAGON-MASTER AND MULE-WHACKER AS

TYPES OF WESTERN ECCENTRICITY CARRYING

SUPPLIES TO DISTANT POSTS FIRST OVERLAND

JOURNEY IN AN ARMY AMBULANCE ARRIVAL AT

FORT RILEY BORDER WARFARE BETWEEN QUAR-

RELSOME DOGS THE HOSPITALITY OF OFFICERS

AND THEIR FAMILIES WELCOMED AND HOUSED

BY ONE OF GENERAL CUSTER’s OLD FRIENDS

CHANGING OF QUARTERS ACCORDING TO ARMY

REGULATIONS PREPARING A NEW-COMER FOR

HIS CALL ON THE COMMANDING OFFICER’S FAMILY

THE NEW ARRIVAL PRESENTS HIMSELF IN VERY

FULL DRESS DIANa’s HORSE TELLS TALES GEN-

ERAL CUSTER TAKES HIS DOGS AND GIVES RUN TO

HIS HORSE OVER THE PLAINS HIS HORSES COM-

MUNE WITH HIM AFTER THEIR DUMB FASHION

THE STRENGTH OF HIS ARM RESERVED FOR

THE COUNTRY SEPARATED FROM THE POST BY

THE PRAIRIE DIVIDES — WE TRADE HORSES

PHIL SHERIDAN TESTED ON A RACE-TRACK

FIGHTING DISSIPATION IN THE SEVENTH

CAVALRY GENERAL CUSTER’s TEMPTATIONS

[^O TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

THE FAMILY TEACH HIM TO APPRECIATE HIS SUN-

BURNED NOSE MEN WHO COMMAND THE ADMI-

RATION OF WOMEN THE INDESTRUCTIBILITY OF

AN ARMY DEMIJOHN.

” I ‘HE junketing and frolic at St. Louis came to

an end in a few days, and our faces were

again turned westward to a life about as different

from the glitter and show of the gay city in a holi-

day week as can be imagined. Leavenworth was

our first halt, and its well-built streets and excellent

stores surprised us. It had long been the outfit-

ting place for our officers. The soldiers drew

supplies from the military post, and the officers

furnished themselves with camp equipage from

the city. Here also they bought condemned

ambulances, and put them in order for traveling-

carriages for their families. I remember getting

a faint glimmer of the climate we were about to

endure, by seeing a wagon floored, and its sides

lined with canvas, which was stuffed to keep out

the cold, while a little sheet-iron stove was firmly

fixed at one end, with a bit of miniature pipe pro-

truding through the roof. The journey from

Fort Leavenworth to Santa Fe, New Mexico, then

took six weeks. Everything was transported in

the great army wagons called prairie-schooners.

These were well named, as the two ends of the

352 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

wagon inclined upward, like the bow and stern of

a fore -and -after. It is hard to realize how

strangely a long train of supplies for one of the

distant posts looked, as it wound slowly over the

plains. The blue wagon-beds, with white canvas

covers rising up ever so high, disclosed, in the

small circle where they were drawn together at the

back, all kinds of material for the clothing and

feeding of the army in the distant Territories.

The number of mules to a wagon varies ; some-

times there are four, and again six. The driver

rides the near-wheel mule. He holds in his hand

a broad piece of leather, an inch and a half in

width, which divides over the shoulders of the

lead or pilot mule, and fastens to the bit on either

side of his mouth. The leaders are widely sepa-

rated. A small hickory stick, about five feet

long, called the jockey-stick, not unlike a rake-

handle, is stretched between a pilot and his mate.

This has a little chain at either end, and is at-

tached by a snap or hook to the bit of the other

leader.

When the driver gives one pull on the heavy

strap, the pilot mule veers to the left, and pulls

his mate. Two quick, sudden jerks mean to the

right, and he responds, and pushes his companion

accordingly ; and in this simple manner the ponder-

ous vehicle and all the six animals are guided. . .

GOVERNMENT MULES.

35;

The most spirited mules are selected from the train

for leaders. They cannot be reached by the whip,

and the driver must rely upon the emphasis he puts

into his voice to incite them to effort. They know

their names, and I have seen them respond to a

call, even when not accompanied by the expletives

that seem to be composed especially for this branch

of charioteering. The driver of our mules natur-

ally suppressed his invectives in my presence. The

most profane soldier holds his tongue m a vise

when he is in the presence of a woman, but he is

sorely put to it, to find a substitute for the only

language he considers a mule will heed. I have

seen our driver shake his head, and move his jaws

in an ominous manner, when the provoking

leaders took a skittish leap on one side of the trail,

or turned round and faced him with a protest

against further progress. They were sometimes

so afraid of buffalo, and always of Indians, they

became rebellious to such a degree he was at his

wits’ end to get any further go out of them. It was

in vain he called out, ” You Bet, there ! ” “What

you about, Sal ? ” He plainly showed and said

that he found “such ere tongue-lashing wouldn’t

work worth a rap with them vicious creeturs.”

The driver, if he is not a stolid Mexican, takes

much pride in his mules. By some unknown

means, poor as he is, he possesses himself of fox

154

TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

or small coyote tails, which he fastens to their

bridle, and the vagaries in the clipping of the

poor beast’s tails would set the fashion to a Paris

hair-dresser. They are shaved a certain distance,

and then a tuft is left, making a bushy ring. This

is done twice, if Bet or Sal is vouchsafed an append-

age long enough to admit of it ; while the tuft on

the end, though of little use to intimidate flies, is

a marvel of mule-dudism. The coats of the beasts,

so valued sometimes, shine like the fine hair of a

good horse. Alas ! not when, in the final stages

of a long march, the jaded, half-starved beasts

dragged themselves over the trail. Driver and

lead mules even, lose ambition under the scorching

sun, and with the insufficient food and long water-

famines.

The old reliability of a mule-team is the off-

wheeler. It is his leathery sides that can be most

readily reached by the whip called a ” black-

snake,” and when the descent is made into a

stream with muddy bed, the cut is given to this

faithful beast, and on his powerful muscles depends

the wrench that jerks the old schooner out of a

slough. The nigh or saddle mule does his part

in such an emergency, but he soon reasons that,

because he carries the driver, not much more is

expected of him.

The General and I took great interest in the

SIGNIFICANT NAMES.

155

names given to the animals that pulled our trav-

eling-wagon or hauled the supplies. As we rode

by, the voice of the driver bringing out the name

he had chosen, and sometimes affectionately, made

us sure that the woman for whom the beast was

christened was the sweetheart of the apparently

prosaic teamster. I was avowedly romantic, and

the General was equally so, though, after the

fashion of men, he did not proclaim it. Our place

at the head of the column was sometimes vacant,

either because we delayed for our luncheon, or

because my husband remained behind to help the

quartermaster or the head teamster get the train

over a stream. It was then that we had the ad-

vantage of hearing the names conferred on the

mules. They took in a wide range of female

nomenclature, and we found it great fun to watch

the family life of one human being and his six

beasts. My husband had the utmost respect for

a mule’s sense. When I looked upon them as

dull, half-alive animals, he bade me watch how

deceitful were appearances, as they showed such

cunning, and evinced the wisdom of a quick-witted

thoroughbred, when apparently they were unob-

serving, sleepy brutes. It was the General who

made me notice the skill and rapidity with which

a group of six mules would straighten out what

seemed to be a hopeless tangle of chains and har-

356 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

ness, into which they had kicked themselves when

there was a disturbance among them. One crack

of the whip from the driver who had tethered

them after a march, accompanied by a plain state-

ment of his opinion of such ” fools,” would send

the whole collection wide apart, and it was but a

twinkling before they extricated themselves from

what 1 thought a hopeless mess. No chains or

straps were broken, and a meek, subdued look

pervading the group, left not a trace of the active

heels that a moment before had filled the air.

“There,” the General used to say, “don’t ever

flatter yourself again that a mule hasn’t sense.

He’s got more wisdom than half the horses in the

line.” It took a good while to convince me, as a

more loggy looking animal can hardly be found

than the army mule, which never in his existence

is expected to go off from a walk, or to vary his

life, from the day he is first harnessed, until he

drops by the way, old or exhausted.

At the time we were first on the Plains, many

of the teamsters were Mexicans, short, swarthy,

dull, and hardly a grade above the animal. The

only ambition of these creatures seemed to be to

vie with one another as to who could snap the

huge ” black-snake ” the loudest. They learned

to whisk the thong at the end around the ears of

a shirking off leader, and crack the lash with such

THE PRAIRIE-SCHOONER SUPPLANTED.

357

an explosive sound that I never got over jumping

in my whole Plains life. I am sorry to say my

high-strung horse usually responded with a spring

that sent me into thin air anywhere between his

ears and his tail, with a good deal of uncertainty

as to where I should alight. I suspect it was an

innocent little amusement of the drivers, when

occasionally we remained behind at nooning, and

had to ride swiftly by the long train to reach the

head of the column.

The prairie-schooner disappeared with the ad-

vancing railroad ; but I am glad to see that

General Meigs has perpetuated its memory, by

causing this old means of transportation to be

made one of the designs in the beautiful frieze

carved around the outside of the Pension Office

at Washington. Ungainly and cumbersome as

these wagons were, they merit some such monu-

ment, as part of the history of the early days of

frontier life in our country. We were in the

West several years before the railroad was com-

pleted to Denver, and the overland trains became

an every-day sight to us. Citizens used oxen a

great deal for transportation, and there is no

picture that represents the weariness and laggard

progress of life like an ox-train bound for Santa

Fe or Denver. The prairie-schooner might set

out freshly painted, or perhaps washed in a creek,

358 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

but it soon became gray with layer upon layer of

alkali dust. The oxen — well, nothing save a snail

can move more slowly — and the exhaustion of

these beasts, after weeks of uninterrupted travel,

was pitiful. Imagine, also, the unending vigil when

the trains were insecurely guarded ; for in those

days there was an immense unprotected frontier,

and seemingly only a handful of cavalry. The

regiments looked well on the roster, but there

were in reality but few men. A regiment should

number twelve hundred enlisted men ; but at no

time, unless during the war, does the recruiting

officer attempt to fill it to the maximum ; seventy

men to a company is a large number. The de-

sertions during the first years of the reorganiza-

tion of the army after the war thinned the ranks

constantly. Recruits could not be sent out fast

enough to fill up the companies. The conse-

quence was, that all those many hundred miles of

trail where the Government undertook to protect

citizens who carried supplies to settlements and

the mines, as well as its own trains of material for

building new posts, and commissary and quarter-

master’s stores for troops, were terribly exposed

and very poorly protected.

” The Indians were, unfortunately, located on the

great highway of Western travel; and commerce,

not less than emigration, demanded their removal.”

0 VERLAMD TRANS FOR TA TION:

159

There are many conflicting opinions as to the

course pursued to clear the way ; but I only wish

to speak now of the impression the trains made

upon me, as we constantly saw the long, dusty,

exhausted-looking column wending its serpentine

way over the sun-baked earth. A group of cav-

alry, with their drooping horses, rode in front and

at the rear. The wagon-master was usually the

very quintessence of valor. It is true he formed

such a habit of shooting that he grew mdiscrimi-

nate, and should any of the lawless desperadoes

whom he hired as teamsters or trainmen ruffle his

blood, kept up to boiling-heat by suspense, physi-

cal exposure, and exasperating employees, he

knew no way of settling troubles except the

effectual quietus that a bullet secures. I well

remember my husband and Tom, who dearly

loved to raise my indignation, and create signs of

horror and detestation at their tales, walking

me down to the Government train to see a wagon-

master who had shot five men. He had emi-

grated from the spot where he bade fair to establish

a private cemetery with his victims. No one

needed a reason for his sudden appearance after

the number of his slain was known. And yet no

questions were put as to his past. He made a

capital wagon-master ; he was obedient to his

superiors, faithful, and on time every morning,

360 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

and the prestige of his past record answered so

well with the citizen employees, that his pistol

remained unused in the holster.

It seemed to be expected that the train-master

would be a villain. Whatever was their record as

to the manner of arranging private disputes, a

braver class of men never followed a trail, and

some of them were far superior to their chance

lot. Their tender care of women who crossed in

these slow-moving ox-trains, to join their hus-

bands, ought to be commemorated. I have some-

where read one of the’ir remarks when a girl, going

to her mother, had been secreted in a private

wagon and there was no knowledge of her pres-

ence until the Indians were discovered to be near.

” Tain’t no time to be teamin’ women folks over

the trail, with sech a fearsom sperit for Injuns as I

be.” He, like some of the bravest men I have

known, spoke of himself as timid, while he knew

no fear. It certainly unnerved the most valiant

man when Indians were lurking near, to realize

the fate that hung over women entrusted to their

care. In a later portion of my story occurs an

instance of an officer hiding the woman whose

husband had asked him to take her into the States,

even before firing a shot at the adversary, as he

knew with what redoubled ferocity the savage

would fight, at sight of the white face of a

GRA VES B y THE WA Y-SIDE. 36 1

woman. It makes the heart beat, even to look at

a picture of the old mode of traversing- the high-

way of Western travel. The sight of the pictured

train, seemingly so peacefully lumbering on its

sleepy way, the scarcely revolving wheels, creak-

ing out a protest against even that effort, recalls

the agony, the suspense, the horror, with which

every inch of that long route has been made. The

heaps of stones by the way-side, or the buffalo

bones, collected to mark the spot where some man

fell from an Indian arrow, are now disappearing.

The hurricanes beating upon the hastily prepared

memorials have scattered the bleached bones of

the bison, and rolled into the tufted grass the few

stones with which the train-men, at risk of their

own lives, have delayed long enough to mark their

comrade’s grave.

The faded photographs or the old prints of those

overland trains speak to me but one story. In-

stantly I recall the hourly vigilance, the restless

eyes scanning the horizon, the breathless suspense,

when the pioneers or soldiers knew from unmis-

takable signs that the Indian was lying in wait.

In what contrast to the dull, logy, scarcely moving

oxen were these keen-eyed heroes, with every

nerve strained, every sense on the alert. And

how they were maddened by the fate that con-

signed them, at such moments, to the mercy of

J

62 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

” dull, driven cattle.” When I have seen officers

and soldiers lay their hands lovingly on the neck

of their favorite horse, and perhaps, when no one

was near to scoff at sentiment, say to me, ” He

saved my life,” I knew well what a man felt when

his horse took fire at knowledge of danger to his

rider and sped on the wings of the wind, till he was

lost to his pursuers, a tiny black speck on the hori-

zon. The pathos of a soldier’s parting with his

horse moved us to quick sympathy. It often hap-

pens that a trooper retains the same animal through

his entire enlistment, and it comes to be his most

intimate friend. There is nothing he will not do

to provide him with food ; if the forage runs low

or the grazing is insufficient, stealing for his horse

is reckoned a virtue among soldiers. Imagine,

then, the anxiety, the real suffering, with which a

soldier watches his faithful beast growing weaker

day by day, from exhaustion or partial starvation.

He walks beside him to spare his strength, and

finally, when it is no longer possible to keep up

with the column, and the soldier knows how fatal

the least delay may be in an Indian country, it is

more pitiful than almost any sight I recall, the

sadness of his departure from the skeleton, whose

eyes follow his master in wondering affection,

as he walks away with the saddle and accou-

trements. It is the most merciful farewell if a

A DISMOUNTED CAVALRYMAN. 363

bullet is lodged in the brain of the famished or

exhausted beast, but some one else than his sor-

rowing master has to do the trying deed.

This is not the last act in the harrowing scene.

The soldier overtakes the column, loaded down

with his saddle, if the train is too far away to de-

posit it in the company wagon. Then begms a

tirade of annoying comments to this man, still

grieving over the parting with his best friend.

No one can conceive what sarcasm and wit can

proceed from a column of cavalry. Many of the

men are Irish, and their reputation for humor is

world-wide. “Hullo, there! joined the doe-boys,

eh?” “How do you like hoofing it?” are tame

specimens of the remarks from these tormenting

tongues ; such a fusillade of sneers is followed

not long after by perhaps the one most gibing of

all flinging himself off from his horse, and giving

his mount to the one he has done his best to stir

into wrath. A cavalry man hates, beyond any

telling, enforced pedestrianism, and ” Share and

share alike ” is a motto that our Western soldiers

keep in use.

If the wagons held merchandise only, by which

the pioneer hoped to grow rich, the risk and sus-

pense attending these endless marches were not

worth commemorating ; but the bulk of the freight

was the actual necessities of life. Conceive, if

364 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

you can, how these brave men felt themselves

chained, as they drove or guarded the food for

those living- far in advance. There were not

enough to admit of a charge on the enemy, and

the defensive is an exasperating position for a

soldier or frontiersman. He long^s to advance on

the foe ; but no such privilege was allowed them,

for in these toilsome journeys they had often to

use precautions to hide themselves. If Indians

were discovered to be roaming near, the camp

was established, trains coralled, animals secured

inside a temporary stockade ; the fires for coffee

were forbidden, for smoke rises like a funnel, and

hangs out an instant signal in that clear air. Even

the consoling pipe was smoked under a sage-bush

or in a hollow, if there happened to be a depres-

sion of the ground. Few words were spoken, the

loud oaths sunk into low mutterings, and the bray

of a hungry mule, the clank of wagon-chains, or

the stamping of cattle on the baked earth,

sounded like thunder in the ears of the anxious,

expectant men.

Fortunately, our journey in these trains was not

at once forced upon us at Leavenworth. The

Kansas Pacific Railroad, projected to Denver, was

built within ten miles of Fort Riley, and it was to

be the future duty of the Seventh Cavalry, to guard

the engineers in building the remainder of the

A FRONTIER OUTFIT. 365

road out to the Rocky Mountains. It did not take

us long to purchase an outfit in the shops, for as

usual our finances were low, and consequently

our wants were curtailed. We had the sense to

listen to a hint from some practical officer who

had been far beyond railroads, and buy a cook-

stove the first thing, and this proved to be the

most important of our possessions when we

reached our post, so far from the land of shops.

Not many hours after we left Leavenworth, the

settlements became farther and farther apart, and

we began to realize that we were actual pioneers !

Kansas City was then but a small town, seemingly

with a hopeless future, as the bluffs rose so steeply

from the river, and even when the summit was

reached, the ups and downs of the streets were

discouraging. It seemed, then, as if it would never

be worth while to use it as a site for a town ; there

would be a life-time of grading. It is very easy

to become a city forefather in such a town, for in

the twenty-one years since then, it has grown into

a city of over 132,000 inhabitants — but they are

still grading. The lots which we could have had

almost for the asking, sell now for $1,000 a front

foot. Topeka, the capital, showed no evidence

of its importance, except the little circle of stars

that surrounded it on our atlas. There were but

three towns beyond Fort Riley then, and those

366 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

were built, if I may so express it, of canvas and

dug-outs.

Our railroad journey came to an end about ten

miles from Fort Riley. The laborers were laying

track from that point. It had been a sort of gala

day, for General Sherman, on one of his tours of

inspection of the frontier posts, had been asked

by railroad officials to drive the final spike of the

division of the road then finished. We found a

wagon waiting for our luggage, and an ambulance

to carry us the rest of the journey. These

vehicles are not uncomfortable, when the long

seats on either side are so arranged that they

make a bed for the ill or wounded by spreading

them out, but as traveling conveyances I could

not call them a success. The seats are narrow,

with no back to speak of, and covered with car-

riage-cloth, which can keep you occupied, if the

country is rough, in regaining the slippery surface

for any number of miles at a stretch. Fort Riley

came in sight when we were pretty well tired out.

It was m*y first view of a frontier post. I had

either been afraid to confess my ignorance, or so

assured there was but one variety of fort, and the

subject needed no investigation, that Fort Riley

came upon me as a great surprise. I supposed, of

course, it would be exactly like Fortress Monroe,

with stone walls, turrets for the sentinels, and a

THE ROLLING PLAINS. 367

deep moat. As I had heard more and more about

Indians since reaching Kansas, a vision of the en-

closure where we would eventually live was a

great comfort to me. I could scarcely believe

that the buildings, a story and a half high, placed

around a parade ground, were all there was of

Fort Riley. The sutler’s store, the quartermaster

and commissary storehouses, and the stables for

the cavalry horses, were outside the square, near

the post, and that was all. No trees, and hardly

any signs of vegetation except the buffalo-grass

that curled its sweet blades close to the ground,

as if to protect the nourishment it held from the

blazing sun. The post was beautifully situated

on a wide plateau, at the junction of the Republi-

can and Smoky Hill rivers. The Plains, as they

waved away on all sides of us like the surface of

a vast ocean, had the charm of great novelty, and

the absence of trees was at first forgotten, in the

fascination of seeing such an immense stretch of

country, with the soft undulations of green turf

rolling on, seemingly, to the setting sun. The eye

was relieved by the fringe of cotton-wood that

bordered the rivers below us.

Though we came afterward to know, on toil-

some marches under the sweltering sun, when

that orb was sometimes not even hidden for one

moment in the day by a grateful cloud, but the

•;68 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

sky was spread over as a vast canopy of dazzling

blue, that enthusiasm would not outlast such trials;

still, a rarely exultant feeling takes possession of

one in the gallops over the Plains, when in early

spring they are a trackless sea of soft verdure.

And the enthusiasm returns when the campaign

for the summer is over, and riding is taken up for

pleasure. My husband was full of delight over

the exquisite haze that covered the land with

a faint purple light, and exclaimed, ” Now I

begin to realize what all that transparent veil of

faint color means in Bierstadt’s paintings of the

Rocky Mountains and the West.” But we had

little time to take in atmospheric effects, as even-

ing was coming on and we were yet to be housed,

while servants, horses, dogs and all of us were

hungry, after our long drive. The General halted

the wagon outside the post, and left us, to go and

report to the commanding officer.

At that time I knew nothing of the hospitality

of a frontier post, and I begged to remain in the

wagon until our quarters were assigned us in the

garrison. Up to this time we had all been m

splendid spirits ; the novelty, the lovely day and

exhilarating air, and all the possibilities of a future

with a house of our own, or, rather, one lent to

us by Uncle Sam, seemed to fill up a delightful

cup to the brim. We sat outside the post so long —

TIRED PIONEERS.

;69

at least it seemed so to us — and grew hungrier and

thirstier, that there were evident signs of mutiny.

The truth is, whenever the General was with us,

with his determination of thniking that nothing

could exceed his surroundings, it was almost im-

possible to look upon anything except in the light

that he did. He gave color to everything, with

his hopeful views. Eliza sat on the seat with the

driver, and both muttered occasional hungry

words, but our Diana and I had the worst of it. We

had bumped over the country, sometimes violently

jammed against the framework of the canvas

cover, and most of the time slidmg off from the

slippery cushions upon the insulted dogs — for of

course the General had begged a place for two of

them. He had kept them in order all the way

from the termination of the railroad ; but now that

he was absent, Turk and Byron renewed hostilities,

and in the narrow space they scrambled and

snarled and sprang at each other. When the

General came back, he found the little hands of

our curly-headed girl clenched over the collar of

Byron at one end of the ambulance, while Turk

sat on my lap, swelling with rage because my

fingers were twisted in the chain that held him, as

I sat at the door shaking with terror. It was

quick work to jerk the burly brute out of the door,

and end our troubles for the time ; but the General,

370

TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

after quieting our panic, threw us into a new one

by saying we must make up our minds to be the

guests of the commanding officer. Tired, travel-

stamed, and unaccustomed to what afterward be-

came comparatively easy, we were driven to one

of the quarters and made our entrance among

strangers. I then reahzed, for the first time, that

we had reached a spot where the comforts of hfe

could not be had for love or money.

It is a strange sensation to arrive at a place

where money is of little use in providing shelter,

and here we were beyond even the commonest

railroad hotel. Mrs. Gibbs, who received us, was

put to a severe test that night. Already a room

in her small house had been prepared for General

Sherman, who had arrived earlier in the day, and

now there were five of us bearing down upon her.

I told her how I had begged to be allowed to go

into quarters, even though there were no prepara-

tions, not even a fire-place where Eliza could have

cooked us food enough over the coals to stay

hunger ; but she assured me that, having been on

the Plains before the war, she was quite accus-

tomed to a state of affairs where there was nothing

to do but quarter yourself upon strangers ; and

then gave up her own room to our use. From

that night — which was a real trial to me, because I

felt so keenly the trouble we caused them all —

GENUINE HOSPITALITY. 37I

dates the beginning of a friendship that has lasted

through the darkest as well as the brightest hours

of my life. I used to try to remember after-

ward, when for nine years we received and enter-

tained strangers who had nowhere else to go, the

example of undisturbed hospitality shown me by

my first friend on the frontier.

The next day my husband assumed command

of the garrison, and our few effects were moved

into a large double house built for the command-

ing officer. There were parlors on one side, whose

huge folding doors were flung open, and made our

few articles of furniture look lonely and meagre.

We had but six wooden chairs to begin with, and

when, a few miles more of the railroad being com-

pleted, a party of one hundred and fifty excur-

sionists arrived, I seated six of them — yes, seven,

for one was tired enough to sit on a trunk — and

then concluded I would own up that in the larger

rooms of the house, into which they looked sig-

nificantly, there were no more chairs concealed.

I had done my best, and tried to make up for not

seating or feeding them by very busy talking.

Meanwhile there were incessant inquiries for the

General. It seems that he had begun that little

trick of hiding from strangers, even then. He

had seen the advancing column of tourists, and

fled. One of the servants finally unearthed him,

72

TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

and after they had gone and he found that I had

been so troubled to think I could do nothing for

the citizens, and so worried because he was 71011

est, he did not leave me in such strait again until

I had learned to adapt myself to the customs of

the country where the maxim that “every man’s

house is his castle ” is a fallacy.

.The officers who had garrisoned the post began

to move out as our own Seventh Cavalry officers

reported for duty. The colonel of the regiment

arrived, and ranked us out of our quarters, in this

instance much to our relief, as the barrack of a

building would never fill up from the slow rate at

which our belongings increased. This army regu-

lation, to which I have elsewhere referred, was

then new to me. The manner in which the Gov-

ernment sees fit to arrange quarters is still amusing

to me, but I suppose no better plan has ever been

thought out. In the beginning of a well-built

post, there is but little choice. It is the aim to

make the houses, except that of the commanding

officer, exactly alike. From time to time new

quarters are built. The original plan is not fol-

low^ed; possibly a few improvements are added to

the newer houses. Ah ! then the disturbance en-

sues ! Fort Vancouver, in Washington Territory,

is one of the old posts, quite interesting from the

heterogeneous collection of quarters added

” RANKING out:’

through fifty years. I was spending a day or two,

in 1875, with my husband’s niece, whose husband

was some distance down on the Ust, and conse-

quently occupied a low log building, that dated

back no one knows how far. Even in that little

cabin they were insecure, for in reply to my ques-

tion, ” Surely you are permanently fixed, and won’t

be moved,” they pathetically answered: ” Not by

any means ! We live from hour to hour in uncer-

tainty, and there are worse quarters than these,

which we walk by daily with dread, as

ranks us, and he is going to be married, so out

we go ! “

Assigning quarters according to rank goes on

smoothly for a time, but occasionally an officer re-

ports for duty who ranks everyone. Not long

ago this happened at a distant post, and the whole

line went down like a row of bricks, as eight

officers’ families were ousted by his arrival, the

lowest in rank having to move out one of the non-

commissioned officers who had lived in a little

cabin with two rooms. If possible, in choosing a

time to visit our frontier posts, let this climax of

affairs be avoided. Where there is little to vary

life the monotony is apt to be deeply stirred by

private rages, which would blow away in smoke if

there was anything else to think of. It is rather

harrowing to know that some one has an eye on

74

TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

the home you have furnished with your own

means. I could hardly blame a man I knew, who,

in an outburst of wrath concerning- an officer who

had at last uprooted him, secretly rejoiced that a

small room that had been the object of envy,

having been built at the impoverished post of

refuse lumber from the stables, was unendurable

on a warm day; and the new possessor was left to

find it out when he had settled himself in the

coveted house.

After our quarters were chosen by the Colonel,

we took another house, of moderate size, bought

a few pieces of furniture of an officer leaving the

post, and began to live our first home-like life.

The arrival of the new officers was for a time our

only excitement. Most of them had been in the

volunteer service, and knew nothing of the regular

army. There was no one to play practical jokes

on the first comers ; but they had made some

ridiculous errors in dress and deportment, when

reporting at first, and they longed to take out

their mortification at these harmless mistakes, by

laying pit-falls for the verdant ones who were

constantly arriving. The discipline of the regular

army, and the punctilious observance compelling

the wearing of the uniform, was something totally

new to men who had known little of parades in

their fighting days in the tented field. If it was

376 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

possible to intimidate a new officer by tales of the

strictness of the commanding officer regarding the

personal appearance of his regiment, they did

so. One by one, those who had preceded the last

comer called in to pay their compliments ; but by

previous agreement they one and all dwelt upon

the necessity of his making a careful toilet before

he approached the august presence of the Lieuten-

ant-colonel. Then one or two offered carelessly

to help him get himself up for the occasion. Our

brother Tom had arrived by this time, but there

was nothing to be made out of him, for he had

served a few months with a regular regiment be-

fore being transferred to ours. He was therefore

sent one day to prepare me for the call of an officer

who had been assisted into his new uniform by

the mischievous knot of men who had been longest

with us. If I had known to what test I was to be

put to keep my face straight, or had dreamed

what a gullible creature had come into their ro-

guish hands, I would not have consented to re-

ceive him. But it was one of the imperative rules

that each officer, after reporting for duty, must

pay a formal visit to the commanding officer and

his family. I went into the parlor to find a large

and at that time awkward man. in full uniform,

which was undeniably a tight fit for his rather

portly figure. He wore cavalry boots, the first

^.V ELABORA TE TOIL ET -^-jj

singularity I noticed, for they had such expanse of

top I could not help seeing them. They are of

course out of order with a dress coat. The red

sash, which was then en regie for all officers, was

spread from up under his arms to as far below the

waist line as its elastic silk could be stretched.

The sword-belt, with sabre attached, surrounded

this : and, folded over the wide red front, were

his large hands, encased in white cotton gloves.

He never moved them ; nor did he move an eye-

lash, so far as I could discover, though it seems he

was full of internal tremors, for the officers had told

him on no account to remove his regulation hat.

At this he demurred, and told them I would surely

think he was no gentleman ; but they assured him

I placed military etiquette far above any ordinary

rule for manners in the presence of ladies, while

the truth was I was rather indififerent as to militarv

rules of dress. As this poor man sat there, I could

think of nothing but a child who is so carefully

dressed in new furbelows that it sits as if it were

carved out of wood, for fear of disarrano^inor the

finished toilet. Diana made almost an instant

excuse to leave the room. The General’s mus-

tache quivered, and he moved restlessly around,

even coming again to shake hands with the autom-

aton and bid him welcome to the regiment ; but

finally he dashed out of the door to enjoy the out-

378 TENTIXG ON THE PLAINS.

burst of mirth that he could no longer control. I

was thus left to meet the situation as best I could,

but was not as fortunate as the General, who had

a friendly mustache to curtain the quiver in his

mouth. The poor victim apparently recalled to

himself the martial attitude of Washington cross-

ing the Delaware, or Napoleon at Waterloo, and

did not alter the first position he had assumed. In

trying to prevent him from seeing my confusion,

I redoubled my efforts to entertain him, and suc-

ceeded only too well, for when he slowly moved

out of the door I found myself tired out, and full

of wrath toward my returning family. I never

could remember that these little spurts of rage

were the primest fun for my people. The poor

officer who had been so guyed did not gratify his

tormentors by getting angry, but fell to planning

new mischief for the next arrival. He lost no

time in begging my pardon for the hat, and

though I never saw much of him afterward, he

left only pleasant impressions on my mind of a

kind-hearted man, and one of those rare beings

who knew how to take a joke.

We derived great pleasure from our horses and

dogs during the autumn. A very pretty sorrel

horse was selected for Diana, but we had little

opportunity to have her for a companion. The

young officers engaged her a week in advan.ce,

A SNUGGLING HORSE. -> yg

and about all we saw of her riding was an ava-

lanche of flying- curls as she galloped off beside

some dashing- cavalier. I remember once, when

she was engaged otherwise, and my horse tempo-

rarily disabled, I took hers, and my husband kept

begging me to guide the animal better, for it was

nettling his fiery beast by insisting upon too close

proximity. It finally dawned upon us that the

little horse was a constitutional snuggler, and we

gave up trying to teach him new tricks. But how

the General shouted, and bent himself forward

and back in his saddle, after the horse had almost

crushed his leg and nothing would keep him at a

distance. He could hardly wait to get back to

garrison, and when we did, he walked into the

midst of a collection of the beaux and told the

whole story of how dreadfully demoralized a

cavalry horse in good and regular standing could

become, in the hands of a belle. The girl blushed,

and the officers joined in the laughter, and yet

every one of them had doubtless been busy in

teaching that little tell-tale animal this new de-

velopment of character.

It was delightful ground to ride over about Fort

Riley. Ah ! what happy days they were, for at

that time I had not the slightest realization of what

Indian warfare was, and consequently no dread.

We knew that the country they infested was many

380 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

miles away, and we could ride in any direction we

chose. The dogs would be aroused from the

deepest sleep at the very sight of our riding cos-

tumes, and by the time we were well into them

and whip in hand, they leaped and sprang about

the room, tore out on the gallery, and tumbled

over one another and the furniture in racing back,,

and such a din of barking and joyful whining as

they set up — the noisier the better for my husband.

He snapped his English whip to incite them, and

bounded around crying out, “Whoop ’em up!

whoop ’em up !” adding to the melee by a toot

on the dog-horn he had brought from the Texas

deer-hunts. All this excited the horses, and when

I was tossed into the saddle amidst this turmoiU

with the dogs leaping around the horses’ heads, I

hardly knew whether I was myself or the ven-

turesome young woman who spends her life in

taking airy flights through paper-covered circles

in a saw-dust ring. It took some years for me to

accustom myself to the wild din and hubbub of

our starting for a ride or a hunt. As I have said

before, I had lived quietly at home, and my dec-

orous, suppressed father and mother never even

spoke above a certain tone. The General’s father,

on the contrary, had rallied his sons with a hallo

and resounding shouts from their boyhood. So

the huUaballoo of all our merry startings was a

A SPRINGY TURF.

thing of my husband’s early days, and added zest

to every sport he undertook.

Coming from Michigan, where there is a Uberal

dispensation of swamp and quagmire, having been

taught by dear experience that Virginia had

quicksands and sloughs into which one could dis^

appear with great rapidity, and finally having

experienced Texas with its bayous, baked with a

deceiving crust of mud, and its rivers with quick-

sand beds, very naturally I guided my horse

around any lands that had even a depression.

Indeed, he spoke volumes with his sensitive ears,

as the turf darkened in hollows, and was ready

enough to be guided by the rein on his satin-like

neck, to the safer ground. It was a long time

before I realized that all the Plains were safe. We

chose no path, and stopped at no suspicion of a

slough. Without a check on the rein, we flew

over divide after divide, and it is beyond my pen

to describe the wild sense of freedom that takes

possession of one in the first buoyant knowledge

that no impediment, seemingly, Hes between you

and the setting sun. After one has ridden over

conventional highways, the beaten path marked

out by fences, hedges, bridges, etc., it is simply an

impossibility to describe how the blood bounds in

the veins at the freedom of an illimitable sea.

No spongy, uncertain ground checks the course

382 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

over the Plains ; it is seldom even damp, and the

air is so exhilarating one feels as if he had never

breathed a full breath before. Almost the first

words General Sherman said to me out there

were, ” Child, you’ll find the air of the Plains is

like champagne,” and so it surely was. Oh, the

joy of taking in air without a taint of the city, or

even the country, as we know it in farm life ! As

we rode on, speaking enthusiastically of the fra-

grance and purity of the atmosphere, our horses

neighed and whinnied to each other, and snuffed

the air, as if approving all that was said of that

” land of the free.’^ My husband could hardly

breathe, from the very ecstasy of realizing that

nothing trammeled him. He scarcely left the

garrison behind him, where he was bound by

chains of form and ceremony — the inevitable lot

of an officer, where all his acts are under surveil-

lance, where he is obliged to know that every

hour in the day he is setting an example — be-

fore he became the wildest and most frolicsome

of light-hearted boys. His horse and he were one,

not only as he sat in the saddle a part of the ani-

mal, swayed by every motion of the active,

graceful beast, but such unison of spirit took

possession of each, it was hard to believe that a

human heart did not beat under the broad,

splendid chest of the high-strung animal.

A FEARLESS HORSEMAN. ■;^St,

It were well if human hearts responded to our

fondness, and came instantly to be en rapport

with us, as did those dear animals when they flew

with us out to freedom and frolic, over the di-

vides that screened us from the conventional

proprieties. My husband’s horse had almost

human ways of talking with him, as he leaned far

out of the saddle and laid his face on the gallant

animal’s head, and there was a gleam in the eye,

a proud little toss of the head, speaking back a

whole world of affection. The General could ride

hanging quite out of sight from the opposite side,

one foot caught in the stirrup, his hand on the

mane ; and it made no difference to his beloved

friend, he took any mode that his master chose to

cling to him as a matter of course, and curvetted

and pranced in the loftiest, proudest way. His

manner said as plainly as speech, ” See what we

two can do ! ” I rarely knew him have a horse

that did not soon become so pervaded with his

spirit that they appeared to be absolutely one in

feeling. I was obliged, usually, to submit to some

bantering slur on my splendid Custis Lee. Per-

haps a dash at first would carry the General and

the dogs somewhat in advance. My side had a

trick of aching if we started off on a gallop, and I

was obliged to keep a tight rein on Custis Lee at

first, as he champed at the bit, tossed his impa-

384 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

tient head, and showed every sign of ignominious

shame. The General, as usual, called out, ” Come

on, old lady ! Chug up that old plug of yours ;

I’ve got one orderly ; don’t want another ” — this

because the soldier in attendance is instructed to

ride at a certain distance in the rear. After a

spurt of tremendous speed, back flew the master

to beg me to excuse him ; he was ready now to

ride slowly till “that side of mine came round to

time,” w^hich it quickly did, and then I revenged

the insult on my swift Lee, and the maligner at

last called out, ” That’s not so bad a nag, after all.”

The horses bounded from the springy turf as if

they really hated the necessity of touching the

sod at all. They were very well matched in

speed, and as on we flew w^e were ” neck by neck,

stride by stride, never changing our place.” Breath-

less at last, horses, dogs and ourselves made a

halt. The orderly wath his slow troop horse was

a speck in the distance. Of course I had gone to

pieces little by little, between the mad speed and

rushing through the wind of the Plains. Those

were ignominious days for women — thank fortune

they are over! Custom made it necessary to dis-

figure ourselves with the awkward water-fall, and,

no matter how luxuriant the hair, it seemed a

necessity to still pile up more. With many a

wrathful opinion regarding the fashion, the General

HORSES AS COMPANIONS. 385

took the hairpins, net and switch, and thrust them

into the breast of his coat, as he said, ” to clear the

decks for action for another race.” It was enough

that he offered to carry these barbarities of civiUza-

tion for me, without my bantering him about his

ridiculousness if some accidental opening of his

coat in the presence of the officers, who were then

strangers, revealed what he scoffingly called ” dead

women’s hair.”

A fresh repinning, an ignoring of hairpins this

time,regirting of saddles, some proud patting of the

horses’ quivering flanks, passing of the hand over

the full veins of their necks, praise of the beautiful

distended, blood-red nostrils, and up we leap for

another race. If spur or whip had been used in

speeding our horses, it would have spoiled the

sport for me, as the effort and strain looks so

cruelly like work ; but the animals were as im-

patient for a run as w^e were to start them. It

must be a rare moment of pleasure to all horse-

lovers, to watch an animal flying over the ground,

without an incentive save the love of motion born

in the beast. When we came to certain smooth

stretches on the road, where we were accustomed

to give the horse the rein, they grew excited and

impatient, and teased for the run if we chanced

to be earnestly talking and forgot to take it. How

fortunate is one who can ride a mythological

386 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

Pegasus as well as a veritable horse ! There is

nothing left for the less gifted but to use others’

words for our own enthusiasm.

“Now we’re off, like the winds, to the plains whence they came;

And the rapture of motion is thrilling my frame !

On, on, speeds my courser, scarce printing the sod,

Scarce crushing a daisy to mark where we trod;

On, on, like a deer when the hounds’ early bay

Awakes the wild echoes, away and away!

Still faster, still farther, he leaps at my cheer.

Till the rush of the startled air whirs in my ear!”

Buchanan Read not only made General Sheri-

dan’s splendid black horse immortal, but his grate-

ful owner kept that faithful beast, when it was

disabled, in a paddock at Leavenworth, and then,

when age and old wounds ended his life, he per-

petuated his memory by having the taxidermist

set him up in the Military Museum at Governor’s

Island, that the boys of this day, to whom the war

is only history, may remember what a splendid

part a horse took in those days, when soldiers

were not the only heroes. I thank a poet for

having written thus for us to whom the horse is

almost human.

” I tell thee, stranger, that unto me

The plunge of a fiery steed

Is a noble thought— to the brave and free

It is music, and breath, and majesty —

‘Tis the life of a noble deed;

And the heart and the mind are in spirit allied

In the charm of a morning’s glorious ride.”

A SUSPENDED EQUESTRIENNE.

387

388 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

There was a long, smooth stretch of land be-

yond Fort Riley, where we used to speed our

horses, and it even now seems one of the fair spots

of earth, it is so marked by happy hours. In real-

ity it was a level plain without a tree, and the

dried buffalo-grass had then scarcely a tinge of

green. This neutral-tinted, monotonous surface

continued for many unvarying miles. We could

do as we chose after we had passed out of sight of

the garrison, and our orderly, if he happened to

have a decent horse, kept drawing the muscles of

his face into a soldierly expression, trying not to be

so undignified as to laugh at the gamesomeness,

the frolic, of his commanding officer. What a re-

lief for the poor fellow, in his uneventful life, to

get a look at these pranks ! I can see him now,

trymg to keep his head away and look unconscious,

but his eyes turned in their sockets in spite of him

and caught it all. Those eyes were wild with

terror one day, when our horses were going full

tilt, and the General with one powerful arm, lifted

me out of my saddle and held me poised in the

air for a moment. Our horses were so evenly

matched in speed they were neck and neck, keep-

ing close to each other, seemingly regardless of

anything except the delight at the speed with

which they left the country behind them. In the

brief moment that I found myself suspended be-

A SUDDEN ELEVATION. 389

tween heaven and earth, I thought, with Ughtning

rapidity, that I must chng to my bridle and keep

control of my flying horse, and trust to good for-

tune whether I alighted on his ear or his tail.

The moment I was thus held aloft was an hour in

uncertainty, but nothing happened, and it taught

me to prepare for sudden raids of the commanding

officer after that. I read of this feat in some novel,

but was incredulous until it was successfully prac-

ticed on me. The Custer men were given to what

their Maryland father called ” toting ” us around.

I’ve seen them pick up their mother and carry her

over the house as if she weighed fifty instead of one

hundred and fifty pounds. There was no chance

for dignified anger with them. No matter how

indignant I might be, or how loftily I might

answer back, or try one of those eloquent silences

to which we women sometimes resort in moments

of wrath, I was snatched up by either my husband

or Tom, and had a chance to commune wath the

ceiling in my airy flight up and down stairs and

through the rooms.

One of our rides marked a day with me, for it

was the occasion of a very successful exchange of

horses. My husband used laughingly to refer to

the transaction as unfortunate for him ; but as it

was at his suggestion, I clung with pertinacity to

the bargain. My horse, Custis Lee, being a pacer.

390 TEX TING ON THE PLAINS.

my husband felt in the fascination of that smooth,

swift gait I might be so wedded to it I could never

endure anything else ; so he suggested, while we

were far out on our evening ride, that we change

saddles and try each other’s horse. I objected, for

though I could ride a spirited horse when I had

come to know him, I dreaded the early stages of

acquaintance. Besides, Phil was a high-strung

colt, and it was a venturesome experiment to try

him with a long riding-skirt, loaded with shot,

knocking about his legs. At that time the safe

fashion of short habits was not in vogue, and the

high winds of Kansas left no alternative to load-

ing our skirts. We kept opening the hem and in-

serting the little shot-bags as long as we lived

there. Fortunately for me, I was persuaded into

trying the colt. As soon as he broke into a long

swinging trot, I was so enchanted and so hilarious

with the motion, that I mentally resolved never to

yield the honor temporarily conferred upon me.

It was the beginning of an eternal vigilance for my

husband. The animal was so high-strung, so

quick, notwithstanding he was so large, that he

sprang from one side of the road to the other on

all fours, without the slightest warning. After I

had checked him and recovered my breath, we

looked about for a cause for this fright, and found

only the dark earth where slight moisture had re-

“FHW CHANGES HANDS.

;9i

mained from a shower. In order to get the

smoothest trotting- out of him, I rode with a

snaffle, and I never knew the General’s eyes to be

off him for more than an instant. The officers

protested, and implored my husband to change

back and give me the pacer. But his pride was

up, and he enjoyed seeing the animal on fire with

delight at doing his best under a light weight, and

he had genuine love for the brute that, though so

hard to manage in his hands, responded to my

lightest touch or to my voice.

As time advanced and our regiment gained

better and better horseflesh, it was a favorite

scheme to pit Phil against new-comers. We all

started out, a gay cavalcade of noisy, happy

people, and the stranger was given the post of

honor next to the wife of the commanding officer.

Of course he thought nothing of this, as he had

been at the right of the hostess at dinner. The

other officers saw him take his place as if it were

the most natural thing in the world, but in reality

it was a deep-laid plot. Phil started off with so

little effort that our visitor thought nothing of

keeping pace for a while, and then he began to

use his spurs. As my colt took longer and longer

strides, there was triumph in the faces of the offi-

cers, and a big gleam of delight in the General’s

eye. Then came the perplexity in my guest’s face

392

TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

at a trotter outdoing the most splendid specimen

of a loping horse, as he thought. A little glance

from my husband, which incited me to give a sign

and a low word or two that only Phil and I under-

stood, and off we flew, leaving the mystified man

urging his nag in vain. It was not quite my idea

of hospitality so to introduce a new-comer to our

horses’ speed ; but then he was not a transient

guest, and the sooner he knew all our “tricks and

our manners ” the better, while it was beyond my

power of self-denial to miss seeing the proud tri-

umph in my husband’s eyes as he rode up and

patted the colt and received the little return of

affection from the knowing beast. Phil went on im-

proving in gait and swiftness as he grew in years,

and I once had the courage, afterward, to speed him

on the Government race-track at Fort Leaven-

worth, though to this day I cannot understand

how I got up to concert pitch ; and I could never

be induced to try such an experiment again. I

suppose I often made as good time, trotting beside

my husband’s horse, but to go alone was some-

thing I was never permitted to do on a roadway.

The General and brother Tom connived to get

this bit of temporary courage out of me by an off-

hand conversation, as we rode toward the track,

regarding what Phil might be made to do under

the best circumstances, which I knew meant the

AN EXCITING RIDE. ^^^

-snaffle-rein, a light weight, and my hand, which

the General had trained to be steady. I tried to

beg off and suggest either one of them for the

trial ; but the curb which they were obliged to use,

as Phil was no easy brute to manage with them,

made him break his gait, and a hundred and sev-

enty pounds on his back was another obstacle to

speed. It ended in my being teased into the

experiment, and though I called out, after the first

half-mile, that I could not breathe any longer, the

air rushed into my lungs so rapidly, they implored

and urged by gesture and enthusiastic praise, until

I made the mile they had believed Phil equal to

in three minutes.

I wieh I could describe what delight my hus-

band took in his horse life, what hours of recrea-

tion and untiring pleasure he got out of our com-

panionship with Jack Rucker, Phil and Custis Lee.

On that day we three and our orderly were alone

on the track, and such a merry, noisy, care-forget-

ting three as we were ! the General, with his stop-

watch in hand, cheering me, urging the horse

wildly, clapping his hands, and hallooing with

joy as the animal responded to his expectation.

Phil’s coming up to their boasts and anticipations

was just a little episode in our life that went to

prove what a rare faculty he had of getting much

out of little, and of how persistently the boy in

)94

TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

him cropped out as soon as an opportunity came

to throw care aside. It is one of the results of a

Ufe of deprivation, that pleasures, when they come,

are rarities, and the enjoyment is intensified. In

our life they lasted so short a time that we had

no chance to learn the meaning of satiety.

One of the hardest trials, in our first winter with

the regiment, was that arising from the constantly

developing tendency to hard drinking. Some who

came to us had held up for a time, but they were

not restricted in the volunteer service, as a man

who fought well was forgiven much else that

came, in the rare intervals of peace. In the new

state of aff’airs, as went the first few months of the

regiment, so would it go for all time. There was

a regiment stationed in New Mexico at that time,

the record of which was shameful. We heard of

its career by every overland train that came into

our post, and from officers who went out on duty.

General Sherman said that, with such a set of

drunkards, the regiment, officers and all, should be

mustered out of the service. Anything, then, rather

than let our Seventh follow such a course. But I

must not leave the regiment at that point in its

history. Eventually it came out all right, ably

officered and well soldiered, but it was the terror

of the country in 1867. While General Custer

steadily fought against drunkenness, he was not

ALONE ON A BA TTLE-FIELD.

595

remorseless or unjust. I could cite one instance

after another, to prove with what patience he strove

to reclaim some who were, I fear, hopeless when

they joined us. His own greatest battles were

not fought in the tented field ; his most glori-

ous combats were those waged in daily, hourly,

fights on a more hotly contested field than was

ever known in common warfare. The truest

heroism is not that which goes out supported by

strong battalions and reserve artillery. It is when

a warrior for the right enters into the conflict alone,

and dares to exercise his will, in defiance of some

established custom in which lies a lurking, deadly

peril or sin. I have known my husband to almost

stand alone in his opinion regarding temperance,

in a garrison containing enough people to make a

good-sized village. He was thoroughly unosten-

tatious about his convictions, and rarely said

much ; but he stood to his fixed purpose, purely

from horror of the results of drinking. I would

not imply that in garrison General Custer was the

only man invariably temperate. There were some

on pledge ; some temperate because they paid such

a physical penalty by actual illness that they

could not drink ; some restrained because their best

loved comrade, weak in his own might, ” swore

off ” on consideration that the stronger one of the

two backed him up ; some (God bless them !) re-

396 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

fused because the woman they loved grieved, and

was afraid of even one friendly glass. What I mean

is, that the general custom, against which there is

little opposition in any life, is, either to indulge in

the social glass, or look leniently upon the habit.

Without preaching or parading his own strength

in having overcome the habit. General Custer

stood among the officers and men as firm an advo-

cate of temperance as any evangelist whose life is

devoted to the cause.

I scarcely think I would have realized the con-

stantly recurring temptations of my husband’s life,

had I not been beside him when he fought these

oft-repeated battles. The pleasure he had in con-

vivial life, the manner in which men and women

urged him to join them in enjoyment of the spark-

ling wine, was enough to have swept every resolu-

tion to the winds. Sometimes, the keen blade of

sarcasm, though set with jewels of wit and appar-

ent badinage, added a cut that my ears, so quick-

ened to my husband’s hard position, heard and

grieved over. But he laughed off the carefully

concealed thrust. When we were at home in our

own room, if I asked him, blazing anew with

wrath at such a stab, how he kept his temper, he

replied, “Why notice it? Don’t I know what I’ve

been through to gain my victory ? That fellow,

you must remember, has fought and lost, and

RESE.YTIXG AN INSUL T. 397

knows in his soul he’ll go to the dogs if he doesn’t

hold up, and, Libbie, he can’t do it, and I am

sorry for him.” Our brother Tom was less patient,

less forbearing, for in one of his times of pledge,

when the noble fellow had given his word not to

taste a drop for a certain season if a man he loved,

and about whom he was anxious, would do the

same, he was sneered at by a brother officer, with

gibes at his supposed or attempted superiority,

Tom leaped across the table in the tent where

they sat at dinner, and shook up his assailant in a

very emphatic way. I laugh in remembrance of

his choler, and am proud of it now. I, as ” gentle-

woman,” descended from a hne of decorous gen-

tlemen and ladies, ought to be horrified at one

man’s seizing another by the collar and pouncing

upon him, regardless of the Marquis of Queens-

bury rules. But I know that circumstances alter

cases, and in our life an occasional good shaking

was better than the slow justice of a tedious

court-martial.

The General would not smile, but there was a

noticeable twisting of his mustache, and he took

himself out of the way to conceal his feelings,

when I pointed my discerning finger at him and

said, ” You’re laughing, your own self, and you

think Tom was right, even if you don’t say a word,

and look so dreadfully commandery-officery at

198

TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

both of us ! ” The General did not keep himself

aloof, and sometimes, in convivial scenes, when he

joined in the increasing hilarity, was so infused with

the growing artificial jovialty, and grew jollier

and jollier, that he was accused himself of bemg

the wildest drinker of them all. But some one

was sure to speak up and say, as the morning ap-

proached, “I have sat beside Custer the night

through, and if he’s intoxicated it’s over water, for

he has not tasted a drop of wine — more loss to

him, I say.” After a campaign, his nose was fiery

red from the summer’s exposure, and some one

said, ” If Custer wishes to pass for a temperance

man, he’d better take in his sign.” When this was

reported to us, the General sang an old song, to

drown the spluttering of his indignant better

half—

“Nose, nose, jolly red nose,”

to an appropriate bacchanalian tune, and I found

him smoothing caressingly this feature of his face;

telling me that people might scoff at its color, but

its stock had gone up with him. Some one once

told me that distinguished men of strong charac-

ter had almost invariably big noses. I noted that,

and counted noses when we found ourselves in an

assembly at the East with people of note, and as

my husband passed me, I was guilty of whisper-

ing that I had gone over the assembly, and noted

ICE INSTEAD OF WINE.

399

the number down in my memory, and that ours

out-shone and out-sized them all. After that, no

thrust at the tint so suspiciously red after a scout

disturbed him in the least. Only a short time

before the final battle, he dined in New York, at

a house where General McDowell was also a

guest. When no one else could hear, he told me,

with a warning not to talk of it, that he had some

one to keep him company, and described the bowl

of ice that stood in the midst of the untouched

semicircle of glasses before General McDowell,

and how the ice seemed just as satisfactory as any

of the rare beverages. We listened once to John

B. Gough, and the General’s enthusiasm over his

earnestness and his eloquence was enhanced by

the well-known fact of his failures, and the plucky

manner in which he started anew. Everybody

cries over Jefferson’s Rip Van Winkle, even if

they have never encountered drunkenness, and my

husband wept Hke a child because of his intense

sympathy for the weakness of the poor tempted

soul, harrowed as he was by a Xantippe.

If women in civil life were taken among men,

as army women are, in all sorts of festivities, they

would get a better idea of what strength of pur-

pose it requires to carry out a principle. At some

army posts the women go to the sutler’s store

with their husbands, for billiards or amusements.

400

TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

There is a separate room for the soldiers, so we

see nothing of those poor fellows who never can

stay sober. The sutler’s is not only the store,

but it is the club-house for the garrison, and I

have known posts where the officers were so

guarded about their drinking, that women could

go among them and join in any amusement with-

out being liable to the distress that the sight of

an intoxicated man invariably gives to a sensitive

woman. If I saw drunken soldiers reeling off

after pay-day, it was the greatest possible relief to

me to know, that out of hundreds only a few were

married, as but a certain number of the laun-

dresses were allowed to a company. So no

woman’s heart was going to be wrung by unsteady

steps approaching her door, and the sight of the

vacant eyes of a weak husband. It took away

half the sting and shock, to know that a soldier’s

spree was not one that recoiled on an innocent

woman.

As I look back upon our life, I do not believe

there ever was any path so difficult as those men

on the frontier trod. Their failures, their fights,

their vacillations, all were before us, and it was

an anxious life to be watching who won and who

lost in those moral warfares. You could not sepa-

rate yourself from the interests of one another.

It was a network of friendships that became more

BESETTING TEMPTATIONS. 4OI

and more interwoven by common hardships, dep-

rivations, dangers, by isolation and the daily

sharing of joys and troubles. I am thankful for

the certainty that there is some one who scores all

our fights and all our victories ; for on His records

will be written the story of the thorny path over

which an officer walked if he reached the goal.

Women shielded in homes, supported by ex-

ample, unconscious of any temptation save the

mildest, will realize with me what it was to watch

the quivering mouth of a man who voluntarily

admitted that until he was fifty he knew he was in

hourly peril of being a drunkard. The tears blind

me as I go back in retrospection and think over

the men that warred against themselves. – \

In one respect, there never was such a life as

ours ; it was eminently one of partings. How

natural, then, that the last act before separa-

tion be one of hospitable generosity ! How

little we had to offer ! It was often almost an

impossibility to get up a good dinner. Then

we had so many coming to us from a distance,

that our welcome could not be followed up

by any entertainment worthy of the name.

Besides, there were promotions to celebrate, an

occasional son and heir to toast, birthdays occur-

ring so often, and nothing in the world that an-

swered for an expression of hospitality and good

402

TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

feeling but an old straw demijohn behind the door.

It was surprising what pertinacious lives the demi-

johns of the garrison had. The driver of the

wagon containing the few appointments of an

officer’s outfit, was just as careful of the familiar

friend as one could wish servants to be with the

lares and penates of an aesthetic household. If

he was rewarded with a drink from the sacred

demijohn, after having safely preserved it over

muddy roads, where the mules jerked the prairie-

schooner out of ruts, and where, except for a pro-

tecting hand, the contents would have saturated

the w^agon, he was thankful. But such was his

reverence for what he considered the most valu-

able possession of the whole wagon, virtue alone

would have been sufficient reward. When in the

regimental movings the crockery (the very

heaviest that is made) was smashed, the furniture

broken, carpets, curtains, clothes and bedding

mildewed and torn, the old demijohn neither

broke, spilled nor suffered any injury by exposure

to the elements. It was, in the opinion of our

lovers of good whisky, a ” survival of the fittest.”

It never came to be an old. story with me, that

in this constant, familiar association with drinkings,

the General and those of his comrades who ab-

stained could continue to exercise a marvelous

self-control. I could not help constantly speaking

AN UNLIMITED TETHER. 4O3

to my husband of what he went through ; and it

seemed to me that no Uberty could be too great to

extend to men who, always keeping their heads,

were clear as to what they were about. The do-

mestic lariat of a cavalryman might well be drawn

in, if the women waiting at home were uncertain

whether the brains of their liege lords would be

muddled when absent from their influence.

CHAPTER XIII.

“GOOD society” AN EMBARRASSING POSITION FOR

AN OFFICER THE GENERAL EXTRICATES HIM A

MOCK TRIAL VARIETIES OF CHARACTER LESSONS-

IN HORSEMANSHIP A DISGRACED CAVALRY-WOMAN

GOSSIP A MEDLEY OF OFFICERS AND MEN

WAR ON A DRESSING-GOWN.

TT was well we had our horses at Fort Riley for

recreation, as walking was almost out of the

question in autumn. The wind blew unceasingly

all the five years we were in Kansas, but it seemed

to do its wildest work in autumn. No one had

told US of its incessant activity, and I watched for

it to quiet down for days after our arrival, and

grew restless and dull for want of exercise, but

dared not go out. As the post was on a plateau,

the wind from the two river valleys swept over it

constantly. The flag was torn into ribbons in no

time, and the storm-flag, made smaller and used

in rainy weather, had to be raised a good deal,

while the larger and handsomer one was being

mended. We found that the other women of the

garrison, who were there when we arrived, ven-

404

VOLUMINOUS DRAPERY.

405

tured out to see one another, and even crossed the

parade-ground when it was almost impossible to

keep on one’s feet. It seems to date very far back,

when I recall that our dresses then measured five

yards around, and were gathered as full as could

be pressed into the waist-band. These seven

breadths of skirt flew out in advance of us, if they

did not lift themselves over our heads. My skirts

wrapped themselves around my husband’s ankles,

and rendered locomotion very difficult for us both,

if we tried to take our evening stroll. Rethought

out a plan, which he helped me to carry into effect,

by cutting bits of lead in small strips, and these I

sewed into the hem. Thus loaded down, we took

our constitutional about the post, and outwitted

the elements, which at first bade fair to keep us

perpetually housed.

There was very little social life in garrison that

winter. The officers were busy studying tactics,

and accustoming themselves to the new order of

affairs, so very different from their volunteer ex-

perience. Had not everything been so novel, I

should have felt disappointed in my first associa-

tion with the regular army in garrison. I did not

then consider that the few old officers and their

families were really the regular army, and so was

somewhat disheartened regarding our future asso-

ciates. As fast as our own officers arrived, a

4o6

TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

part of the regiment that had garrisoned Fort

Riley before we came, went away ; but it soon be-

came too late in the season to send the remainder.

The post was therefore crowded. The best man-

ners with which all had made their debut wore off,

and some jangling began. Some drank too

freely and were placed under arrest, or released if

they went on pledge. Nothing was said, of

course, if they were sober enough for duty ; but

there were some hopeless cases from the first. For

instance, a new appointee made his entrance into

our parlor, when paying the visit that military eti-

quette requires, by falling in at the door, and

after recovering an upright position, proceeded to

entangle himself in his sword again, and tumble

into a chair. I happened to be alone, and was, of

course, very much frightened. In the afternoon

the officers met in one of their quarters, and drew

up resolutions that gave the new arrival the choice

of a court-martial or his resignation before night ;

and by evening he had written out the papers re-

signing his commission. Another fine-looking

man, whom the General worked long and faith-

fully to make a sober officer, had really some good

instincts. He was so glad to get into our home

circle, and was so social, telling the drollest stories

of far Western life, where he had lived formerly,

that I became greatly interested in his efforts at

A THANKSGIVING DINNER. 407

reformation. He was almost the first to be court-

martialed for drunkenness on duty, and that was

always a grief to us ; but in those early days of

our regiment’s history, arrest, imprisonment and

trial had to go on much of the time. The officer to

whom I refer was getting into and out of difficulty

incessantly. He repented in such a frank, regretful

sort of way, that my husband kept faith in his final

reformation long after it seemed hopeless. One day

I asked him to dinner. It was Thanksgiving, and

on those days we tried to select the officers that

talked most to us of their homes and parents. To

my dismay, our reprobate came into the room with

very uncertain gait. The other men looked anx-

iously at him. My husband was not in the parlor.

I thought of other instances where these signs of

intoxication had passed away in a little while, and

tried to ignore his condition. He was sober

enough to see the concerned look in his comrades’

faces, and brought the tears to my eyes by walk-

ing up to me and saying, ” Mrs. Custer, I’m sorry,

but I think it would be best for me to go home.”

Who could help being grieved for a man so frank

and humble over his failings ? There were six

years of such vicissitudes in this unfortunate man’s

life, varied by brave conduct in the Indian cam-

paigns, before the General gave him up. He vio-

lated, at last, some social law that was considered

4o8 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

an outrage beyond pardon, which compelled his

departure from the Seventh. That first winter

while the General was trying to enforce one fact

upon the new-comers, that the Seventh must be a

sober regiment, it was a difficult and anything

but pleasant experience.

Very few of the original appointments remained

after a few years. Some who served on to the

final battle of 1876, went through many struggles

in gaining mastery of themselves. The General

believed in them, and they were such splendid

fighters, and such fine men when there was any-

thing to occupy them, I know that my husband

appreciated with all his soul what trials they went

through, in facing the monotony of frontier life.

Indeed, he was himself enduring some hours of

torture from restlessness and inactivity. It is

hard to imagine a greater change than from the

wild excitement of the Virginia campaigns, the

final scenes of the war, to the dullness of Fort

Riley. Oh ! how I used to feel when my hus-

band’s morning duties at the office were over, and

he walked the floor of our room, saying, ” Libbie,

what shall I do ?” There were no books to speak

of, for the Seventh was then too new a regiment

to purchase company libraries, as we did later.

. . . My husband never cared much for

current novels, and these were almost the sole

4IO TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

literature of the households at that time. At

every arrival of the mail, there v^^as absolute con-

tentment for a while. The magazines and news-

papers were eagerly read, and I used to discover

that even the advertisements were scanned. If

the General was caught at this, and accused of it,

he slid behind his paper in mock humility, peep-

ing roguishly from one side when a voice, pitched

loftily, inquired whether reading advertisements

was more profitable than talking with one’s wife ?

It was hard enough, though, when the heaps of

newspapers lay on the floor all devoured, and one

so devoted to them as he was condemned to wait

the slow arrival of another mail. The Harper s

Bazar fashion-pages were not scorned in that

dearth of reading, by the men about our fireside.

We had among us a famous newspaper-reader ;

the men could not outstrip her in extracting

everything that the paper held, and the General

delighted in hunting up accounts of ” rapscal-

lions ” from her native State, cutting out the

paragraphs, and sending them to her by an or-

derly. But his hour of triumph was brief, for the

next mail was sure to contain an account of either

a Michigan or an Ohio villain, and the prompt-

ness with which General Custer was made aware

of the vagabondage of his fellow-citizens was

highly appreciated by all of us. Fie had this dis-

NEWSPAPER DEVOTEES.

411

advantage : he was a native of Ohio, and appointed

to the MiUtary Academy from there, and that

State claimed him, and very proud we were to

have them do so ; but Michigan was the State of

his adoption during the war, he having married

there and it being the home of his celebrated

” Michigan brigade.” . . . He was enabled,

by that bright woman’s industry, to ascertain

what a large share of the population of those

States were adepts in crime, as no trifling account,

or even a pickpocket, was overlooked. I remem-

ber how we laughed at her one day. This friend

of ours was not in the least sensational, she was

the very incarnation of delicate refinement. All

her reading (aside from the search for Ohio and

Michigan villains in the papers) was of the lofti-

est type ; but the blood rose in wild billows over

her sweet face when her son declared his mother

such a newspaper devotee that he had caught

her reading the ” personals.” We knew it was a

fib ; but it proves to what lengths a person might

go from sheer desperation, when stranded on the

Plains.

Fortunately, I was not called much from home,

as there were few social duties that winter, and we

devised all sorts of trumpery expedients to vary

our life. There was usually a wild game of romps

before the day was ended. We had the strangest

412 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

neighbors. A family lived on each floor, but the

walls were not thick, as the Government had

wasted no material in putting up our plain quar-

ters. We must have set their nerves on edge, I

suppose, for while we tore up stairs and down,

using the furniture for temporary barricades

against each other, the dogs barking and racing

around, glad to join in the fracas, the din was

frightful.

The neighbors — not belonging to our regiment,

I am thankful to say, having come from a circle

where the husband brings the wife to terms by

brute force — in giving a minute description of the

sounds that issued from our quarters, accounted

for the melee to those of the garrison they could

get to listen, by saying that the commanding

officer was beating his wife. While I was inclined

to resent such accusations, they struck the Gene-

ral very differently. He thought it was intensely

funny, and the gossip passed literally in at one

ear and out at the other, though it dwelt with him

long enough to suggest something about the good

discipline a man might have if the Virginia law,

never repealed, were now in vogue. I felt sure it

would fare badly with me ; for though the dimen-

sions of the stick with which a man is permitted

to beat his wife are limited to the size of the hus-

band’s finger, my husband’s hands, though in good

AFFECTED GENTILITY. 413

proportion, had fingers the bones of which were

unusually large. These strange fingers were not

noticeable until one took hold of them; but if

they were carefully studied, with the old English

law of Virginia in mind, there well might be a

family mutiny. I tried to beg off from further

visits to certain families of this stamp, but never

succeeded; the General insisted on my going

everywhere. One of the women asked me one

day if I rose early : Not knowing why she asked,

I replied that I feared it was often 9 o’clock

before we awoke, whereupon she answered, in an

affected voice, that “she never rose early, it was

so plebeian.”

It was very discouraging, this first encounter

with what I supposed would be my life-long asso-

ciates. There were many political appointments

in the army then. Each State was entitled to its

quota, and they were frequently given for favor-

itism, regardless of soldierly qualities. There

were also a good many non-commissioned officers,

who, having done good service during the war,

were given commissions in the new regiments.

For several years it was difficult to arrange every-

thing so satisfactorily in social life that no one’s

feelings would be hurt. The unvarying rule,

which my husband considered should not be vio-

lated by any who truly desired harmony, was to

414

TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

visit every one in our circle, and exclude no one

from invitations to our house, unless for positively

disgraceful conduct.

We heard, from other posts, of the most amusing

and sometimes the most uncomfortable of expe-

riences. If I knew any one to whom this incident

occurred, I should not venture to make use of it

as an example of the embarrassing situations in

the new order of affairs in the reorganized army.

The story is true ; but the names, if I ever knew

them, have long since faded out of memory.

One of the Irish laundresses at a Western post

was evidently infatuated with army life, as she

was the widow of a volunteer officer — doubtless

some old soldier of the regular army, who held a

commission in one of the regiments during the

war — and the woman drew the pension of a

major’s widow. Money, therefore, could not

have been the inducement that brought her back

to a frontier post. At one time she left her fasci-

nating clothes-line and went into the family of an

officer, to cook, but was obliged to leave from

illness. Her place was filled satisfactorily, and

when she recovered and came back to the officer’s

wife, she was told that the present cook was en-

tirely satisfactory, but she might yet find a place,

as another officer’s wife (whose husband had been

an enlisted man, and had lately been appointed

SURPRISE AT SURROUNDINGS.

415

an officer in the regular regiment stationed there)

needed a cook. It seems that this officer’s wife

also had been a laundress at one time, and the

woman applying for work squared herself off in

an independent manner, placed her arms akimbo,

and announced her platform : ” Mrs. Blank, I

ken work for a leddy, but I can’t go there ; there

was a time when Mrs. and I had our toobs

side by side.”

How often, in that first winter, I thought of my

father’s unstinted praise of the regular army, as

he had known it at Sackett’s Harbor and at De-

troit, in Michigan’s early days. I could not but

wonder what he would think, to be let down in

the midst of us. He used to say, in reference to

my future, ” Daughter, marrying into the army,

you will be poor always ; but I count it infinitely

preferable to riches with inferior society. It con-

soles me to think you will be always associated

with people of refinement.” Meanwhile, the Gen-

eral was never done begging me to be silent

about any new evidences of vulgarity. There

were several high-bred women at Fort Riley ; but

they were so discreet I never knew but that they

had been accustomed to such associations, until

after the queer lot had departed and we dared to

speak confidentially to one another.

Soon after the officers began to arrive in the

4i6

TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

autumn, an enlisted man, whom the General had

known about in the regular army, reported

for duty. He had re-enlisted in the Seventh,

hoping ultimately for a commission. He was.

soldierly in appearance, from his long experience

in military life, and excellently well versed in

tactics and regimental discipline. On this account

he was made sergeant-major, the highest non-

commissioned officer of a regiment ; and, at his

request, the General made application almost at

once for his appointment as a lieutenant in the

Seventh Cavalry. The application was granted,

and the sergeant-major went to Washington to

be examined. The examining board was com-

posed of old and experienced officers, who were

reported to be opposed to the appointment of en-

listed men. At any rate, the applicant was asked

a collection of questions that were seemingly un-

answerable. I only remember one, “What does a

regiment of cavalry weigh ? ” Considering the

differences in the size of officers, men and horses,

it would seem as if a correct answer were im-

possible. The sergeant-major failed, and returned

to our post with ,the hopelessness before him of

five years of association with men in the ranks ;

for there is no escaping the whole term of enlist-

ment, unless it is found that a man is under age.

But the General did not give up. He encouraged

A SOLDIER PROMOTED. 4 1 7

the disappointed man to hope, and when he was

ordered before the board himself, he went to the

Secretary of War and made personal application

for the appointment. Vi^ashington was then full

of men and their friends, clamoring for the vacan-

cies in the new regiments ; but General Custer

was rarely in Washington, and was guarded in

not making too many appeals, so he obtained

the promise, and soon afterward the sergeant-

major replaced the chevrons with shoulder-straps.

Then ensued one of those awkward situations, that

seem doubly so in a life where there is such marked

distinction in the social standing of an officer and

a private ; and some of the Seventh Cavalry made

the situation still more embarrassing by conspicu-

ous avoidance of the new lieutenant, carefully

ignoring him except where official relations ex-

isted. This seemed doubly severe, as they knew

of nothing in the man’s conduct, past or present,

to justify them in such behavior. He had borne

himself with dignity as sergeant-major, living very

much to himself, and performing every duty punc-

tiliously. Shortly before, he had been an officer like

themselves in the volunteer service, and this social

ostracism, solely on account of a few months of ser-

vice as an enlisted man, was absurd. They went

back to his early service as a soldier, determined

to show him that he was not “to the manner born.”

41 8 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

The single men had estabUshed a mess, and each

bachelor officer who came was promptly called

upon and duly invited to join them at table. There

was literally no other place to be fed. There were

no cooks to be had in that unsettled land, and if

there had been servants to hire, the exorbitant

wages would have consumed a lieutenant’s pay.

There were enough officers in the bachelors’ mess

to carry the day against the late sergeant-major.

My husband was much disturbed by this discour-

teous conduct ; but it did not belong to the prov-

ince of the commanding officer, and he was careful

to keep the line of demarkation between social

and official affairs distinct. Yet it did not take

long for him to think a way out of the dilemma.

He came to me to ask if I would be willing to

have him in our family temporarily, and, of course,

it ended in the invitation being given. In the

evening, when our quarters filled up with the

bachelor officers, they found the lieutenant whom

they had snubbed, established as one of the com-

manding officer’s family. He remained as one of

us until the officers formed another mess as their

number increased, and the new lieutenant was in-

vited to join them. This was not the end of Gen-

eral Custer’s marked regard for him, and as long

as he lived he showed his unswerving friendship,

and, in ways that the officer never knew, kept up

LOYALTY TO FRIENDS.

419

his disinterested loyalty, making me sure, as

years advanced, that he was worthy of the old

adage, ” Once a friend, always a friend.” Until

he was certain that there was duplicity and in-

gratitude, or that worst of sins, concealed enmity,

he kept faith and friendships intact. At that time

there was every reason in the world for an officer

whose own footing was uncertain, and who owed

everything to my husband, to remain true to him.

Many of the officers were learning to ride, as

they had either served in the infantry during the

war, or were appointed from civil life, and came

from all sorts of vocations. It would seem that

hardly half of the number then knew how to sit

or even to mount a horse, and the grand and lofty

tumbling that winter kept us in a constant state

of merriment. It was too bad to look on and

laugh ; but for the life of me I could not resist

every chance I had to watch them clambering up

their horse’s side, tying themselves hopelessly in

their sabres, and contorting their heels so wildly

that the restive animal got the benefit of a spur in

unexpected places, as likely in his neck as in his

flank. One officer, who came to us from the

merchant marine, used to insist upon saying to

his brother officers, when off duty and experiment-

ing with his steed, ” If you don’t think I am a

sailor, see me shin up this horse’s foreleg.”

420 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

Some grew hot and wrathy if laughed at, and

that increased our fun. Others were good-natured,

even coming into the midst of us and deHberately

narrating the number of times the horse had either

shpped from under them, turned them off over

his head, or wiped them off by running against a

fence or tree-trunk. Occasionally somebody tried

to hide the fact that he had been thrown, and then

there was high carnival over the misfortune. The

ancient rule, that had existed as far back as the

oldest officer could remember, was, that a basket

of champagne was the forfeit of a first fall. Many

hampers were emptied that winter ; but as there

were so many to share the treat (and I am inclined

to think, also, it was native champagne, from

St. Louis), I don’t remember any uproarious

results, except the natural wild spirits of fun-lov-

ing people. After the secret was out and the for-

feit paid, there was much more courage among

the officers in letting the mishaps be known. They

did not take their nags off into gulleys where

they were hidden from the post, and have it out

alone, but tumbled off in sight of the galleries of

our quarters, and made nothing of a whole after-

noon of voluntary mounting and decidedly invol-

untary dismounting. One of the great six-footers

among us told me his beast had tossed him off

half a dozen times in one ride, but he ended by

A confession:

421

conquering. He daily fought a battle with his

horse, and, in describing the efforts to unseat him,

said that at last the animal jumped into the creek.

How I admired his pluck and the gleam in his

eye ; and what a glimpse that determination to

master gave of his successful future ! for he won

in resisting temptation, and conquered in making

himself a soldier, and his life, though short, was

a triumph.

I am obliged to confess that to this day I owe

a basket of champagne, for I belonged to those

that went off the horse against their will and then

concealed the fact. My husband and one of his

staff were riding with me one day, and asked me

to go on in advance, as they wanted to talk over

something that was not of interest to me. I for-

got to keep watch of my fiery steed, and when he

took one of those mad jumps from one side of

the road to the other, at some imaginary obstacle,

not being on guard I lost balance, and found my^

self hanging to the saddle. There was nothing

left for me but an ignominious slide, and I landed

in the dust. The General found Phil trotting

riderless toward him, was terribly frightened,

and rode furiously toward where I was. To save

him needless alarm, I called out, ” All right !”

from my lowly position, and was really quite un-

harmed, save my crushed spirits. No one can

422 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

serve in the cavalry and not feel humiliated by a

fall. I began to implore the two not to tell, and

in their relief at my escape from serious hurt they

promised. But for weeks they made my life a

burden to me, by direct and indirect allusions to

the accident when a group of us were together.

They brought little All Right, the then famous

Japanese acrobat, into every conversation, and

the General was constantly wondering, in a seem-

ingly innocent manner, ” how an old campaigner

could be unseated, under any circumstances.” It

would have been better to confess and pay the

penalty, than to live thus under the sword of

Damocles. Still, I should have deprived my

husband of a world of amusement, and every

joke counted in those dull days, even when one

was himself the victim.

The Board in Washington then examining the

officers of the new regiments, called old and new

alike ; but in the General’s case, as in that of most

of the officers who had seen service before the war,

or were West Point graduates, it was but a form,

and he was soon back in our post.

He began then a fashion that he always kept up

afterward, of having regular openings of his trunk

for my benefit. I was as interested in the contents

as any child. First putting me under promise to

remain in one spot without ” peeking,” as the chil-

A PLEASANT SURPRISE. 423

dren say, he took out from the trunk in our room

article after article for me. They comprised every-

thing a woman could wear, from gowns to stock-

ings, with ribbons and hats. If all the gowns he

brought were not made, he had dress-materials and

stored-up recollections of the new modes of trim-

ming. He enjoyed jokes on himself, and gave us

all a laughable description of his discovering in

the city some fashion that he had especially liked,

when, turning in the crowded street, he followed

at a respectful distance the woman wearing it, in

order to commit to memory the especial style.

Very naturally, he also took in the gait and fig-

ure of the stylish wearer, even after he had fixed

the cut of her gown in his mind, that he might

eventually transfer it to me. Ah, how we torment-

ed him when he described his discomfiture, and

the sudden termination of his walk, when a tu^n

in the street revealed the face of a negress !

I shall have to ask that a thought be given to

our surroundings, to make clear what an immense

pleasure a trunk-full of finery was at that time.

There were no shops nearer than Leavenworth,

and our faces were set westward, so there seemed

to be no prospect of getting such an outfit for

years. There was no one in that far country to

prevent the screams of delight with which each

gift was received, and it is impossible to describe

424

TENTIA^G ON THE PLAINS.

how jubilant the donor was over the success of his

purchases. Brother Tom made a time always, be-

cause his name was left out, but he noted carefully

if the General’s valise held a new supply of neck-

ties, gloves, etc., and by night he had usually

surreptitiously transferred the entire contents to

his own room. The first notification would be his

appearance next morning at the breakfast-table,

wearing his brother’s new things, his face perfectly

solemn and innocent, as if nothing peculiar was

going on. This sort of game never grew old, and

it seemed to give them much more amusement

than if the purchases were formally presented.

My husband confided to me that, knowing Tom

would take all he could lay his hands on, he had

bought twice as many as he needed. The truth

is, it was only for the boyish fun they got out of

it, for he always shared everything he had with

his brother.

At some point in the journey East, the General

had fallen into conversation with an officer who,

in his exuberance of spirits at his appointment to

the Seventh, had volunteered every detail about

himself. He was coming from his examination at

Washington, and was full of excitement over the

new regiment. He had not the slightest idea who

my husband was, only that he was also an officer,

but in the course of conversation brought his name

A CONFIDENTIAL TRAVELER.

425

Up, giving all the accounts he had heard of him

from both enemies and friends, and his own im-

pressions of how he should like him. The Gene-

ral’s love of mischief, and curiosity to hear himself

so freely discussed, led the unsuspecting man to

ramble on and on, incited by an occasional query

or reflection, regarding the character of the Lieu-

tenant-colonel of the Seventh. The first knowl-

edge the Lieutenant had with whom he had been

talking, was disclosed to him when he came to pay

the customary call, on the return of the command-

ing officer at Fort Riley. His face was a study ;

perplexity and embarrassment reddened his com-

plexion almost to a purple, and he moved about

uneasily in his chair, abashed to thmk he had

allowed himself . to speak so freely of a man to

that person’s very face. My husband left him but

a moment in this awkward predicament, and then

laughed out a long roll of merriment, grasping the

man’s hand, and assured him that he must re-

member his very freely expressed views were the

opinions of others, and not his own. It was a

great relief to the Lieutenant, when he reached

his quarters, to find that he had escaped some dire

fate, either long imprisonment or slow torture ;

for at that time the volunteer officers had a deeply

fixed terror of the stern, unflinching severity of

regular officers. Again he became confidential,

426 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

and told the bachelor mess. This was too good a

chance to lose ; they felt that some more fun could

still be extracted, and immediately planned a sham

trial. The good-natured man said his stupidity

merited it, and asked for counsel. The case was

spun out as long as it could be made to last. We

women were admitted as audience, and all the

grave dignity of his mock affair was a novelty.

The court used our parlor as a Hall of Justice.

The counsel for the prisoner was as earnest in his

defense as if great punishment was to be averted

by his eloquence. In the daytime he prepared

arguments, while at the same time the prose-

cuting attorney wrinkled his brows over the most

convincmg assaults on the poor man, who, he

vehemently asserted, ought not to go at large,

laden with such unpardonable crime. The judge

addressed the jury, and that solemn body of men

disappeared into our room, perching on the

trunks, the bed, the few chairs, to seriously dis-

cuss the ominous ” guilty ” or ” not guilty.” The

manner of the grave and dignified judge, as he

finally addressed the prisoner, admonishing him

as to his future, sorrowfully announcing the de-

cision of the jury as guilty, and condemning him

to the penalty of paying a basket of champagne,

was worthy of the chief executor of an Eastern

court.

FORMER HISTORIES. 427

We almost regretted that some one else would

not, by some harmless misdemeanor, put himself

within the reach of such a court. This affair gave

us the first idea of the clever men among us, for

all tried to acquit themselves at their best, even

in the burlesque trial.

Little by little, it came out what varied lives

our officers had led heretofore. Some frankly

spoke of the past, as they became acquainted,

while others, making an effort to ignore their pre-

vious history, were found out by the letters that

came into the post every mail, or by some one

arriving who had known them in their other life.

The best bred among them — one descended from

a Revolutionary colonel, and Governor of a State,

the other from Alexander Hamilton — were the

simplest and most unaffected in manner. The

boaster and would-be aristocrat of our number

had the misfortune to come face-to-face with a

townsman, who effectually silenced further refer-

ence to his gorgeous past. There were men who

had studied law ; there was one who had been a

stump speaker in Montana politics, and at last a

judge in her courts ; another who had been a sea-

captain, and was distinguished from a second of

his name in the regiment, by being called always

thereafter “Salt Smith,” while the younger was

” Fresh Smith,” or, by those who were fond of

428 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

him, ” Smithie.” There was also a Member of

Congress, who, having returned to his State after

the war, had found his place taken and himself

quite crowded out. When this officer reported

for duty, I could not believe my eyes. But a few

months before, in Texas, he had been such a bit-

ter enemy of my husband’s, that, with all the cau-

tion observed to keep official matters out of my

life, it could not be hidden from me. The Gen-

eral, when this officer arrived, called me into our

room and explained, that, finding him without

employment in Washington when he went before

the Board, he could not turn away from his appeal

for a commission in the service, and had applied,

without knowing he would be sent to our regi-

ment. “And now, Libbie, you would not hurt

my feelings by showing animosity and dislike to

a man whose hair is already gray !” There was

no resisting this appeal, and no disguising my

appreciation of the manner in which he treated

his enemies, so his words brought me out on the

gallery with extended hand of welcome, though I

would sooner have taken hold of a tarantula. I

never felt a moment’s regret, and he never forgot

the kindness, or that he owed his prosperity, his

whole future, in fact, to the General, and he won

my regard by his unswerving fidelity to him from

that hour to this.

A SOCIAL POT-POURRI. 429

There were some lieutenants fresh from West

Point, and some clerks, too, who had tried to turn

themselves into merchants, and groaned over the

wretched hours they had spent, since the close of

the war, in measuring tape. We had several Irish

officers — reckless riders, jovial companions. One

had served in the Papal army, and had foreign

medals. There was an Italian who had a long,

strange career to draw upon for our amusement, and

numbered, among his experiences, imprisonment

for plotting the hfe of his king. There were two

officers who had served in the Mexican War, and

the ears of the subalterns were always opened to

their stories of those days when, as lieutenants,

they followed General Scott in his march over the

old Cortez highway, to his victories and con-

quests. There was a Prussian among the officers,

who, though expressing his approval of the justice

and courtesy that the commanding officer showed

in his charge of the garrison, used to infuriate the

others by making invidious distinctions regarding

foreign service and our own. We had an edu-

cated Indian as an officer. He belonged to the

Six Nations, and his father was a Scotchman, but

there was no Scotch about him, except that he was

loyal to his trusts and a brave soldier, for he

looked like any wild man of the Plains ; and one of

his family said to him, laughingly, ” Dress you up

430

TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

in a blanket, and you couldn’t be told from a

Cheyenne or Arrapahoe.” There was a French-

man to add to the nationalities we represented,

and in our heterogeneous collection one company

might have its three officers with parentage from

three of the four corners of the earth.

The immense amount of rank these new lieuten-

ants and captains carried was amusing, for those

who had served in the war still held their titles

when addressed unofficially, and it was to all ap-

pearances a regiment made up of generals, colo-

nels and majors. Occasionally, an officer who had

served in the regular army many years before the

war arrogantly lorded it over the young lieuten-

ants. One especially, who saw nothing good in

the service as it now was, constantly referred to

” how it was done in the old First.” Having a

young fellow appointed from civil life as his lieu-

tenant, who knew nothing of army tactics or eti-

quette, he found a good subject over whom to

tyrannize. He gave this lad to understand that,

whenever the captain made his appearance, he

must jump up, offer him a chair, and stand atten-

tion. It was, in fact, a servile life he was mapping

out for his subordinate. If the lad asserted him-

self in the slightest way, the captain straightened

up that Prussian back-bone, tapped his shoulder-

strap, and grandiloquently observed, ” Remem-

SUPPRESSING A BULLY.

431

ber the goolf ” [gulf], meaning the great chasm

that intervened between a shoulder-strap with two

bars and one with none. Even one knowing lit-

tle of military life, is aware that the ” goolf ” be-

tween a captain and a second lieutenant is not one

of great magnitude. At last the youth began to see

that he was being imposed upon, and that other

captains did not so hold themselves toward their

inferiors in rank, and he confidentially laid the

case before a new arrival who had seen service, ask-

ing him how much of a stand he might make for

his self-respect, without infringing on military

rules. The reply was, “When next he tries that

game on you, tell him to go to h — with his

gulf.” The young fellow, not lacking in spirit,

returned to his captain well primed for the en-

counter, and when next the gulf was mentioned,

he stretched up his six feet of admirable physique,

and advised the captain to take the journey ” with

his gulf,” that had been previously suggested by

his friend.

This same young fellow was a hot – headed

youth, though a splendid soldier, and had a knack

of getting into little altercations with his brother-

officers. On one occasion, at our house during a

garrison hop he and another officer had some dis-

pute about dancing with a young lady, and retired

to the coat-room, too courteous to enter into a

432

TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

discussion in the presence of women. It occurred

to them, as words grew hotter and insufficient for

the gravity of the occasion, that it would be

well to interview the commanding officer, fearing

that they might be placed in arrest. One of them

descended to the dancing-room, called the Gen-

eral one side, told the story, and asked permission

to pound his antagonist, whom he considered the

aggressor. The General, knowing well how it

was himself, having, at West Point, been known

as the cadet who said, ” Stand back, boys, and

let’s have a fair fight ! ” gave his permission. The

door of the coat-room closed on the contestants

for the fair lady’s favor, and they had it out alone.

It must not, from this incident, be inferred that

our officers belonged to a class whose idea of jus-

tice was “■ knocking down and dragging out/’ but,

in the newness of our regiment, there seemed to

be occasions when there was no recourse for im-

positions or wrongs, except in the natural way.

The mettle of all was being tested, with a large

number of men turned suddenly from a free life

into the narrow limits of a garrison. Where

everybody’s elbow knocked his neighbor’s, and no

one could wholly escape the closest sort of inter-

course, it was the most natural consequence that

some jarring and grating went on.

None of us know how much the good-nature that

DIFFICULTIES OF ORGANIZATION 433

we possess is due to the fact that we can take

refuge in our homes or in flight, sometimes, from

people who rasp and rub us up the wrong way.

Our regiment was then a medley of incongruous

elements, and might well have discouraged a less

persevering man, in the attempt to mold such

material into an harmonious whole. From the

first, the effort was to establish among the better

men, who had ambition, the proper esprit de corps

regarding their regiment. The General thought

over carefully the future of this new organization,

and worked constantly from the first days to

make it the best cavalry regiment in the service.

He assured me, when occasionally I mourned the

inharmonious feeling that early began to crop out,

that I must neither look for fidelity nor friendship,

in its best sense, until the whole of them had been

in a fight together ; that it was on the battle-field,

when all faced death together, where the truest

affection was formed among soldiers. I could not

help noting, that first year, the change from the

devotion of my husband’s Division of cavalry in

the Army of the Potomac, to these new officers,

who, as yet, had no affection for him, nor even for

their regiment. He often asked me to have pa-

tience, not to judge too quickly of those who were

to be our companions, doubtless for years to come,

and reminded me that, as yet, he had done nothing

434 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

to win their regard or command their respect ; he

had come among officers and men as an organizer,

a discipHnarian, and it was perfectly natural they

should chafe under restraints they had never

known before. It was a hard place for my hus-

band to fill, and a most thankless task, to bring

that motley crowd into military subjection. The

mischief-makers attempted to report unpleasant

criticisms, and it was difficult to keep in subjec-

tion the jealousy that existed between West Point

graduates, volunteer officers, and civil appointees.

Of course a furtive watch was kept on the

graduates of the Military Academy for any

evidences of assumed superiority on their part, or

for the slightest dereliction of duty. The volun-

teer, no matter how splendid a record he had made

during the war, was excessively sensitive regard-

ing the fact that he was not a graduated officer.

My husband persistently fought against any line

of demarkation between graduates and non-

graduates. He argued personally, and wrote for

publication, that the war had proved the volunteer

officers did just as good service as, and certainly

were not one whit less brave than, West Pointers.

I remember how every little slip of a West Pointer

was caught at by the others. One morning a

group of men were gathered about the flag-staff at

guard-mount, making the official report as officer

A SLIP OF THE TONGUE.

435

of the day and officer of the guard, when a West

Pointer joined them in the irreproachable uniform

of a Heutenant, walking as few save graduates

ever do walk. He gravely saluted, but, instead

of reporting for duty, spoke out of the fullness of

his heart, ” Gentlemen, it’s a boy.” Of course, not a

man among them was insensible to the honor of

being the father of a first son and heir, and all

suspended military observances belonging to the

morning duties, and genuinely rejoiced with the

new-made parent ; but still they gloated over the

fact that there had been, even in such a moment

of excitement, this lapse of military dignity in one

who was considered a cut-and-dried soldier.

An embarrassing position for General Custer

was, that he had under him officers much older

than himself. He was then but twenty-seven

years of age, and the people who studied to make

trouble (and how rarely are they absent from

any community ?) used this fact as a means of

stirring up dissension. How thankful I was that

nothing could draw him into difficulty from that

question, for he either refused to listen, or heard

only to forget. One day he was deeply moved

by the Major of our regiment, General Alfred

Gibbs, who had commanded the brigade of regu-

lar cavalry in the Army of the Potomac during

the war, and whose soul was so broad and his

436 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

heart so big that he was above everything petty

or mean. My husband called me into our room

and shut the door, in order to tell me, quietly, that

some gossip had endeavored to spread a report

that General Gibbs was galled by his position, and

unwilling to submit to the authority of so young

a man. On hearing this,- he came straightway to

General Custer — ah, what worlds of trouble we

would be saved if there were courage to inquire

into slander ! — and in the most earnest, frank

manner assured him that he had never expressed

such sentiments, and that their years of service

together during the war had established an abid-

ing regard for his soldierly ability, that made it a

pleasure to be in his regiment. This, from an

officer who had served with distinction in the

Mexican War, as well as done gallant service

in an Indian campaign before the Civil War,

was a most grateful compliment to my hus-

band. General Gibbs was a famous disciplinarian,

and he had also the quaintest manner of fetching

every one to the etiquettical standard he knew

to be necessary. He was witty, and greatly given

to joking, and yet perfectly unswerving in the

performance of the most insignificant duty. We

have exhausted ourselves with laughter as he de-

scribed, by contortions of feature and really

extraordinary facial gymnastics, his efforts to

A MODEL DISCIPLINARIAN. 407

dislodg-e a venturesome and unmilitary fly, that

had perched on his nose when he was conducting

a dress-parade. To hft his hand and brush off

the intruder, with a long- Hne of soldiers facing

him, was an example he would scarcely like them

to follow ; and yet the tantalizing tickling of

those fly-legs, slowly traveling over his moist and

heated face, was almost too exasperating to en-

dure. If General Gibbs felt the necessity of

reminding any one of carelessness in dress, it was

managed in so clever a manner that it gave no

lasting offense. My husband, absorbed in the

drilling, discipline and organization of the regi-

ment, sometimes overlooked the necessity for

social obligations, and immediately came under

the General’s witty criticisms. If a strange officer

visited our post, and any one neglected to call, as is

considered obligatory, it was remarked upon by

our etiquettical mentor. If the officers were care-

less in dress, or wore semi – military clothes,

something quite natural in young fellows who

wanted to load on everything that glittered,

our General Etiquette made mention of it. One

wore an English forage-cap with a lot of gilt

braid on top, instead of the plain visored cap of

the regulations. The way he came to know that

this innovation must be suppressed, was by a re-

quest from General Gibbs to purchase it for his

438 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

band-master. He himself was so strictly military

that he could well afford to hold the others up to

the mark. His coats were marvelous fits, and

he tightly buckled in his increasing rotundity

with a superb belt and clasp that had belonged

to his grandfather, a Wolcott in the Revolution-

ary War.

Most women know with what obstinate deter-

mination and adoring fondness a man clings to

some shabby article of wearing apparel. There

was in our family an ancient dressing-gown, not

the jaunty smoking-jacket that I fortunately

learned afterward to make, but a long, clumsy,

quilted monstrosity that I had laboriously cobbled

out with very ignorant fingers. My husband

simply worshipped it. The garment appeared

on one of his birthdays, and I was praised be-

yond my deserts for having put in shape such a

success, and he could hardly slide out of his

uniform, when he came from the office, quickly

enough to enable him to jump into this soft,

loose, abomination. If he had vanity, which it

is claimed is lodged somewhere in every human

breast, it was spasmodic, for he not only knew

that he looked like a fright, but his family told

him this fact, with repeated variations of derision.

When at last it became not even respectable, it

was so ragged I attempted to hide it, but this

RIDICULE WORKS A REFORM. 43 g

did no earthly good. The beloved possession was

ferreted out, and he gaily danced up and down in

triumph before his discomfited wife, all the rags

and tags flaunting out as he moved. In vain

General Gibbs asked me why I allowed such a

disgraceful ” old man’s garment ” about. The

truth was, there was not half the discipline in our

family that there might have been had we been

citizens. A woman cannot be expected to keep

a man up to the mark in every little detail, and

surely she may be excused if she do a little

spoiling when, after months of separation she is

returned to the one for whom her heart has been

wrung with anxiety. No sooner are you to-

gether than there comes the ever present terror

of being divided again.

General Gibbs won at last in suppressing the

old dressing-gown, for he begged General Custer

to picture to himself the appearance of his entire

regiment clad in long-tailed, ragged gowns

modeled after that of their commanding officer !

In dozens of ways General Gibbs kept us up to the

mark socially. He never drew distinctions be-

tween the old army and the new, as some were

wont to do, and his influence in shaping our regi-

ment in social as well as military affairs was felt

in a marked manner, and we came to regard him

as an authority and to value his suggestions.

CHAPTER XIV.

RISTORI, AND THE COURSE OF TRUE LOVE A PRO-

POSAL ON THE HOUSE-TOP GIDEON’s BAND A

LETTER FROM CHARLES G. LELAND BREITMANN

IN KANSAS CLEVER ROGUES ESCAPE FROM THE

GUARD-HOUSE MARKETING IN JUNCTION CITY

CROSSING A SWOLLEN RIVER THE STORY OF

JOHNNIE AN EXPEDITION LEAVES FORT RILEY

FOR A CAMPAIGN.

O OON after my husband returned from Wash-

ington, he found that Ristori was advertised

in St. Louis, and as he had been deHghted with

her acting when in the East, he insisted upon my

going there, though it was a journey of several

hundred miles. The young officers urged, and

the pretty Diana looked volumes of entreaty at

me, so at last I consented to go, as we need be

absent but a few days. At that time the dreaded

campaign looked far off, and I was trying to

cheat myself into the belief that there might pos-

sibly be none at all.

Ristori, heard under any circumstances, was an

event in a life ; but to listen to her as we did, the

only treat of the kind in our winter, and feeling

THE COURSE OF TRUE LOVE. 441

almost certain it was the last of such privileges

for years to come, was an occasion never to be

forgotten.

I do not know whether Diana collected her

senses enough to know, at any one time, that she

was listening to the most gifted woman in

histrionic art. A civilian lover had appeared on

the scene, and between our young officers, already

far advanced in the dazed and enraptured state,

and the new addition to her retinue, she was never

many moments without “airy nothings” poured

into her ear. The citizen and the officers

glowered on each other, and sought in vain to

monopolize the inamorata. Even when the

thoughtless girl put a military cap on the head of

the civilian, and told him that an improvement in

his appearance was instantly visible, he still re-

mained and held his ground valiantly. Finally

the most desperate of them called me to one side,

and implored my championship. He com-

plained bitterly that he never began to say what

trembled on his tongue, but one of those interfer-

ing fellows appeared and interrupted him, and

now, as the time was passing, there remained but

one chance before we went home, where he would

again be among a dozen other men who were sure

to get in his way. He said he had thought over

every plan, and if I would engage the interfering

442 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

ones for a half hour, he would take Diana

to the hotel cupola, ostensibly to see the view

and if, after they were up there, she saw anything

but him, it would not be his fault, for say his say

he must. No one could resist such a piteous ap-

peal, so I engaged the supernumerary men in

conversation as best I could, talking against time

and eyeing the door as anxiously as they did. I

knew, when the pair returned, that the pent-up

avowal had found utterance ; but the coquetting

lass had left him in such a state of uncertainty

that even “fleeing to the house-top” had not se-

cured his future. So it went on, suspense

and agitation increasing in the perturbed hearts,

but the dallying of this coy and skillful strate-

gist, wise beyond her years in some ways,

seemed to prove that she believed what is often

said, that a man is more blissful in uncertainty

than in possession.

Our table was rarely without guests at that

time. A great many of the strangers came with

letters of introduction to us, and the General

superintended the arrangements for buffalo-hunts,

if they were to be in the vicinity of our post.

Among the distinguished visitors was Prince

OurosofF, nephew of the Emperor of Russia. He

was but a lad, and only knew that if he came

west far enough, he was very likely to find what

STRANGERS WITHIN THE GATES. 443

the atlas put down as the ” Great American

Desert.” None of us could tell him much more

of the Sahara of America than of his own step-

pes in Russia. As the years have advanced, the

maps have shifted that imaginary desert from

side to side. The pioneer does such wonders in

cultivating what was then supposed to be a barren

waste; that we bid fair in time not to have any

Sahara at all. I hardly wonder now at the sur-

prise this royal scion expressed, at finding- himself

among men and women who kept up the ameni-

ties of refined life, even when living in that sub-

terranean home which our Government provided

for its defenders — the dug-out. It seems strange

enough, that those of us who lived the rough life

of Kansas’s early days, did not entirely adopt the

careless, unconventional existence of the pioneer ;

but military discipline is something not easily set

aside.

Almost our first excursionists were such a suc-

cess that we wished they might be duplicated in

those who flocked out there in after years. Several

of the party were old travelers, willing to under-

go hardships and encounter dangers, to see the

country before it was overrun with tourists. They

were our guests, and the manner in which they

beguiled our time made their departure a real

regret. They called themselves ” Gideon’s Band.”

444

TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

The youngest of the party, a McCook from the

fighting Ohio family, was ” Old Gid,” while the

oldest of all answered when they called ” Young

Gid.” As they were witty, clever, conversant by

actual experience with most things that we only

read of in the papers, we found them a godsend.

When such people thanked us for what simple

hospitality we could offer, it almost came as a

surprise, for we felt ourselves their debtors. After

having written to this point in my narrative of

our gay visit from Gideon’s Band, a letter in re-

sponse to one that I had sent to Mr. Charles

G. Leland arrived from London. I asked him

about his poem, and after twenty years, in

which we never saw him, he recalls with enthusi-

asm his short stay with us. I have only eliminated

some descriptions that he gives, in the extract of

the private letter sent then from Fort Riley —

descriptions of the wife of the commanding officer

and the pretty Diana. Women being in the

minority, it was natural that we were never un-

dervalued. Grateful as I am that he should

so highly appreciate officers’ wives, and much

as I prize what he says regarding ” the influ-

ences that made a man, and kept him what he

was,” I must reserve for Mr. Leland’s correspond-

ent of twenty years back, and for myself, his

opinion of frontier women.

A MEMORY REVIVED.

445

“Langham Hotel. Portland Place,

“London, W., June 14, 1887.

“Dear Mrs. Custer : — It is a thousand times

more likely that you should forget me than that

I should ever forget you, though it were at an in-

terval of twice twenty years ; the more so since I

have read your admirable book, which has re-

vived in me the memory of one of the strangest

incidents and some of the most agreeable impres-

sions of a somewhat varied and eventful life. I

was with a party of gentlemen who had gone out

to what was then the most advanced surveyor’s

camp for the Pacific Railway, in western Kansas.

On returning, we found ourselves one evening

about a mile from Fort Riley, where we were to

be the guests of yourself and your husband. We

had been all day in a so-called ambulance or

wagon. The one that I shared with my friend,

J. R. G. Plassard, of the New York Tribime, was

driven by a very intelligent and amusing frontiers-

man, deeply experienced in Indian and Mexican

life, named Brigham. Brigham thought, by mis-

take, that we had all gone to Fort Riley by some

other conveyance, and he was thirty or forty yards

in advance, driving on rapidly. We, encumbered

with blankets, packs and arms, had no mind to

walk when we could ‘waggon.’ One man

whistled, and all roared aloud. Then one dis-

charged his rifle. But the wind was blowing

away from Brigham towards us, and he heard

nothing. The devil put an idea in my head,

for which I have had many a regret since then.

In/andum regina jubes renovare doloreni. ‘ Thou,

my queen, dost command me to revive a

wretched sorrow.’ For it occurred that I could

send a rifle-ball so near to Brigham’s head that he

could hear the whistle, and that this would very

446

TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

naturally cause him stop. If I could only know

all, I would sooner have aimed between my own

eyes.

” ‘ Give me a gun,’ I said to Colonel Lam-

bourn.

” ‘ You won’t shoot at him !’ said the Colonel.

“‘If you’ll insure the mules,’ I replied, ‘I will

insure the driver.’

” I took aim and fired. The ambulance was cov-

ered, and I did not know that Mr. Hassard, the

best fellow in the world — neinini secundus — was

sitting inside and talking to Brigham. The

bullet passed between their faces, which were

a foot apart — less rather than more.

” • What is that ? ‘ cried Hassard.

” ‘ lnju7isr replied Brigham, who knew by many

an experience how wagons were Apached, Co-

manchied, or otherwise aboriginated.

” ‘ Lay down flat !’

” He drove desperately till he thought he was

out of shot, and then put out his head to give the

Indians a taunting war-whoop. I shall never for-

get the appearance of that sun-burned face, with

gold ear-rings and a vast sombrero ! What was

his amazement at seeing only friends ! I did not

know what Brigham’s state of mind might be tow-

ard me, but I remembered that he gloried in his

familiarity with Spanish, so I said to him in the

Castile-soap dialect, ‘ I fired that shot ; is it to be

hand or knife between us ? ‘ It is to his credit

that he at once shook my hand, and said ‘ La

niano!’ He drove on in grim silence, and then

said, ‘ I’ve driven for twelve years on this frontier,

but I never heard, before, of anybody trying to

stop one by shooting the driver.’

” Another silence, broken by the following re-

mark : ‘ I wish to God there was a gulch any

A TERROR CALMED. 447

where between here and the fort ! I’d upset this

party into it d n quick.’

” But I had a great fear. It was of General Cus-

ter and what he would have to say to me, for

recklessly imperiling the life of one of his drivers,

to say nothing of what might have happened to a

valuable team of mules and the wagon. It was

with perturbed feelings — Sind, ay de ?ni / with an

evil conscience — that I approached him. He had

been informed of the incident, but was neither

angry nor vindictive. All he did was to utter a

hearty laugh and say, ‘ 1 never heard before of

such an original way of ringing a bell to call a

man.’

” In a letter written about this time to a friend, I

find the following :

” * We had not for many days seen a lady. In-

deed, the only woman I had met for more than a

week was a poor, sad soul, who, with her two child-

daughters, had just been brought in by Lieuten-

ant Hesselberger from a six-months’ captivity of

outrage and torture among the Apaches. You

may imagine how I was impressed with Mrs.

General Custer and her friend, Miss .

” ‘General Custer is an ideal — the ideal of frank

chivalry, unaffected, genial humor, and that ear-

nestness allied to originality which is so character-

istic of the best kind of Western army man. I

have not, in all my life, met with so many inter-

esting types of character, as during this, my first

journey to Kansas, but first among all, I place

this trio.

” ‘ In the evening a great musical treat awaited

me. I had once passed six months in Bavaria,

where I had learned to love the zither. This in-

strument was about as well known twenty years

ago in America, as a harp of a thousand strings.

448 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

But there was at the fort a Bavarian soldier, who

played charmingly on it, and he was brought in.

I remember askmg him for many of his best-loved

airs. The General and his wife impressed me as

two of the best entertainers of guests whom I

ever met. The perfection of this rare talent is, to

enjoy yourself while making others at their ease

and merry, and the proof lies in this, that seldom,

indeed, have I ever spent so pleasant an evening

as that in the fort.’

” My personal experience of General Custer does

not abound in anecdotes, but is extremely rich

in my impressions of him, as a type and a charac-

ter, both as man and gentleman. There is many

a man whom I have met a thousand times, whom

I hardly recollect at all, while I could never for-

get him. He w^as not only an admirable but an

impressive man. One would credit anything to

his credit, because he was so frank and earnest.

One meets with a somewhat similar character

sometimes among the Hungarians, but just such a

man is as rare as the want of them in the world is

great.

” With sincere regards, yours truly,

” Charles G. Leland.”

As Mr. Leland’s poem, ” Breitmann in Kansas,”

was inspired partly by the buffalo-hunt and visit

at our quarters, I quote a few stanzas :*

” Vonce oopen a dimes, der Herr Breitmann vent oud West.

Von efenings he was drafel mit some ladies und shendlemans,

und he shtaid incognitus. Und dey singed songs dill py and py

one of de ladies say : * Ish any podies here ash know de crate

• * From ” Hans Breitmann’s Ballads,” by permission of Messrs.

T. B. Peterson & Brothers, publishers.

A DIALECT POEM.

449

pallad of ” Hans Breitmann’s Barty ?” ‘ Den Hans said, * I am

dat rooster !’ Den der Hans took a drink und a let pencil und a

biece of baper, und goes indo himself a little dimes, and den

coomes out again mit dis boem :

*’ Hans Breitmann vent to Kansas ;

He drafel fast und far.

He rided shoost drei dousand miles

All in one railroot car.

He knowed foost rate how far he goed —

He gounted all de vile.

Dar vash shoost one bottle of champagne.

Dat bopped at efery mile.

” Hans Breitmann vent to Kansas ;

He went in on de loud.

At Ellsvort in de prairie land,

He found a pully croud.

He looked for bleeding Kansas,

But dat’s * blayed out,’ dey say ;

De whiskey keg’s de only dings

Dat’s bleedin’ der to-day.

” Hans Breitmann vent to Kansas ;

Py shings ! I dell you vot,

Von day he met a crisly bear

Dat rooshed him down, bei Gott !

Boot der Breitmann took und bind der bear,

Und bleased him fery much —

For efry vordt der crisly growled

Vas goot Bavarian Dutch !

” Hans Breitmann vent to Kansas !

By donder, dat is so !

He ridit out upon de plains

To shase de boofalo.

He fired his rifle at the bools,

Und gallop troo de shmoke

Und shoomp de canyons shoost as if

Der tyfel vas a choke !”

450

TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

Not only were a large number of officers

brought together that winter from varied walks

in life and of different nationalities, but the men

that enlisted ranged from the highest type of

soldier to the lowest scum of humanity recruited

in the crowded cities. It often happened that

enlisted men had served an honorable record as

officers in the volunteer service. Some had en-

tered the regular army because their life was

broken up by the war and they knew not how to

begin a new career; others had hopes of promo-

tion, on the strength of their war record, or from

the promises of influential friends. My heart is

moved anew as I recall one man, who sank his

name and individuality, his very self, it seemed,

by enlistment, and as effectually disappeared as

if he had flung himself into the river that rushed

by our post. One night there knocked at the

door of one of our officer’s quarters a man who,

though in citizen’s dress, was at once recognized

as an old comrade in the war. He had been a

brigadier-general of volunteers. After he had been

made welcome, he gave some slight account of

himself, and then said he had about made up his

mind to enlist. Our Seventh Cavalry officer im-

plored him not to think of such a thing, pictured the

existence of a man of education and refinement

in such surroundings, and offered him financial

GOOD-BY TO INDIVIDUALITY.

451

help, should that be needed.”

He finally found the subject

was adroitly withdrawn, and

the conversation went back to

old times. They talked on in

this friendly manner until mid-

night, and then parted. The

next day a soldier in fresh,

bright blue uniform, passed the

officer, formally saluting as he

went by, and to his consterna-

tion he discovered in this en-

listed man his friend of the

night before. They never met

again ; the good-by of the mid- / ^^^

night hour was m reality the y”^'”-

farewell that one of them had ifk

intended it to be.

GUN-STAND IN GENERAL CUSTER’S LIBRARY.

452

TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

This is but one of many instances where supe-

rior men, for one reason or another, get into the

ranks of our army. If they are fortunate enough

to fall into the hands of considerate officers, their

lot is endurable ; but to be assigned to one who

is unjust and overbearing is a miserable existence.

One of our finest men was so constantly looking,

in his soldiers, for the same qualities that he pos-

sessed, and insisted so upon the superiority of

his men, that the officers were wont to exclaim in

good-natured irony, ” Oh, yes, we all know that

Hamilton’s company is made up of dukes and

earls in disguise.”

There were some clever rogues among the en-

listed men, and the officers were as yet scarcely

able to cope with the cunning of those who doubt-

less had intimate acquaintance with courts of

justice and prisons in the Eastern States. The re-

cruiting officer in the cities is not compelled, as in

other occupations, to ask a character from a

former employer. The Government demands able-

bodied men, and the recruiting sergeant casts his

critical eye over the anatomical outlines, as he

would over the good points of a horse destined for

the same service. The awful hereafter is, when the

officer that receives this physical perfection on the

frontier aims to discover whether it contains a soul.

Our guard-house at Fort Riley was outside the

ESCAPE FROM PRISON.

453

garrison a short distance, and held a goodly

number of violators of the regulations. For sev-

eral nights, at one time, strange sounds for such a

place issued from the walls. Religion in the

noisiest form seemed to have taken up its perma-

nent abode there, and for three hours at a time

singing, shouting and loud praying went on.

There was every appearance of a revival among

those trespassers. The officer of the day, in mak-

ing his rounds, had no comment to pass upon this

remarkable transition from card- playing and

wrangling ; he was doubtless relieved to hear the

voice of the exhorters as he visited the guard, and

indulged in the belief that the prisoners were out

of mischief. On the contrary, this vehement

attack of religion covered up the worst sort of

roguery. Night after night they had been digging

tunnels under the stone foundation-walls, remov-

ing boards and cutting beams in the floor, and to

deaden the sound of the pounding and digging

some of their number were told off to sing, pray

and shout. One morning the guard opened the

door of the rooms in which the prisoners had been

confined, and they were empty ! Even two that

wore ball and chains for serious offenses had in

some manner managed to knock them off, as all

had swum the Smoky Hill River, and they were

never again heard from.

454 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

As with the history of all prisons, so it was of

our Httle one. The greatest rogues were not in-

carcerated ; they were too cunning to be caught.

It often happened that some excellent soldiers be-

came innocently involved in a fracas and were

marched off to the guard-house, while the arch

villain slipped into his place in the ranks and

answered to his name at roll-call, apparently the

most exemplary of soldiers. Several instances of

what I thought to be unjust imprisonment came

directly under my notice, and I may have been

greatly influenced by Eliza’s pleas in their be-

half. We made the effort, and succeeded in ex-

tricating one man from his imprisonment.

Whether he was in reality wronged, or had only

worked upon our sympathies, will never be known,

but he certainly made an excellent soldier from

that time until the end of his enlistment. Eliza,

in her own quaint way, is saying to me now, ” Do

you mind, Miss Libbie, how me and you got J

his parole ? He used to come to our house with

the rest of the prisoners, to police the yard and cut

the wood, and they used to hang round my door ;

the guard could hardly get ’em away. Well, I

reckon he didn’t try very hard, for he didn’t like

hard-tack no better than they did. One of them

would speak up the minute they saw me, and say,

‘Eliza, you hain’t got no hot biscuit, have you?’

A PLEA FOR PRISOXERS.

455

Hot biscuits for prisoners ! do you hear that, Miss

Libbie ? The Ginnel would be standin’ at the

back window, just to catch a chance to laugh at

me if I gave the prisoners anythin’ to eat. He’d

stand at that window, movin’ from one foot to

the other, craning of his neck, and when I did

give any cold scraps, he just bided his time, and

when he saw me he would say, ‘ Well, been

issuin’ your rations again, Eliza ? How many

apple-dumplin’s and biscuit did they get this

time ? ‘ Apple-dumplin’s, Miss Libbie ! He jest

said that ’cause he liked ’em better than any-

thin’ else, and s’posed I’d been givin’ away some

of his. But as soon as he had teased me about it,

that was the end; he would go along about his way

and pick up his book, when he had done his laugh.

But, Miss Libbie, he used to kinder mistrust, if me

and you was talkin’ one side. He would say,

‘ What you two conspirin’ up now ? Tryin’ to

get some one out of jail, I s’pose.’ I remember

how we worked for J . He came to me and

told me I must ‘ try to get Mrs. Custer to work

for him ; two words from her would do him more

good than all the rest,’ and he would come along

sideways by your window, carrying his ball over

his arm with the chain a danglin’, and look so

pitiful like, so you would see him and beg him off.”

This affair ended entirely to Eliza’s satisfaction.

45^

TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

I saw the captain of his company ; for though it

was against my husband’s wish that I should have

anything to do with official matters, he did not

object to this intervention; he only laughed at my

credulity. The captain politely heard my state-

ment of what Eliza had told me were J ‘s

wrongs, and gave him parole. His sentence was

rescinded eventually, as he kept his promises and

was a most faithful soldier. The next morning

after J was returned to duty and began life

anew, one of the young officers sauntered into our

quarters and, waving his hand with a little

flourish, said, ” I want to congratulate you on

having obtained the pardon of the greatest scamp

in the regiment ; he wouldn’t steal a red-hot stove,

but would wait a mighty long time for it to cool.”

Later in my story is my husband’s mention, in his

letters, of the very man as bearing so good a

record that he sent for him and had him detailed

at headquarters, for nothing in the world, he con-

fessed, but because I had once interceded for him.

Eliza kept my sympathies constantly aroused,

with her piteous tales of the wrongs of the pris-

oners. They daily had her ear, and she appointed

herself judge, jury and attorney for the defense.

On the coldest days, when we could not ride and

the wind blew so furiously that we were not able

to walk, I saw from our windows how poorly clad

COLD FACTS AGAINST US.

457

they were, for they came daily, under the care of

the guard, to cut the wood and fill the water-bar-

rels. The General quietly endured the expressions

of sympathy, and sometimes my indignant pro-

tests against unjust treatment. He knew the wrath-

ful spirit of the kitchen had obeyed the natural

law that heat must rise, and treated our combined

rages over the prisoners’ wrongs with aggravating

calmness. Knowing more about the guard-house

occupants than I did, he was fortified by facts

that saved him from expending his sympathies in

the wrong direction. He only smiled at the plau-

sible stories by which Eliza was first taken in at

the kitchen door. They lost nothing by trans-

mission, as she had quite an imagination and de-

cidedly a dramatic delivery ; and finally, when I

told the tale, trying to perform the monstrously

hard feat of telling it as it was told to me, youth,

inexperience and an emotional temperament made

a narrative so absolutely distressing that the Gen-

eral was likely to come over bodily to our side,

had he not recalled the details of the court-martial

that had tried the soldier. We were routed, yet

not completely, for we fell back upon his clothes,,

and pleaded that, though he was thought to be

wicked, he might be permitted to be warm. But

the colored and white troops had to leave the field,

“horse, foot and dragoons,” when, on investiga-

458 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

tion, we found that the man for whom we pleaded

had gambled away his very shirt.

The unmoved manner in which my husband

listened to different accounts of supposed cruelty —

dropping his beloved newspaper with the injured

air that men assume, while 1 sat by him, half cry-

ing, gesticulating, thoroughly roused in my de-

fense of the injured one — was exasperating, to say

the least ; and then, at last, to have this bubble

of assumed championship burst, and see him

launch into such uproarious conduct when he

found that the man for whom I pleaded was the

arch rogue of all — oh, women alone can picture to

themselves what the situation must have been to

poor me !

After one of these seasons of good-natured

scoffing over the frequency with which I was taken

in, I mentally resolved that, though the proof I

heard of the soldier’s depravity was too strong

for me to ignore, there was no contesting the fact

that the criminal was cold, and if I had failed in

freeing him I might at least provide against his

freezing. He was at that time buttoning a rag-

ged blouse up to his chin, not only for warmth,

but because, in his evening game of poker, his

comrade had won the undergarment, quite super-

fluous, he thought, while warmed by the guard-

house fire. I proceeded to shut myself in our

CAPTURE FROM A GUNBOAT. 459

room, and go through the General’s trunk for

something warm. The selection that I made was

unfortunate. There were some navy shirts of blue

flannel that had been procured with considerable

trouble from a gunboat in the James River the last

year of the war, the like of which, in quality and

durability, could not be found in any shop. The

material was so good that they neither shrunk nor

pulled out of shape. The broad collar had a star

embroidered in solid silk in either corner. The

General had bought these for their durability, but

they proved to be a picturesque addition to his

gay dress ; and the red necktie adopted by his

entire Third Division of Cavalry gave a dash of

vivid color, while the yellow hair contrasted with

the dark blue of the flannel. The gunboats were

overwhelmed with applications to buy, as his

Division wished to adopt this feature of his dress

also, and military tailors had many orders to re-

produce what the General had ” lighted upon,” as

the officers expressed it, by accident. Really,

there was no color so good for campaigning, as it

was hard to harmonize any gray tint with the

different blues of the uniform. Men have a way

of saying that we women never seize their things,

for barter or other malevolent purposes, without

selecting what they especially prize. But the

General really had reason to dote upon these shirts.

460 TENTING ON THE PLAINS,

The rest of the story scarcely needs telHng.

Many injured husbands whose wardrobes have

been confiscated for eleemosynary purposes, will

join in a general wail. The men that wear

one overcoat in early spring, and carry another

over their arm to their offices, uncertain, if they

did not observe this precaution, that the coming

winter would not find these garments mysteriously

metamorphosed into lace on a gown, or mantle

ornaments, may fill in all that my story fails to

tell. In the General’s case, it was perhaps more

than ordinarily exasperating. It was not that a

creature who bargains for ” gentlemen’s cast-offs”

had possession of something that a tailor could

not readily replace, but we were then too far out

on the Plains to buy even ordinary blue flannel.

As I remember myself half buried in the trunk

of the commanding officer, and suddenly lifted into

the air with a shirt in one hand, my own escape

from the guard-house seems miraculous. As it

was, I was let off very lightly, ignoring some re-

marks about it’s being ” a pretty high-handed

state of affairs, that compels a man to lock his

trunk in his own family ; and that, between Tom’s

pilfering and his wife’s, the commanding officer

would soon be obliged to receive official reports

in bed.”

There was very little hunting about Fort Riley

TEMPORAR Y FAMINE. /^6 I

in the winter. The General had shot a great

many prairie chickens in the autumn, and hung

them in the wood-house, and while they lasted

we were not entirely dependent on Government

beef. As the season advanced, we had only ox-

tail soup and beef. Although the officers were

allowed to buy the best cuts, the cattle that sup-

plied the post with meat were far from being in

good condition. One day our table was crowded

with officers, some of whom had just reported for

duty. The usual great tureen of soup was dis-

posed of, and the servant brought in an immense

platter, on which generally reposed a large roast.

But when the dish was placed before the General,

to my dismay there appeared in the centre of its

wide circumference a steak hardly larger than a

man’s hand. It was a painful situation, and I

blushed, gazed uneasily at the new-comers, but

hesitated about apologies, as they were my hus-

band’s detestation. He relieved us from the

awful silence that fell upon all, by a peal of

laughter that shook the table and disturbed the

poor little steak in its lonesome bed. Eliza thrust

her head in at the door, and explained that the

cattle had stampeded, and the commissary could

not get them back in time to kill, as they did

daily at the post. The General was perfectly

unmoved, calling those peculiar staccato “all

462 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

right !” ” all right !” to poor Eliza, setting affairs

at ease again, and asking the guests to do the best

they could with the vegetables, bread and butter,

coffee and dessert.

The next day, beef returned to our table, but,

alas ! the potatoes gave out, and I began to be

disturbed about my housewifely duties. My

husband begged me not to give it a thought, say-

ing that Eliza would pull us through the tempo-

rary famine satisfactorily, and adding, that what

was good enough for us, was good enough for our

guests. But an attack of domestic responsibility

was upon me, and I insisted upon going to the

little town near us. Under any circumstances the

General opposed my entering its precincts, as it

was largely inhabited by outlaws and despera-

does, and to go for so small a consideration as

marketing was entirely against his wishes. I

paid dearly for my persistence ; for, when, after

buying what I could at the stores, I set out to

return, the chain bridge on which I had crossed

the river in the morning, had been swept away,

and the roaring torrent, that had risen above the

high banks, was plunging along its furious way,

bearing earth and trees in its turbid flood. I

spent several dreary hours on the bank, growing

more uneasy and remorseful all the time. The

potatoes and eggs that so short a time since I had

A PERSISTENT V/OMAN. 463

triumphantly secured, seemed more and more

hateful to me, as I looked at them lying in the

basket in the bottom of the ambulance. I made

innumerable resolves that, so long as my husband

did not wish me to concern myself about provid-

ing for our table, I never would attempt it again ;

but all these resolutions could not bring back the

bridge, and I had to take the advice of one of

our officers, who was also waiting to cross, and

go back to the house of one of the merchants

who sold supplies to the post. His wife was very

hospitable, as frontier men and women invariably

are. and next morning I was down on the bank of

the river early, more impatient than ever to cross.

What made the detention more exasperating was,

that the buildings of the garrison on the plateau

were plainly visible from where we waited. Then

ensued the most foolhardy conduct on my part,

and so terrified the General when I told him

afterward, that I came near never being trusted

alone again. The most vexing part of it all was,

that I involved the officer, who was in town by

accident, in imminent danger, for when he heard

what I was determined to do, he had no alternative

but to second my scheme, as no persuasion was

of any avail. I induced a sergeant in charge of

a small boat to take me over. I was frantic to

get home, as for some time preparations had been

464 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

going on for a summer campaign, and I had kept

it out of our day as much as I could.

The General never anticipated trouble, reason-

ing that it was bad enough when it came, and we

both felt that every hour must hold what it could

of enjoyment, and not be darkened a moment if

we could help it. The hours of delay on the

bank were almost insupportable, as each one was

shortening precious time. I could not help tell-

ing the sergeant this, and he yielded to my en-

treaties— for what soldier ever refused our ap-

peals ? The wind drove through the trees on the

bank, lashing the limbs to and fro and breaking

off huge branches, and it required almost super-

human strength to hold the frail boat to the slip-

pery landing long enough to lift me in. The sol-

dier at the prow held in his muscular hands a pole

with an iron pin at the end, with which he used

all his energy to push away the floating logs that

threatened to swamp us. It was almost useless to

attempt to steer, as the river had a current that

it was impossible to stem. The only plan was, to

push out into the stream filled with debris, and

let the current shoot the boat far down the river,

aiming for a bend in its shores on the opposite

side. I closed my eyes to the wild rush of water

on all sides ; shuddering at the shouts of the sol-

diers, who tried to make themselves heard above

TESTING A MAN’S METTLE. 465

the deafening clamor of the tempest. I could not

face our danger and retain my self-control, and I

was tortured by the thought of having brought

peril to others. I owed my life to the strong and sup-

ple arms of the sergeant and the stalwart soldier

who assisted him, for with a spring they caught

the limbs of an over-hanging tree, just at the im-

portant moment when our little craft swung near

the bank at the river bend, and, clutching at

branches and rocks, we were pulled to the shore

and safely landed. Why the brave sergeant

even listened to such a wild proposition, I do not

know. It was the maddest sort of recklessness to

attempt such a crossing, and the man had nothing

to gain. With the strange, impassable gulf that

separates a soldier from his officers and their

families, my imploring to be taken over the river,

and my overwhelming thanks afterward, were

the only words he would ever hear me speak.

With the officer who shared the peril, it was differ-

ent. When we sat round the fireside again, he

was the hero of the hour. The gratitude of the

officers, the thanks of the women putting them-

selves in my place and giving him praise for en-

countering danger for another, were some sort of

compensation. The poor sergeant had nothing ;

he went back to the barracks, and sank his indi-

viduality in the ranks, where the men look so

466 TENTIXG ON THE PLAINS.

alike in their uniform it is almost impossible to

distinguish the soldier that has acted the hero

from one who is never aught but a poltroon.

After the excitement of the peril I had passed

was over, I no longer wondered that there was

such violent opposition to women traveling with

troops. The lesson lasted me a long time, as I

was well aware what planning and preparation it

cost to take us women along, in any case, when

the regiment was on the move, and to make these

efforts more difficult by my own heedlessness was

too serious a mistake to be repeated.

In spite of the drawbacks to a perfectly success-

ful garrison, which was natural in the early career

of a regiment, the winter had been full of pleas-

ure to me ; but it came to a sad ending when the

preparations for the departure of the troops began.

The stitches that I put in the repairs to the blue

flannel shirts were set with tears. I eagerly

sought every opportunity to prepare the camping

outfit. The mess-chest was filled with a few strong

dishes, sacks were made and filled with coffee,

sugar, flour, rice, etc., and a few cans of fruit and

vegetables were packed away in the bottom of

the chest. The means of transportation were so

limited that every pound of baggage was a matter

of consideration, and my husband took some of

the space, that I thought ought to be devoted to

TROPHIES OF THE CHASE IN GENERAL CUSTER’s LIPRARY.

467

468 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

comforts, for a few books that he could stand read-

ing and re-reading. EHza was the untiring one in

preparing the outfit for the summer. She knew just

when to administer comforting words, as I sighed

over the preparations, and reminded me that “the

Ginnel always did send for you, every chance he

got, and war times on the Plains wan’t no wuss

than in Virginia.”

There was one joke that came up at every move

we ever made, over which the General was always

merry. ^The officers, in and out of our quarters

daily, were wont to observe the unusual alacrity

that I displayed when orders came to move. As

I had but little care or anxiety about household

affairs, the contrast with my extreme interest in

the arrangements of the mess-chest, bedding and

campaigning clothes was certainly marked. I

longed for activity, to prevent me from showing

my heavy heart, and really did learn to be some-

what successful in crowding a good deal into a

small space, and choosing the things that were

most necessary. As the officers came in unan-

nounced, they found me flying hither and thither,

intent on my duties, and immediately saw an

opportunity to tease the General, condoling with

him because, having exhausted himself in ardu-

ous packing for the campaign, he would be obliged

to set out totally unfitted for the summer’s hard-

FRUGALITY RIDICULED. 469

ships. After their departure, he was sure to turn

to me, with roguery in his voice, and ask if I had

noticed how sorry all those young fellows were

for a man who was obliged to work so hard to

^et his traps ready for a move.

It was amusing to notice the indifferent manner

in which some of the officers saw the careful and

frugal preparing for the campaign. That first

spring’s experience was repeated in every after

preparation. There were always those who took

little or nothing themselves, but became experts

at casual droppings in to luncheon or dinner with

some painstaking provider, who endeavored vainly

to get himself out of sight when the halt came for

eating. This little scheme was occasionally per-

sisted in merely to annoy one who, having shown

some signs of parsimony, needed discipline in the

eyes of those who really did a great deal of good

by their ridicule. Among one group of officers,

who had planned to mess together, the only pro-

vision was a barrel of eggs. It is only necessary

to follow a cavalry column over the crossing of

one creek, to know the exact condition that such

perishable food would be in at the end of the first

day. There were two of the ” plebes,” as the

youngest of the officers were called — as I recall

them, bright, boyish, charming fellows — who

openly rebelled against the rebuffs they claimed

470 TEN7IXG OM THE PLAINS.

were given them, when they attempted to prac-

tice the dropping-in plan at another’s meals.

After one of these sallies on the enemy, they

met the repulse with the announcement that if

“those stingy old molly-coddles thought they had

nothing to eat in their own outfit, they would

show them,” and took the occasion of one of their

birthdays to prove that their resources were un-

limited. Though the two endeavored to conceal

the hour and place of this fete, a persistent watch-

er discovered that the birthday breakfast con-

sisted of a bottle of native champagne and corn

bread. The hospitality of officers is too well

known to make it necessary to explain that those

with any tendency to penuriousness were excep-

tions. An army legend is in existence of an

officer who would not allow his hospitality to be

set aside, even though he was very short of sup-

plies. Being an officer of the old army, he was

as formal over his repast as if it were abundant,

and, with all ceremony, had his servant pass

the rice. The guest, thinking it the first course,

declined, whereupon the host, rather offended,

replied, “Well, if you don’t like the rice, help

yourself to the mustard.” This being the only

other article on the bill of fare, there need be no

doubt as to his final choice. When several officers

decide to mess together on a campaign, each one

LEARNING TO CAMPAIGN. 47 1

promises to provide some one necessary supply.

On one of these occasions, after the first day’s

march was ended, and orders for dinner were given

to the servant, it was discovered that all but one

had exercised his own judgment regarding what

was the most necessary provision for comfort,

and the one that had brought a loaf of bread in-

stead of a demijohn of whisky was berated for

his choice.

In the first days of frontier life, our people

knew but little about preparations for the field,

and it took some time to realize that they were in

a land where they could not live upon the country.

It was a severe and lasting lesson to those using

tobacco, when they found themselves without it,.

and so far from civilization that there was no op-

portunity of replenishing their supply. On the

return from the expedition, the injuries as well as

the enjoyments are narrated. Sometimes, we

women, full of sympathy for the privations that

had been endured, found that these um^e injuries ;

sometimes we discovered that imagination had

created them. We enjoyed, maliciously I am

afraid, the growling of one man who never erred

in any way, and consequently had no margin for

any one that did ; calculating and far – seeing in

his life, he felt no patience for those who, being

young, were yet to learn these lessons of frugality

472

TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

that were born in him. He was still wrathful

when he gave us an account of one we knew to be

delightfully impudent when he was bent on

teasing. When the provident man untied the

strings of his tobacco-pouch, and settled himself

for a smoke, the saucy young lieutenant was sure

to stroll that way, and in tones loud enough for

those near to hear him, drawl out, “I’ve got a

match ; if any other fellow’s got a pipe and tobac-

co, I’ll have a smoke.”

The expedition that was to leave Fort Riley was

commanded by General Hancock, then at the

head of the Department of the Missouri. He ar-

rived at our post from Fort Leavenworth with

seven companies of infantry and a battery of

artillery. His letters to the Indian agents of the

various tribes give the objects of the march into

the Indian country. He wrote :

” I have the honor to state, for your information,

that I am at present preparing an expedition to

the Plains, which will soon be ready to move.

My object in doing so at this time is, to convince

the Indians within the limits of this Department

that we are able to punish any of them who may

molest travelers across the Plains, or who may

commit other hostilities against the whites. We

desire to avoid, if possible, any troubles with the

Indians, and to treat them with justice, and ac-

A MILITAR Y LE TTER. 473

cording” to the requirements of our treaties with

them ; and I wish especially, in my dealings with

them, to act through the agents of the Indian

Department as far as it is possible to do so. If

you, as their agent, can arrange these matters

satisfactorily with them, we shall be pleased to

defer the whole subject to you. In case of your

inability to do so, I would be pleased to have you

accompany me when I visit the country of your

tribes, to show that the officers of the Government

are acting in harmony. I shall be pleased to talk

with any of the chiefs whom we may meet. I do

not expect to make war against any of the Indians

of your agency, unless they commence war

against us.”

In General Custer’s account, he says that ” the

Indians had been guilty of numerous thefts and

murders during the preceding summer and au-

tumn, for none of which had they been called to

account. They had attacked the stations of the

overland mail-route, killed the employees, burned

the stations and captured the stock. Citizens

had been murdered in their homes on the frontier

of Kansas ; and murders had been committed on

the Arkansas route. The principal perpetrators

of these acts were the Cheyennes and Sioux.

The agent of the former, if not a party to the

murder on the Arkansas, knew who the guilty

474

TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

persons were, yet took no steps to bring the mur-

derers to punishment. Such a course would have

interfered with his trade and profits. It was not

to punish for these sins of the past that the

expedition was set on foot, but, rather, by its im-

posing appearance and its early presence in the

Indian country, to check or intimidate the Indians

from a repetition of their late conduct. During

the winter the leading chiefs and warriors had

threatened that, as soon as the grass was up, the

tribes would combine in a united outbreak along

the entire frontier.”

There had been little opportunity to put the ex-

pedition out of our minds for some time previous

to its departure. The sound from the black-

smith’s shop, of the shoeing of horses, the drilling

on the level ground outside of the post, and the

loading of wagons about the quartermaster and

commissary storehouses, went on all day long.

At that time the sabre was more in use than it

was later, and it seemed to me that I could never

again shut my ears to the sound of the grindstone,

when I found that the sabres were being sharp-

ened. The troopers, when mounted, were curio-

sities, and a decided disappointment to me. The

horse, when prepared for the march, barely showed

head and tail. My ideas of the dashing trooper

going out to war, clad in gay uniform and curb-

A CUMBERSOME LOAD.

475

ing a curvetting steed, faded into nothingness be-

fore the reahty. Though the wrapping together

of the blanket, overcoat and shelter-tent is made

a study of the tactics, it could not be reduced to

anything but a good-sized roll at the back of the

saddle. The carbine rattled on one side of the

soldier, slung from the broad strap over his

shoulder, while a frying-pan, a tin-cup, a canteen,

and a haversack of hard-tack clattered and bobbed

about on his other side. There were possibly a

hundred rounds of ammunition in his cartridge-

belt, which took away all the symmetry that his

waist might otherwise have had. If the company

commander was not too strict, a short butcher-

knife, thrust into a home-made leather case, kept

company with the pistol. It was not a murder-

ous weapon, but was used to cut up game or slice

off the bacon, which, sputtering in the skillet at

evening camp-fire, was the main feature of the

soldier’s supper. The tin utensils, the carbine and

the sabre, kept up a continual din, as the horses

seemingly crept over the trail at the rate of three

to four miles an hour. In addition to the cumber-

some load, there were sometimes lariats and iron

picket-pins slung on one side of the saddle, to

tether the animals when they grazed at night.

There was nothing picturesque about this lumber-

ing cavalryman, and, besides, our men did not

476 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

then sit their horses with the serenity that they

eventually attained. If the beast shied or kicked

— for the poor thing was itself learning to do sol-

diering, and occasionally flung out his heels, or

snatched the bit in his mouth in protest — it was a

question whether the newly made Mars would

land on the crupper or hang helplessly among the

domestic utensils suspended to his saddle. How

sorry I was for them, they were so bruised and

lamed by their first lessons in horsemanship.

Every one laughed at every one else, and this

made it seem doubly trying to me. I remembered

my own first lessons among fearless cavalrymen

— a picture of a trembling figure, about as uncer-

tain in the saddle as if it were a wave of the sea,

the hands cold and nerveless, and, I regret to add,

the tears streaming down my cheeks ! These

recollections made me writhe when I saw a soldier

describing an arc in the air, and his self-freed

horse galloping off to the music of tin and steel

in concert, for no such compulsory landing was

ever met, save by a roar of derision from the col-

umn. Just in proportion as I had suffered for their

misfortunes, did I enjoy the men when, after

the campaign, they returned, perfect horsemen

and with such physiques as might serve for a

sculptor’s model.

At the time the expedition formed at Fort Riley,

INDIAN WARFARE A REALITY. 477

I had little realization what a serious affair an In-

dian campaign was. We had heard of the out-

rages committed on the settlers, the attacking of

the overland supply-trains, and the burning of the

stage-stations ; but the rumors seemed to come

from so far away that the reality was never

brought home to me until I saw for myself what

horror attends Indian depredations. Even a dis-

aster to one that seemed to.be of our own fam-

ily failed to implant in me that terror of In-

dians which, a month or two later, I realized to its

fullest extent by personal danger. I must tell my

reader, by going back to the days of the war,

something of the one that first showed us what

Indian warfare really was. It was a sad prepara-

tion for the campaign that followed.

After General Custer had been promoted from

a captain to a brigadier-general, in 1863, his brig-

ade lay quietly in camp for a few days, to recruit

before setting out on another raid. This gave the

unusual privilege of lying in bed a little later in

the morning, instead of springing out before dawn.

For several mornings in succession, my husband

told me, he saw a little boy steal through a small

opening in the tent, take out his clothes and boots,

and after a while creep back with them, brushed

and folded. At last he asked Eliza where on

earth that cadaverous little image came from, and

478 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

she explained that it was ” a poor Uttle picked

sparrow of a chile, who had come hangin’ aroun’

the camp-fire, mos’ starved,” and added, ” Now,

Ginnel, you mustn’t go and turn him off, for he’s

got nowhar to go, and ‘pears like he’s crazy to

wait on you.” The General questioned him, and

found that the boy, being unhappy at home, had run

away. Enough of his sad life was revealed to con-

vince the General that it was useless to attempt to

return him to his Eastern home, for he was a de-

termined little fellow, and there was no question

that he would have fled again. His parents were

rich, and my husband evidently knew who they

were ; but the story was confidential, so I never

knew anything of him, except that he was always

showing signs of good-breeding, even though he

lived about the camp-fire. A letter that my hus-

band wrote to his own home at that time spoke of a

hound puppy that one of his soldiers had given to

him, and then of a little waif, called Johnnie,

whom he had taken as his servant. “The boy,”

he wrote, ” is so fond of the pup he takes him to

bed with him.” Evidently the child began his

service with devotion, for the General adds : ” I

think he would rather starve than to see me go

hungry. I have dressed him in soldier’s clothes,

and he rides one of my horses on the march.

Returning from the march one day, I found John-

DRILLING A SERVANT. ^yg

nie with his sleeves rolled up. He had washed

all my soiled clothes and hung them on the bushes

to dry. Small as he is, they were very well done.”

Soon after Johnnie became my husband’s serv-

ant, we were married, and I was taken down to

the Virginia farm-house, that was used as brigade

headquarters. By this time, Eliza had initiated

the boy into all kinds of work. She, in turn, fed

him, mended his clothes, and managed him, lord-

ing it over the child in a lofty but never unkind

manner. She had tried to drill him to wait on the

table, as she had seen the duty performed on the

old plantation. At our first dinner he was so

bashful I thought he would drop everything.

My husband did not believe in having a head and

foot to the table when we were alone, so poor little

Johnnie was asked to put my plate beside the

General’s. Though he was so embarrassed in this

new phase of his life, he was never so intimidated

by the responsibility Eliza had pressed upon him

that he was absent-minded or confused regarding

one point : he invariably passed each dish to the

General first. Possibly my husband noticed it.

I certainly did not. There was a pair of watchful

eyes at a crack in the kitchen-door, which took in

this little incident. One day the General came

into our room laughing, his eyes sparkling with

fun over Eliza’s description of how she had noticed

480 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

Johnnie always serving the General first, and had

labored with him in secret, to teach him to wait

on the lady first. “It’s manners,” she said, be-

lieving that was a crushing argument. But John-

nie, usually obedient, persistently refused, always

replying that the General was the one of us two

that ranked, and he ought to be served first.

At the time of General Kilpatrick’s famous raid,

when he went to take Richmond, General Custer

was ordered to make a detour in an opposite direc-

tion, in order to deceive the Confederate army as

to the real object to be accomplished. This ruse

worked so successfully, that General Custer and

his command were put in so close and dangerous

a situation it was with difficulty that any of them

escaped. The General told me that when the

pursuit of the enemy was hottest, and everyone

doing his utmost to escape, he saw Johnnie driv-

ing a light covered wagon at a gallop, which was

loaded with turkeys and chickens. He had re-

ceived his orders from Eliza, before setting out, to

bring back something for the mess, and the boy

had carried out her directions with a vengeance.

He impressed into his service the establishment

that he drove, and filled it with poultry. Even in

the melee and excitement of retreat, the General

was wonderfully amused, and amazed too, at the

little fellow’s fearlessness. He was too fond of him

A DARING FORAGER. 48 I

to leave him in danger, so he galloped in his direc-

tion and called to him, as he stood up lashing his

horse, to abandon his capture or he would be him-

self a prisoner. The boy obeyed, but hesitatingly,

cut the harness, sprang upon the horse’s un-

saddled back, and was soon with the main column.

The General, by this delay, was obliged to take to

an open field to avoid capture, and leap a high

fence in order to overtake the retreating troops.

He became more and more interested in the

boy, who was such a combination of courage and

fidelity, and finally arranged to have him enlist

as a soldier. The war was then drawing to its

close, and he secured to the lad a large bounty,

which he placed at interest for him, and after the

surrender persuaded Johnnie to go to school. It

was difficult to induce him to leave ; but my hus-

band realized what injustice it was to keep him in

the menial position to which he desired to return,

and finally left him, with the belief that he had

instilled some ambition into the boy.

A year and a half afterward, as we were stand-

ing on the steps of the gallery of our quarters at

Fort Riley, we noticed a stripling of a lad walk-

ing toward us, with his head hanging on his

breast, in the shy, embarrassed manner of one

who doubts his reception. With a glad cry, my

husband called out that it was Johnnie Cisco, and

482 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

bounded down the steps to meet him. After he

was assured of his welcome, he said it was impos-

sible for him to stay away, he longed so con-

stantly to be again with us, and added that if we

would only let him stay, he would not care what

he did. Of course, the General regretted the

giving up of his school ; but, now that he had

made the long journey, there was no help for it,

and he decided that he should stay with us until

he could find him employment, for he was deter-

mined that he should not re-enlist. The boy’s old

and tried friend, Eliza, at once assumed her posi-

tion of “missus,” and, kind-hearted tyrant! gave

him every comfort and made him her vassal,

without a remonstrance from the half-grown man,

for he was only too glad to be in the sole home

he knew, no matter on what terms. Soon after

his coming, the General obtained from one of the

managers of the Wells-Fargo Express Company

a place of messenger ; and the recommendation he

gave the boy for honesty and fidelity was con-

firmed over and over again by the officers of the

express line. He was known on the entire route

from Ogden to Denver, and was entrusted with

immense amounts of gold in its transmission from

the Colorado mines to the States. Several times

he came to our house for a vacation, and my hus-

band had always the unvarying and genuine

A BOY HERO. 483

welcome that no one doubted when once given,

and he did not fail to praise and encourage the

friendless fellow. Eliza, after learning what the

lad had passed through, in his dangers from

Indians, treated him like a conquering hero, but

alternately bullied and petted him still. At last

there came a long interval between his visits, and

my husband sent to the express people to inquire.

Poor Johnnie had gone like many another brave

employee of that venturesome firm. In a coura-

geous defense of the passengers and the company’s

gold, when the stage was attacked, he had been

killed by the Indians. Eliza kept the battered

valise that her favorite had left with us, and

mourned over it as if it had been something hu-

man. I found her cherishing the bag in a hidden

corner, and recalling to me, with tears, how

warm-hearted Johnnie was, saying that the night

the news of her old mother’s death came to her

from Virginia, he had sat up till daybreak to keep

the fire going. ” Miss Libbie, I tole him to go to

bed, but he said, ‘ No, Eliza, I can’t do it, when

you are in trouble : when I had no friends and

couldn’t help myself, you helped me.’ ” After

that, the lad was always ” poor Johnnie,” and

many a boy with kinsfolk of his own is not more

sincerely mourned.

As the days drew nearer for the expedition to

484 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

set out, my husband tried to keep my spirits up

by reminding me that the council to be held with

the chiefs of the war-hke tribes, when they reach-

ed that part of the country infested with the

marauding Indians, was something he hoped

might result in our speedy reunion. He endeav-

ored to induce me to think, as he did, that the

Indians would be so impressed with the magni-

tude of the expedition, that, after the council, they

would accept terms and abandon the war-path.

Eight companies of our own regiment were going

out, and these, with infantry and artillery, made a

force of fourteen hundred men. It was really a

large expedition, for the Plains ; but the recollec-

tions of the thousands of men in the Third

Cavalry Division, which was the General’s com-

mand during the war, made the expedition seem

too small even for safety.

No one can enumerate the terrors, imaginary

and real, that filled the hearts of women on the

border in those desperate days. The buoyancy

of my husband had only a momentary effect in

the last hours of his stay. That time seemed to

fly fast ; but no amount of excitement and bustle

of preparation closed my eyes, even momentarily,

to the dragging hours that awaited me. Such

partings are a torture that it is difficult even to

refer to. My husband added another struggle to

A SILENT COLUMN. 485

my lot by imploring me not to let him see the

tears that he knew, for his sake, I could keep back

until he was out of sight. Though the band

played its usual departing tune, ” The Girl I Left

Behind Me,” if there was any music in the notes,

it was all in the minor key to the men who left

their wives behind them. No expedition goes out

with shout and song, if loving, weeping women

are left behind. Those who have not assumed the

voluntary fetters that bind us for weal or for woe,

and render it impossible to escape suffering while

those we love suffer, or rejoicing while those to

whom we are united are jubilant, felt too keenly

for their comrades when they watched them tear

themselves from clinging arms inside the thresh-

old of their homes, even to keep up the* stream of

idle chaffing that only such occasions can stop.

There was silence as the column left the garrison.

Alas ! the closed houses they left were as still as

if death had set its seal upon the door ; no sound

but the sobbing and moans of women’s breaking

hearts.

Eliza stood guard at my door for hours and

hours, until I had courage, and some degree of

peace, to take up life again. A loving, suffering

woman came to sleep with me for a night or two.

The hours of those first wakeful nights seemed

endless. The anxious, unhappy creature beside

486 TENTmc OS’ rim plains.

me said, gently, in the small hours, ” Libbie, are

you awake ?” ” Oh, yes,” I replied, ” and have

been for ever so long.” ” What are you doing?”

*’ Saying over hymns, snatches of poetry, the

Lord’s Prayer backward, counting, etc., to try to

put myself to sleep.” ” Oh, say some rhyme to

me, in mercy’s name, for I am past all hope of

sleep while I am so unhappy !” Then I repeated,

over and over again, a single verse, written, perhaps,

by someone who, like ourselves, knew little of the

genius of poetry, but, alas ! much of what makes

up the theme of all the sad verses of the world.

” There’s something in the parting hour

That chills the warmest heart ;

But kindred, comrade, lover, friend,

Are fated all to part.

But this I’ve seen, and many a pang

Has pressed it on my mind —

The one that goes is happier

Than he who stays behind.”

Perhaps after I had said this and another similar

verse over and over again, in a sing-song, droning

voice, the regular breathing at my side told me

that the poor tired heart had found temporary for-

getfulness ; but when we came to the sad reality

of our lonely life next day, every object in our

quarters reminded us what it is to ” stay behind.”

There are no lonely women who will not realize

how the very chairs, or anything in common use,

IWILIGHT’S ”SOBER LIVERY,” 487

»

take to themselves voices and call out reminders

of what has been and what now is. Fill up the

time as we might, there came each day, at

twilight, an hour that should be left out of every

solitary life. It is meant only for the happy, who

need make no subterfuges to fill up hours that are

already precious.

CHAPTER XV.

A PRAIRIE FIRE LETTERS FROM THE GENERAL LEND-

ING A DOG FOR A BEDFELLOW BEALTy’s BOWS

AND BEAUX NEGRO RECRUITS TURN THE POST

INTO A CIRCUS LADIES FIRED ON BY A SENTI-

NEL THE SUGAR MUTINY SMALL-POX IN THE

GARRISON GENERAL GIBBS RESTORES ORDER

AN EARTHQUAKE AT FORT RILEY.

T T was a great change for us from the bustle and

excitement of the cavalry, as they prepared

for the expedition, to the dull routine of an infan-

try garrison that replaced the dashing troopers.

It was intensely quiet, and we missed the clatter

of the horses’ hoofs, the click of the curry-comb,

which had come from the stables at the morning

and evening grooming of the animals, the voices

of the officers drilling the recruits, the constant

passing and repassing of mounted men in front of

our quarters ; above all, the enlivening trumpet-

calls ringing out all day, and we rebelled at the

drum and bugle that seemed so tame in contrast.

There were no more long rides for me, for Custis

Lee was taken out at my request, as I feared no

one would give him proper care at the post. Even

A DESOLATE GARRISON. 489

the little chapel where the officers’ voices had

added their music to the chants, was now nearly

deserted. The chaplain was an interesting man,

and the General and most of the garrison had

attended the services during the winter. Only

three women were left to respond, and, as we had

all been reared in other churches, we quaked a

good deal, for fear our responses would not come

in the right place. They did not lack in earnest-

ness, for when had we lonely creatures such cause

to send up petitions as at that time, when those

for whom we prayed were advancing into an

enemy’s country day by day ! Never had the

beautiful Litany, that asks deliverance for all in

trouble, sorrow, perplexity, temptation, born such

significance to us as then. No one can dream, un-

til it is brought home to him, how space doubles,

trebles, quadruples, when it is impossible to see

the little wire that, fragile as it seems, chains one

to the absent. It is difficult to realize, now that

our country is cobwebbed with telegraph lines,

what a despairing feeling it was, in those days, to

get far beyond the blessed nineteenth-century

mode of communication. He who crosses the

ocean knows a few days of such uncertainty, but

over the pathless sea of Western prairie it was

chaos, after the sound of the last horse’s hoof was

lost in the distance.

490

TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

We had not been long alone, when a great dan-

ger threatened us. The level plateau about our

post, and the valley along the river near us, were

covered with dry prairie grass, which grows

thickly and is matted down into close clumps. It

was discovered, one day, that a narrow thread of

fire was creeping on in our direction, scorching

these tufts into shrivelled brown patches that were

ominously smoking when first seen. As I begin

to write of what followed, I find it difficult ; for

even those living in Western States and Territo-

ries regard descriptions of prairie-fires as exagger-

ated, and are apt to look upon their own as the

extreme to which they ever attain. I have seen

the mild type, and know that a horseman rides

through such quiet conflagrations in saf-ety. The

trains on some of our Western roads pass harmless

through belts of country when the flames are about

them ; there is no impending peril, because the

winds are moderate. When a tiny flame is dis-

covered in Kansas or other States, where the wind

blows a hurricane so much of the time, there is not

a moment to lose. Although we saw what was

hardly more than a suspicion of smoke, and the

slender, sinuous, red tongue along the ground, we

women had read enough of the fires in Kansas to

know that the small blaze meant that our lives

were in jeopardy. Most of us were then unac-

PRAIRIE GRASS ABLAZE.

491

quainted with those precautions which the experi-

enced Plains-man takes, and, indeed, we had no

ranchmen near to set us the example of caution

which the frontiersman so soon learns. We

should have had furrows ploughed around the en-

tire post in double lines, a certain distance apart,

to check the approach of fire. There was no time

to fight the foe with a like weapon, by burning

over a portion of the grass between the advan-

cing blaze and our post. The smoke rose higher

and higher beyond us, and curling, creeping

fire began to ascend into waves of flame with

alarming rapidity, and in an incredibly short

time we were overshadowed with a dark pall of

smoke.

The Plains were then new to us. It is impossible

to appreciate their vastness at first. The very

idea was hard to realize, that from where we lived

we looked on an uninterrupted horizon. We felt

that it must be the spot where some one first said,

” The sky fits close down all around.” It fills the

soul with wonder and awe to look upon the vast-

ness of that sea of land for the first time. As the

sky became lurid, and the blaze swept on toward

us, surging to and fro in waving lines as it ap-

proached nearer and nearer, it seemed that the end

of the world, when all shall be rolled together as a

scroll, had really come. The whole earth appeared

492

TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

to be on fire. The sky was a sombre canopy-

above us, on which flashes of brilUant hght sud-

denly appeared as the flames rose, fanned by a

fresh gust of wind. There were no screams nor

cries, simply silent terror and shiverings of horror,

as we women huddled together to watch the

remorseless fiend advancing with what appeared

to be inevitable annihilation of the only shelter

we had. Every woman’s thoughts turned to her

natural protector, now far away, and longed with

unutterable longing for one who, at the approach

of danger, stood like a bulwark of courage and

defense. The river was half a mile away, and our

feet could not fly fast enough to reach the water

before the enemy would be upon us. There was

no such a thing as a fire-engine. The Government

then had not even provided the storehouses and

quarters with the Babcock Extinguisher. We

were absolutely powerless, and could only fix our

fascinated gaze upon the approachmg foe.

In the midst of this appalling scene, we were

startled anew by a roar and shout from the

soldiers’ barracks. Some one had, at last, pres-

ence of mind to marshal the men into line, and,

assuming the commanding tone that ensures action

and obedience in emergencies, gave imperative

orders. Every one — citizen employees, soldiers

and officers — seized gunny sacks, blankets, poles,

CRUSHING OUT FIRE.

49:

anything available that came in their way, and

raced wildly beyond the post into the midst of the

blazing- grass. Forming a cordon, they beat and

lashed the flames with the blankets, so twisted as

to deal powerful blows. It was a frenzied fight.

The soldiers yelled, swore and leaped frantically

upon beds of blazing grass, condensing a lifetime

of riotous energy into these perilous moments.

We women were not breathless and trembling over

fears for ourselves alone : our hearts were filled

with terror for the brave men who were working

for our deliverance. They were men to whom we

had never spoken, nor were we likely ever to speak

to them, so separated are the soldiers in barracks

from an officer’s household. Sometimes we saw

their eyes following us respectfully, as we rode

about the garrison, seeming to have in them an air

of possession, as if saying, ” That’s our captain’s or

our colonel’s wife.” Now, they were showing their

loyalty, for there are always a few of a regiment

left behind to care for the company property, or

to take charge of the gardens for the soldiers.

These men, and all the other brave fellows with

them, imperiled their lives in order that the

officers who had gone out for Indian warfare,

might come’ home and find “all’s well.” Let

soldiers know that a little knot of women are

looking to them as their saviors, and you will

494 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

see what nerves of iron they have, what inexhaust-

ible strength they can exhibit.

No sooner had the flames been stamped out of

one portion of the plain, than the whole body of

men were obliged to rush off in another direction

and begin the thrashing and tramping anew. It

seemed to us that there was no such thing as

conquering anything so insidious. But the wind,

that had been the cause of our danger, saved us

at last. That very wind which we had reviled all

winter for its doleful bowlings around our quar-

ters and down the chimneys ; that self-same wind

that had infuriated us by blowing our hats off

when we went out to walk, or impeded our steps

by twisting our skirts into hopeless folds about

our ankles — was now to be our savior. Suddenly

veering, as is its fashion in Kansas, it swept the

long tongues of flame over the bluffs beyond us,

where the lonely coyote and its mate were driven

into their lair. By this vagary of the element,

that is never anywhere more variable than in

Kansas, our quarters, our few possessions, and no

doubt our lives, were saved. With faces begrimed

and blistered, their clothes black with soot and

smoke, their hands burnt and numb from violent

effort, the soldiers and citizen employees dragged

their exhausted bodies back to garrison, and

dropped down anywhere to rest.

A SOLDIER’S DEVOTION.

495

The tinge of green that had begun to appear

was now gone, and the charred, smoke-stained

earth spread as far as we could see, making more

desolate the arid, treeless country upon which we

looked. It was indeed a blackened and dismal

desert that encircled us, and we knew that we

were deprived of the delight of the tender green

of early spring, which carpets the Plains for a

brief time before the sun parches and turns to

russet and brown the turf of our Western prairies.

As we sat on the gallery, grieving over this

ruin of spring, Mrs. Gibbs gathered her two boys

closer to her, as she shuddered over another experi-

ence with prairie fire, where her children were in

peril. The little fellows, in charge of a soldier,

were left temporarily on the bank of a creek.

Imagine the horror of a mother who finds, as she

did, the grass on fire and a broad strip of flame

separating her from her children ! Before the

little ones could follow their first instinct, and

thereby encounter certain death by attempting to

run through the fire to their mother, the devoted

soldier, who had left them but a moment, realizing

that they would instantly seek their mother, ran

like an antelope to where the fire-band narrowed,

leaped the flame, seized the little men, and

plunged with mad strides to the bank of the

creek, where, God be praised ! nature provides

496

TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

a refuge from the relentless foe of our Western

plains.

In our Western prairie fires the flame is often a

mile long, perhaps not rising over a foot high,

but, sweeping from six to ten miles an hour, it re-

quires the greatest exertion of the ranchmen, with

all kinds of improvised flails, to beat out the fire.

The final resort of a frontiersman, if the flames are

too much for him to overcome, is to take refuge

with his family, cattle, horses, etc., in the garden,

where the growing vegetables make an effectual

protection. Alas, when he finds it safe to venture

from the green oasis, the crops are not only gone,

but the roots are burned, and the ground valueless

from the parching of the terrible heat. When a

prairie fire is raging at ten miles an hour, the hur-

ricane lifts the tufts of loosened bunch grass,

which in occasional clumps is longer than the rest,

carrying it far beyond the main fire, and thus

starting a new flame. No matter how weary the

pioneer may be after a day’s march, he neglects

no precautions that can secure him from fire. He

twists into wisp the longest of the bunch grass,

trailing it around the camp ; the fire thus started is

whipped out by the teamsters, after it has burned

over a sufficient area for safety. They follow the

torch of the leader with branches of the green wil-

low or twigs of cotton-wood bound together.

498 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

The first letters, sent back from the expedition

by scouts, made red-letter days for us. The offi-

cial envelope, stained with rain and mud. bursting”

open with the many pages crowded in, sometimes

even tied with a string by some messenger through

whose hands the parcel passed, told stories of the

vicissitudes of the missive in the difficult journey

to our post. These letters gave accounts of the

march to Fort Larned, where a great camp was

established, to await the arrival of the chiefs with

whom the council was to be held. While the run-

ners were absent on their messages to the tribes,

some effort was made to protect the troops against

the still sharp winds of early spring. The halt

and partly permanent camp was most fortunate ;

for had the troops been on the march, a terrible

snow-storm that ensued would have wrought

havoc, for the cold became so intense, and the

snow so blinding, it was only through great pre-

cautions that loss of life was prevented. The

animals were given an extra ration of oats, while

the guards were obliged to take whips and strike

at the horses on the picket-line, to keep them in

motion and prevent them from freezing. The

snow was eight inches deep, a remarkable fall for

Kansas at that time of the year. As we read over

these accounts, which all the letters contained,

though mine touched lightly on the subject, owing

BORROWING A BEDFELLOW. ^gg

to my husband’s fixed determination to write of

the bright side, we felt that we had hardly a right

to our fires and comfortable quarters. There were

officers on the expedition who could not keep

warm. A number were then enduring their first

exposure to the elements, and I remember that

several, who afterward became stalwart, healthy

men, were then partial invalids, owing to seden-

tary life in the States, delicate lungs or climatic

influences.

In my husband’s letters there was a laughable

description of his lending his dog to keep a friend

warm. The officer came into the tent after dark,

declaring that no amount of bedding had any

effect in keeping out the cold, and he had come

to borrow a dog, to see if he could have one night’s

uninterrupted rest. Our old hound was offered,,

because he could cover such a surface, for he was

a big brute, and when he once located himself he;

rarely moved until morning. My husband forgot,

in giving Rover his recommendation, to mention

a habit he had of sleeping audibly, besides a little

fashion of twitching his legs and thumping his

cumbrous tail, in dreams that were evidently of

the chase, or of battles he was Hving over, in which

” Turk,” the bull-dog, was being vanquished. He

was taken into the neighbor’s tent, and induced

to settle for the night, after the General’s coaxing.

500

TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

and pretense of going to sleep beside him. Later,

when he went back to see how Rover worked as

• a portable furnace, he found the officer sound

asleep on his back, emitting such nasal notes as

only a stout man is equal to, while Rover lay

sprawled over the broad chest of his host, where

he had crept after he was asleep, snoring with an

occasional interlude of a long-drawn snort, intro-

duced in a manner peculiar to fox-hounds. The

next morning my husband was not in the least

surprised, after what he had seen the night before,

to receive a call from the officer, who presented a

request to exchange dogs. He said that when he

made the proposal, he did not expect to have a

bedfellow that would climb up over his lungs and

crush all the breath out of his body. Instead of

showing proper sympathy, the General threw him-

self on his pallet and roared with laughter.

All these camp incidents brightened up the long

letters, and kept me from realizing, as I read, what

were the realities of that march, undertaken so

early in the season. But as the day advanced,

and the garrison exchanged the news contained

in all the letters that had arrived from the expedi-

tion, I could not deceive myself into the belief

that the way of our regiment had thus far been

easy.

With all my endeavors to divide the day

TIME DRAGS. 5OI

methodically, and enforce certain duties upon

myself, knowing well that it was my only refuge

from settled melancholy, I found time a laggard.-

It is true, my clothes were in a deplorable state,

for while our own officers were with us they looked

to us to fill up their leisure hours. The General,

always devoted to his books, could read in the

midst of our noisy circle ; but I was never permit-

ted much opportunity, and managed to keep up

with the times by my husband’s account of the

important news, and by the agreeable method of

listening to the discussions of the men upon topics

of the hour. If, while our circle was intact, I tried

to sew, a ride, a walk or a game of parlor croquet

was proposed, to prevent my even mending our

clothing. Now that we were alone, it was neces-

sary to make the needle fly. Eliza was set up with

a supply of blue-checked gowns and aprons, while

my own dresses were reconstructed, the riding-

habit was fortified with patches, and any amount

of stout linen thread disappeared in strengthening

the seams ; for between the hard riding and the

gales of wind we encountered, the destruction of

a habit was rapid,

Diana, with the elastic heart of a coquette, had

not only sped the parting, but welcomed the

coming guest ; for hardly had the sound of the

trumpet died away, before a new officer began to

C02 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

frequent our parlor. It was then the fashion for

men to wear a tiny neck-bow, called a butterfly

tie. They were made on a pasteboard founda-

tion, with a bit of elastic cord to fasten them to

the shirt-stud. I knew of no pasteboard nearer

than Leavenw^orth ; but in the curly head there

were devices to meet the exigency. I found

Diana with her lap full of photographs, cutting up

the portraits of the departed beaux, to make ties

for the next. Whether the new suitor ever dis-

covered that he was wearing at his neck the face

of a predecessor, I do not know ; but this I do

remember, that the jagged, frayed appearance

that the girl’s dresses presented when turned

inside out, betrayed where the silk was procured

to make the neck-ties. She had gouged out bits

of the material where the skirt was turned in, and

when we attempted to remodel ourselves and cut

down the voluminous breadths of that time into

tightly gored princess gowns, we were put to it to

make good the deficiencies, and ” piece out ” the

silk that had been sacrificed to her flirtations.

Succeeding letters from my husband gave an

account of his first experience with the perfidy of

the Indians. The council had been held, and it

was hoped that effectual steps were taken to estab-

lish peace. But, as is afterward related, the chiefs

gave them the slip and deserted the village. Even

A

NEGROES AS SOLDIERS.

503

in the midst of hurried preparations to follow the

renegades, my husband stopped, in order that his

departure might not make me depressed, to give

an account of a joke that they all had on one of

their number, who dared to eat soup out of an

Indian kettle still simmering over the deserted fire.

The General pressed the retreating Indians so

closely, the very night of their departure, that

they were obliged to divide into smaller detach-

ments, and even the experienced plainsmen could

no longer trace a trail.

Meanwhile, as our officers were experiencing all

sorts of new phases in life on their first march

over the Plains, our vicissitudes were increasing at

what seemed to be the peaceful Fort Riley. I

had seen with dismay that the cavalry were re-

placed by negro infantry, and found that they

were to garrison the post for the summer. I had

never seen negroes as soldiers, and these raw re-

cruits had come from plantations, where I had

known enough of their life, while in Texas and

Louisiana, to realize what an irresponsible, child’s

existence it was. Entirely dependent on some

one’s care, and without a sense of obligation of any

kind, they were exempt from the necessity of

thinking about the future. Their time had been

spent in following the directions of the overseer

in the corn-field or cotton brake by day, and be-

^

504

TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

gulling the night with the coon-hunt or the banjo.

The early days of their soldiering were a reign of

terror to us women, in our lonely, unprotected

homes. It was very soon discovered that the

officer who commanded them was for the first

time accustoming himself to colored troops, and

did not know how to keep in check the boister-

ous, undisciplined creatures. He was a courteous,

quiet man, of scholarly tastes, and evidently enter-

tained the belief that moral suasion would event-

ually effect any purpose. The negroes, doubtless

discovering what they could do under so mild a

commander, grew each day more lawless. They

used the parade-ground, which our officers had

consecrated to the most formal of ceremonies,

like dress-parades and guard-mount, for a play-

ground ; turning hand-springs all over the sprout-

ing grass, and vaulting in leap-frog over the bent

back of a comrade. If it were possible for people

in the States to realize how sacred the parade-

ground of a Western post is, how hurriedly a

venturesome cow or loose horse is marshaled off,

how pompously every one performs the military

duties permitted on this little square ; how even

the color-sergeant, who marches at measured gait

to take down and furl the garrison flag, when the

evening gun announces that the sun has been, by

the royal mandate of military law, permitted to

DESECRATED GROUND.

505

set — they would then understand with what per-

turbation we women witnessed the desecration

of what had been looked upon as hallowed earth.

The sacrilege of these monkey acrobats turning”

somersaults over the ground, their elongated heels

vibrating in the air, while they stood upon their

heads in front of our windows, made us very in-

dignant. When one patted “juba,” and a group

danced, we seemed transformed into a discon-

nected minstrel show. There was not a trace of

the well-conducted post of a short time before.

All this frivolity was but the prelude to serious

trouble. The joy with which the negroes came

into possession of a gun for the first time in their

lives, would have been ludicrous had it not been

extremely dangerous. They are eminently a race

given over to display. This was exhibited in their

attempts to make themselves marksmen in a single

day. One morning we were startled by a shot

coming from the barracks. It was followed by a

rush of men out of the doors, running wildly

to and fro, yelling with alarm. We knew that

some disaster had occurred, and it proved to be

the instant death of a too confiding negro, who

had allowed himself to be cast for the part of

William Tell’s son. His accidental murderer was

a man that had held a gun in his hand that week

for the first time.

5o6

TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

They had no sort of idea how to care for their

health. The ration of a soldier is so large that a

man who can eat it all in a day is renowned as a

glutton. I think but few instances ever occur

where the entire ration is consumed by one man.

It is not expected, and, fortunately, with all the

economy of the Government, the supply has never

been cut down ; but the surplus is sold and a com-

pany fund established. By this means, the meagre

fare is increased by buying vegetables, if it hap-

pen to be a land where they can be obtained.

The negroes, for the first time in possession of all

the coffee, pork, sugar and hard-tack they wanted,

ate inordinately. There was no one to compel

them to cleanliness. If a soldier in a white regi-

ment is very untidy the men become indignant,

and as the voluminous regulations provide direc-

tions only for the scrubbing of the quarters and

not of the men, they sometimes take the affair

into their own hands, and, finding from their cap-

tain that they vs^ill not be interfered with, the un-

tidy one is taken on a compulsory journey to the

creek and ” ducked ” until the soldiers consider

him endurable. The negroes at that time had no

idea of encountering the chill of cold water on

their tropical skins, and suffered the consequences

very soon. Pestilence broke out among them.

Small-pox, black measles and other contagious dis-

INFECTED AIR. 507

eases raged, while the soldier’s enemy, scurvy,

took possession. We were within a stone’s-throw

of the barracks. Of course the illest among them

were quarantined in hospital-tents outside the gar-

rison ; but to look over to the infested barracks

and realize what lurked behind the walls, was,

to say the least, uncomfortable for those of us

who were near enough to breathe almost the

same air.

Added to this, we felt that, with so much indis-

criminate firing, a shot might at any time enter

our windows. One evening a few women were

walking outside the garrison. Our limits were not

so circumscribed, at that time, as they were in al-

most all the places where I was stationed afterward.

A sentinel always walked a beat in front of a small

arsenal outside of the post, and, overcome with

the grandeur of carrying a gun and wearing a

uniform, he sought to impress his soldierly quali-

ties on anyone approaching by a stentorian ” Who

comes thar ? ” It was entirely unnecessary, as it

was light enough to see the fluttering skirts of

women, for the winds kept our drapery in con-

stant motion. Almost instantly after his chal-

lenge, the flash of his gun and the whiz of a

bullet past us made us aware that our lives were

spared only because of his inaccurate aim. Of

course that ended our evening walks, and it was

208 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

a great deprivation, as the monotony of a garrison

becomes almost unbearable.

There was one person who profited by the

presence of the negro troops. Our Eliza was

such a belle, that she would have them elevated

into too exalted a sphere to wait on us, had she

not been accustomed to constant adulation from

the officers’ body-servants from the time, as she ex-

pressed it, when she ” entered the service.” Still,

it was a distraction, of which she availed herself

in our new post, to receive new beaux, tire of them,

quarrel and discard them for fresh victims. They

waited on her assiduously, and I suspect they

dined daily in our kitchen, as long as their brief

season of favor lasted. They even sought to

curry favor with Eliza by gifts to me, snaring

quail, imprisoning them in cages made of cracker-

boxes, or bringing dandelion greens or wild-

flowers as they appeared in the dells. For all

these gifts I was duly grateful, but I was very

much afraid of a negro soldier, nevertheless.

At last our perplexities and frights reached a

climax. One night we heard the measured tramp

of feet over the gravel in the road in front of our

quarters, and they halted almost opposite our

windows, where we could hear the voices. No

loud ” Halt, who comes there ! ” rang out on the

air, for the sentinel was enjoined to silence. Be-

MARAUDERS AT NIGHT.

509

ing frightened, I called to Eliza. To Diana and to

me she was worth a corporal’s guard, and could not

be equaled as a defender, solacer and general mana-

ger of our dangerous situations — indeed, of all our

affairs. Eliza ran up-stairs in response to my cry,

and we watched with terror what went on. It

soon was discovered to be a mutiny. The men

growled and swore, and we could see by their

threatening movements that they were in a state

of exasperation. They demanded the command-

ing officer, and as he did not appear, they clenched

their fists, and looked at the house as if they

would tear it down, or at least break in the doors.

It seemed a desperate situation to us, for the

quarters were double, and our gallery had no

division from the neighbors. If doors and windows

were to be demolished, there would be little hope

for ours. I knew of no way by which we could

ask help, as most of the soldiers were colored, and

we felt sure that the plan, whatever it was, must

include them all. »

At last Eliza realized how terrified I was, and

gave up the absorbing watch she was keeping, for

her whole soul was in the wrongs, real or fancied,

of her race. Too often had she comforted me in

my fears to forget me now, and an explanation,

was given of this alarming outbreak.

The men had for some time been demanding

« •

5IO TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

the entire ration, and were especially clamorous

for all the sugar that was issued. Very naturally,,

the captain had withheld the supernumerary sup-

plies, in order to make company savings for the

purpose of buying vegetables. A mutiny over

sugar may seem a small affair, but it assumes

threatening proportions when a mob of menacing,

furious men tramp up and down in front of one’s

house, and there is no safe place of refuge, nor

any one to whom appeal can be made. Eliza

kept up a continuous com.forting and reassuring,

but when I reminded her that our door had no

locks, or, rather, no keys, for it was not the cus-

tom to lock army quarters, she said, ” La, Miss

Libbie, they won’t tech you ; you dun wrote too

many letters for ’em, and they’se got too many

good vittels in your kitchen ever to ‘sturb

you.” Strong excitement is held to be the

means of bringing out the truth, and here were

the facts revealed that they had been bountifully

fed at our expense. I had forgotten how much

ink I had used in trying to put down their very

w^ords in love-letters, or family epistles to the

Southern plantation. The infuriated men had to

quiet down, for no response came from the com-

manding officer. They found out, I suppose from

the investigations of one acting as spy, and going

to the rear of the quarters, that he had disap-

A TEMPORARY CALM.

511

peared. To our intense relief, they straggled off

until their growling and muttering was lost in the

barracks, where they fortunately went to bed.

No steps were taken to punish them, and at any

imaginary wrong, they might feel, from the suc-

cess of this first attempt at insurrection, that it

was safe to repeat the experiment. We women

had little expectation but that the summer would

be one of carousal and open rebellion against mili-

tary rule. The commanding officer, though very

retiring, was so courteous and kindly to all the

women left in the garrison, that it was difficult to

be angry with him for his failure to control the

troops. Indeed, his was a hard position to fill,

with a lot of undisciplined, ignorant, ungoverned

creatures, who had never been curbed, except by

the punishment of plantation life.

Meanwhile my letters, on which I wrote every

day, even if there was no opportunity to send

them, made mention of our frights and uncertain-

ties. Each mail carried out letters from the

women to the expedition, narrating their fears.

We had not the slightest idea that there was a

remedy. I looked upon the summer as the price I

was to pay for the privilege of being so far on the

frontier, so much nearer the expedition than the

families of officers who had gone East. With all

my tremors and misgivings, I had no idea of re-

5 I 2 TENTIXG ON THE PLAINS.

treating” to safe surroundings, as I should then

lose my hope of eventually going out to the

regiment. It took a long time for our letters to

reach the expedition, and a correspondingly long

time for replies ; but the descriptions of the night

of the mutiny brought the officers together in

council, and the best disciplinarian of our regiment

was immediately despatched to our relief. I knew

but little of General Gibbs at that time ; my hus-

band had served with him during the war, and

valued his soldierly ability and sincere friendship.

He had been terribly wounded in the Indian wars

before the Civil War, and was really unfit for hard

service, but too soldierly to be willing to remain

at the rear. In a week after his arrival at our

post, there was a marked difference in the state of

affairs. Out of the seemingly hopeless material,

General Gibbs made soldiers who were used as

guards over Government property through the

worst of the Indian country, and whose courage

was put to the test by frequent attacks, where

they had to defend themselves as well as the sup-

plies. The opinion of soldier and citizen alike

underwent a change, regarding negroes as soldiers,

on certain duty to which they were fitted. A

ranchman, after praising their fighting, before the

season was ended said, ” And plague on my cats

if they don’t like it.”

UNCERTAIN TERRA FIRMA.

513

We soon found that we had reached a country

where the weather could show more remarkable

and sudden phases in a given time than any por-

tion of the United States. The cultivation of the

ground, planting of trees, and such causes, have

materially modified some of the extraordinary

exhibitions that we witnessed when Kansas was

supposed to be the great American desert. With

all the surprises that the elements furnished, there

was one that we would gladly have been spared.

One quiet day I heard a great rumbling in the

~ direction of the plateau where we had ridden so

much, as if many prairie-schooners, heavily laden,

were being spirited away by the stampede ot

mules. Next, our house began to rock, the bell to

ring, and the pictures to vibrate on the wall. The

mystery was solved when we ran to the gallery,

and found the garrison rushing out of barracks

and quarters. Women and children ran to the

parade-ground, all hatless, some half-dressed.

Everybody stared at every one else, turned pale,

and gasped with fright. It was an earthquake,

sufficiently serious to shake our stone quarters and

overturn the lighter articles, while farther down

the guUey the great stove at the sutler’s store was

tumbled over and the side of the building broken

^ in by the shock. There was a deep fissure in the

side of the bank, and the waters of the Big Blue

CI4 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

were so agitated that the bed of the river twelve

feet deep was plainly visible.

The usual session of the ” Did-you-evers ” took

place, and resolutions were drawn up — not com-

mitted to paper, however — giving the opinion of

women on Kansas as a place of residence. We

had gone through prairie-fire, pestilence, mutiny,

a river freshet, and finally, an earthquake: enough

exciting events to have been scattered through a

life-time were crowded into a few weeks. Yet in

these conclaves, when we sought sympathy and

courage from one another, there was never a sug-

gestion of returning to a well-regulated climate.

CHAPTER XVL

EXTRACTS FROM GENERAL CUSTEr’s LETTERS THE

MARCH FROM FORT RILEY TO FORT HARKER

DOGS AND HORSES ON THEIR FIRST WESTERN

CAMPAIGN EXPERIENCES IN MESSING IN A COUN-

TRY VOID OF SUPPLIES CHASING JACK-RABBITS.

I

HAVE made selections from General Custer’s

letters, which will give something of an idea

of what the daily life on the march really was.

Of the many long letters that came to me, in spite

of the hundred drawbacks that attended a West-

ern mail, I have only attempted to cull those por-

tions pertaining to the chase, the march, and the

camp life after the tents were pitched for the night.

General Custer, knowing that his official reports

would give the military side, wrote comparatively

little in his home letters on that subject.

“Chapman’s Creek, March 27, 1867.

“We left the bridge at Fort Riley at 2 : 20, I

having to wait for my led horses. We passed

through Junction City without difficulty, the dogs

behaving admirably. We arrived here at 5 : 20,

our wagons reaching camp a few moments after-

ward. I wish you could have seen the three of

5 1 6 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

US eating our dinner of ham, chicken, pickles and

coffee. We all agreed that we had never tasted

more delicious ham — and such biscuit ! I know

you would have been glad to see me eat. One of

our officers says he never saw such an amount of

mess stuff as you have put up for me. We have

a splendid camp, and have found very nice roads

nearly all the way. We are in our tent, and en-

joying a pleasant fire from our Sibley stove. Four

of the dogs, fatigued by the first day’s march, are

snoring round the fire ; they had to begin their

campaigning by swimming the creek. The dogs

do splendidly. The old hound Rover took his

place alongside the table at dinner, as naturally

as if he had been accustomed to it all his life.”

“Abilene Creek, March 28, 1867.

“Your letter by Sergeant Dalton came about

5 o’clock this afternoon. I need not say how

glad I was when I saw him coming toward me,

as I instinctively read ” Letter from somebody ” on

his countenance. We left our camp at Chapman’s

at 8:30 this morning ; the artillery and infantry

left earlier. We passed the infantry about five

miles out. Wasn’t I glad I was not a doughboy,^

as I saw the poor fellows trudging along under

their heavy burdens, while the gay, frolicking

cavalry-man rode by, carelessly smoking his pipe,

and casting a look of pity upon his more unfort-

unate comrades of the infantry. As usual, I

placed my tent up-stream, beyond all the others.

We have a very pleasant camp along the west

* A ” doughboy ” is a small, round doughnut served to sailors on

shipboard, generally with hash. Early in the Civil War the term

was applied to the large globular brass buttons of the infantry

uniform, from which it passed, by a natural transition, to the infan-

trymen themselves.

NIGHT SCENE IN THE TENT

517

bank of the creek ; good water, good ground, and

sufficient wood to make us very comfortable.

Two of us came in advance with several orderlies.

I rode Custis Lee. As soon as I fixed upon our head-

quarters, I unsaddled Lee and turned him loose

to graze. I passed the time in carrying drift and

dry wood for our camp and tent fire, as we knew

wood would be in high demand when the troops

reached the ground. We collected an abundant

supply. Custis Lee, every few moments, as if to

assist in the digestion of the prairie grass he was

eating, would vary the monotony by lying down

and taking a fresh though not hot roll. Finally

he got too near the high bank, or declivity, which

descends to the edge of the creek, and rolled over

the crest, sliding down to the foot, a distance of

several yards ; but doing himself no injury what-

ever, as he found his way back and went to grazing

immediately.

” I wish you could look into my tent at this

moment. One of the officers has just taken his

second apple and bid us good-night. My tent-

mate has wound his watch, and is carefully piling

up his garments near the head of his bed, prepara-

tory to retiring. I am seated at the camp-desk,

writing by candle-light. The cook’s tent is but a

few steps in the rear of mine. It contains an

Irishman, a Dutchman and an Englishman, all

feeling good and trymg to talk at the same

time. As I can hear every word they say,

it is sometimes laughable. All the camp

are asleep, and I am alone — no, not alone, for,

casting your eyes to the side of the tent,

you behold three sleepers, weary and travel-

worn, as their snoring and heavy breathing be-

token. They are stretched calmly upon the lowly

couch of your humble correspondent. Near them,

5 1 8 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

and on the tent fly used to wrap my bedding, are

two other sleepers, evidently overcome by fatigue.

Their appearance is more youthful, though none

the less striking, than that of the ones first de-

scribed. The names of the latter are Rover,

Sharp and Lu. Rover, being the patriarch of

the group, of course selects his position near the

pillow ; Lu, being somewhat diffident, accepts a

place nearer the foot ; while Sharp, to show him-

self worthy of his name, has crowded in between

the two, knowing it to be the warmest spot he

could find. Rattler and Fanny, being young and

unassuiTiing, have graciously accepted a more

humble abiding-place on the folded tent-fly, near

the head of the bed. I have no doubt, however,

that they Vere induced to adopt this course, not so

much from modesty as owing to the fact that

nearly all the available space in the bed was taken

by their elders. I do not think they have stirred for

the last four hours. This morning I was taking a

nap. Rover, Lu and Sharp being alongside of

me on the narrow bed. Rattler and Fanny near

me, all of us asleep, when General S called.

He laughed heartily at the sight ; but I assure

you they are great company to me, and are as

completely domiciled in the tent, as if ” to the

manner born.” Our dinner to-day was very good

indeed ; but I could tell that Eliza had not been

within several miles of my cook-fire, leastwise the

coffee did not show it. The cook says he put in a

great deal, but that the coffee was burnt too much,

or not enough. But, really, he does remarkably

well for a soldier. We have for dinner apple-frit-

ters, tomatoes, fried eggs, broiled ham, cold bis-

cuit and coffee. For breakfast we are to have

fried onions, baked potatoes, fried eggs, mutton

chops, apple-fritters, and some warm bread. This

CAMP FARE. 5 1 9

full bill of fare will not continue long ; for it is

owing only to your abundant providing of sup-

plies.

“After dinner I told the cook I was very much

pleased with everything except the coffee, which

was not quite strong enough. I suppose Eliza

will laugh at what I next said, because she knows

how I insist upon her giving me a dish I like,

over and over again, till I tire of it. I told the

cook that, as I liked the apple-fritters so much, he

might give them to me at every meal, until

further orders. They are not exactly apple-frit-

ters, but he slices the apples, dips them in batter,

and fries them. Try it. He is very neat thus

far ; the plates come upon the table perfectly

clean.

” There is a tavern (the Pioneer Hotel) about

a mile from here. Three of the officers asked and

received permission to be absent long enough to

get something to eat. If you could see the tavern,,

which does not compare in outward appearance

with any log hut about Riley, you would infer

that the bachelors’ mess was running quite low, to

render such a change necessary.

” I think I am going to see you soon. Don’t

think of ‘ Fox river ;’ it is not in our geography.”*

“Solomon’s Creek, March 29, 1867. 9 p. m.

” My tent-mate has retired, thus leaving me alone

to write to you. My bed is occupied as described

in my last-night’s letter, with a slight change in

names. We left camp this morning at 8, and

reached our present one at 12. Solomon’s

* The allusion to Fox River has the same significance as that old

saying, which General Custer frequently quoted, ” Never cross a

bridge till you come to it.”

520

TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

Creek at this point is twelve feet deep, and re-

quired a pontoon bridge, the laying of which

delayed us a half-hour or more. The troops had

all crossed safely, and part of the wagon-train,

when the ice from above broke loose and, float-

ing down against the bridge, carried it away,

sinking some of the boats of the pontoon and

sweeping others irrevocably down-stream, thus

verifying General S ‘s prediction, and enabling

him to say ” I told you so” — that the boats would

be carried back to St Louis. We have enough

left, however, to answer all purposes.

“Just as we were moving out of our camp this

morning, we started a jack-rabbit. Sharp, Rover

and the pups saw it. Lu did not, and away we

went, I on Phil Sheridan. Sharp gained on and

almost caught it ; but with doubling and running

up-hill the advantage was in jack’s favor. We

chased it nearly a mile, but did not catch it. Old

Rover, with the stick-to-it-iveness of a fox-hound

when once on a trail, w^as in for making a day’s

work of it if necessary, but I had to call him off

and rejoin the column.

” Our mess is doing very well. The apple

fritters were continued in our next, as requested ;

also fried onions, and I ate one raw. ‘ Make hay

while the sun shines,’ is my motto about onions.

I forgot in my last to say that I expected to hear

from Eliza that ‘ she knew how to make fritters

that way ; they made ’em so in Virginny,” etc., but

tell her I do not believe it.

” The bachelors fare badly as regards messing.

One of the officers dropped in about dinner-time

to see Captain Hamilton and Lieutenant Hale.

They were cooking their own dinners, which con-

sisted of nothing but tomatoes in a can in which

the cooking was going on. I do not know whether

ON THE MARCH. 5 2 I

Captain Hamilton’s distinguished grandfather,

Alexander Hamilton, was ever reduced to the

hardship of partaking of a one – course dmner

cooked m a can, but I am sure he could not have

endured it more uncomplainingly.

” Every officer has spoken to-day of havmg

nearly frozen last night. Several of them tell of be-

ing awakened by the cold at i o’clock, and of not

having slept after that ; but I was comfortable

and slept reasonably well.”

“Saline, March 30, 1867.

” We rose at 5 o’clock this morning, marched at

6 45 and reached camp about i p. m. The roads

were worse than usual to-day ; but we expected

this, as we were crossing over what is called “Ten-

mile bottom,” a very low and wet strip of land.

The dogs are not the slightest trouble, followmg

me through trains, troops and everywhere, and

the moment I get off my horse are all around me.

They are great company for me.”

“I turn both Custis Lee and the mare loose

on the prairie as soon as we go into camp, and

they do not attempt to leave. I found a horse-

shoe to-day, which, according to our old supersti-

tion, means good luck. I tied it to my saddle for

that reason.

” I have written every night, and hope you re-

ceive my letters. I will give this to the stage-

driver, or mail it in Saline in the morning.

Remember me to Mrs. Gibbs, and tell her that

if I come across any nice dogs out here I will ex-

press them to her if she desires it.”^’

* Mrs Gibbs was not especially fond of dogs, and while we were

her neighbors our numerous family of dogs continually annoyed

her, though she never complained.

522

TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

“Our dinner to-day — which, by the way, was

most excellent — was prepared over a fire made of

dry weeds, stalks, etc. I am very well. You

know I always feel in the best of health and spirits

when on the march. There is something about a

horse, as you know, that gives to his rider a feel-

ing of independence, of freedom, and lightness of

heart. This, added to the expansion and depth

of soul inspired by contemplating these vast and

apparently boundless prairies, seems to give me

new life and direct my mind into fresh but most

pleasant reveries. There is something grand,

mingled with awe, in the view of this wild and

uncultivated region. But to my enjoyment of

the march and the changing scenery, there is a

most serious drawback. I know how you would

enjoy the novelty of this first experience of life on

the Plains. My hope in the future is strong and

unfaltering. I feel confident you will soon be

with me, a partaker of my pleasures and discom-

forts.

” Often, so very often, when meditating on my

past eventful life, I think of the many reasons why

I, above my fellow-men, should be thankful to

that wise and good Being who has borne me

through so many scenes of danger unharmed, and

through whose beneficence I have been a recipient

of honors and pleasures seldom heaped so bounti-

fully on one so young and unassisted by family,

wealth or political influence. An eternity spent

in gratitude to the great Giver of all things will

not cancel the deep debt I feel.

” Direct your letters to Fort Larned. I hope

soon to write to you, telling you to pack up

and be ready to move upon twenty-four hours’

notice.”

m^ fci \t :

523

524

TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

“Plum Creek, Kansas, April 3, 1867.

“To-day the weather has been quite cold, more

so than on any previous day of our march. Nearly

all the officers, except me, have been uncomfort-

able from the cold. General Gibbs was nearly

numb while marching beside me to-day, and when

he found I was perfectly comfortable, exclaimed,

* Well, you a7’e a warm-blooded cuss.’ I have not

been to any one’s tent since we started, but all the

officers have dined with me. I drill every day

while on the march, and the companies are improv-

ing rapidly. Our march was over comparatively

good ground to-day, but at our camp-ground to-

morrow we shall find no wood, I am told, so Stork

is chopping some outside now, to carry along in

our wagon. One armful keeps our tent warm all

the evening. Colonel B made some biscuit,

and sent them in to me at dinner. They were as

good as you will fi^nd on anybody’s table except

Eliza’s.

” I find my horse, Phil Sheridan, incomparable

in a chase ; he enters into the spirit of the sport

as much as his rider, and follows the dogs almost

unguided.”

” Cow Creek, April 4.

“A march of twelve miles brought us to our

present camp on a beautiful, clear stream bearing

the unromantic name of Cow Creek. Little wood

is to be found, and that little is green. We are

upon an old Indian camp, the evidences of which

still remain. They have been here within the past

few weeks. We can see where their lodges stood —

some of the poles still remaining — and also where

they have been dressing buffalo-hides. The scrap-

ings and the remains of one buffalo lie within fif-

teen yards of my tent. On the march to-day we

/

f ^

TENTING ON THE PLAINS

OR

General Custer in Kansas and Texas.

PRAIRIE-DOG VILLAGE. 525

passed the carcasses of a number of buffalo which

have been killed recently, and as we are now in

their country we expe;ct to see some to-morrow.

” To-day we marched through a prairie-dog-

village. I wish you could see Lu and the other

dogs among them. They are quite saucy, standing

up on their little mounds and barking at us until

we arrive within a stone’s-throw of them, when

they pop out of sight. Lu, seeing and hearing

them, would start to run, thinking to catch them.

They would continue to bark, and shake their tails

almost in her face, until just before she reached

them., when out of sight they would go, as if by

magic, completely dumbfounding the domestic

dogs.

“This life is new to most of us ; but there are

some officers with the command who have seen

some frontier duty. One was at one time the

bearer of despatches, and rode from Fort Larned

to Riley, 151 miles in thirty-three hours, without

change of horses.”

“Fort Larned, April 8, 1867.

” I have not written you for the past two days,

for the reason that no mail was to be sent back ;

but one leaves to-n’ght, and I cannot allow the

opportunity to go by unimproved, I am so disap-

pointed when I cannot send you a few lines every

day. One of the officers constantly laughs at me

for writing you so many letters, and predicts that

after I have been married a few years, I will

neither write so often nor such long letters. One

of our officers told him I had been a benedict

some years, and there was as yet no let-up in the

writing. . . We expect to remain at this post

several days, and then move to Fort Dodge,

about forty-five miles distant.

526 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

” On the loth a grand council is to take place

at this point, between General Hancock and the

principal chiefs of the Cheyennes, Sioux, Kiowas,

and Arrapahoes. These tribes are encamped a

few miles from here in large numbers. The ob-

ject of our march to Dodge is to meet two or

three tribes that are congregated there. All this

will consume ten or fifteen days, so that about

the loth or 15th of May the whole command will

be at Fort Hays and prepare for its westward

march. And now comes my budget of news,

which is authentic and of a late date. It is in the

highest degree cheering and encouraging, Mrs.

and others to the contrary notwithstanding.*

” In the first place, General Gibbs’s eyes have

troubled him so much, the last few days, that I

do not consider it prudent for him to continue on

the march, although the General, like the true

soldier he is, persists in saying he is sufficiently

well to do so. I reported his case to General

Hancock and General Smith, both of whom sug-

gested his remaining at Larned until our return ;

but it was finally decided that he go back to Riley

to command that post temporarily, as things

seemed to be going at loose ends there. If he

does come there, ‘ order will reign in Warsaw.’

I am sorry, on my account, as I shall regret the

loss of his assistance and society ; but my loss

will be your gain. He will render you any assist-

ance in his power, in preparing for a move, which

is nearer at hand than you may suppose. He

will be a real loss from our command, as, you

know, he is so witty and entertaining he whiles

away many a tedious hour. This evening my

* These were the women in our garrison who threw cold water

on my hopes of joining my husband in the field.

AN EL DORADO.

527

tent has been full of officers, and he has been

giving a most laughable description of his cross-

ing Dry Creek !

” Now for my second despatch from the

budget. The latest news from ‘ Fox River ‘ is,

that the river has dried up, and travelers can go

over in safety and comfort. I have never doubted

that ‘ Destiny,’ which to me is but another name

for Providence, would in the future, as in the past,

arrange all happily and satisfactorily. For this

reason, I never entertained an anxious thought

regarding our future station or post, believing

that in due time all would be known. Accord-

ingly, I addressed a note to General Hancock,

saying that, without desiring to know anything of

his future plans, I would like to be informed as

much as he deemed proper regarding the probabil-

ity of officers of the Seventh Cavalry, myself in

particular, being enabled to have our families

with us the coming summer, and how soon we

might expect to do this. I inquired nothing

more. You will see by his reply, enclosed, that

he not only answered my inquiries fully and satis-

factorily but added a great deal of other highly

important (to us) and equally pleasant news. If

you have not read his letter, I might inform you

that he is going to assign me to the command of

Fort Garland. I shall have four companies at

first, and more later. Kit Carson, a lieutenant-

colonel, will probably be under my command.

One of the officers with the expedition has been

at Garland, and gives a glowing description of it

as having good quarters, splendid country sur-

rounding, fine climate, abundance of game, two

kinds of bear, black -tailed deer, antelope and

smaller game, while there is splendid trout-fishing

near the post. From everything I hear, Fort

528 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

Garland is the post of all others in the Western

country that would suit me, and that I would have

chosen. It is a very important post for that lo-

cality, and I shall have control of the Ute Indians,

a large friendly tribe.* It may be that I have

the sanguine temperament which looks upon the

bright side of everything in too great a degree ;

but I feel as if our affairs, everything considered,

could not be improved very much, even had we

been consulted. We both desire to see the West-

ern country. We shall enjoy it now more than

ever, as we shall see it under most favorable

circumstances, and we shall appreciate a return to

the East only the more for having indulged in

wild Western life with all its pleasures and excite-

ments. You have been dreading an unsettled

future, and perhaps separation ; but General

Hancock said to me to-day, ‘ After you reach

your post, I sha’n’t change you unless you desire

it ; I will give you a chance to become settled.’

“■ Now as to my plans, prospects and intentions,

subject to the revision of Providence and the

military authorities : I hope that we may con-

clude our present operations by the 15th of May,

and that immediately thereafter I may hasten to

you, and we can arrange for our Western tour.

The Indian agents here say the Indians desire

peace ; if so, they can be accommodated. I am

certain I never felt more peaceful in my life.

Particularly do I desire peace, when I know that

war means separation.

” Tell Eliza that Stork has broken the blue mug

and the mustard-glass, lost four forks, and broken

the carving-knife, and that I want her to pack her

* Fort Garland was in the mountainous country of Colorado,

and the Indian difficulties increased so greatly that General Custer

was never sent to that post.

THE TUMBLE OF A CAVALKY-MAN.

529

valise and report without delay, to be assigned to

the command of the Dutchman and Englishman

and the rest of the strikers. “^^ I wouldn’t give

Eliza for all the soldier cooks I ever saw. When

she is here, I never have any trouble ; instead of

losing mess furniture on a march, I generally have

more at its close than at the beginning. One of

our officers dined with me to-day, and complained

that their mess was an * awfully poor lay-out.’

One after another comes to my tent now to ask

to arrange to be assigned to those companies that

are to go with me to Fort Garland. Do not tell

Mrs. Gibbs about the General’s going to Riley, as

something might happen to prevent it, and she

would be disappointed.

“This evening, while Stork was setting the

table, General Gibbs and I desired to write at

the desk at the same time. I said, ‘ It’s a pretty

thing that a man cannot write to his wife with-

out being disturbed,’ and the General replied,

‘ Any man who writes to his wife once a day

deserves to be disturbed.’

” As usual, we had our daily sport with the

dogs, during which I met with a very unusual in-

cident. The hounds started a jack-rabbit, and I

galloped after them on Phil. The saddle, not be-

ing girthed tight enough, turned, and of course

carried me with it. I broke my stirrup in trying

to regain my position, but could not accomplish

it, and the next moment found myself at full

length on the prairie, fortunately without scratch

or bruise. Phil’s legs were scratched consider-

ably by the saddle, but no serious injury inflicted.

That ended my first chase. About five miles

farther on, the dogs started another immense rab-

* ” Striker ” was a name for a soldier servant.

530 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

bit, and away they went over the level prairie, in

full view of the entire command. The chase con-

tinued for more than a mile, a dozen dogs joining

in the pursuit ; Sharp in advance, followed closely

by Lu and three or four strange dogs, then Rover

and the pups. The race was well contested on

both sides. After running three-quarters of a

mile. Sharp and Lu began gaining on the hare,

until the former was apparently close enough to

touch it, when the rabbit suddenly sprang to

one side, and Sharp, unable to check himself, ran

several yards beyond. In this way the rabbit

gained considerably, and soon dogs and game

were both lost to view beyond a roll in the prairie.

They have all returned to camp but Fanny, and

she was seen looking for the wagon-train, so I hope

I shall not lose her.

“I saw many strange and interesting sights to-

day. Here and there was a buffalo skeleton, then

a prairie-dog village with its busy inmates, and

once I saw an owl slowly leaving the entrance of

a prairie-dog’s home, thereby confirming the state-

ment I have often read in natural history, that in

the home of a prairie-dog may be found an owl,

a rattle-snake and the prairie-dog occupying the

same apartment. To-day, also, I saw for the first

time that peculiar natural phenomenon called

* mirage.’ It presents the appearance of a b.eau-

tiful lake at a distance of five or ten miles. It is

generally seen near trees, and the appearance of

the lake is so perfect that the shadow or reflection

of the trees in the water can be plainly seen ; but

go to the supposed lake, and the ground is per-

fectly dry, with nothing to account for the strange

appearance.”

CHAPTER XVII.

EXTRACTS FROM LETTERS TO GENERAL CUSTER

CROSSING FOX RIVER ACCOUNT OF THE UNDISCI-

PLINED TROOPS war’s alarms MOURNING FOR

CUSTIS LEE.

TT is with extreme hesitation that I insert here

extracts from letters that are httle more than

the unrestrained outpourings of a very heavy

heart. From the hundreds I have destroyed, some

sentences have been culled, which, though con-

taining trifling detail and vehement expressions,

and, like a school-girl’s letter, flying from one sub-

ject to another, will show, more clearly than any

description that could be written now, our life at

that period.

“Fort Riley, March, 1867.

” I am quite light-hearted to-night, as I have

two letters from you. Though you do say Fox

River is not in our geography, it is with the

greatest difficulty that I keep out of the Slough

of Despond, which one passes in getting to that

stream. I cannot help worrying and bothering, it

frets me so to sit here and hear that General Han-

cock does not intend to allow the Seventh Cavalry

ladies to be with their husbands this summer. He

531

532

TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

told the B ‘s so, and Mrs. Gibbs firmly believes

it, but I keep saying to myself that you think I

am to be with you. You are born under a lucky

star, and I’ll try to think I am really going to be

with you soon. Many times a day I go over these

reasonings. Diana goes riding with the infantry

beau every day, but she was so accustomed to fast

riding with our cavalry, she does not know how to

treat a dough-boy. Her escort is lying by for re-

pairs now. His knee is very lame, and he lives

with a jar of cold cream in his hand.

“You would not believe a garrison could go to

rack and ruin so quickly. Affairs are decidedly at

loose ends. The darkies do very well at guard-

mounting, and all alone too. The soldiers of the

Seventh that are left here scare the darkies fright-

fully. Yesterday three of our Seventh prisoners

were out policing under a darkey. They put a pistol

to his head, made him drop his musket, tied his

hands, took him over the river and tied him to a tree,

then after dark they deserted. Was not that high-

handed ? Eliza is afraid, and has moved her room

up-stairs, next to us. I told the messenger that

took my letters to-day to be sure and deliver them

to you himself, and he said he would. Just think !

he is to ride sixty-five miles to-day, and on a mule !

It must be sister to Bet, our Texas guide’s mule.

” I have been to church, and was so afraid I

should cry. I could not hear the sermon, but if I

cry I am ill all next day. When I was trying my

best to keep from boo-hooing, two darkies who

sat behind me began to sing some of the service.

One knew the tune, and shouted in regular camp-

meeting style, but not one word of the hymn

could he utter. If I had not been so forlorn, I

v/ould have thought it too funny to refrain from

laughing at.

■ GARRISON DETAILS. 533

” Eliza dressed up to-night and went to call on

the colored ladies of the command — the laun-

dresses. Miss Eliza Brown is boiling with rage

now, because she heard one husband say, ‘Fanny,

light my pipe.’ Eliza says managing men like

that is too great drudgery to please her. Heaven

knows this loneliness reduces me to such a state

of mind that I’d light pipes and make the fire,

gladly, if I got a chance to name for whom I

wished to play striker.

” I want you to consider what is really the

thickness of the heads of our country’s defenders !

A broken musket was found on the outskirts of

the garrison, and it proved to have been divided

in two by a blow over a darkey’s head. The mus-

ket is ruined, but as yet we have not heard of any

suffering skull. The hours you give me when

others are asleep, I know well how to prize. I am

alone to-night again, but not alone, for I am re-

reading the letters you sat up so late to write.

. . . The wild geese have been screaming as

they flew over our post, and I suppose the rain is

about to descend in bucketfuls. Well, we are

prepared, but I hope you out in camp will be

spared. The darkies are going on as usual, slack

and careless. If they guard our white prisoners,

they say good-naturedly, *Oh, sit down, if you’re

tired. I’ll watch if any one comes.’ Eliza has

some beaux, but is not over-gracious. One of

them, speaking of our bull-dog Turk, said he had

heard that he was ‘ a awful ferocious dog.’

Eliza quickly assured him that it was true ; he

would take hold of any one who came near him.

She never mentioned that Turk’s teeth are so

blunted by constant biting at his rope or chain

that he is not in the least dangerous. Diana’s

beau has begun to read Prescott’s ‘ Philip the

534 TEi^rmc ON” Tim PLAms.

Second,’ so I get some good out of his prolonged

sessions, and it whiles away the tedious time.

“I am so sorry about drinking. It looks

as if he were glad to get his wife safely off in the

States, as he did before he left, so that he could

make a summer of it. If men only knew ‘ how

pleasant, how divinely fair,’ it makes the world

to their wives when they refuse to drink, I do not

believe they would be half so careless.

” How I wish that you were here to enjoy this

bright lire ! The wind is howling and screeching

round the quarters, and it makes me wish so that

you were safely housed.

” I hear to-night that three commissioners have

gone to Washington, from the Department of the

Platte, to petition that no war against the Indians

take place. An officer, a citizen and a Congress-

man compose the commission. Oh ! I do hope

they will be successful.”

” April 4, 1867.

” It is blowing hard, and trying to snow. The

wind makes such noises down chimney, and am

so frightened ! I feel sure it is burglars, and I lie

there so scared I cannot sleep. It isn’t the thing

to be frightened, is it ? But this is such a screechy

place, I cannot help it, and forget all about the

requirements of a soldier’s wife. Your former

enemy, , came upon me so suddenly to-day

that I did not succeed in escaping him as hereto-

fore. I didn’t promise you that I wouldn’t dodge

him on every occasion ; I made a ‘ mental reser-

vation,’ you see. I could not slip away without

his seeing me, and then I was obliged to remember

your wishes and shake hands. You know you did

not tell me that you did not want me to hide,

so I have been very successful in accomplishing

RUMORS OF INDIANS.

535

that heretofore. He hopes for further promotion.

Anything’, I say, that will take him out of the

Seventh. You may beheve all he says about ex-

pecting promotion, but I don’t. I could hardly

refrain from saying sharp things in reply. But

you can rest easy ; I shook hands, held my tongue,

and did the decorous, just as you would ask me

to do if you were here. Still, when Diana ap-

peared at the door, I could not help an implor-

ing glance, which she interpreted at once and

called loudly for me, and I escaped. A citizen

has come into the post from Denver, and says the

Indians are attacking the stage-stations. But I

am determined not to be alarmed. It is sufficiently

difficult for me to battle with the one trouble, this

loneliness and separation (and, oh, it is so hard to

stand it !) without believing in addition every

rumor about Indians.

“■ Tom says he does not have the charge of this

house now, as the colored ordnance sergeant has

assumed the entire responsibility. It is too funny

to see him walking about, having the wood piled

and the yard cleaned. So much for Eliza and her

charms ] “

“April 5, 1867.

” I suppose the streams must have risen and

delayed the mails ; for our river is up, and the

bridge gone, with hourly expectation that the rail-

road bridge will go. The operator here reports

that a despatch from General Hancock has been

sent from him saying that he had a fight with

the Indians near Harker. I do not believe it, but

I am so foolish I cannot help being uneasy. Oh,

dear, what a way to live — one here and the other

so far off ! Won’t you put an end to it, and de-

sert ? How I wish I had the six days with you

536

TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

that I spent going to St. Louis for Ristori ! What

a noodle I was to leave you ! An account comes

to us through the Washington Cki’oniclc, of a mas-

sacre at Fort Buford, Dakota. The colonel in

command is reported as having written all winter

for re-inforcements, but said he would fight, if

he was attacked, as long as he could hold out.

And so he did, for eighty men held off three

thousand Indians. When it was no longer pos-

sible to make a further stand, the colonel shot

his wife, and the command were finally all killed.

Is it not horrible, and it makes me so sad, but I

beg you will not think me utterly forlorn. There

is a fate far harder; it is never to have had, as

many have not, the hours that already belong to

us and cannot be taken away.

” You will laugh at my religion, I’m afraid, when

I tell you I hurried out of church, so as not to be

obliged to speak to your enemy ! But do not be

worried ; I will do what you wish ; I will go and

call on his wife, and do the polite.

” The river is something terrific. The oldest in-

habitant says it has never been so high. It is

over the railroad track.

” You should see this post ! It is, everyone says,

the most thoroughly run-down and utterly uncared-

for and shiftless place they ever saw. The one

darkey bugler sounds every call on the board — at

least, at the hour of every call the cavalry used to

hear, the bugler toots something so absurd, and as

much like the true call as a cow’s low. Shots are

fired constantly. You should have seen the parade-

ground this afternoon ! It would have driven

an officer given to order and discipline to the

verge of distraction. The ‘ black-faced and shiney-

eyed ‘ were drilling right on the grass of the

parade-ground, which is just beginning to show

ORDER IN WARSAW.

537

itself green. While the sergeant drilled one squad,

another rolled on the ground, or ran around on all

fours, like apes. Then an old cow has been pas-

turing herself on the parade unmolested. Teams

of luggage, dogs, horsemen, mulemen, cross and

recross at will. Really, if I were not afraid, these

things would be very funny. A lieutenant was

passing the guard-house when a negro sentinel

called out, ‘ Turn out the guard for the command-

ing-officer ! ‘ He was full of amusement, but only

said quietly, ‘ Never mind the guard,’ and then

hurried up to laugh with us about their so saluting

a lieutenant. The sergeant called the darkies

down from the upper porch of the barracks to

reveille — ‘ No, sar, too cold down thar;’ and they

didn’t come. We are glad General Gibbs is

coming to restore order to Warsaw, as you express

it. No one feels safe with the present state of

affairs in the garrison. “

“April i8, 1867.

” General Gibbs has come, and we are delighted

and relieved to have him here. He teases me

about my numerous letters to you ; says you

are all the time writing to me, and that you keep

a letter of mine in your pocket constantly, and

pull it out and read it whenever the least oppor-

tunity offers. But I don’t care if he does make

fun of us ; I shall keep on writing daily. He has

begun to make a change in the condition of the

garrison already. After the darkey shot his com-

rade, all their ammunition was taken from them.

The colored troops no longer dry their clothes on

the parade-ground.

** Our dear Ginnie is so unhappy about her dead

puppies ; Eliza declares she has been trying to

bury herself to-day. She did dig two holes, and

538 – TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

tried to lay herself out flat in each one. Dog sor-

rows are pretty hard, as well as human troubles.

The setter puppies are doing well, and Turk looks

so fine that people want to buy him. The Gibbs

boys, Alfred and Blair, are the dearest, most capti-

vating children. Don’t forget the arrows for them.

Mrs. Gibbs had a tin-type taken in Junction

City, and the boys posed themselves. What do you

think ! Each boy had placed one hand on the

mother’s shoulder. We said they were her brevets.

‘1 here could be no shoulder-straps more lovely

than those dimpled hands. Blair lisps and asks,

‘Mother, what is a brevet; is it a make-believe

soldier ?’ and the manner in which they are admin-

istered to men who never smelled powder, makes

me feel that it is a good definition sometimes.

” In your two last letters you caution me not to

feel any anxiety about the news of your pursuit of

the Indians ; but my nature would be changed

indeed if I did not feel worried. You know what

I have at stake, and I cannot control my feelings.

What a miserable, treacherous set the Indians

are ! All that is left me is to implore the kind

Father to hold you in the hollow of His hand, as

He has done in times past. I am glad you wrote

me about your intended pursuit of the Indians,

for you know I shall have to hear all sorts of gar-

bled reports, which alarm me far more than the

plain statement you make in your letter. I am

going at myself with whip and spur, and shall

take up such work as will keep me from being

utterly forlorn. But, oh, what thoughts get

sewed into my work !”

“April 20, 1867.

” My letters from you do not come regularly —

two or three at a time, and days intervening with-

A GLOOMY PREDICTION’. 539

out any. Oh ! what a shattering of hopes each

day, when one is subjected to the uncertainty of a

mail by stage.

” Our Seventh Cavalry band is going to be

splendid, under General Gibbs’s organization. It

seems good to hear the clank of sabres, as the

men passed. Almost the only cavalrymen we

see are in the hospital, which we visit. We are

trying to make out a list of music for the band.

The best notes I hear now are those of a

little bird that sits on a branch of a tree on the

parade-ground, and sings as if his throat would

burst, even at his go-to-sleep song. But there is

a great ache that keeps up since the receipt of the

news of your pursuit of the Indians. Just think

how hard it is for me, when an old officer who

was passing through here and called, told me he

thought, now you had started in pursuit, you

were not likely to be in till October ! His opinion is

based on his forty years’ experience in the West.

He is a lovely old man, even if he does talk so

discouragingly, and I intend to ask him to dine

before he goes — that is, if I get good news from

you.

” We do get such glimpses of brightness from

the band-practice, and Diana has kept one beau

at the East in a sufficiently deluded state to send

her a box of candy by mail. Nothing brightens

me up long, nowadays, I feel so old, and such an

apathy comes over me for the events of daily life,

now that I am so anxious.

” Tom thinks himself abused, because all day

long I keep asking him for the time — the day

seems so long. At night I write to you, and

Diana is so taken up with her infantry man that

time does not drag in the least. Tom is forgot-

ten, and grumbles audibly. He pretends to

540

TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

be afraid to come down-stairs at night, since

Diana has loaded her pistol to protect us. He

fears we will not discriminate between a negro

and a brother! “

“April 22, 1867.

” I confess to being very unhappy. My hopes

and fears agitate me so, for fear of the sudden de-

camping of those treacherous rascals will keep you

chasing them, and going farther and farther from

me, leaving the summer to drag on without you !

I am tormented with anxieties that I cannot over-

come. I look out so startled, if a mounted man

passes our house, fearing he is the bearer of bad

tidings. It exasperates me and fills me with sus-

pense, to hear people going up and down the steps

of the commanding officer’s house next door, for

I constantly think it is an orderly with a letter.

” I am put out with the quartermaster from De-

partment Headquarters. I asked him about the

application that you made to buy an ambulance.

‘ Oh, yes,’ he said, ‘ it had come, but was waiting

for the commanding officer to sign it.’ The delay

is vexatious, for it is so necessary to have a wagon

ready in case I can get a chance to go to

you. He promised to ‘ look it up,’ How little he

cares, in his comfortable, safe quarters at Leaven-

worth, whether an anxious wife gets a wagon tc

go to her husband ! I am disappointed about not

getting the mail. Your letters are the life of my

day. The river is so high that nothing can cross ;

consequently, as you may surmise, Fox River has

risen also. I found a horse-shoe in our walk to-

day, and I am trying to remember that you con-

sider it a harbinger of good times. My birth-

day was not the gay, happy affair that it is

when you are here. Diana gave me a book of

A PROBLEMATIC WORD.

54^

poetry, which one of her citizen beaux had given

to her — someone she’s tired of. But I enjoy the

book, all the same.

“I have been answering two of Eliza’s letters

to-night, to her brunette beaux.

“This is such a country to live in. At Whisky

Point, near here, a man shot his wife. He then

called in the neighbors, threatened to kill them if

they advanced, disposed of his property, and shot

himself. A few days afterward a man who kept

the mess-house, near the stables, went over to

Whisky Point and cut his throat from ear to ear.

” Since I began my doleful epistle, three great

gorgeous letters have come from you, and it

makes me feel good all over.”

“April 23, 1867.

“This morning Eliza came before I was up and

said, ‘ Miss Libbie, here’s a letter ! ” I was up in

a twinkling, but so provoked to find it was not

from you that I crept into bed again. Finally,

I arose and found it was from Colonel W ,

whom, it seems, you asked to write me. The

writing was particularly hieroglyphic, and I was

enraged at such carelessness. One word, which I

wished to know of all others, I cannot make out,

neither can the General, the adjutant, Tom, or

Diana. It says, ‘Your husband reports the

Indians 3 if uandeved, and will return in two

days, when we will then go on to Fort Dodge.’

Was there ever anything so exasperating ? The

very word I am all anxiety to know, whether the

Indians have surrendered or if they have fled be-

yond recall, or if it means war all summer. Mine

is the only letter giving any news, and here we

are unable to make it out. It was very good of

him to write, but how can I wait to know what

542

TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

his letter really means ? While I am writ-

ing, Tom comes in with a startling account

of the Indians having drawn off all our troops

by a feint, a small number of their own showing

themselves, while the main body came in behind

and captured Fort Larned. Oh, dear ! if these

hateful reports would not get circulated as they

do, life would not be so hard.

” We have heard rumors, also, of the burning of

the stage-station beyond Fort Hays. But are there

any stampeders like stage people and teamsters ?

My mind is full of miserable conjectures, and I

cannot help impatience and fretting at living in a

country with no railroad or telegraph.

“I have just heard, through a letter received in

garrison, that you shot Custis Lee in a buffalo-

hunt.

” Do not be troubled for fear I shall be inconsol-

able over my dear horse. You well know what a

loss he is to me. I shall never become so attached

to an animal again. It was so strange that a

dumb brute could seem to be so in sympathy with

me as he did. Can’t you see him when you would

say, ‘ Give Custis Lee the rein, Libbie,’ and I would

repeat the message to him, following up the

slackening of the bridle with my hand on his

beautiful glossy neck, to tell him by a loving pat

that we were to do our best, how he shot off over

the level road, enjoying the speed as much as we

did ? To tell you the truth, he won me first when

I found we shared our scares together. He did

not bound to one side and leaving me anywhere

in the air, as Phil does when he is frightened ; he

is so selfish he has all his scare to himself, but

Custis Lee stood quivering under me, trying to

face danger for my sake just as faithfully as if

he was a reasoning being, and knew well that he

A DISCOA’SOLATE LOOKOUT.

54:

carried a bundle of quivers and tremors on his

back, which tried to encourage him, though in a

very unsteady voice. I do not hesitate to own to

genuine grief for my dear old nag, but oh, when

we are both in such an anxious, uncertain state of

mind over the graver question of our separation,

the danger of the campaign, grief over the horse

is secondary !

” General Gibbs finds garrison duty so dull he

would far rather be on the campaign, but he tries

to enliven our evenings. He and the Madame

have just been in, and he made me laugh in spite

of the wretched uncertainty I am in, by describ-

ing you as so enthusiastic about hunting before he

left, that you raced out of your tent after a jack-

rabbit in your nightgown !

” I am very unhappy ; I cannot help it. There

are some people here who talk all on the dark

side about the summer campaign. I would you

were in the humble employment of Hutchins, the

pound-master at home, and I the happy Mrs.

Hutchins, rather than living in this inhuman, un-

natural, heart-rending manner ! “

“April 26, 1867.

” Since I received your letter this week, saying

you would set out after the Indians, there has been

nothing but misery; and a perfect whirlwind of

anxiety possesses me. The atmosphere of the

post is gloomy in the extreme. All sorts of

rumors come to us. Every day we have fresh ac-

counts of troubles that have actually occurred

with the Indians, or descriptions of those that are

anticipated. I try not to believe them, but still I

have no peace of mind. I was so agitated about

you, that even the excitement of the earthquake

left scarcely any effect on my mind. Our separa-

544

TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

tions grow more hopeless to me. Even when I

was in Washington, with no friends about me, it

was not so hard as the anxiety now is. Colonel

B has arrived from Dodge, and gives very de-

pressing accounts of the Indians. He says every

one, from Dodge here, is in daily terror of at-

tack, and one of the stage stations is already

abandoned. I am in terror to think you are to go

off in pursuit. I did not think they would send

lieutenant-colonels on scouts.

*’ Do you not think I can get out to you and meet

you on your return ? You know how I thrive in a

tent. The wind is frantic to-day ; it shrieks and

moans about the house in the most desolate man-

ner. I hate wind ! Now, remember, I want to be

sent for as soon as possible. There seems to be

not even the faintest prospect of going. There

isn’t an ambulance at the post, but nevertheless I

am getting my gray gown ready for traveling.

Can’t you send one of your own wagons as far as

the termination of the railroad for me, and I can

manage the rest of the way ? The troops tempo-

rarily here were brought out to muster this morn-

ing, and we had a little of the pomp and circum-

stance to vary the day. A number of Indians —

Kaws, I believe — came to witness the perform-

ance, and to beg, of course. I could scarcely

contain myself ; I wanted to fly out and maul and

throttle them. I know it must distress you to

have Sifrau in such a fury, but I can’t help it.

“I know you are wondering why this letter is

cut up so. Well, I began to try and cut out the

tear-stains, for I know I ought not to send such

doleful letters, but I had to give up the cutting as

a bad job, for I would soon have had nothing at

all to give the messenger.”

A LOST OPPORTUNITY.

545

”May I, 1867.

” Lieutenant Cook has just arrived, and brings

messages from you, and he is anxious to take me

back ; but until I hear from you that it is best, I

will not venture. This is our first warm day, and

the soldiers are holy-stoning our porch, while Gen-

eral Gibbs is staking the parade into walks, and

planting grass-seed again, to cover up the destruc-

tion the darkies made of the sod.”

“May 2.

“Two long letters have come from you. Oh,

how hard it is to know that, but for Diana, I could

return with Lieutenant Cook. I will not let her

know it, but I did mention that you hesitated

about letting us return with Lieutenant Cook,

because of the risk that she must necessarily run,

and that her parents might blame you. She says

she is not in the least afraid ; would like to live in

a tent ; so please let us take her at her word.

We are invited to stay over night at Harker when

we go, and shall not mind the eighty miles to

Hays, if once we get the transportation from

there. When I think that the snail-like mail takes

six days, and this letter must be so long going, it

exasperates me. A messenger left hurriedly to-

day. General Gibbs had no opportunity to send

me word, and T missed my chance for a letter to

you. The courier will ride night and day, to in-

form General Hancock of the killing of six men

by Indians up on Republican River.”

” May 4.

Generals Sherman, Hancock and Smith meet

here in conference to-morrow, and I hope out of it

will come some favorable results for us. I send

you your supplies and the box of cake by Lieuten-

546 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

ant C . So sorry I couldn’t get your barrel of

onions, but Junction City had none. Eliza’s darkey

beaux planted us a little garden, and I let them do

it to please them, feeling sure in my heart, though,

that I should have something better than gardens,

by the time the seed came up, for I v/as certain I

would be with you. But the seeds are coming up.

I hate them !”

” On the Cars — en route to Leavenworth.

“May 7, 1867.

” I hasten to write a few words to send back by

the conductor, who will mail this at Saline, the

termination of the railroad. General Hancock

has been in the car to see me. He is in Mr. Shoe-

maker’s private car. I told him I was going to

Leavenworth for supplies for our new post, Gar-

land. He said you were off for a fifteen days’

scout, but on your return you would come to Riley

to take me back to Hays. I did not ask him, much

as I wanted to do so, but when he said, ‘ Are you

going to join your husband soon ? ‘ I said I would

be glad to do so, if he had no objections. He

said, ‘ None whatever !’ Just think of that ! He

praised you mightily, and that pleased me, as you

may imagine. He spoke in praise of you as a

husband, and commended your habits. I suppose

he thought this would prepare me, and sweeten a

bitter pill, for he continued, ‘ Custer will have to

do the fighting and marching and scouting;’ and

added, * I do not know what we would do with-

out Custer ; he is our reliance.’ He spoke splen-

didly of you. He said that as they marched

back from Fort Hays to Harker, he asked what

those courier-stations were for, and General

Smith said, ‘Why, I suppose it’s Custer writing

to his wife,’ and so on ; and as he was talkmg to

EN ROUTE 10 CAMP.

547

the bishop of the State, and everybody in the car

was hstening, there was a great laugh. He says

he does not know whether an Indian war will take

place or not. If it does not. we shall go to Fort

Garland in August. If there is war, the summer

will be spent in roaming, and the winter at Mar-

ker, Hays or Riley. I will try not to worry about

your scouting trip, but shall be so thankful to see

you again. When I once get out there, I will try

and be content to be left alone in your absence.

General Hancock has treated me with remarkable

politeness. I begin to think that those who make

efforts to be with their wives will always find

officers to help them.”

Fort Harker, e7i route to Fort Hays.

” At last I am here, safe and sound. I received

your letters from Hays, telling me to come on with

General Smith, after I returned from Leavenworth

Saturday night ; but General Sherman asked me,

and I determined to take the first chance, as you

wrote me to. So here I am. I am detained here

against my will. I cannot induce General Gibbs

to let me set out for Hays to-night. He considers

it dangerous ; but I am so impatient, so disap-

pointed, I am in a fume. I am not too tired to

start to-night, and oh, I can hardly wait. I have

only a small trunk and my roll of bedding, and

can go in light marching order.”

” Back at Fort Riley again,

” June 27, 1867.

” I have never been in a more uncertain frame

of mind about you, than since I returned here.

First I hear rumors that you may return to the

Department, and yet, when I left Hays, it was cer-

tain that you would remain in the Platte during

^/j.8 TEyriXG OV ‘iHE PLAIXS.

the summer. Oh, how exasperated it makes me,

especially when I see by your letter that you al-

most hope to meet me at Fort Wallace. General

Wright asked me to go with him, and if there had

been a shadow of a chance of my seeing you when

I did reach Wallace, or any way by which I could

have returned, I would have gone, and hardly

given the Indians a thought.

” It was impossible for me to remain at Hays.

You know you told me to remain, even if I moved

off from the Reservation. But the post is removed

sixteen miles, and so few troops are left there that

the place is unsafe. But we had no choice, as we

were sent away. At dark, a week ago Sunday,

we were told to be ready to move at 9 o’clock that

night. We started at 12 p. m. Rumors and true

reports came in so fast to General Smith that he

knew he ought to be at Harker, and that we

w omen ought to be in a safe place. We left in

an amazing hurry, and had rather a trying march.

The drunkenness of the escort kept one of the

officers on the look-out constantly. Packing our

traps so hurriedly — for all our baggage came after

we’ arrived — tired me out. But now we are safely

here with them, I am ready to start for you at a

moment’s notice, with little or no baggage this

time.

” General Sherman sent word to me that I had

best remain quietly at Riley, as my husband will

be on the march all summer. Quietly ! He may

talk about living quietly, but I cannot. The

road between Hays and Harker grows more and

more unsafe, and the officers say we came away

just in time.

” After the freshets, the hot sun and rain, living

under wagon-covers, in tents, the house seems

very comfortable, but our things are dreadfully

TERRORS ARE FORGOTTEX. 549

broken up, as I have had them packed in wagons

three times in the past three weeks. We have

had some things stolen. Everybody has been

kind to us, helping us move and pack. I try not

to despair about getting to you again. I am

ready to set out for Hays, or any point where I

can see you, at fifteen minutes’ notice. Remem-

ber, I am not afraid of Indians, or anything else,

if you are at the end of the trip.

If I can only get out there for a brief visit, I

will be so thankful I

“The mail no longer leaves, and it seems use-

less to write, but I keep watching for courier or

any one that leaves here to go West, trying for

everv chance to eet off a letter to vou.”

L

CHAPTER XVIII.

GRATITUDE A GREAT SNOW-STORM THE SIBLEY TENT

GENERAL CUSTER DEFINES HIS AMBITION

THE COOK DEVISES STRANGE ADDITIONS TO THE

BILL OF FARE GENERAL HANCOCK HOLDS A

COUNCIL WITH THE CHIEFS OF THE CHEYENNES

THE INDIAN NOBILITY REQUEST THAT THEIR

SUPPER BE SERVED BEFORE THE TALK THE

PIPE OF PEACE A HINT FOR FURTHER REFRESH-

MENTS GENERAL CUSTER VISITS THE VILLAGES

OF SIOUX, APACHES AND CHEYENNES A DEPU-

TATION OF THREE HUNDRED WARRIORS AND

CHIEFS IN BATTLE LINE THE GENERAL’s DE-

SCRIPTION OF THEM CIVILIZED AND BARBAROUS

W^ARFARE CONFRONTING EACH OTHER FLIGHT

OF THE INDIANS GENERAL CUSTER AND HIS

REGIMENT ARE SENT IN PURSUIT EXTRACTS

FROM GENERAL CUSTER’s LETTERS W^RITTEN

FROM FORT EARNED.

“Fort Larned, April 9, 1867.

T AST evening I finished my letter to you of

J–/ twenty-one pages, but this morning- 1 find my

pen again in my hand, to convey more thoughts,

wishes and impressions. Oh, hov^ often the

thought passes through my mind, that of all men

I have cause to be most happy, most grateful and

A CONTENTED HEART.

551

most contented — contented because I am happy

— happy because I have my highest desires grati-

fied— and grateful for these blessings. One might

inquire upon what I base my happiness. True, I

have neither broad acres nor untold wealth in

store ; but these of themselves would not satisfy

me, neither would their loss, if I possessed them,

dishearten me. My happiness is based upon some-

thing higher, more elevating, more ennobling,

more refining. . . This is a reality, proven and

thoroughly tested after an extended experience

with the world. I may be enthusiastic and san-

guine, but my enthusiasm never overshadows

my judgment.

” We are in the midst of a most terrible snow

and hail storm. The snow has fallen several

inches deep to-day, mingled with hail, and is now

drifting. I do not think we had any severer

weather at Riley the whole winter than we are

now experiencing. It is terrible upon our horses,

after they have been in comfortable stables all

winter. I have been a little worried about my

own horses, but have made them comparatively

comfortable for the night (it is now 8 p. m.). I

have a blanket on each, then on top of that is a

wagon-cover, folded so as to cover each horse,

from his ears back. Great fears are entertained

that many of the company horses, unprotected by

blankets, will be frozen in the morning. If Gen-

eral Gibbs were not sharing my tent, I would

take the mare, ‘ Fanchon ‘ in with me to-night.

” You need not be anxious regarding my com-

fort. I have not been uncomfortable a moment,

while others are suffering. I rode to the fort to-

day, on duty, through the thickest of the storm,

and was not affected by it. General Gibbs is

temporarily tenting with me, on account of his

552

TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

having a wall-tent. Nearly all the officers have

been staying with me to-day, as my Sibley is

more comfortable than their wall-tents. It’s a

great pity, on some accounts, that the Sibley tent

has been given up by the Government. You will

be glad that I secured this old one for the march.*

I have not been obliged to wear my overcoat,

in spite of the cold. I have worn the worsted

cardigan and my ever-present dressing-gown, in

which I am now writing. Captain has been

at Fort Garland, and is very anxious to go there

again, and hints constantly to that effect. You

know how he objects to men being detailed from

his company. Well, the cook for our mess belongs

to his company, and he told the adjutant, in his

droll way, when the dinner was being praised,

that it was encouraging for his company, as of

course we would not want to part with the cook

and separate him entirely from his troop. Of

course this is joking, as such a small thing as de-

tailing a soldier would have no weight in the

assigning of a company.”

”Fort Larned, April lo, 1867.

” I shall have another chance to send a letter

to-day, as the stage from the West is still due,

delayed doubtless by the storm. In the mail to-

day I had three letters from you. No newspapers

came, but I am contented with what the day has

brought me. … I have so much to be thank-

ful for in my life, God grant that I may always

prove as deserving as I am grateful to Him for

what He has given me. In years long numbered

with the past, when I was merging upon man-

*The Sibley tent was conical, modeled after an Indian tepee,

and admitted of a fire on the ground in the centre, the smoke escap-

ing from an aperture at the top.

AMBITION DEFINED.

55,

hood, my every thought was ambitious — not to

be weaUhy, not to be learned, but to be great. I

desired to Unk my name with acts and men, and

in such a manner as to be a mark of honor, not

only to the present, but to future generations.

My connection with the war may have gained

this distinction ; but my course during the last

five or six years has not been directed by ambi-

tion so much as by patriotism, and I now find

myself, at twenty-seven, with contentment and

happiness bordering my path.

” My ambition has been turned into an entirely

new channel. Where I was once eager to acquire

worldly honors and distinctions, I am now con-

tent to try and modestly wear what I have, and

feel grateful for them when they come, but my

desire now is to make of myself a man worthy

of the blessings heaped upon me.”

” Fort Larned, April lo, 1867.

” The weather, which was so severe last night,

has moderated, and is now quite comfortable.

Had we not been in camp, we could not have

escaped without loss of life, I fear. The ration of

oats for the horses was doubled, to prevent as

much as possible their feeling the intensity of

the weather ; but even then the guard were kept

walking along the picket-line all night, whipping

the horses to keep them in motion, as otherwise

they would have frozen.

” Tell Eliza I discovered a new dish by accident

the other day, but she need not try it, unless she

wants to throw it away afterward. I told the

cook I wanted him to cook some onions and pota-

toes together, meanmg that I wanted him to fry

them for breakfast. But, dinner being the next

meal, and the soldier prompt to obey orders — even

554

TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

if it were to make a mince-pie out of polecat and

corn meal, with red peppers for raisins — set about

preparing, I suppose for the first time, a dish of

onions and potatoes. He boiled and mashed the

potatoes, then sliced his onions, and mashed pota-

toes and onions together ; and of all the odd-tast-

ing dishes, that was one of them. We could not

eat it.

” As Harrison’s intentions were good, and in

consideration of his youth (?) and inexperience, I

said nothmg about it to him, except when he

asked next day if I liked his onions and potatoes.

I said yes, but did not want any just then. I think

he comprehended that my reply was a jest. If

Eliza had prepared such a dish, I would have

asked her to go hunt a whip and prepare for her

reward. But, notwithstanding the mixture of

onions and potatoes, the man does very well,

much better than I expected, and I know of no

one in the command who lives as well as we do.

” I suppose that you and Eliza will both be in-

terested and delighted to know that your old

friend, J , whom you both begged out of the

guard-house and had placed on parole, is here with

his company. I sent for him to-day, more for

your sake than anything else, and scarcely knew

him as he entered my tent. He is much fleshier

than while at Riley, and in his nice new, neatly

fitting uniform, with new boots (tell Eliza), he

looked much handsomer than when, in his ragged

clothes, he did police duty with the prisoners about

the post. I suppose if you and Eliza were here I

would have no peace until J was detailed at

headquarters. If detailing him for headquarter

duty would bring you both here, I believe, as Tom

says, ‘ by Jocks, I’d do it.’ The lieutenant of his

company says he gave him a horse and two

BUO YANT ANTICIPA TIONS.

555

blankets the first day after leaving Riley, and

took good care of him ; he wants you to know, as

you had asked him to remit the sentence and put

him on parole. He also says that he is one of the

best and neatest soldiers he ever saw.”

” Camp near Fort Larned,

“April 12, 1867.

“This letter I am sending by General Gibbs

will be comparatively short, as it is now after 10,

and reveille sounds at 5 to-morrow, and we start

on our march for Fort Dodge, fifty miles dis-

tant. Nearly all the officers of the Seventh were

present at a council General Hancock held with

the chiefs of the Cheyennes, who came into camp

this evening. The address to them, and their

reply, were repeated to each side by an interpreter.

The council has just ended. Harpei^’s Weekly

will contain illustrations of this expedition, as

Theodore Davis, one of their artists, is with the

expedition.

” I hope you have received my letters descrip-

tive of Fort Garland. One can stand in the door

of the quarters and behold the mountain-tops in

the distance, covered with snow, even when the

sun is pouring down its hot rays upon the post.

The quarters are ‘ adobe,’ nothing more or less

than sun-dried brick, made and dried after the ex-

act method followed by the children of Israel,

over which they labored and of which they after-

ward complained. We shall have an opportunity

to hear Spanish spoken there, and I intend to send

for my grammar and dictionary, and we can both

study the language.

“I am glad you found a horse-shoe. They are

almost invariably harbingers of good luck. Did

you not get a letter or two with considerable sat-

556

TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

isfactory intelligence, soon after finding your

horse-shoe ? I tied mine to my saddle, and carried

it till one of my men made use of it in camp.”

“Pawnee Fork, Kansas, April 14, 1867.

” Three miles beyond our present camp there is

a large encampment of Sioux, Apaches and

Cheyennes. A considerable number of them came

into our camp last night, several of the principal

chiefs remaining all night, occupying a tent that

General Hancock had pitched for them. I should

have written to you last night, but no messenger

was to be sent back. I can tell you there is a

‘ somebody ‘ who swears vengeance upon the

mail-carriers and stage-routes, if each mail does

not contain at least one letter from you. As I

could not write to you, I concluded to study the

Indian character a little. Accordingly, in my

ever-present morning-gown and broad hat, I

walked down to the tent of the chiefs. A senti-

nel had been placed near, to prevent the soldiers

from approaching too closely, from curiosity or

other motives, so that the Indians were kept quite

secluded. I went to their tent soon after dark

and remained until after 10 o’clock. No other

officers or soldiers were present. A guide and

interpreter were there a part of the time ; also Mr.

Davis, of Harpa-‘s Weekly. The Indians were

preparing their supper from meat and hard-tack

furnished them by our commissary. Instead of a

Sibley stove, they merely built their fire in the

centre of the tent and broiled or toasted their

meat. Each one had a pointed stick about eight-

een inches in length. Upon this they place their

ration of meat (two or three pounds each), and

thrust the other end of the stick into the ground

just outside the fire, but inclined in such a man-

558 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

ner that the meat is exposed to the heat of the

embers. When it was cooked, they of course ate

in quite a primitive style — with their fingers — each

gnawing at his bone as voraciously as if he had

not tasted food for three days. I went to the

tent, opened it and entered — unbidden, of course,

as not one of them could speak a word of English,

and my education in Sioux, Cheyenne or Apache

had been equally neglected. My entrance and

presence did not seem to disturb their stoicism

or equanimity in the least. All were seated around

the circumference of the tent upon buffalo robes. I

made my way through the smoke to a vacant

robe, and joined the circle, but did not ‘swing

round’ it. I took my place between two chiefs,

one of whom was White Horse, a head chief of

the Cheyennes and the other a chief of the

Apaches. There were perhaps a dozen chiefs in

the tent, and several Indians of a lower grade, who

seemed to act as strikers for the rest, attending to

the cooking of the meat, and so on. The chiefs

were in full-dress costume, with all the Indian

paraphernalia — paint, ornaments, etc. Some had

earrings as large as ordinary dog-collars, with

chains and shells attached, making a pendant

reaching to their waists. On their breasts were

plates of silver, generally of a half-moon shape

and as large in diameter as a wash-basin. Their

arms and fingers were also profusely ornamented

with shells and silver bands. Attached to the

scalp-lock would be a string of ornaments, so long,

in some instances, that the end would almost

touch the ground when the wearer was seated on

his pony. This ornament consisted of a succes-

sion of silver plates, forty or more, the one on top

and nearest the head being as large as a saucer,

the size of the others gradually diminishing to the

AN INDIAN TEPEE.

559

last, which would be the size of the bottom of a

cup. While sitting, or, rather, lying, on the buffalo

robe, surrounded as I was by this strange and

picturesque looking group, I could not but wonder

what your sensations would be, if you could peer

through the smoke of the Indian fire and see me,

dressed as at home, surrounded by a dozen or

more of these dusky and certainly savage-looking

chiefs. I smiled silently as I thought of the strange

position in which I found myself. Neither could

I help a shudder running through me, as a thought

darted into my mind, ‘ What if Libbie should ever

fall into the hands of such savages !’

” The two that acted as strikers for the rest

could not be said to be in full-dress costume, un-

less you would term it low neck and short sleeves.

True, the neck might be regarded very low, and

the sleeves very scant, as no garment of any de-

scription was worn above the waist. I discovered

advantages for this costume, particularly for cooks

and table-waiters : their sleeves never get into the

food or dishes. Tell Eliza to try it, as it is also a

comfortable dress for summer, particularly in the

shade. I am going to send her a pattern.

” An order has just come to strike tents and

move a few miles nearer the Indian encampment.

I will finish my letter there.”

” 5 P- M.

” ‘ Howdy: ‘ — We are located within a short dis-

tance of a large Indian encampment. A deputa-

tion of three hundred warriors and chiefs met us

this morning soon after we left camp. I wish you

could have seen them as we approached. They

were formed in line, with intervals, extending

about a mile. The sun was shining brightly, and

as we arrived the scene was the most picturesque

560

TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

and novel I ever witnessed. Many officers pro-

nounced it the most beautiful sight they ever saw ;

but beauty is an improper name to apply to it, in

my mind. What rendered the scene so striking

and so magnificent were the gaudy colors of the

dress and trappings of the chiefs and warriors.

Added to this was a profuse intermingling of sil-

ver ornaments. The whole scene reminded me

of descriptions I have read of Moorish or Oriental

cavalcades.”

” Pawnee Fork, April 15, 1867.

” 20 minutes to 3 o’clock a. m.

” Our council with the Indians did not take

place, as I said it would in my letter of to-day,

for the reason that the Indians gave us the slip

immediately after dark this evening. One of the

guides, a half-breed, reported this fact, or, rather,

that they were saddling up to leave about sunset.

General Hancock sent for me, and it was deter-

mined that I, with the Seventh Cavalry, should

surround the village and keep the Indians from

leaving. I advised against delay. I obeyed my

order, and completely surrounded the Indian en-

campment about 1 2 o’clock to-night. The village

numbered about two hundred and fifty lodges,

but the bird had flown, leaving his lodges behind,

and evidently flying in great haste. They feared

us ; feared another massacre like Chivington’s. I

am to pursue them at daylight with the Seventh,

and my orders are, to overtake them and bring

them back if possible and hold the council. If

they refuse to come, and are disposed to fight, I

am to accommodate them. I may end at Forts

Hays, Wallace or Dodge, most probably at Hays.

If so, this will be more in our favor for meeting

each other. I do not anticipate war, or even diffi-

THE INDIANS ESCAPE.

561

culty, as the Indians are frightened to death, and

only ran away from fear. If I can overtake them,

which I beUeve I can, their horses being in very

poor condition, I can at least try to disabuse t^clr

minds of an idea of harm, so that you need not

fear war. I am strongly for peace. Now you

need not worry in the least about me ; I do not

think we shall have war. It is now after 3 in the

morning, and the breakfast is being put upon the

table, so I must say good-night.”

CHAPTER XIX.

EXTRACTS FROM GENERAL CUSTER’s LETTERS FROM

FORT HAYS AND FORT WALLACE AN ACCOUNT OF

KILLING HIS FIRST BUFFALO-CALF THE DEATH

OF CUSTIS LEE EXTRACT FROM A LETTER WRIT-

TEN BY GENERAL HANCOCK ON THE INDIAN DEPRE-

DATIONS RIDING TO MEET THE MAIL THE DOC-

TOR EATS INDIAN SOUP IN THE VILLAGE SOME

ITEMS REGARDING A MATCH BUFFALO-HUNT.

^^ ‘ “Fort Hays, April 20, 1867.

IF you have received my last two letters, you

will not be surprised at seeing this dated at

Fort Hays. I reached here yesterday afternoon.

We could be seen from the fort a long distance

off, and were supposed to be Indians advancing” in

force to attack the post. The long roll was beaten,

every man sprang to his arms, the cannon were

loaded, and our coming was awaited in breathless

anxiety. No doubt a second edition of the Phil

Kearney massacre was anticipated. When we had

approached near enough for them to see our

wagons and flags, their fears and doubts were

dispelled, and an officer of the garrison came rid-

ing out to meet us. It appears that the first alarm

was given by two of the sutler’s clerks, who had

been out about five miles from the fort, in the

direction in which we were, buffalo-hunting. They

saw us several miles off advancing toward the

562

TRAVELING IN A CIRCLE. 563

fort, and at once surmised that we were an over-

whelming force of Indians bent upon capturing

the fort. They at once scampered for the post,

some five miles off, as fast as their horses could

carry them, when the alarm was given and prep-

aration made for a desperate resistance. The

scene as described was of the most exciting char-

acter, and now furnishes material for many good

jokes and hearty laughs.

” I marched one hundred and fifty miles in four

days and a half, an average of over thirty-three

miles a day. One night we were marching till

daylight. They have a good joke on Lieutenant

H , who, as you know, having been over the

Smoky Hill stage-route, professes to know every

inch of the way, as well as to have much Plains

knowledge, of which we, having never crossed

the Plains, are supposed to be ignorant. As I

desired to send an officer and detail of men to

Downer’s Station, ten miles distant, I assigned the

duty to Lieutenant H , supposing, from his

conversation, that he would be perfectly familiar

with the route. About an hour after he set out,,

an officer came into my tent and said he believed

Lieutenant H was returning, as he saw a party

of men a few miles off that appeared to be his.

After watching them some time, we discovered

that they were moving neither toward us nor in

the direction of Downer’s Station, but in a totally

different way. We could only explain his move-

ments by supposing that he had discovered a

party of Indians and was going to them. He soon

passed out of sight, and we saw nothing more of

him until his return several hours afterward. It

was then developed, from his own story, that he

had not been to Downer’s, but, after leaving our

camp, had become lost, and in wandering around,,

2 64 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

it seems in circles all the time, trying to find the

Station, had again come in sight of our camp.

Believing us to be Indians, he made preparations to

creep up to us, to reconnoitre our numbers. This,

too, at the particular time when other officers and

I were in front of my tent, trying to make out what

his strangle movements could mean. All such

occurrences, though ever so trifling in themselves,

serve to while away a few moments of the march,

and furnish subjects for conversation.

” We have seen immense quantities of game,

consisting of buffalo, antelope, wolves, elk, geese

ducks, etc. The first member of the buffalo

family that I saw was a calf about four week old.

I was riding alone with one of the Delaware Ind-

ians we employ as scouts, and had the dogs

with me. The calf jumped up out of the tall

grass and started to run off. The dogs all fol-

lowed and soon overtook it, each one taking hold,

while the calf set up a terrible bellowing ; and

they held it till I rode up, dismounted, and killed

it. I took off one quarter with my hunting-knife,

and left the remainder on the ground. Just then

one of my guides, a half-breed Cheyenne, came

up, and before the blood had ceased flowing,

while the carcass was still warm, he cut out the

heart and kidneys and ate them at once, without

any preparation or dressing whatever, just as you

would eat an apple. I had a delightful dish of

broiled veal for dinner that day.

” And now I am called upon to relate a most

unfortunate occurrence, and one, too, that you will

deeply regret. That noble animal, ever faithful

and true to the last moment, Custis Lee, is no

more. I killed him last Tuesday while buff’alo-

hunting. . . Soon after leaving camp in the

morning, I took the dogs, and with Sergeant King.

FIRST BUFFALO CHASE. 565

the chief bugler, rode in advance of the cokimn,

but still in sight. On a bluff upon our left flank

I saw several antelope grazing. Desiring to test

the speed of the greyhounds, Lu and Sharp, I

galloped toward them. The dogs soon saw them,

and away they went. Sharp tired down after

running about a mile, but Lu, much to my sur-

prise, outran Sharp and continued the chase

about four miles, overhauling the antelope but

unable to detain it alone. Rover and Ratler took

the trail of one, and were soon beyond my sight

and hearing. I feared to trust Ratler on the

prairie, as I knew that he would lose himself if

once out of sight. The result of this chase was,

that I called Lu and Sharp off at once ; old Rover

joined me several miles off, three hours afterward.

Ratler never joined me, and never will, as I sup-

pose some wolf has killed him ere this. I regret

his loss extremely, as this is the first time he has

ever joined in the chase and followed the trail

himself, and he did very well. But his loss was

neither the last nor the greatest misfortune to be-

fall me that day. Sergeant King had vainly en-

deavored to keep up with me, and had fallen so

far behind as to be lost to view. I saw a buffalo

about three-quarters of a mile in front, the first

large one I had seen so near, so, taking Lu and

Sharp, I galloped in pursuit. The buffalo soon

saw me, and started at full speed across the

country. Sharp overtook him and succeeded in

delaying him somewhat, so that after a run of

about three miles I was within pistol-shot of him.

. . . I drew one of my revolvers and started

full tilt for the buffalo, intending to ride alongside

and kill him. He was completely blown, his tongue

protruding, and evidently unable to continue

the chase at the same gait much longer ; so that

5 66 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

when he saw me coming- toward him he suddenly

halted and turned upon me. I was too near to

stop or turn short. I therefore gave Lee the spurs,

and passed just in advance of the buffalo. The

chase was then resumed. I, being on the right of

the buffalo, passed over to the left and was soon

near him again. I was close to him, had my pis-

tol cocked and aimed at his side, and was about

to pull the trigger, when the buffalo again turned

on me and so suddenly as to cause Lee to veer to

the left. I drew up my pistol, intending to use

both hands in controlling the horse, when, just as

my hand was raised to the reins, my finger acci-

dentally and in the excitement of the moment,

pressed the trigger and discharged the weapon,

the ball entering Lee’s neck near the top of his

head and penetrating his brain. Both horse and

buffalo had been at full speed. The shot pro-

duced instant death ; not even a struggle ensued

after he fell. . . .

“• You can imagine what the effect would be

upon me, the horse running his best, to fall in a

single leap. I was thrown heels over head, clean

over Lee, but, strange to say, I received not a

scratch or bruise. This is the second dangerous

fall I have had within ten days. I did not lose

my presence of mind for a moment, and, expect-

ing the buffalo to charge upon me at once, I had

retained my revolver in my hand, and in an in-

stant was on my feet, ready for a fight or a foot-

race. Fortunately the buffalo, whether surprised

at the sudden turn affairs had taken, or deeming

my position bad enough, concluded to call it a

drawn battle, and, after looking me in the eyes a

few moments, went galloping off over the prairie,

leaving me in possession of the battle-field, which

I believe always belongs to the victor. But now

mMim

567

5 68 TENTING ON THE PLAINS,

came the time to try men’s soles. I can recall many,

many much more agreeable circumstances in

which to be placed than those surrounding me at

that time. I was dismounted, which to a cavalry-

man is not the most pleasant thing in the

world ; I was alone, and several miles from

anybody, and the direction in which I was

to find that anybody was still to be determined.

I will confess that in hours past, have deeply

enjoyed the solitude of my own thoughts,

and there have been times when I would

gladly have torn myself from some crowded

throng in order to be left alone in my glory. Un-

fortunately for me at this time, so favorable for

seclusion and meditation, I was somewhat in a

social mood, and would have greeted almost any

man, or even woman, that I ever knew, not

excepting .””” There was no time for

regrets, no time to cry over spilt milk, much as I

felt disposed so to do, and no time either for Fox

River. If I did think of it, I intended to ford it,

I cast but a single look at poor Lee, and that look

satisfied me that he was dead. A moment’s re-

flection convinced me that I must abandon saddle,

bridle and overcoat, and alone in the wide, wide

world, which never looked half as wide before, set

out on my ‘tramp, tramp, tramp’ toward the

‘ boys,’ who, I am sorry to say, were ‘ marching.’

” I knew I was a good woodsman, quick at find-

ing roads, good in keeping directions, etc.; but all

these qualities had only been exercised before

within the limits of civilization. Now it was dif-

ferent: not a tree was to be seen, not a rock nor a

bush ; not a single living thing was in sight, the

*This reference was to an enemy of his, whom, of course, I bit-

terly disliked, but to whom my husband never referred.

LOST ON THE PLAINS. 569

dogs having fallen far behind. Yes, there was a

living object still in view, and that was my friend

the buffalo. After placing about half a mile be-

tween himself and me, he stopped and took time

for breathing. Finding himself no longer pursued,

he coolly stopped, and watched my proceedings

with the greatest interest, apparently saying to

himself, ‘ Who got the worst of that ? ‘

” I now tried to remember something of my

course while chasing the buffalo, and also the dis-

tance I had passed over, and concluded, after look-

ing at the sun, that I had galloped about five miles

in a semicircle, around the head of the column, j

had set out on the left, and must now be about

two miles in front, and to the right the same dis-

tance. Accordingly, with^oor Lee as a starting-

point, and also, a point of reference, I set out in

the supposed direction, frequently looking around

to see where the horse lay. If G. P. R. James had

been sufficiently near, he might have described a

solitary horseman (on foot, unfortunately) slowly

proceeding in the direction of he was not positive

where. I walked, with busy thoughts, you may be

sure, about two miles, and until Lee dwindled to

a small dark spot on the prairie. Still no signs of

the command approaching. A slight doubt as to

the correctness of my course began to arise, when

1 saw the tops of the wagons as they were making

their way up a small ravine. They were then

some two miles distant, so I patiently sat down

and awaited their coming. You should have seen

the surprise of the officers when they found me

entirely alone on the prairie, without a horse being

in sight. An explanation followed, an officer sent

a party after my saddle, bridle and coat, and a

horse was loaned me, as I had left Phil and Fan-

chon with General Smith.

570

TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

” So endcth the first lesson in buffalo-chasing.

But the second is not like unto it. On the horse

that was loaned me I again set out, this time nearer

the command. I soon saw a couple of buffalo

near by, and gave chase ; was alongside in no time,

and began pouring the contents of a revolver into

the side of one of them. My second shot brought

him down, but he was on his feet almost immedi-

ately and going off at a good rate. Again I was

alongside, and brought him to bay with another

shot, killing him readily.

” You have doubtless heard of the massacre of

the three men at the stage-station (Lookout Sta-

tion) about twenty miles from this post. The

station and hay-stables were burned, and the men

so badly burned as scarcely to be recognizable.

I was the first of the command to reach them, as

I was looking for a camp. Seme men had been up

the day before (the i6th; the massacre was on the

15th) and partly buried the corpses. ‘But the

wolves had been there, uncovered the bodies, and

eaten the flesh from the legs. The hair was burned

from their heads. It could not be determined

whether they had been burned alive^or after being

killed. The flesh was roasted and crisped from

their faces and bodies, and altogether it was one

of the most horrible sights imaginable.”

” Near Fort Hays, April 22, 1867.

” The inaction to which I am subjected now,

in our present halt, is almost unendurable. It re-

quires all the buoyancy of my sanguine disposition

to resist being extremely homesick. Hitherto I

have been comparatively contented, and able to

divert my thoughts from home to incidents and

occurrences of the march, but even that poor pre-

text is denied me here. You little imagine how

HOSTILITIES PRODUCE WAR. 571

great the sacrifice is to me. . . . Our train

from Harker will probably arrive to-night, and

we shall leave, soon after it reaches us, for Dodge.

A note from headquarters last night said General

Hancock was moderating in his desire for war.

God grant it may be true ! . . . I can hardly

devote the proper time and attention to my daily

duties. … I am almost determined that,

come what may, you must and shall join me

wherever I am this summer.

” If Indian hostilities should be the result of this

expedition, and I am sent off independently dur-

ing the summer, as I am at present, I believe you

can go with me. The fatigues of the march will

be all that you will have to contend against, and

these will not be greater than those encountered

in going through Texas. As for overtaking the

Indians, it is almost an impossibility. Our horses

cannot endure the marching that their ponies can,

fed upon nothing buf prairie-grass.”

“Fort Hays, April 23, 1867.

” Yesterday two couriers came from headquar-

ters, bringing with them an order assigning me

to the command of all the troops and posts on the

Smoky Hill route. My command extends west as

far as Denver, and north and south as far as I choose

to go. I can now have you with me very soon.

” War has been declared against the Sioux and

Cheyennes ; but you need not let this fact give

you any unnecessary trouble or anxiety, as I be-

lieve the hostile Indians are going north, beyond

the limits of this Department. The present state of

affairs was all anticipated when I sent you General

Hancock’s letter ; but, with the hope that open

hostilities might be averted, I refrained from re-

ferring to that. However, the Indians, by their

572

TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

late cold-blooded and heartless massacres, have

precipitated a war, the consequences of which

must rest with them. Two companies of the

Seventh had a fight a few days since, near Cim-

maron Crossing. Six Indians were killed. We

had two men killed and an infantry officer

wounded. I have ordered a line of couriers to

be established between here and Fort Barker,

consisting of six non-commissioned officers, so

that we can have a mail three times a week, and

but about ten hours between here and Harker.

This post is not a regular mail-station, and some-

times our mail is carried on to Denver and back.

Our couriers will obviate this difficulty.”

“Fort Hays, April 25, 1867.

” Oh, I was so tempted and provoked to-day !

The Superintendent of the Overland Route called

upon me, on his way from, Denver to Junction

City. He and the Division Superintendent had a

car to themselves, and he offered me a seat in it.

Only think ; in thirty hours I would have been at

Riley ! I was tempted with the offer, and pro-

voked at my inability to accept it. . . . The

Superintendent called to consult with me regard-

ing the protection of the Overland Route. I

have issued orders for the infantry to move out

to-morrow, and there will be five men at each

mail-station, while in addition there will be five

road employees, all well armed. If you were

alone, I would have the Superintendent bring you

back with him. Now, are you sorry you did not

go home like the other ladies, to spend the sum-

mer ? I need not ask, for I know nothing would

induce you to go so far away that you would lose

the chance of coming to camp.

” I have not been a hundred yards from my

r y^ TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

tent since we reached here, not even to the post,

half a mile away. I was lying on my pallet to-day,

thinking over my blessings, and I could not help

uttering a prayer of gratitude to God, for all that

he has bestowed on me, and asking that I might

be made worthy, and be led to pursue such a moral

life that others might be benefited by my example.,

” I read most of the time, and through the Doc-

tor I have enjoyed some interesting books. I have

been absorbed to-day in a scientific book entitled

‘ Origin of the Stars.’ In reading a book of poems,

I came across the following lines, which so nearly

express my views, and also what I endeavor to

make my rule of thought, that I copy them for

you :

” ‘ Blest, indeed, is he who never fell.

But blest much more, who from the verge of hell

Climbs up to Paradise; for sin is sweet,

Strong is temptation, willing are the feet

That follow pleasure; manifold her snares,

And pitfalls lurk beneath our very prayers.

Yet God, the clement, the compassionate,

In pity of our weakness, keeps the gate

Of pardon open, scorning not to wait

Till the last moment when His mercy throws

A splendor from the shade of Azrael’s wings.

. . . O Man ! be charity thy aim,

Praise cannot harm, but weigh thy words of blame,

Distrust the virtue that itself exalts.

And turn to that which doth avow its faults.

Pardon, not wrath, is God’s best attribute.’ “

“Near Fort Hays, April 30, 1867.

” Letters from you have not reached me as they

should. ‘ Something wrong seemed a-brewing.’ In

all my life I do not remember anything that has been

so unceasingly on my mind; but to-day Richard was

himself again : I received your letter of Tuesday,

A SPECK ON THE HORIZON.

575

The irregularity of the mails is terribly trying.

After your letter came, I felt like a ride; so, order-

ing my horse, slinging my field-glass over my

shoulder, and strapping my revolver about my

waist, I galloped off to a fine knoll, about a mile

and a half distant, from which, I rightly conject-

ured, an extensive view of the surrounding coun-

try might be obtained. Arriving there, I dis-

mounted, and throwing the rein over my arm,

began admiring the landscape. I looked long and

with increasing interest until, far toward the East,

I discovered two dark specks apparently approach-

ing. I waited long enough to distinguish that

they were two buggies — a most unusual sight in

these regions. I became interested, for I knew it

was not the coach, whose arrival was expected.

To reach the road and intercept them, it was

necessary to traverse about two miles of prairie.

Who knows, I said, but there may be news for

me ! To entertain this thought was to act upon

it, and in a moment I was in the saddle and head-

ing for the road, as if on ‘ the ride for life.’ Lu,

Sharp and Rover vainly endeavored to keep up

with me. Arriving at the road just in time, whom

should I see but the Division Superintendent and

express messenger! Who will deny that ‘there is a

destiny that shapes our ends ‘? After handshaking,

the first words were inquiries of Riley, and the mes-

senger answered, ‘ I have letters for you.’ We then

rode on together to camp. Although glad to see

them I could hardly wait till they took their de-

parture, so eager was I to devour my letters. . .

” I have sent for Comstock, the scout, to join me.

He is delighted at the idea, and has an A tent

directly in rear of mine. Yesterday several of the

officers were out buffalo-hunting, and one of them

accidently shot his horse, and also a large buffalo-

576

TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

dog belonging to Company E, which at the time

had the buffalo by the nose. The dog will recover.

Four of the hunting-party were lost, wandered

about all night, and finally arrived at a station ten

miles away. I am still confident of seeing you ;

for I cannot believe that affairs will assume that

shape which will separate us this summer.

“Take a dark view of it, and grant that we

have an Indian war : we must have a base of

supplies, to which we shall go at brief intervals;

and at such a place you could be safe. All will

yet be well. You will find some more horse-shoes.

“Tell Eliza I am on the search for an Indian

husband for her — one that won’t bother her much

to sew buttons on his shirts or trousers, and his

washing won’t be heavy, and one dish will satisfy

him for one meal, provided it is stewed puppies.

” I have the funniest pet now. It is a young

beaver. He is quite tame ; runs about the tent,

follows me, and when I lie down on the bed to

read, he cuddles up under my gown or on my arm

and goes to sleep. He cries exactly like a baby

two days old. A person outside the tent would

think there was a nursery in here, if he could hear

it about 2 o’clock in the morning. I feed it from

my hand at the table. Its tail is perfectly flat. I

am going to tell Eliza that it used to be round,

but a wagon ran over it. Its hind feet are webbed

like a duck’s ; its fore feet are like hands.”

“Near Fort Hays, May 2, 1867.

” It never rains but it pours : I have had nine

letters to-day. Did you ever read of a man at

death’s door being restored to life, of a drowning

man saved, or of a person long imprisoned in dark-

ness given back to light and liberty ? No miser

A CANINE STEW.

^77

with his gold ever gloated over his possessions as

I do to-day. You cannot imagine or realize the

state I have been in for the last ten days. As

General Gibbs has told you that I darn the holes

in my socks by tying knots, I shall forward charges

of slander against him. Tell him, as he wants

men for the band, as soon as the other companies

arrive, I will send him every man that ever played

on any instrument, from a curry-comb to a thresh-

ing-machine, including , who I know can play

on an instrument called poker, that is, if he can

find the music for this instrument.

” I thought of Alfred and Blair when we sur-

rounded the Indian camp,’at the time we supposed

the village occupied. There were dogs of all ages,

sexes and sizes. In one of the lodges we found

young puppies, in another we found in a camp-

kettle a mess of stewed dogs. The Indians ran

off so hurridly they left all their cooking-utensils

and meat, some of which was being prepared for

the evening meal. Dr. C was the victim of a

good joke. He is of an inquiring turn of mind,

always anxious to see everything and judge for

himself, and he was about the first to discover the

camp-kettle containing the dogs. ‘ Fortunate occur-

ence,’ thought the Doctor; ‘ here is an opportunity

seldom found, of judging of the Indian mode of

preparing buffalo-meat to be eaten. Happy

thought !’ The Doctor fished out of the kettle a

large piece of the supposed buffalo-meat, and with

an apparently good appetite fell to and ate heartily.

There is no means of telling how long his enjoy-

ment might have continued, had not my half-

breed guide come up at that moment and exam-

ined the contents of the kettle. Taking out a

portion, he exclaimed, ‘ It is dog ! ‘ The Doctor

took the laugh quite coolly, remarking, ‘ I don’t

5 78 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

care ; it’s good, any how.’ I forgot, also, to tell you

in a former letter about the only occupant of the

Indian camp. It was a little half-breed girl. We

found her half naked. She was perhaps eight or

nine years old. It is all true that you have heard

about the Indians’ treatment of the httle creature.

I had the Doctor make an examination, and he

found she was in a horrible condition. She was

almost insensible when we discovered her, and

after recovering sufficiently to talk she said ‘ the

Indian men did her bad.’

” Wo be unto these Indians, if ever I overtake

them ! The chances are, however, that I shall not

see any of them, it being next to impossible to

overtake them when they are forewarned and

expecting us, as they now are. I wrote a very

strong letter, a week or ten days ago, against an

Indian war, picturing, as strongly as I could, the

serious results that must follow, in the way of put-

ting a stop to travel on the overland route, and

interfering with the work of the Pacific Railroad,

all of which would be a national calamity. I re-

garded the outrages that have been committed

lately as not the work of a tribe, but of small and

irresponsible parties of young men, who are eager

for war. The stampede of the Indians from the

village, I attributed entirely to fear. I closed with

the hope that my opinion would be received in

the light intended, and that, if a war was finally

to be waged, none would enter it more determined

or earnest than I. My opinion is, that we are not

yet justified in declaring war.

“This evening I notified the companies that on

Saturday, the 4th, we would have a foot-race, up-

on the following conditions : Distance, three

hundred yards ; the company producing the win-

ner to be excused from guard and fatigue duty

DIVERSIONS FOR IDLE MEN.

579

one week, the winner to be excused from the same

duty twenty days. I had orderly call sounded,

and the sergeant-major notified the eight first-

sergeants of the race. They went back to their

companies, and the excitement began when they

set about ascertaining who was the fastest man

in each company. There was constant cheering,

clapping of hands, and laughing until dark. All

seemed deeply interested in the event. I intro-

duced it to give the men exercise, innocent amuse-

ment, and something to do to keep them out of

mischief.

” It is also proposed that the officers of the

Seventh and those of the post united, divide into,

two parties, and each go buffalo-hunting, the

party that kills the smallest number of buffalo to

pay the expenses of a supper for the entire num-

ber. So you see we are endeavoring to pass the

time as pleasantly as possible.

” I wish you were here to go buffalo-hunting.

I know you will enjoy it. You will be carried

away with excitement. Nothing so nearly ap-

proaches a cavalry charge and pursuit as a buffalo-

chase. I am so glad that you have been so pru-

dent and thoughtful as to provide a sheet-iron

stove. It will be invaluable to us. There are

times during high winds, rains or storms, when it

is impossible to cook by an out-door fire. Where

did you learn all this ? If I had not known you,

I would imagine that you had crossed the Plains

several times. Comstock messes with me. I like

to have him with me, for many reasons. He is a

worthy man, and I am constantly obtaining valu-

able mformation from him regarding the Indians,

their habits, etc. He brought a large dog with

him, which he values highly and calls ‘ Cuss,’ an

abbreviation of Custer.”

580 tenting on the plains.

” Half-past i in the Morning,

” Near Fort Hays, May 4, 1867.

” I have this minute returned from General

Hancock’s tent, where I have been since dark. Fie

leaves for Leavenworth in the morning, General

Smith accompanying- him. You can return with

the latter. He is delighted with the idea of bring-

ing you, and will do anything in his power to

render your trip comfortable. We have a beauti-

ful camp, and you will be delighted with the

country. Have a box made for the chickens, to

fasten on behind the wagons. You had better

have Turk, the bull-dog, and the setters led

through the town. Bring plenty of calico dresses.

1 hope to see you before the 20th of May. Where

is Fox River now ?

” To Mrs. General Custer,

” Fox River Station.”

“Near Fort Hays,

” May 6, 1867.

” I must tell you about the foot-race. After

dinner we walked up on the hill to see the eight

picked men test their speed. It was quite excit-

ing. The men wore only their shirts, drawers,

and stockings. The race was won by an A Com-

pany man. An E Company man was in ad-

vance, but tripped, and fell just before reaching

the goal. Everybody seemed interested. After

that came a horse-race, one quarter of a mile,

between an H Company horse on the part of the

cavalry, and an infantry horse from the post.

The infantry was very sanguine of success, their

horse never having been beaten ; but, as fortune

favors the brave, the cavalry horse won hand-

somely.”

AN ORDER FOR “DOUBLE-QUICA:” 58 I

“9:30 P. M. Near Fort Hays, May 7, 1867.

” Will you be contented with a brief letter, as

our hunt came off to-day, and I have ridden fifty

miles ? The other party competing goes out to-

morrow. Our party of seven officers killed

twelve buffalo. One of the officers of the other

party has been here, trying to find out how many

we killed. But we shall hide the tongues, which

it was agreed should be the tally, and keep our

day’s work a secret till they return.

” I cannot help regretting that I did not think

of what you suggested in time ; that is, that I

send to Saline for your household goods. It

would expedite your coming. Oh, how I wish we

had telegraphic communication ! Send letters

by the stages that pass you on your march here.

Let nothing delay you a single day. Leave Gen-

eral Smith, if he is delayed, and come on in

advance, if you have an opportunity. Do not let

the grass grow under your feet.”

“Fort McPherson, June 17, 1867.

“I have delayed writing to you until I could

learn from General Sherman something positive

regarding my future movements. I now know.

Be brave ! ‘ It is always darkest just before day.’

General Sherman says I may not return to the

Smoky Hill route until nearly winter, but he says

that you can come to me here, and wondered

why I did not bring you. General Sherman says

he will direct the quartermaster at Omaha to

arrange for passes ; but do not for the world let

that detain you. Money is no consideration !

” I am fully aware of the great undertaking be-

fore you. Perhaps you had better await a des-

patch from me at Sedgwick ; but if either Gen-

eral Hancock or General Smith will give you the

582

TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

assistance you need, you will avoid delay. If

General Smith should send a company on a scout

to Fort McPherson, you could come with them.

If you can get a chance to come to Wallace, I

will send a squadron there to meet you. I like

this last plan best of all. I only fear you may

not have your saddle with you. I trust so, as

you will have considerable marching on horse-

back to do. The ranchmen along the Platte are

so stampeded that General Sherman thinks the

Seventh should remain here until all difficulties are

settled, and this may not be until winter ; but

General Sherman says that General Hancock

may make a fuss about taking me away from

him, and ask to have me back. If you see Gen-

eral Hancock, ask him to make a fuss at once ;

in that case, you would await me on the Smoky

Hill route. I am on a roving commission, going

nowhere in particular, but where I please. I can-

not advise as to which course you should pursue.

Your judgment will meet the crisis. Once here,

you will stay, even if we have nothing but a

shelter-tent. Now that General Sherman says

you can come, do not let General Hancock or

General Smith have any peace until they send you

to Wallace.”

” Forks of the Republican River,

“Twenty-five Miles from Fort Wallace,

” June 22, 1867.

” You cannot imagine my anxiety regarding

your whereabouts, for the reason that, if you are

now at Wallace, you can join me in about six

days, and we can be together all summer. I wrote

twice from McPherson, telling you how to reach

me by way of Wallace. I am expected to keep

the Indians quiet on the Platte route to Denver.

THE APPROACH OF A REUNION. 583

They are pretty well scared. I have already

made peace with ‘ Pawnee Killer’ and his band of

Sioux — the same that owned the lodges that were

destroyed. It was intended that I should draw

my supplies from Fort Sedgwick, but I am now

equidistant from there and Wallace, and Com-

stock reports the road from here to Sedgwick al-

most impassable for trains, owing to the scarcity

of water, while that to Wallace is good. I there-

fore send to Wallace. Mr. Cook will set out this

evening at sunset, with twelve wagons and a com-

pany of cavalry as escort, a second company

going half-way and there awaiting his return.

Mr. Cook will return in six days, so you see what

a splendid opportunity this is to join me. I hear

that General Hancock is at Wallace. If so, Gen-

eral Smith is doubtless with him, and has taken

you along. I never was so anxious in my life. I

will remain here until Mr. Cook returns with the

rations — and you, I hope. Now, to prepare for

emergencies, you may still be at Hays. I hope

not, but, thinking you might, I will act accord-

ingly. I want Comstock to see General Smith,

and will send him to Hays. If you are still there,

Comstock will take this letter to you and bring

your reply.

” Tell me when you can be at Wallace, and I will

send a squadron there for you. Our marching

will not be hard for you ; although we sometimes

make thirty-five miles a day, it is not usual.”

CHAPTER XX.

SACRIFICES AND SELF-DENIAL OF PIONEER DUTY POOR

WATER AND ALKALINE DUST VAGARIES OF WEST-

ERN WATER-WAYS DIGGING IN SUNKEN STREAM-

BEDS FOR WATER RIVERS UNFRINGED BY TREES

OR SHRUBS THE ALLURING MIRAGE A SHORT

TRIBUTE TO THE WESTERN PIONEERS THEIR EN-

DURANCE, PATIENCE AND COURAGE THE GOV-

ERNOR OF A WESTERN TERRITORY SHINES AS A

COOK AS WELL AS A STATESMAN THE GENERAL

WRITES OF HIS FIRST BUFFALO-HUNT AN ACCI-

DENTAL DISCHARGE OF HIS PISTOL KILLS MY HORSE,

CUSTIS LEE GENERAL SHERMAN AS A SPECIAL PROV-

IDENCE THE WESTERN TOWN ON A MOVE GOV-

ERNMENT MAKES NO PROVISION FOR ARMY WOMEN

TO SAY THEIR PRAYERS JOURNEY TO FORT HAYS

THE MATCH HUNT OF THE REGIMENT SUPPER

GIVEN BY THE VANQUISHED TO THE VICTORS RECEP-

TION GIVEN BY THE ELEMENTS ON OUR ARRIVAL

THE TENT GOES DOWN A SCOUT TO FORT m’pHER-

SON A SENTINEL FIRES ON HIS FRIENDS BY MIS-

TAKE GENERAL CUSTER SENDS ESCORT TO TAKE

US TO HIS CAMP CAPTAIN ROBBINS AND COLONEL

COOK ATTACKED, AND FIGHT FOR THREE HOURS.

TT is a source of regret, as these pages grow daily

under my hand, that I have not the power to

place before the country the sacrifices and noble

584

THE HEATED EARTH. egc

courage endured by the officers and soldiers of

our army in their pioneer work. I can only por-

tray, in the simplest manner, what I saw them en-

dure unmurmuringly, as I was permitted to follow

in the marches and campaigns of our regiment. I

find that it is impossible to make the life clear to

citizens, even when they ask me to describe

personally something of frontier days, unless they

may have been over the Plains in their journeys

to and from the Pacific coast. Even then, they

look from the windows of the Pullman car on to

the desert, white with alkali, over which the heat

rises in waves, and upon earth that struggles to give

even life to the hardy cactus or sage-brush. Then

I find their attention is called to our army, and I

sometimes hear a sympathetic tone in their voices

as they say, ” Ah ! Mrs. Custer, when I rode over

that God-forgotten land, I began to see what none

of us at the East ever realize— the terrible life that

our army leads on the Plains.” And only lately,

while I was in the West, a citizen described to me

seeing a company of cavalry, that had made a ter-

rific march, come in to the railroad at some point

in Arizona. He told me of their blistered faces,

their blood-shot, inflamed eyes— the result of the

constant cloud of alkali dust through which they

marched — the exhaustion in every limb, so notice-

able in men of splendid vigor, with their broad

586 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

chests, deep throats, and muscular build, because

it told what a fearful strain it must have been

to have reduced such stalwart athletes to weak-

ness. What effect it would have to introduce a

body of such indomitable men in the midst of an

Eastern city, tired, travel-stained, but invincible !

After all, if we who try to be their champions

should succeed in making this transfer by some

act of necromancy, the men would be silent about

their sufferings. Among the few officers who

have written of Plains life, there is scarcely a

mention of hardships endured. As I read over

my husband’s magazine articles for the first time

in many years, I find scarcely a reference to the

scorching sun, the stinging cold, the bleak winds.

His narrative reads like the story of men who

marched always in sunshine, coming across clear

streams of running water and shady woods in

which to encamp. I have been there : through

and through the breezy, buoyant tale I see the

background — a treeless, arid plain, brackish, mud-

dy water, sandy, sterile soil. The faces of our

gallant men come up to me in retrospection, blis-

tered and swollen, the eyes streaming with moist-

ure from the inflaming dust, the parched lips

cracked with fever of unquenched thirst, the hands

even puffed and fiery with the sun-rays, day

after day.

A PERSISTENT FOE. 587

It seems heartless to smile in the midst of this vis-

ion, recalled to me, of what I myself have seen, but

I hear some civilian say, as they have often asked

me equally inconsistent questions, ” Well, why

didn’t they wear gloves ?” Where all the posses-

sions of a man are carried on the saddle, and the

food and forage on pack-mules, it would be im-

possible to take along gloves to last from early

spring till the stinging cold of late autumn.

Thirst is an unconquerable foe. It is one of those

enemies that may be vanquished on one field and

come up, supported by legions of fresh desires, the

very next day. I know nothing but the ever-

present selfishness of our natures that requires

such persistent fighting. Just fancy, for a mo-

ment, the joy of reaching a river or a stream on

the Plains ! How easy the march seemed beside

its banks. At any moment one could descend,

fill the canteen, and rejoin the column. It is true the

quality of the water was not of the best, but there

comes a time, out there, when quantity triumphs.

It seems so good to have enough of anything, for

the stinted supplies of all sorts make life seem

always meagre in a country with no natural re-

sources. But woe be to the man who puts his

faith in a Western stream ! They used to take

themselves suddenly out of sight, down some-

where into the bowels of the earth, and leave the

588 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

bed dry as dust, winding its tortuous way for

miles, aggravating us by the constant reminder

of where water ought to be, but where it unfort-

unately was not. This sudden disappearance of

water is supposed to be due to the depression of

the rocky beds of the streams. A deep sand ab-

sorbs the moisture from the surface, and sucks

down into its depths all the stream. When the

bed again rises nearer the surface, the stream

comes to sight once more. Whoever, after the

water disappeared, found that he must drink or

die, was obliged to stop and dig away at the dry

bed of the river until he found moisture. It was a

desperate man that attempted it; one whose throat

had become voiceless, whose mouth and lips

ached with the swelling veins of over-heated

blood ; for, if one delayed behind the column for

ever so short a time, he was reminded of his inse-

curity by a flash from a pile of stones or a bunch

of sage-bush on the summit of a low divide.

The wily foe that lurks in the rear of a marching

column has no equal in vigilance.

And then, what a generous being a soldier is !

How often I have seen them pass the precious

nectar — it seemed so then, in spite of its being

warm and alkaline ; and I speak from experience,

for they have given me a chance also — flavored

with poor whisky sometimes, as that old tin re-

A TREELESS LAND. ego

ceptacle which Government furnishes holds

coffee, whisky or water, whichever is attainable.

I fear that, had I scratched and dug slowly into

the soil with the point of a sabre, and scooped

up a minimum of water, my eye on the bluff

near, watching and in fear of an Indian, I should

have slaked my own thirst and let the whole

American army go dry. But I am thankful to

say the soldier is made of different stuff. It is

enough to weld strongest bonds of friendship,

like those in our army, when it is share and share

alike ; and I am reminded of a stanza of soldier

poetry :

” There are bonds of all sorts in this world of ours,

Fetters of friendship and ties of flowers,

And true-lover’s knots, I ween :

The boy and the girl are bound by a kiss,

But there’s never a bond of old friends like this —

We have drunk from the same canteen.”

I have, among our Plains photographs, a picture

of one of the Western rivers, with no sort of tree

or green thing growing on its banks. It is the

dreariest picture I ever saw, and as it appears

among the old photographs of merry groups taken

in camp or on porches covered with our garrison

family, it gives me a shudder even now. Among

the photographs of the bright side of our life, this

is the skeleton at the feast, which comes up so

persistently.

590 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

Since all rivers and streams in the States are

fringed with trees, it is difficult to describe how

strange some of our Western water-ways appeared

without so much as a border of shrubs or reeds.

In looking over the country, as we ascended to a

divide higher than the rest, the stream lay before

us, winding on in the curving lines of our own

Eastern rivers, but for miles and miles not a ves-

tige of green bordered the banks. It seemed to

me for all the world like an eye without an eye-

lash. It was strange, unnatural, weird. The

white alkali was the only border, and that spread

on into the scorched brown grass, too short to

protect the traveler from the glare that was

heightened by the sun in a cloudless sky. A tree

was often a landmark, and was mentioned on the

insufficient maps of the country, such as ” Thou-

sand-mile Tree,” a name telling its own story ; or

” Lone Tree,” known as the only one within eighty

miles, as was the one in Dakota, where so many

Indians buried their dead.

What made those thirsty marches a thousand

times worse was the alluring, aggravating mirage.

This constantly deceived even old campaigners,

and produced the most harrowing sort of illusions.

Such a will-o’-the-wisp too ! for, as we believed

ourselves approaching the blessed water, imagined

the air was fresher, looked eagerly and expect-

THE FRONTIERSMEN.

591

antly for the brown, shrivelled grass to grow

green, off floated the deluding water farther and

farther away.

As I try to write something of the sacrifices of

the soldier, who will not speak of himself, and for

whom so few have spoken, there comes to me an-

other class of heroes, for whom my husband had

such genuine admiration, and in whose behalf he

gave up his life — our Western pioneer. A desper-

ate sort of impatience overcomes me w^hen I real-

ize how incapable I am of paying them proper

tribute. And yet how fast they are passing away,

with no historians ! and hordes of settlers are

sweeping into the western States and Territories,

quite unmindful of the soldiers and frontiersmen,

who fought, step by step, to make room for the

coming of the overcrowded population of the East.

My otherwise charming journeys West now are

sometimes marred by the desire I feel for calling

the attention of the travelers, who are borne by

steam swiftly over the Plains to the places where

so short a time since men toilsomely traveled in

pursuit of homes. I want to ask those who journey

for pleasure or for a new home, if they realize

what men those were who took their lives in their

hands and prepared the way.* Their privations

* My father went to Michigan early in 1800, and his long journey

was made by stage, canal-boat and schooner. He was not only a

592 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

are forgotten, or carelessly ignored, by those who

now go in and possess the land. The graphic

pens of Bret Harte and others, who have written

of the frontier, arrest the attention of the Eastern

man, and save from oblivion some of the noble

characters of those early days. Still, these poets

naturally seized for portraiture the picturesque,

romantic characters who were miners or scouts —

the isolated instances of desperate men who had

gone West from love of adventure, or because of

some tragic history in the States, that drove them

to seek forgetfulness in a wild, unfettered exist-

ence beyond the pale of civilization.

Who chronicles the patient, plodding, silent

pioneer, who, having been crowded out of his

home by too many laborers in a limited field, or,

because he could no longer wring subsistence from

a soil too long tilled by sire and grandsire ; or

possibly a returned volunteer from our war, who,

finding all places he once filled closed up, was

compelled to take the grant of land that the Gov-

ernment gives its soldiers, and begin life all over

great while in making the trip, but subject to privations, illness

and fatigue, even when using the only means of travel in those

early days. The man who went over the old California trail fared

far worse. His life was in peril from Indians all the distance, be-

sides his having to endure innumerable hardships. Those who

pioneer in a Pullman car little know what the unbeaten track held

for the first comers.

A SOLDIER’S SYMPATHY.

593

again, for the sake of wife and children ! There is

Httle in these hves to arrest the poetical fancy of

those writers who put into rhyme (which is the

most lasting of all history) the lives otherwise lost

to the world.

How often General Custer rode up to these weary,

plodding yeomen, as they turned aside their wagons

to allow the column of cavalry to pass ! He was

interested in every detail of their lives, admired

their indomitable pluck, and helped them, if he

could, in their difficult journeys. Sometimes,

after a summer of hardships and every sort of dis-

couragement, we met the same people returning

East, and the General could not help being

amused at the grim kind of humor, that led these

men to write the history of their season in one

word on the battered cover of the wagon —

“Busted.”

We were in Kansas during all the grasshopper

scourge, when our Government had to issue

rations to the starving farmers deprived of every

source of sustenance. What a marvel that men

had the courage to hold out at all, in those exasper-

ating times, when the crops were no sooner up

than every vestige of green would be stripped

from the fields ! Then, too, the struggle for water

was great. The artesian wells that now cover the

Western States were too expensive to undertake

594

TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

with the early settlers. The windmills that now

whirl their gay wheels at every zephyr of the

Plains, and water vast numbers of cattle on the

farms, were then unthought of. … A would-be-

settler in Colorado, in those times of deprivation

and struggle, wrote his history on a board and set it

up on the trail, as a warning to others coming

after him : “Toughed it out here two years. Re-

sult : Stock on hand, five towheads and seven

yaller dogs. Two hundred and fifty feet down to

water. Fifty miles to wood and grass. Hell all

around. God bless our home.”

It would be too painful to attempt to enumerate

the ravages made by the Indians on the pioneer;

and God alone knows how they faced life at all,

working their claims with a musket beside them

in the field, and the sickening dread of returning

to a desolated cabin ever present in their heavy

hearts. There are those I occasionally meet, who

went through innumerable hardships, and over-

came almost insurmountable obstacles, and who

attained to distinction in that land of the

setting sun ; but I find they only remember the

jovial side of their early days. Not long since I

had the privilege of talking with the Governor of

one of our Territories. He was having an interview

with some Mexican Senators by means of an in-

terpreter, and after his business was finished, he

MEETING IMMIGRANTS. 595

turned to our party to talk with enthusiasm of his

Territory. No youth could be more sanguine than

he over the prospects, the climate, the natural ad-

vantages of the new country in which he had just

cast his lines. All his reminiscences of his early

days in other Territories were most interesting to

me. General Custer was such an enthusiast over

our glorious West, that I early learned to look upon

much that I would not otherwise have regarded

with interest, with his buoyant feeling. … I

must qualify this statement, and explain that I

could not always see such glowing colors as did

he, while we suffered from climate, and were sigh-

ing for such blessings as trees and water ; but we

were both heart and soul with every immigrant we

came across, and I think many a half-discouraged

pioneer went on his way, after encountering my

husband on the westward trail, a braver and more

hopeful man.

How well I remember the lonof wait we made

on one of the staircases of the Capitol at Wash-

ington, above which hung then the great picture

by Leutze, ” Westward the Course of Empire

Takes its Way.” We little thought then, hardly

more than girl and boy as we were, that our lives

would drift over the country which the admirable

picture represents. The General hung round it

with delight, and noted many points that he

596 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

wanted me to enjoy with him. The picture made

a great impression on us. How much deeper

the impression, though, had we known that we

were to hve out the very scenes depicted !

Coming back to the Governor : I cannot take

time to write his well-told story. The portion of

the interesting hour that made the greatest im-

pression on me was his saying that the hap-

piest days of his life were those when, for fifteen

hundred miles, he walked beside the wagon con-

taining his wife and babies, and drove the team from

their old home in Wisconsin to a then unsettled

portion of Ohio. The honors that had come to

him as senator, governor, statesman, faded beside

the joys of his first venture from home into

the wilderness. I saw him, in imagination, as I

have often seen the pioneer, looking back to the

opening made in the front of the wagon by the

drawing over of the canvas cover to the puckered

circle, in which were framed the woman and

babies for whom he could do and dare. I fall to

wondering if there is any affection like that which

is enhanced or born of these sacrifices in each

other’s behalf. I wonder if there can be anything

that would so spur a man to do heroic deeds as

the feeling that he walked in front of three de-

pendent beings, and braved Indians, starvation,

floods, prairie-fire, and all those perils that beset a

REMINISCENCES OF THE BORDER. 597

Western trail; and to see the bright, fond eyes

of a mother, and the rosy cheeks of the httle ones,

looking uncomplainingly out upon the desert before

them — why, what could nerve a man’s arm like

that ? Love grows with every sacrifice, and I

believe that many a youthful passion, that might

have become colorless with time, has been deep-

ened into lasting affection on those lonely tramps

over the prairies.

It has also been my good fortune lately to re-

call our Western life with an ex-governor of

another Territory, a friend of my husband’s in

those Kansas days. What can I say in admira-

tion of the pluck of those Western men ? Even

in the midst of his luxuriant New York life, he

loves better to dwell on the early days of his

checkered career, when at seven years of age he

was taken by his parents to the land of the then

great unknown. He had made a fortune in Cali-

fornia, for he was a Forty-niner, and returned East

to enjoy it. But as he lost his all soon afterward,

there was nothing left for him to do but to start

out again. His wife could have remained in com-

fort and security with her friends, but she pre-

ferred to share the danger and discomforts of her

husband’s life. Their first trip over the old trail

to Denver (our stamping-ground afterward) was

a journey from Missouri, the outfitting place at

598 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

the termination of the last railway going West,

taking sixty-four days to accomplish. The wife,

brave as she was, fell ill, and lay on the hard

wagon-bed the whole distance. The invincible

father took entire care of her and of his children,

cooking for the party of eleven on the whole

route, and did guard duty a portion of every

night. The Indians were hovering in front and

in rear. Two of the party were too old to walk

and carry a musket, so that on the five men de-

volved the guarding of their little train. Nine

times afterward he and his wife crossed that long

stretch of country before the railroad was com-

pleted, always in peril, and never knowing from

hour to hour when a band of hostiles would sweep

down upon them. He taught his children the use

of fire-arms as soon as they were large enough to

hold a pistol. His daughter learned, as well as

his sons, to be an accurate marksman, and shot

from the pony’s back when he scampered at full

speed over the prairies. For years and years, all

his family were obliged to be constantly vigilant.

They lived out a long portion of their lives on the

alert for a foe that they knew well how to dread.

But the humorous comes in, even in the midst

of such tragic days ! How I enjoyed and appre-

ciated the feelings of the Governor’s wife, whom

I had known as a girl, when she rebelled at his

A GASTRONOMIC SUCCESS.

599

exercising his heretofore valuable accomplishment

as cook, after he became Governor ! How like a

woman, and how dear such whimsicalities are,

sandwiched in among the many admirable quali-

ties with which such strong characters as hers are

endowed ! It seems that on some journey over

the Plains they entertained a party of guests the

entire distance. The cook was a failure, and as

the route of travel out there is not lined with

intelligence-offices, the only thing left to do for

the new-made Governor, rather than see his wife

so taxed, was to doff his coat and recall the culi-

nary gifts acquired in pioneer life. The madame

thought her husband, now a Governor, might

keep in secrecy his gifts at getting up a dinner.

But he persisted, saying that it was still a

question whether he would make a good Gov-

ernor, and as he was pretty certain he was a

good cook, he thought it as well to impress

that one gift, of which he was sure, upon his

constituents.

The next letter from the expedition brought me

such good news, that I counted all the frights of the

past few weeks as nothing, compared with the

opportunity that being in Fort Riley gave me of

joining my husband. He wrote that the cavalry

had been detached from the main body of the

command, and ordered to scout the stage-route

6oO TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

from Fort Hays to Fort McPherson, then the

most infested with savages. A camp was to be

estabUshed temporarily, and scouting parties

sent out from Fort Hays. To my joy, my hus-

band said in his letter that I might embrace any

safe opportunity to join him there. General

Sherman proved to be the direct answer to my

prayers, for he arrived soon after I had begun to

look confidently for a chance to leave for Fort

Hays.

With the grave question of the summer cam-

paign in his mind, it probably did not occur to

him that he was acting as the envoy extraordi-

nary of Divine Providence to a very anxious, lonely

woman. While he talked with me occasionally

of the country, about which he was an enthusiast

— and, oh, how his predictions of its prosperity

have come true already ! — I made out to reply

coherently, but I kept up a very vehement, enthu-

siastic set of inner thoughts and grateful ejacula-

tions, blessing him for every breath he drew,

blessing and thanking Providence that he had

given the commander-in-chief of our forces a

heart so fresh and warm he could feel for others,

and a soul so loyal and affectionate for his own wife

and family that he knew what it was to endure

suspense and separation. He had with him some

delightful girls, whom w^e enjoyed very much. I

A SPECIAL PROVIDENCE. 6oi

cannot remember whether, in my anxiety to go to

my husband, my conversation led up to the sub-

ject— doubtless it did, for I was then at that

youthful stage of existence when the mouth

speaketh out of the fullness of the heart — but I do

remember that the heart in me nearly leaped out

of my body when he invited me to go in his car

to Fort Harker, for the railroad had been com-

pleted to that next post.

Diana crowded what of her apparel she could

into her trunk, and I had a valise, but the largest

part of our luggage was a roll of bedding, which

I remember blushing over as it was handed into

the special coach, for there was no baggage-car.

It looked very strange to see such an ungainly

bundle as part of the belongings of two young

women, and though I was perfectly willing to

sleep on the ground in camp, as I had done in

Virginia and Texas, I did not wish to court hard-

ships when I knew a way to avoid them. Though

we went over a most interesting country. Gen-

eral Sherman did not seem to care much for the

outside world. He sat in the midst of us, and

entered into all our fun ; told stories to match ours,

joined in our songs, and was the Grand Mogul of

our circle. One of the young girls was so capti-

vating, even in her disloyalty, that it amused us

all immensely. When we sang war-songs, she

6o2 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

looked silently out of the window. If we talked

of the danger we might encounter with Indians,

General Sherman said, slyly, he would make her

departure from earth as easy as possible, for he

would honor her with a military funeral. She

knew that she must, in such a case, be wrapped

in the Stars and Stripes, and he did not neglect

to tell her that honor awaited her if she died,

but she vehemently refused the honor. All

this, which would have been trying from a

grown person, was nothing but amusement

to us from a chit of a girl, who doubtless took

her coloring, as the chameleon-like creatures of

that age do, from her latest Confederate sweet-

heart.

In retrospection, I like to think of the tact and

tolerance of General Sherman, in those days of

furious feeling on both sides, and the quiet manner

in which he heard the Southern people decry

the Yankees. He knew of their impoverished

and desolated homes, and realized, living among

them as he did in St. Louis, what sacrifices they

had made ; more than all, his sympathetic soul

saw into the darkened lives of mothers, wives and

sisters who had given, with their idea of pat-

riotism, their loved ones to their country. The

truth is, he was back again among those peo-

ple of whom he had been so fond, and no

General sherman’s outlook. 603

turbulent expressions of hatred and revenge could

unsettle the underlying- affection. Besides, he has

always been a far-seeing man. Who keeps in

front in our country’s progress as does this war

hero? Is he not a statesman as well as a soldier ?

And never have the interests of our land been nar-

rowed down to any prescribed post where he may

have been stationed, or his life been belittled by

any temporary isolation or division from the rest

of mankind. Every public scheme for our advance-

ment as a nation meets his enthusiastic welcome.

This spirit enabled him to see, at the close of

the war, that, after the violence of wrath should

have subsided, the South would find themselves

more prosperous, and capable, in the new order

of affairs, of immense strides in progress of all

kinds.

I remember a Southern woman, who came to

stay with relatives in our garrison, telling me of

her first encounter with General Sherman after

the war. He had been a valued friend for many

years ; but it was too much when, on his return

to St. Louis, he came, as a matter of course, to

see his old friends. Smarting with the wrongs of

her beloved South, she would not even send a

message by the maid ; she ran to the head of the

stairs, and in an excited tone, asked if he for one

moment expected she would speak, so much as

604 . TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

speak, to a Yankee ? The General went on his

peaceful way, as unharmed by this peppery as-

sault as a foe who is out of reach of our short-

range Government carbines, and I can recall with

what cordiality she came to greet him later in the

year or two that followed. No one could main-

tain wrath long against such imperturbable good-

nature as General Sherman exhibited. He remem-

bered a maxim that we all are apt to forget, ” Put

yourself in his place.”

Along the line of the railroad were the deserted

towns, and we even saw a whole village moving

on flat cars. The portable houses of one story

and the canvas rolls of tents, which would soon

be set up to form a street of saloons, were piled up

as high as was safe, and made the strangest sort

of freight train. The spots from which they had

been removed were absolutely the dreariest of

sights. A few poles, broken kegs, short chimneys

made in rude masonry of small round stones,

heaps of tin cans everywhere, broken bottles

strewing the ground, while great square holes

yawned empty where, a short time before, a can-

vas roof covered a room stored with clumsy

shelves, laden with liquor. Here and there a

smoke-stained barrel protruded from the ground.

They were the chimneys of some former dug-outs.

I cannot describe how startled I was when I first

THE HOMES OF OFFICERS. 605

came near one of these improvised chimneys, and

saw smoke pouring out, without any other evi-

dence that I was walking over the home of a

frontier citizen. The roof of a flat dug-out is

level with the earth, and as no grass consents to

grow in these temporary villages, there is nothing

to distinguish the upturned soil that has been used

as a covering for the beams of the roof of a dwell-

ing from any of the rest of the immediate

vicinity. A portion of this moving village had

already reached the end in the railroad, and

named itself Ellsworth, with streets called by

various high-sounding appellations, but marked

only by stakes in the ground.

At Fort Barker we found a forlorn little post — a

few log houses bare of every comfort, and no trees

to cast a shade on the low roofs. The best of the

quarters, belonging to the bachelor commanding

officer, were offered to General Sherman and his

party. We five women had one of the only two

rooms. It seems like an abuse of hospitality, even

after all these years, to say that the floor of un-

even boards was almost ready for agricultural

purposes, as the wind had sifted the prairie sand

in between the roughly laid logs, and even the

most careful housewife would have found herself

outwitted if she had tried to keep a tidy floor. I

only remember it because I was so amused to see

6o6 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

the dainty women stepping around the Httle space

left in the room between the cots, to find a place

to kneel and say their prayers. I had given up,

and gone to bed, as often before I had been com-

pelled to tell my thanks to the Heavenly Father

on my pillow, for already in the marches I had

encountered serious obstacles to kneeling. The

perplexed but devout women finally gave up at-

tempting a devotional attitude, turned their faces

to the rough wall, and held their rosaries in their

fingers, while they sent up orisons for protection

and guidance. They were reverential in their

petitions ; but I could not help imagining how

strange it must seem to these luxuriously raised

girls, to find themselves in a country where not

even a little prayer could be said as one would

wish. It must have been for exigencies of our

life that Watts wrote the comforting definition

that ” Prayer is the soul’s sincere desire,” ” The

upward lifting of an eye,” etc., and so set the

heart at rest about how and where the supplica-

tion of the soul could be offered.

At Fort Harker we bade good-by to our de-

lightful party, the frolic and light-heartedness

departed, and the serious side of existence ap-

peared. I had but little realization that every

foot of our coming march of eighty miles was

dangerous. We had an ambulance lent us,

6o8 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

and accompanied a party that had an escort.

There were stage-stations every ten or fifteen

miles, consisting of rude log or stone huts, hud-

dled together for safety in case of attack. The

stables for the relays of horses were furnished with

strong doors of rough-hewn timber, and the win-

dows closed with shutters of similar pattern. The

stablemen and relays of drivers lived in no better

quarters than the horses. They were, of course,

intrepid men, and there was no stint in arming

them with good rifles and abundance of ammu-

nition. They were prepared for attack, and could

have defended themselves behind the strong

doors — indeed, sustained a siege, for the supplies

were kept inside their quarters — had not the

Indians used prepared arrows that could be

shot into the hay, and thus set the stables on

fire. These Plainsmen all had ” dug-outs ” as

places of retreat in case of fire. They were very

near the stables, and connected by an under-

ground passage. They were about four feet deep.

The roof was of timbers strong enough to hold

four or five feet of earth, and in these retreats a

dozen men could defend themselves, by firing

from loop-holes that were left under the roof-

beams. Some of the stage stations had no regu-

lar buildings. We came upon them without being

prepared by any signs of human life, for the dug-

A ”ducout:’

609

outs were excavated from the sloping banks of

the creeks. A few holes in the side-hill, as openings

for man and beast, some short chimneys on the

level ground, were all the evidence of the dreary,

Columbarium homes. Here these men lived, facing

death every hour rather than, earn a living in the

monotonous pursuit of some trade or common-

place business in the States. And at that time

there were always desperadoes who would pursue

any calling that kept them beyond the reach of

the law.

This dreary eighty miles over a monotonous

country, varied only by the undulations that rolled

away to Big Creek, was over at last, and Fort

Hays was finally visible — another small post of

log huts, like Fort Harker, treeless and desolate,

but the stream beyond was lined with white can-

vas, which meant the tents of the Seventh

Cavalry.

Again it seemed to me the end of all the

troubles that would ever enter into my life

had come, when I was lifted out of the

ambulance into my husband’s tent. What a

blessing it is that there is a halcyon time

in sanguine youth, when each difficulty van-

quished seems absolutely the last that will ever

come, and when one trouble ends, the stone is

rolled against its sepulchre with the conviction

6lO TENTING ON THE PLAINS. .

that nothing will ever open wide the door again.

We had much to talk about in camp. The

first campaign of a regiment is always important

to them, and in this case, also, the council, the

Indian village, and its final destruction, were real-

ly significant events. The match hunt to which

the General refers in his letters was still a subject

of interest, and each side took one ear in turn, to

explain why they won, or the reasons they lost.

Mr. Theodore Davis, the artist whom the Harpers

sent out for the summer, was drawing sketches in

our tent, while we advised or commented. It

seemed well, from the discussions that followed,

that rules for the hunt had been drawn up in ad-

vance. It was quite a ranking affair, when two

full majors conducted the sides. As only one

day was given to each side, the one remaining in

camp watched vigilantly that the party going out

held to the rule, and refrained from starting till

sunrise, while the same jealous eyes noticed that

sunset saw all of them in camp again. One of

the rules was, that no shots should be counted

that were fired when the man was dismounted.

This alone was a hard task, as at that time the

splendid racing of the horse at breakneck speed,

with his bridle free on his neck, and both hands

busy with the gun, was not an accomplished feat.

The horses were all novices at buffalo-hunting.

KEEPING TALLY.

6ii

j^q THE TONquE^ av,.. …….

..Vt^ytf^lii^p^

GATHERING AND COUNTING THE

TONGUES.

also, and the game was

thin at that season, so

thin that a bison got

over a great deal of ter-

ritory in a short time. I

remember the General’s

telling me what an art

it was, even after the

game was shot, to learn

to cut out the tongue.

It was wonderful that

there was such success

with so much to en-

counter. The winning party kept their twelve

tongues very securely hidden until the second day,

6 1 2 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

when the losers produced the eleven they had

supposed would not be outdone. My husband

was greatly amused at one of our officers, who

hovered about the camp-fires of the opposite party

and craftily put questions to ascertain what was

the result of the first day.

All this was told us with great glee. Diana’s

interests were centred in the success of that party

with whom her best beloved, for the time, hunted.

The officers regretted our absence at their great

” feed,” as they termed it, and it must indeed have

been a treat to have for once, in that starving

summer, something palatable. Two wall-tents

were put together so that the table, made of rough

boards, stretching through both, was large enough

for all. Victors and vanquished toasted each

other in champagne, and though the scene was the

plainest order of banquet, lighted by tallow

candles set in rude brackets sawed out of cracker-

box boards and fastened to the tent-poles, and the

only draping a few cavalry guidons, the evening

brightened up many a dreary day that followed.

Gallant Captain Louis McLane Hamilton, who

afterward fell in the battle of the Washita, was

the hero of the hour, and bore his honors with his

usual modesty. Four out of twelve buffaloes was

a record that might have set a less boastful tongue

wagging over the confidences of the evening camp-

Convivial life.

6i

fire. I do not think he would have permitted Mr.

Davis to put his picture in the illustration if he

r,-^/J C”‘^

.^\^i,.

<f’f^W^$&%

SUPPER GIVF.N BY THE VANQUISHED

TO THE VICTORS OF THE MATCH

BUFFALO HUNT.

could have helped it.

He was gifted with his pencil also ;

‘f^ f JKe ^AKQu£-f he drew caricatures admirably, and

after a harmless laugh had gone the

rounds, he managed, with the utmost adroitness, to

get possession of the picture and destroy it, thus

6 14 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

taking way the sting of ridicule, which constant

sight of the caricature might produce. How I came

into possession of one Httle drawing, is still a mys-

tery, but it is very clever. Among our officers was

one who had crossed the Plains as a citizen a year

or two previous, and his habit of revealing mines

of frontier lore obtained on this one trip was some-

what tiresome to our still inexperienced officers. At

last, after all had tried chasing antelope, and been

more and more impressed in their failures with the

fleetness of that winged animal. Captain Hamilton

made a sketch representing the boaster as shoot-

ing antelope with the shot-gun. The speck on the

horizon was all that was seen of the game, but the

booted and spurred man kneeling on the prairie

was admirable. It silenced one of the stories,

certainly, and we often wished the pencil could

protect us further from subsequent statements

airily made on the strength of the one stage-

journey.

I had arrived in the rainy season, and such an

emptying of the heavens was a further develop-

ment of what Kansas could do. But nothing

damped my ardor ; no amount of soakings could

make me think that camping-ground was not

an Elysian field. The General had made our

tent as comfortable as possible with his few be-

longings, and the officers had sent in to him, for

WIND, RAIN AND LIGHTNING. 6 I 5

me, any comfort that they might have chanced

to bring along on the march. I was, it seemed,

to be especially honored with a display of what

the elements could do at night when it was too

dark to grope about and protect our tent. The

wind blew a tornado, and the flashes of lightning

illumined the tent and revealed the pole sway-

ing ominously back and forth. A fly is an outer

strip of canvas which is stretched over the tent to

prevent the rain from penetrating, as well as to

protect us in the daytime from the sun. This

flapped and rattled and swung loose at one end,

beating on the canvas roof like a trip-hammer, for

it was loaded with moisture; and the wet ropes

attached to it, and used to guy it down, were now

loose, and lashed our rag house in an angry, vin-

dictive manner. My husband, accustomed to the

pyrotechnic display of the elements, slept soundly

through the early part of the storm. But light-

ning ” murders sleep” with me, and consequently

he was awakened by a conjugal joggle, and on ask-

ing, ” What is it ? ” was informed, ” It lightens ! “

Often as this statement was made to him in his

sudden awakenings, I do not remember his ever

meeting it with any but a teasing, laughing reply,

like : ” Ah ! indeed ; I am pleased to be informed

of so important a fact. This news is quite unex-

pected,” and so on, or ” When, may I inquire, did

6l6 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

you learn this ? ” On this occasion, however,

there was no attempt to quiet me or delay pre-

cautions. Feeling sure that we were in for it for

the night, he unfastened the straps that secured

the tent in front, and crept out to hammer down

the ten-pins and tether the ropes. But it was of

no earthly use. After fruitless efforts of his own,

he called the guard from their tents, and they went

energetically to work with the light of our lantern.

Ropes wrenched themselves away from the tent-

pins, straps broke, whole corners of the tent were

torn out, even while the men were hanging with

all their might to the upright poles to try and

keep the ridge-pole steady, and clinging to the

ropes to keep them from loosening entirely and

sailing off in the air with the canvas.

In the midst of this fracas, with the shouts of

the soldiers calling to one another in the inky

darkness, the crash of thunder and the howling

or the tempest, the wife of a brave soldier was

hiding her head under the blankets, and not one

sound emerged from this temporary retreat. The

great joy of getting out to camp at last was too

fresh to extract one word, one whimper, of fear

from under the bedding. The sunniest day at

Fort Riley could not be exchanged, could not

even be mentioned in the same breath, with that

tornado of wind and rain.

MIDNIGHT HOSPITALITY. 6 1 7

The stalwart arms of the soldiers failed at last.

Their brawny chests were of no more use, thrust

against the tent-poles, than so many needles.

Over went the canvas in a heap, the General and

his men hanging on to the ridge-pole to clear it

from the camp bed and save any accident.

The voices of officers in an adjoining tent called

out to come over to them. One, half dressed,

groped his way to us and said there was yet room

for more in his place, and, besides, he had a floor.

It was a Sibley, which, having no corners with

which those Kansas breezes can toy, is much

more secure. I was rolled in the blankets and

carried through the blinding rain to our hospitable

neighbors’. The end of a tallow dip gave me a

glimpse only of many silent forms rolled in blan-

kets and radiating from the centre like the spokes

of a wagon wheel. The officer owning this tent

had taken the precaution, while at Leavenworth,

to have a floor made in sections, so that it could

be easily stowed away in the bottom of a prairie-

schooner in marching.

My husband laid me down, and we were soon

two more spokes in the human wheel, and asleep

in a trice. Next morning I wakened to find my-

self alone, with a tin basin of water and a towel

for my toilet beside me. My husband had to

dress me in his underclothing, for everything I

6 1 8 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

had was soaked. My shoes were hopeless, so I

was dropped into a pair of cavalry boots, and in

this unpicturesque costume, which I covered as

best I could with my wet dress, I was carried

through the mud to the dining-tent, and enthron-

ed, a la Turk, on a board which the cook produced

from some hiding-place, where he had kept it for

kindlings. There were not a few repetitions of

this stormy reception in the years that followed,

for Kansas continued its weather vagaries with

unceasing persistency, but this, being my first, is

as fresh in my mind as if it occurred but yes-

terday.

The tent might go down nightly, for all I cared

then. Every thought of separation departed, and

I gave myself up to the happiest hours, clamping

about the tent in those old troop boots, indifferent

whether my shoes ever dried. The hours flew too

fast, though, for very soon preparations began for

a scout, which my husband was to command. It

took a great deal of comforting to reconcile me

to remaining behind. The General, as usual, had

to beg me to remember how blessed we were to

have been permitted to rejoin each other so early

in the summer. He told me, over and over again,

that there was nothing, he felt, that I would not

encounter to come to him, and that if he was de-

tained, he would send for me. Eliza and a faith-

WHEEDLING WOMEN. 619

ful soldier were to be left to care for us. The

cavalry departed, and again the days lengthened

out longer and longer, until each one seemed forty-

eight hours from sun to sun. We could scarcely

take a short walk in safety. The Indians were all

about us, and daily the sentinels were driven in,

or attempts were made to stampede the horses

and mules grazing about the post. The few offi-

cers remaining, in whose care we were placed,

came or sent every day to our tents, which were

up the creek a short distance, to inquire what they

could do for our comfort. Mrs. Gibbs, with her

boys, had joined her husband, and we were their

neighbors.

It seemed, sometimes, as if we must get outside

of our prescribed limits, the rolling bluffs beyond,

tinged with green and beginning to have prairie

flowers, looked so tempting. One evening we

beguiled an officer, who was sitting under our

tent fly, which was stretched in front for a shade,

to take us for a little walk. Like many another

man in the temporary possession of wheedling

women, he went with us a little, and “just a little

farther.” Diana would have driven all thouaht of

everything else save herself out of the gravest

head. At last our escort saw the dark coming

on so fast he insisted upon going home, and we

reluctantly turned. As we came toward the post,

620 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

the shadows were deepening in the twilig-ht, and

the figures of the sentinels were not visible. A

flash, followed by a sound past our ears, that old

campaigners describe as never to be forgotten

when first heard, was the warning that we three

were taken for Indians and fired upon by the

sentinel. Another flash, but we stood rooted to

the spot, stunned by surprise. The whiz and zip

of the bullet seemed to be only a few inches from

my ear. Still we were dazed, and had not the

officer gained his senses our fate would have been

then and there decided. The recruit, probably

himself terrified, kept on sending those deadly

little missives, with the terrible sound cutting the

air around us. Our escort shouted, but it was too

far for his voice to carry. Then he told us to run

for our lives to a slight depression in the ground,

and throw ourselves on our faces. I was coward

enough to burrow mine in the prairie-grass, and

for once in my life was devoutly grateful for

being slender. Still, as I lay there quaking with

terror, my body seemed to rise above the earth in

such a monstrous heap that the dullest marksman,

if he tried, might easily perforate me with bullets.

What ages it seemed while we waited in this pros-

trate position, commanded by our escort not to

move ! The rain of bullets at last ceased, and

blessed quiet came, but not peace of mind. The

”LYING low:’ 621

officer told us he would creep on his hands and

knees through the hollow portions of the plain

about the post, approach by the creek side, and

inform the sentinels along the line, and as soon

as they all knew who we were he would return

for us. With smothered voices issuing from the

grass where our faces were still crushed as low as

we could get them, we implored to be allowed to

creep on with him. We prayed him not to leave

ns out in the darkness alone. We begged him to

tell us how he could ever find us again, if once he

left us on ground that had no distinctive features

by which he could trace his way back. But he

was adamant, we must remain ; and the ring of

authority in his tone, besides the culprit feeling we

had for having endangered his life, kept us still

at last. As we lay there, our hearts’ thumping

seemed to lift us up in air and imperil anew our

wretched existence. The pretty, rounded contour

of the girl, which she had naturally taken such de-

light in, was now a source of agony to her, and

she moaned out, ” Oh ! how high I seem to be

above you ! Oh, Libbie, do you think I lie as flat

to the ground as you do ? ” and so on, with all the

foolish talk of frightened women.

When at last our deliverance came, my relief at

such an escape was almost forgotten in the morti-

fication I felt at having made so much trouble ;

622 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

and I thought, with chagrin, how quickly the Gen-

eral’s gratitude to find we had escaped the bullets

would be followed by temporary suspension of

faith regarding my following out his instructions

not to run risks of danger and wander away from

the post. I wrote him an abject account of our

hazardous performance. I renewed every prom-

ise. I asked to be trusted again, and from that

time there were no more walks outside the beat

of the sentinel.

An intense disappointment awaited me at this

time, and took away the one hope that had kept

up my spirits. I was watching, from day to day,

an opportunity to go to my husband at Fort Mc-

Pherson, for he had said I could come if any

chance offered. I was so lonely and anxious, I

would gladly have gone with the scout who took

despatches and mail, though he had to travel at

night and lie in the ravines all day to elude the

sharp eyes of the Indians. I remember watching

Wild Bill, as he reported at the commanding offi-

cer’s tent to get despatches for my husband, and

wishing with all my heart that I could go with

him. I know this must seem strange to people

in the States, whose ideas of scouts are made up

from stories of shooting affrays, gambling, lynch-

ing and outlawry. I should have felt myself safe

to go any distance with those men whom my hus-

REVERENCE OF A SO-CALLED RUFFIAN. 62

O

band employed as bearers of despatches. I have

never known women treated with such reverence

as those whom they honored. They were touched

to see us out there, for they measured well every

danger of that country; and the class that followed

the moving railroad towns were their only idea of

women, except as they caught glimpses of us in

camp or on the march. In those border-towns, as

we were sometimes compelled to walk a short dis-

tance from the depot to our ambulance, the rough

characters in whom people had ceased to look for

good were transformed in their very attitude as

we approached. Of course, they all knew and

sincerely admired the General, and, removing

their hats, they stepped off the walk and cast such

looks at me as if I had been little lower than the

angels. When these men so looked at me, my

husband was as proud as if a President had mani-

fested pleasure at sight of his wife, and amused

himself immensely because I said to him, after

we were well by, that the outlaws had seemed to

think me possessed of every good attribute, while

to myself my faults and deficiencies appeared to

rise mountains high. I felt that if there was a

Christian grace that my mother had not striven to

implant in me, I would cultivate it now, and try

to live up to the frontier citizen’s impression of U5

as women.

624 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

I think the General would have put me in the

care of any scout that served him, just as readily

as to place me in the keeping of the best officer

we had. There was not a trust he reposed in

them that they did not fulfill. Oh, how hard it

was for me to see them at that time, when start-

ing with despatches to my husband, swing them-

selves into the saddle and disappear over the

divide ! I feel certain, with such an end in view

as I had, and with the good health that the tough-

ening of our campaigns had given me, I could

have ridden all night and slept on the horse-

blanket in the ravines daytimes, for a great dis-

tance. Had I been given the opportunity to join

my husband by putting myself in their charge,

there would not have been one moment’s hesita-

tion on my part. I knew well that when ” ojfF

duty ” the scout is often in affrays where lynching

and outlawry are every-day events of the Western

towns ; but that had no effect upon these men’s

sense of honor when an officer had reposed a trust

in them. Wild Bill, California Joe, Buffalo Bill,

Comstock, Charlie Reynolds, and a group of in-

trepid men besides, who from time to time served

under my husband, would have defended any of

us women put in their charge with their lives.

I remember with distinctness what genuine ad-

miration and gratitude filled my heart as these

A TRIBUTE TO SCOUTS.

625

intrepid men rode up to my husband’s tent to

receive orders and despatches. From my woman’s

standpoint, it required far more and a vastly

higher order of courage to undertake their jour-

neys than to charge in battle. With women,

every duty or task seems easier when shared by

others. The most cowardly of us might be so

impressionable, so sympathetic, in a great cause

that we saw others preparing to defend, that it

would become our own ; and it is not improbable

that enthusiasm might take even a timid woman

into battle, excited and incited by the daring of

others, the bray of drums, the clash of arms, the

call of the trumpet. But I doubt if there are

many who could go off on a scout of hundreds of

miles, and face death alone. It still seems to me

supreme courage. Imagine, then, my gratitude,

my genuine admiration, when my husband sent

scouts with letters to us, and we saw them in re-

turning swing lightly into the saddle and gallop

off, apparently unconcerned, freighted with our

messages of affection.

Something better than such a journey awaited

me, it seemed, when two of our Seventh Cavalry

officers, Captain Samuel Robbins and Colonel

William W. Cook, appeared in camp at the head

of a detachment of cavalry and a small train of

wagons for supplies. The General had told them.

626 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

to bring me back, and an ambulance was with the

wagons, in which I was to ride. It did not take

me long to put our roll of bedding and my valise

in order ; and to say anything about the heart in

me leaping for joy, is even a tame expression to

describe the delight that ran through every vein

in my body. To ascend such heights of joy,

means a corresponding capability of descent into

a region of suffering, about which I do not, even

now, like to think, for the memory of my disap-

pointment has not departed after all these years.

The commanding officer of the department was at

the post temporarily, and forbade my going.

There is a hateful clause in the Army Regulations

which gives him control of all camp-followers as

well as troops. I ran the whole gamut of insub-

ordination, mutiny and revolt, as I threw myself

alone on the little camp-bed of our tent. This

stormy, rebellious season, fought out by myself,

ended, of course, as everything must that gives

itself into military jurisdiction, as I was left be-

hind in spite of myself ; but I might have been

enlisted as a soldier for five years, and not have

been more helpless. I put my fingers into my

ears, not to hear the call ” Boots and Saddles ! “

as the troops mounted and rode away. I only

felt one relief ; the officers would tell the General

that nothing but the all-powerful command for-

A BITTER DISAPPOINTMENT.

627

bidding them to take me had prevented my doing

what he knew I would do if it was in my power.

I had time also to use my husband as a safety-

valve, and pour out my vials of wrath against the

officer detaining me, in a long letter filling pages

with regret that I was prevented going to him.

The Indians were then at their worst. They

roamed up and down the route of travel, burning

the stations, running off stock, and attacking the

stages. General Hancock had given up all ag-

gressive measures. The plan was, to defend the

route taken for supplies, and protect the stage

company’s property so far as possible. The rail-

road building was almost entirely abandoned. As

our officers and their detachment were for a time

allowed to proceed quietly on their march to Mc-

Pherson, they rather flattered themselves they

would see nothing of the enemy. Still, every eye

watched the long ravines that intersect the Plains

and form such fastnesses for the wily foe. There

is so little to prepare you for these cuts in the

smooth surface of the plain, that an unguarded

traveler comes almost upon a deep fissure in the

earth, before dreaming that the lay of the land

was not all the seeming level that stretches on to

sunset. These ravines have small clumps of

sturdy trees, kept alive in the drought of that arid

climate by the slight moisture from what is often

628 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

a buried stream at the base. The Indians know

them by heart, and not only he in wait in them,

but escape by these guUies, that often run on,

growing deeper and deeper till the bed of a river

is reached.

In one of these ravines, six hundred savages in

full war-dress were in ambush, awaiting the train

of supplies, and sprang out from their hiding-

place with horrible yells as our detachment of

less than fifty men approached. Neither officer

lost his head at a sight that was then new to him.

Their courage was inborn. They directed the

troops to form a circle about the wagons, and in

this way the little band of valiant men defended

themselves against attack after attack. Not a

soldier flinched, nor did a teamster lose control of

his mules, though the effort to stampede them

was incessant. This running fight lasted for

three hours, when suddenly the Indians withdrew.

They, with their experienced eyes, first saw the

reinforcements coming to the relief of our brave

fellows, and gave up the attack.

The first time I saw Colonel Cook after this

affair, he said : “The moment I found the Ind-

ians were on us, and we were in for a fight, I

thought of you, and said to myself, ‘ If she were

in the ambulance, before giving an order I would

ride up and shoot her.” ” Would you have given

A PROMISE DEMANDED. 629

me no chance for life,” I replied, “in case the

battle had gone in your favor ?” “Not one,” he

said. ” I should have been unnerved by the

thought of the fate that awaited you, and I have

promised the General not to take any chances,

but to kill you before anything worse could

happen.” Already in these early days of the regi-

ment’s history, the accounts of Indian atrocities

perpetrated on the women of the frontier ranches,

had curdled the blood of our men, and over the

camp-fire at night, when these stories were dis-

cussed, my husband had said to the officers that

he should take every opportunity to have me

with him, but there was but one course he wished

pursued ; if I was put in charge of any one in the

regiment, he asked them to kill me if Indians

should attack the camp or the escort on the

march. I have referred in general terms to this

understanding, but it was on this occasion that

the seriousness with which the General’s request

was considered by his brother officers first came

home to me.

CHAPTER XXI.

ENCAMPED ON BIG CREEK PREPARATION FOR STORMS

A FLOOD AT FORT HAYS KANSAS LIGHTNING

SOLICITUDE ABOUT A CLOTHES-LINE WOMEN TO

THE RESCUE MEN SAVED FROM DROWNING A

NEW KIND OF FERRY-BOAT CATLING GUNS AS

ANCHORS GHASTLY LIGHTS — ELIZA S NARRATIVE

FLORA m’fLIMSY ON THE

TREAT TO A PRAIRIE DIVIDE.

-FLORA m’fLIMSY ON THE FRONTIER THE RE-

T3EFORE General Custer left for Fort McPher-

son, he removed our tents to a portion of

that branch of Big Creek on which the post was

established. He selected the highest ground he

could find, knowing that the rainy season was not

yet over, and hoping that, if the camp were on a

knoll, the ground would drain readily and dry

quickly after a storm. We were not a great dis-

tance from the main stream and the fort, but still

too far to recognize anyone that might be walking

in garrison. The stream on which we were located

was tortuous, and on a bend above us the colonel

commanding, his adjutant and his escort were

established. Between us and the fort, General

630

A CANl’AS HOME. 63 I

and Mrs. Gibbs were camped, while the tents

of a few officers on detached duty were still

farther on. The sentinel’s beat was along a line

between us and the high ground, where the Ind-

ians were likely to steal upon us from the bluffs.

This guard walked his tour of duty on a line parallel

with the stream, but was too far from it to observe

the water closely. Each little group of tents made

quite a show of canvas, as we had abundance of

room to spread out, and the quartermaster was not

obliged to limit us to any given number of tents.

We had a hospital tent for our sitting-room, with

a wall-tent pitched behind and opening out of the

larger one, for our bed-room. There was a wall-

tent for the kitchen, near, and behind us, the ” A “

tent for the soldier whom the General had left to

take care of us in his absence. We were as safely

placed, as to Indians, as was possible in such a

country. As is the custom in military life, the

officers either came every day, or sent to know if

I could think of anything they could do for my

comfort. The General had thought of everything,

and, besides, I did my best not to have any wants.

I was as capable of manufacturing needs as any-

one, and could readily trump up a collection in

garrison, but 1 was rendered too wary by the un-

certainty of my tenure of that (to me) valuable

little strip of ground that held my canvas house,

632 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

to allow my presence to be brought home to those

gallant men, as a trouble or a responsibility. The

idea that I might have to retreat eastward was a

terror, and kept m subjection any passing wish I

might indulge to have anything done for me. I

would gladly have descended into one of the

cellar-like habitations that were so common in

Kansas then, and had my food handed down to

me, if this would have enabled the officers to for-

get that I was there, until the expedition returned

from the Platte. Yet the elements were against

me, and did their best to interfere with my desire

to obliterate myself, as far as being an anxiety to

others was concerned.

One night we had retired, and were trying to

believe that the thunder was but one of those

peculiar menacing volleys of cloud-artillery that

sometimes passed over harmlessly ; but we could

not sleep, the roar and roll of thunder was so

alarming. There is no describing lightning on

the Plains. While a storm lasts, there seems to

be an incessant glare. To be sure, there is not

the smallest flash that does not illumine the tent,

and there is no way of hiding from the blinding

light. In a letter written to my husband while

the effect of the fright was still fresh on my mind,

I told him ” the heavens seemed to shower down

fire upon the earth, and in one minute and a half

TIVO TERRIFIED WOMEN; ^-ti

we counted twenty-five distinct peals of thunder.”

There seemed to be nothing for us to do but to

he quaking and terrified under the covers. The

tents of the oflScers were placed at some distance

from ours intentionally, as it is impossible to

speak low enough, under canvas, to avoid being

heard, unless a certain space intervenes. It is

the custom to allow a good deal of ground to in-

tervene, if the guard is so posted as to command

the approach to all the tents. The result was,

that we dared not venture to try to reach a neigh-

bor ; we simply had to endure the situation, as

no cry could be heard above the din of the con-

stantly increasing storm. In the midst of this

quaking and misery, the voice of some officers

outside called to ask if we were afraid. Finding

that the storm was advancing to a tornado, they

had decided to return to us and render assistance

if they could, or at least to quiet our fears. The

very sound of their voices calmed us, and we

dressed and went into the outer tent to admit

them. The entrance had been made secure by

leather straps and buckles that the General had

the saddler put on ; and in order to strengthen

the tents against these hurricanes, which we had

already learned were so violent and sudden, he

had ordered poles at each corner sunk deep into

the ground. These, being notched, had saplings

634 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

laid across either side, and to these the tent-ropes

were bound. We were thus seemingly secured

between two barriers. He even went further in

his precautions, and fastened a picket-rope, which

is a small cable of itself, to either end of the

ridge-pole, stretching it at the front and rear, and

fastening it with an iron pin driven into the

ground. As we opened two or three of the straps

to admit the officers and Eliza, who always over-

came every obstacle to get to me in danger, the

wind drove in a sheet of rain upon us, and we

found it difficult to strap the opening again. As

for the guy-ropes and those that tied the tent at the

sides, all this creaking, loosening cordage proved

how little we could count upon its stability.

The great tarpaulin, of the heaviest canvas made,

which was spread over our larger tent and out in

front for a porch, flapped wildly, lashing our poor

little ” rag house ” as if in a fury of rage. In-

deed, the whole canvas seemed as if it might

have been a cambric handkerchief, for the man-

ner in which it was wrenched and twisted above

and on all sides of us. The tallow candle was

only kept lighted by surrounding it with boxes

to protect its feeble flame from the wind. The

rain descended in such sheets, driven by the hur-

ricane, that it even pressed in the tent-walls ; and

in spite of the trenches, that every good campaign-

THE SOAKED EARTH. 635

ner digs about the tent, we were almost inundated

by the streams that entered under the lower edge

of the walls.

The officers, finding we were sure to be drenched,

began to fortify us for the night. They feared

the tent would go down, and that the ridge-pole

of a hospital-tent, being so much larger than that

of a wall-tent, would do some fatal injury to us.

They piled all the available furniture in a hollow

square, leaving a little space for us. Fortunately,

some one, coming down from the post a few days

before, had observed that we had no table. There

was no lumber at the post, and the next best thing

was to send us a zinc-covered board which had

first served for a stove ; secondly, with the addition

of rude supports, as our table, and now did duty in

its third existence as a life-preserver; for the ground

was softening with the moisture, and we could not

protect our feet, except for the narrow platform

on which we huddled. At last the booming of

the thunder seemed to abate somewhat, though

the wind still shrieked and roared over the wide

plain, as it bore down upon our frail shelter. But

the tent, though swaying and threatening to break

from its moorings, had been true to us through

what we supposed to be the worst of the tempest,

and we began to put some confidence in the cord-

age and picket-pins. The officers decided to re-

636 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

turn to their tents, promising to come again should

there be need, and we reluctantly permitted them

to go. Eliza put down something on which we

could step over the pools into the other tent, and

we fell into bed, exhausted with terror and excite-

ment, hardly noticing how wet and cold we and

the blankets were.

Hardly had we fallen into a doze, when the

voice of the guard at the entrance called out to

us to get up and make haste for our lives; the

flood was already there ! We were so agitated

that it was difficult even to find the clothes that

we had put under the pillow to keep them from

further soaking, much more to get into them. It

was then impossible to remain mside of the tent.

We crept through the opening, and, to our horror,

the lightning revealed the creek — which we had

last seen, the night before, a little rill- in the bot-

tom of the gully — now on a level with the high

banks. The tops of good-sized trees, which fringed

the stream, were barely visible, as the current

swayed the branches in its onward sweep. The

water had risen in that comparatively short time

thirty-five feet, and was then creeping into the

kitchen tent, which, as usual, was pitched near

the bank. I believe no one attempted to account

for those terrific rises in the streams, except as

partly due to water-spouts, which were common

PROTECTING HOUSEHOLD EFFECTS. 637

in the early days of Kansas. I have seen the Gen-

eral hold his watch in his hand after the bursting

of a rain-cloud, and keep reckoning for the soldier

who was measuring with a stick at the stream’s

bed, and for a time it recorded an inch a minute.

Of course the camp was instantly astir after the

alarm of the guard. But the rise of the water is

so insidious often, that a sentinel walking his beat

a few yards away will sometimes be unconscious

of it until the danger is upon the troops. The

soldiers, our own man, detailed as striker, and

Eliza, were not so ” stampeded,” as they expressed

it, as to forget our property. Almost everything

that we possessed in the world was there, much

of our property being fortunately still boxed. I

had come out to camp with a valise, but the

wagon-train afterward brought most of our things,

as we supposed we had left Fort Riley forever.

The soldiers worked like beavers to get every-

thing they could farther from the water, upon a

little rise of ground at one side of our tents. Eliza,

the coolest of all, took command, and we each

carried what we could, forgetting the lightning in

our excitement.

The officers who had come to us in the early

part of the tempest now returned. They found

their own camp unapproachable. The group of

tents having been pitched on a bend in the

638 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

crooked stream, which had the advantage of the

circle of trees that edged the water, was now

found to be in the worst possible locality, as the

torrent had swept over the narrow strip of earth

and left the camp on a newly made island, per-

fectly inaccessible. The lives of the men and

horses stranded on this little water-locked spot

were in imminent peril. The officers believed

us when we said we would do what we could to

care for ourselves if they would go at once, as they

had set out to do, and find succor for the soldiers.

It was a boon to have something that it was

necessary to do, which kept us from absolute

abandonment to terror. We hardly dared look

toward the rushing torrent ; the agony of seeing

the water steal nearer and nearer our tent was

almost unendurable. As we made our way from

the heap of household belongings, back and forth

to the tent, carrying burdens that we could not

even have lifted in calmer moments, the light-

ning became more vivid and the whole arc above

us seemed aflame. We were aghast at what the

brilliant light revealed. Between the bluffs that

rose gradually from the stream, and the place

where we were on its banks, a wide, newly made

river spread over land that had been perfectly dry,

and, as far as any one knew, had never been inun-

dated before. The water had overflowed the

INUNDA TIONS. 639

banks of the stream above us, and swept across

the sHght depression that intervened between our

ground and the hills. We were left on that nar-

row neck of land, and the water on either side of

us, seen in the lightning’s glare, appeared like

two boundless seas. The creek had broken over

its banks and divided us from the post below,

while the garrison found themselves on an island

also, as the water took a new course down there,

and cut them off from the bluffs. This was a mis-

fortune to us, as we had so small a number of

men and sorely needed what help the post could

have offered.

While we ran hither and thither, startled at the

shouts of the officers and men as they called to

one another, dreading some new terror, our hearts

sinking with uncontrollable fright at the wild

havoc the storm was making, the two dogs that

the General valued, Turk the bull-dog, and Rover

his favorite fox-hound, broke their chains and flew

at each other’s throat. Their warfare had been

long and bloody, and they meant that night to

end the contest. The ferocity of the bull-dog was

not greater than that of the old hound. The sol-

diers sprang at them again and again to separate

them. The fangs of each showed partly buried

in the other’s throat, but finally, one powerful man

choked the bull-dog into relaxing his hold. The

640 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

remnants of the gashed and bleeding- contestants

were again tied at a secure distance, and the sol-

diers renewed their work to prevent the tents from

falling. I remember that in one gale, especially-

furious, seventeen clung to the guy-rope in front

and saved the canvas from downfall.

But, after all, something worse awaited us than

all this fury of the elements and the dread of

worse to come to ourselves ; for the reality of the

worst that can come to anyone was then before

us without a warning. There rang out on the air,

piercing our ears even in the uproar of the tem-

pest, sounds that no one, once hearmg, ever for-

gets. They were the despairing cries of drowning

men. In an instant our danger was forgotten ;

but the officers and men were scattered along

the stream beyond our call, and Eliza was now

completely unnerved. We ran up and down

the bank, wringing our hands, she calling to me,

” Oh, Miss Libbie ! What shall we do ? What shall

we do ?” We tried to scream to those dark forms

hurrying by us, that help might come farther

down. Alas ! the current grew more furious as

the branch poured into the main stream, and we

could distinguish, by the oft-repeated glare of the

lightning, the men waving their arms imploringly

as they were swept down with tree-trunks, masses

of earth, and heaps of rubbish that the current

HUMANITY AND FRUGALITY. 64 1

was drifting by. We were helpless to attempt

their rescue. There can be few moments in exist-

ence that hold such agonizing suffering as those

where one is appealed to for life, and is powerless

to give succor. I thought of the ropes about our

tent, and ran to unwind one ; but they were

lashed to the poles, stiff with moisture, and tied

with sailors’ intricate knots. In a frenzy, I tugged

at the fastenings, bruising my hands and tearing

the nails. The guy-ropes were equally unavail-

able, for no knife we had could cut such a cable.

Eliza, beside herself with grief to think she

could not help the dying soldiers, with whom she

had been such a favorite, came running to me

where I was insanely struggling with the cordage,,

and cried, ” Miss Libbie, there’s a chance for us

with one man. He’s caught in the branches of a

tree ; but I’ve seen his face, and he’s alive. He’s

most all of him under water, and the current is

a-switchin’ him about so he can’t hold out long.

Miss Libbie, there’s my clothes-line we could take,

but I can’t do it, I can’t do it ! Miss Libbie, you

wouldn’t have me to do it, would you ? For

where will we get another ? ” The grand human-

ity that illumined the woman’s face, full of the

nobility of desire to save life, was so interwoven

with frugality and her inveterate habit of protect-

ing our things, that I hardly know how the con-

642 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

troversy in her own mind would have ended, if I

had not flown to the kitchen tent to get the

clothes-Hne. The current swayed the drowning

man so violently he was afraid to loosen his hold

of the branches to reach the rope as we threw it

to him over and over again, and it seemed mo-

mentarily that he must be torn from our sight.

The hue of death was on his face — that terrible

blue look — while the features were pinched with

suffering, and the eyes starting from their sockets.

He was naked to the waist, and the chill of the

water, and of those hours that come before dawn,

had almost benumbed the fingers that clutched

the branches. Eliza, like me, has forgotten noth-

ing that happened during that horrible night, and

I give part of her story, the details of which it is

so difficult for me to recall with calmness :

” Miss Libbie, don’t you mind when we took

the clothes-line an’ went near to him as we could

get, he didn’t seem to understan’ what we was

up to. We made a loop and showed it to him,

when a big flash of lightnin’ came and made a

glare, and tried to call to him to put it over his

head. The noise of the water, and the crashin’

of the logs that was comin’ down, beside the

thunder, drownded out our voices. Well, we worked

half an hour over that man. He thought you and

me, Miss Libbie, couldn’t pull him in ; that we

A GENEROUS WOMAN. 643

wasn’t strong enough. He seemed kind o’ dazed-

like ; and the only way I made him know what the

loop was for, I put it on over my body and made

signs. Even then, he was so swept under that

part of the bank, and it was so dark, I didn’t think

we could get him. I could hear him bubbhn’,

bellowin’, drownin’ and gaggin’. Well, we pulled

him in at last, though I got up to my waist

in water. He was cold and blue, his teeth chat-

terin’ ; he just shuck and shuck, and his eyes was

perfectly wild. We had to help him, for he could

hardly walk to the Cook tent. I poured hot coffee

down him ; and. Miss Libbie, you tore aroun’ in

the dark and found your way to the next tent for

whisky, and the lady that never was known to

keep any before, had some then. And I wrapped

the drownded man in the blouse the Ginnel give

me. It was cold and I was wet, and I needed it,

Miss Libbie ; but didn’t that man, as soon as ever

his teeth stopped a-chatterin’, jest get up and

walk off with it ? And, Miss Libbie, the Ginnel

wrote to you after that, from some expedition, that

he had seen the soldier EHza gave her clothes-line

to save, and he sent his thanks and asked how I was,

and said I had saved his life. I just sent back

word, in the next letter you wrote the Ginnel,

to ask if that man said anything about my blouse

he wore off that night. You gave one of the Gin-

644 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

nel’s blue shirts to a half-naked drownded man..

We saved two more and wrapped ’em in blankets,,

and you rubbed ’em with red pepper, and kept the

fire red-hot, and talked to them, tryin’ to get the

shiver and the scare out of ’em. I tell you, Miss

Libbie, we made a fight for their lives, if ever any-

one did. The clothes-line did it all. One was

washed near to our tent, and I grabbed his

hand. We went roun’ with our lanterns, and it

was so dark we ‘spected every moment to step into

a watery grave, for the water was so near us, and

the flashes of lightnin’ would show that it was a-

comin’ on and on. Turk and Rover would fight

just by looking at each other, and in all that mess

they fell on each other, an’ I was sure they

was goin’ to kill each other, and, oh, my, the

Ginnel would have taken on so about it ! But

the soldiers dragged them apart.”

Seven men w^ere drowned near our tent, and

their agonizing cries, when they were too far out

in the current for us to throw our line, are sounds

that will never be stilled. The men were from

the Colonel’s escort on the temporary island

above us. The cavalrymen attempted, as the

waters rose about them, to swim their horses to

the other shore ; but all were lost who plunged

in, for the violence of the current made swimming

an impossibility. A few negro soldiers belonging

m PERIL OF DROWNING. 645

to the infantry were compelled to remain where

they were, though the water stood three feet in

some of the tents. When the violence of the

storm had abated a little, one of the officers swam

the narrowest part of the stream, and, taking a

wagon-bed, made a ferry, so that with the help of

soldiers that he had left behind holding one end

of the rope he had taken over, the remaining

soldiers were rescued and brought down to our

little strip of land. Alas ! this narrowed and nar-

rowed, until we all appeared to be doomed. The

officers felt their helplessness when they realized

that four women looked to them for protection.

They thought over every imaginable plan. It was

impossible to cross the inundated part of the

plain, though their horses were saddled, with the

thought that each one might swim with us through

the shallowest of the water. They rode into this

stretch of impassable prairie, but the water was

too swift, even then, to render it anything but

perilous. They decided that if the water contin-

ued to rise with the same rapidity we would be

washed away, as we could not swim nor had we

strength to cling to anything. This determined

them to resort to a plan, that happily we knew

nothing of until the danger was passed. We were

to be strapped to the Gatling guns as an anchor-

age. These are, perhaps, the lightest of all artillery,

646

TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

but might have been heavy enough to resist the

action of what current rose over our island. There

would have been one chance in ten thousand of

rescue under such circumstances, but I doubt if

being pinioned there, watching the waves closing

around us, would have been as merciful as per-

mitting us to float off into a quicker death.

While the officers and men with us were work-

ing with all their might to save lives and property,

the little post was beleaguered. The flood came

so unexpectedly that the first known of it was the

breaking in of the doors of the quarters. The

poorly built, leaky, insecure adobe houses had been

heretofore a protection, but the freshet filled them

almost instantly with water. The quarters of the

laundresses were especially endangered, being

on even lower ground than the officers’ houses.

The women were hurried out in their night-dresses,

clasping their crying children, while they ran to

places pointed out by the officers, to await orders.

Even then, one of our Seventh Cavalry officers,

who happened to be temporarily at the garrison,

clambered up to the roof of an adobe house to

discover whether the women of his regiment were

in peril. The same plan for rescue was adopted

at the post that had been partly successful

above. A ferry was improvised out of a

wagon-bed, and into this were collected the women

A BOAT MADE OF A WAGON-BED.

647

and children. The post was thus emptied in

time to prevent loss of life. First the women,

then the sick from the hospital, and finally the

drunken men ; for the hospital Hquor was broken

into, and it takes but a short time to make a

soldier helplessly drunk. The Government prop-

erty had to be temporarily abandoned, and a great

deal was destroyed or swept away by the water.

It was well that the camp women were inured to

hardship, for the condition in which the cold, wet,

frightened creatures landed, without any protec-

tion from the storm, on the opposite bank, was

pitiful. One laundress had no screams of terror

or groans of suffering over physical fright ; her

wails were loud and continuous because her sav-

ings had been left in the quarters, and facing

death in that frail box, as she was pulled through

the turbid flood, was nothing to the pecuniary

loss. It was all the men could do to keep her

from springing into the wagon-bed to return and

search for her money.

On still another branch of Big Creek there was

another body of men wrestling with wind and

wave. Several companies, marching to New

Mexico, had encamped for the night, and the

freshet came as suddenly upon them as upon all

of us. The colonel in command had to seize his

wife, and wade up to his arms in carrying her to a

648 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

safe place. Even then, they were warned that the

safety was but temporary. The ambulance was

harnessed up, and they drove through water that

almost swept them away, before they reached

higher ground. There was a strange coincidence

about the death, eventually, of this officer’s wife.

A year afterward they were encamped on a

Texas stream, with similar high banks, betokening

freshets, and the waters rose suddenly, compelling

them to take flight in the ambulance again ; but

this time the wagon was overturned by the current,

and the poor woman w^as drowned.

When the day dawned, we were surrounded by

water, and the havoc about us was dreadful. But

what a relief it was to have the rain cease, and

feel the comfort of daylight. Eliza broke up her

bunk to make a fire, and we had breakfast for

everybody, owing to her self-sacrifice. The water

began to subside, and the place looked like a vast

laundry. All the camp was flying with blankets,

bedding and clothes. We were drenched, of

course, having no dry shoes even, to replace those

in w^hich we had raced about in the mud during

the night. But these were small inconveniences,

compared with the agony of terror that the night

had brought. As the morning advanced, and the

stream fell constantly, we were horrified by the

sight of a soldier, swollen beyond all recognition,

THE STORM RISES AGAIN: 649

whose drowned body was imbedded in the side

of the bank, where no one could reach it, and where

we could not escape the sight of it. He was one

who had implored us to save him, and our failure

to do so seemed even more terrible than the night

before, as we could not keep our fascinated gaze

from the stiffened arm that seemed to have been

stretched out entreatingly.

Though we were thankful for our deliverance,

the day was a depressing one, for the horror of

the drowning men near us could not be put out

of our minds. As night came on again, the clouds

began to look ominous; it was murky, and it

rained a little.

At dark word came from the fort, to which

some of the officers had returned, that we must

attempt to get to the high ground, as the main

stream, Big Creek, was again rising. All the

officers were alarmed. They kept measuring the

advance of the stream themselves, and guards

were stationed at intervals, to note the rise of the

water and report its progress. The torch-lights

they held were like tiny fire-flies, so dark was the

night. An ambulance was driven to our tent to

make the attempt to cross the water, which had

abated there slightly, and, if possible, to reach the

divide beyond. One of the officers went in ad-

vance, on horseback, to try the depth of the water.

650 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

It was a failure, and the others forbade our going,,

thinking it would be suicidal. While they were

arguing, Diana and I were wrapping ourselves in

what outside garments we had in the tent. She

had been plucky through the terrible night, writ-

ing next morning to the General that she never

wished herself for one moment at home, and that

even with such a fright she could never repay us

for bringing her out to a life she liked so much.

Yet as we tremblingly put on our outside things,

she began to be agitated over a subject so ridicu-

lous in such a solemn and dangerous hour, that I

could not keep my face from what might have

been a smile under less serious circumstances.

Her trepidation was about her clothes. She ask-

ed me anxiously what she should do for dresses

next day, and insisted that she must take her

small trunk. In vain I argued that we had no-

where to go. We could but sit in the ambulance

till dawn, even if we were fortunate enough to

escape to the bluff. She still persisted, sayings

” What if we should reach a fort, and I was

obliged to appear in the gown I now wear ?” I

asked her to remember that the next fort was

eighty miles distant, with enough water between

it and us to float a ship, not to mention roving

bands of Indians lying in wait ; but this by no

means quieted her solicitude about her appearance.

FLORA McFLIMSY. – 65 1

At last I suggested her putting on three dresses,

one over the other, and then taking, in the Httle

trunk from which she could not part, the most

necessary garments and gowns. When I went

out to get into the wagon, after the other officers

had left, and found our one escort determined

still to venture, I was obliged to explain that

Diana could not make up her mind to part with

her trunk. He was astounded that at such an

hour, in such a perilous situation, clothes should

ever enter anyone’s head. But the trunk appeared

at the entrance of the tent, to verify my words.

He argued that with a wagon loaded with several

people, it would be perilous to add unnecessary

weight in driving through such ground. Then,

with all his chivalry, working night and day to

help us, there came an instant when he could no

longer do justice to the occasion in our presence ;

so he stalked off to one side, and what he said to

himself was lost in the growl of the thunder.

The trunk was secured in the ambulance, and

Diana, Eliza and I followed. There we sat,

getting wetter, more frightened and less plucky

as the time rolled on. Again were we forbidden

to attempt this mode of escape, and condemned

to return to the tent, which was vibrating in

the wind and menacmg a downfall. No woman

ever wished more ardently for a brown-stone

652

TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

front than I longed for a dug-out. Any hole in

the side of a bank would have been a palace to

me, living as I did in momentary expectation of

no covering at all. The rarest, most valuable of

homes meant to me something that could not

blow away. Those women who take refuge in

these days in their cyclone cellar — now the popu-

lar architecture of the West — will know well how

comforting it is to possess something that cannot

be readily lifted up and deposited in a neighbor-

ing county.

With the approach of midnight, there was again

an abatement in the rain, and the water of the

stream ceased to creep toward us ; so the officers,

gaining some confidence in its final subsidence,

again left us to go to their tents. For three days

the clouds and thunder threatened, but at last the

sun appeared. In a letter to my husband, dated

June 9, 1867, I wrote: “When the sun came

out yesterday, we could almost have worshipped

it, like the heathen. We have had some dreadful

days, and had not all the officers been so kind to

us, I do not know how we could have endured

what we have. Even some whom we do not know

have shown the greatest solicitude in our behalf.

We are drenching wet still, and everything we

have is soggy with moisture. Last evening, after

two sleepless nights, Mrs. Gibbs and her two boys,

ESCAPE TO A DIVIDE. 653

Alphie and Blair, Diana and I, were driven across

the plain, from which the water is fast disappear-

ing, to the coveted divide beyond. It is not much

higher, as you know, than the spot where our

tents are ; but it looked like a mountain, as we

watched it, while the water rose all around us.

Some of the officers had tents pitched there, and we

women were given the Sibley tent with the floor,

that sheltered me in the other storm. We dropped

down in heaps, we were so exhausted for want of

sleep, and it was such a relief to know that at last

the water could not reach us.” The letter (con-

tinued from day to day, as no scouts were sent

out) described the moving of the camp to more

secure ground. It was incessant motion, for no

place was wholly satisfactory to the officers. I

confessed that I was a good deal unnerved by the

frights, that every sound startled me, and a shout

from a soldier stopped my breathing almost, so

afraid was I that it was the alarm of another

freshet — while the clouds were never more closely

watched than at that time.

A fresh trouble awaited me, for General Han-

cock came to camp from Barker, and brought bad

news. The letter continues : “The dangers and

terrors of the last few days are nothing, compared

with the information that General Hancock brings.

It came near being the last proverbial ‘ straw.’ I

654 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

was heart-sick indeed, when I found that our

schemes for being together soon were so ruthlessly

crushed. General Hancock says that it looks as if

you would be in the Department of the Platte for

several months — at which he is justly indignant —

but he is promised your return before the summer is

ended. He thinks, that if I want to go so badly,

I may manage to make you a flying visit up there;

and this is all that keeps me up. The summer

here, so far separated from you, seems to stretch

out like an arid desert. If there were the faintest

shadow of a chance that I would see you here

again, I would not go, as we are ordered to. I

will come back here again if I think there is the

faintest prospect of seeing you. If you say so, I

will go to Fort McPherson on the cars, if I get the

ghost of an opportunity.”

Eliza, in ending her recollections of the flood at

Fort Hays, says, ” Well, Miss Libbie, when the

water rose so, and the men was a-drownin’, I said

to myself in the night, if God spared me, that

would be the last of war for me ; but when the

waters went down, and the sun came out, then we

began to cheer each other up, and were willing to

go right on from there, if we could, for we wanted

to see the Ginnel so bad. But who would have

thought that the stream would have risen around

the little knoll as it did ? The Ginnel thought he

AFFECTIONATE SOLICITUDE. 655

had fixed us so nice, and he had, Miss Libbie, for

it was the knoll that saved us. The day the regi-

ment left for Fort McPherson, the Ginnel staid

behind till dark, gettin’ everythin’ in order to

make you comfortable, and he left at 1 2 o’clock

at night, with his escort, to join the troops. He’d

rather ride all night than miss that much of his

visit with you. Before he went, he came to my

tent to say good-by. I stuck my hand out, and

said, ‘ Ginnel, I don’t like to see you goin’ off in

this wild country, at this hour of the night.’ . .

‘ I have to go,’ he says, ‘ wherever I’m called

Take care of Libbie, Eliza;’ and puttin’ spurs to

his horse, off he rode. Then I thought they’d

certainly get him, ridin’ right into the mouth of

’em. You know how plain the sound comes over

the prairie, with nothin’, no trees or anythin’, to

interfere. Well, in the night I was hearin’ quare

sounds. Some might have said they was buffalo,

but on they went, lumpety lump, lumpety lump,

and they was Indians ! Miss Libbie, sure as you’re

born, they was Indians gettin’ out of the way,

and, oh ! I was so scart for the Ginnel.”

CHAPTER XXII.

ORDERED BACK TO FORT MARKER A DRUNKEN ESCORT

WILD-FLOWERS COLOR WITHOUT ODOR GAME

WILD HORSES A DROMEDARY ON THE PLAINS

A WOMAN PIONEERING A RIDDLED STAGE OUR

BED RUNNING AWAY CHOLERA A CONTRAST

RECKONING CHANCES OF PROMOTION THE ADDLED

MAIL-CARRIER.

A FTER the high-water experience, our things

were scarcely dry before I found, for the

second time, what it was to be under the complete

subjection of military rule. The fiat was issued

that we women must depart from camp and re-

turn to garrison, as it was considered unsafe for

us to remain. It was an intense disappointment ;

for though Fort Hays and our camp were more

than dreary, after the ravages of the storm, to

leave there meant cutting myself off from any

other chance that might come in my way of join-

ing my husband, or of seeing him at our camp.

Two of the officers and an escort of ten mounted

men, going to Fort Harker on duty, accompanied

our little cortege of departing women. At the

first stage-station, the soldiers all dismounted as

656

A FORCED RETREAT. 657

we halted, and managed by some pretext to get

into the dug-out and buy whisky. Not long after

we were aeain en route I saw one of the men reel

on his saddle, and he was lifted into the wagon

that carried forage for the mules and horses. One

by one, all were finally dumped into the wagons

by the teamsters, who fortunately were sober, and

the troopers’ horses were tied behind the vehicles,

and we found ourselves without an escort. Plains

whisky is usually very rapid in its effect, but the

stage-station liquor was concocted from drugs

that had power to lay out even a hard-drinking

old cavalryman like a dead person, in what

seemed no time at all. Eliza said they only

needed to smell it, ’twas so deadly poison. A

barrel of tolerably good whisky sent from the

States was, by the addition of drugs, made into

several barrels after it reached the Plains.

The hours of that march seemed endless. We

were helpless, and knew that we were going over

ground that was hotly contested by the red man.

VVe rose gradually to the summit of each divide, and

looked with anxious eyes into every depression ;

but we were no sooner relieved to find it safe,

than my terrors began as to what the next might

reveal. When we came upon an occasional ravine,

it represented to my frightened soul any number

of Indians in ambush.

658 TENTING ON THE PLAINS.

In that country the air is so clear that every ob-

ject on the brow of a small ascent of ground is

silhouetted against the deep blue of the sky. The

Indians place little heaps of stones on these slight

eminences, and lurk behind them to watch the

approach of troops. Every little pile of rocks

seemed, to my strained eyes, to hide the head of a

savage. They even appeared to move, and this

effect was heightened by the waves of heat that

hover over the surface of the earth under that

blazing sun. I was thoroughly frightened, doubt-

less made much more so because 1 had nothing

else to think of, as the end of the journey would

not mean for me what the termination of ever so

dangerous a march would have been in the other

direction. Had I been going over such country

to join my husband, the prospect would have put

temporary courage into every nerve. During the

hours of daylight the vigilance of the officers was

unceasing. They knew that one of the most

hazardous days of their lives was upon them.

They felt intensely the responsibility of the care of

us ; and I do not doubt, gallant as they were, that

they mentally pronounced anathemas upon officers

who had wanted to se