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Unit 3: Set 3. Armed Conflict - From Sully's Official Report on Battle of Whitestone Hill

Introduction | Heart River Battle | Battle of Whitestone Hill | Activity

Battle Accounts: Sully | Kingsbury | Furnas | Thomson | Newspaper

From Sully’s Official Report on the Battle of Whitestone Hill

General Sully“Major House, according to my instructions, endeavored to surround and keep in the Indians until word could be sent me; but this was an impossibility with his 300 men, as the encampment was very large, mustering at least twelve hundred warriors. This is what the Indians say they had, but I, as well as everybody in the command, say they had over fifteen hundred. These Indians were partly Santees from Minnesota; Cutheads from the Coteau; Yanktonnais, and some Blackfeet who belong on the other side of the Missouri. And as I have since learned, Uncapapas, the same party who fought General Sibley and destroyed the Mackinaw boat. Of this I have unmistakable proof from letters and papers found in the camp and on the person of some of the Indians, besides relics of the late Minnesota massacre; also from the fact that they told Mr. LaFromboise, the guide, when he was surrounded by about two hundred of them, that ‘they had fought General Sibley, and they could not see why the whites wanted to come to fight them, unless they were tired of living and wanted to die.’ Mr. La Fromboise succeeded in getting away from them after some difficulty, and ran his horse for more than ten miles to give me information. . . . He reached me a little after 4 o’clock. I immediately turned out my command. The horses at the time were out grazing. At the sound of the bugle the men rushed with a cheer, and in a very few minutes saddled up and were in line. I left four companies and all the men who were poorly mounted in the camp, with orders to strike the tents and corral all the wagons, and starting off with the Second Nebraska on the right, the Sixth Iowa on the left, one company of the Seventh Iowa and the battery in the center, at a full gallop, we made this distance of over ten miles in much less than an hour."

The Battle

Calvary charging sketch"On reaching near the ground I found that the enemy were leaving and carrying off what plunder they could. Many lodges, however, were still standing. I ordered Col. W. R. Furnas, Second Nebraska, to push his horses to the utmost, so as to reach the camp and assist Major House in keeping the Indians corralled. This order was obeyed . . . , the regiment going over the plains at a full run. . . . The Nebraska took to the right to the camp, and was soon lost in a cloud of dust over the hills. I ordered Col. D. S. Wilson, Sixth Iowa, to take to the left, while I, with the battery, one company of the Seventh Iowa, Captain A. J. Millard, and two companies of the Sixth Iowa, Major TenBroeck commanding, charged through the center of the encampment. I here found an Indian chief by the name of Little Soldier, with some few of his people. This Indian has always had the reputation of being a good Indian and friendly. I placed them under guard and moved on. Shortly after I met with the notorious chief, Big-Head, and some of his men. They were dressed for a fight but my men cut them off. These Indians, together with some of their warriors, mustering about thirty, together with squaws, Indian ponies, and dogs, gave themselves up, numbering over one hundred and twenty human beings. About the same time firing began about a half mile ahead of me, and was kept up, becoming more and more brisk until it was quite a respectable engagement. A report was brought to me, which proved to be false, that the Indians were driving back some of my command. I immediately took possession of the hillocks near by, forming a line, and placing the battery in the center on a higher knoll. At this time night had about set in, but still the engagement was briskly kept up, and in the melee, it was hard to distinguish my lie from that of the enemy. The Indians made a very desperate resistance, but finally broke and fled, pursued in every direction by bodies of my troops. I would here state that the troops, though mounted, were armed with rifles, and according to my orders, most of them dismounted and fought afoot until the enemy broke, and when they remounted and went in pursuit. It is to be regretted that I could not have had an hour or two more of daylight, for I feel sure, if I had, I could have annihilated the enemy. As it was I believe I can safely say I gave them one of the most severe punishments the Indian have ever received. After night set in the engagement was of such a promiscuous nature that it was hard to tell what results would happen; I therefore ordered all the buglers to sound the ‘rally,’ and building large fires, remained under arms during he night, collecting together my troops. The next morning early I established my camp on the battlefield; this was the 4th [of September], the wagon train under charge of Major Pearman, Second Nebraska, having in the night been ordered to join me, and sent out strong scouting parties in different directions to scour the country to overtake what Indians they could, but in this they were not very successful, though some of them had some little skirmishes. They found the dead and wounded in all directions, some miles from the battlefield; also immense quantities of provisions, baggage, etc., where they had apparently cut loose their ponies from ‘travois,’ and go off on them; also large number of ponies and dogs, harnessed to ‘travois,’ running loose on the prairie. One party that I sent out went near to the James River, and found there eleven dead Indians. The deserted camp of the Indians together with the country all around, was covered with their plunder. I devoted this day together with the following [day], the 5th, to destroying all this property, still scouring the country. I do not think I exaggerate in the least when I say that I burned up over four hundred thousand to five hundred thousand pounds of dried buffalo meat as one item, beside 300 lodges, and a very large quantity of property of great value to the Indians. A very large number of ponies were found dead and wounded on the field; besides a large number was captured. The prisoners, some one hundred and thirty, I take with me below, and shall report to you more specially in regard to them.”

-cited in Kingsbury, pp. 293-294

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