"The Plains," New York Times, 17 Sept. 1866, 2.
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TRIP OF LIEUT.-GEN. SHERMAN.
A Journey on the Plains—Sights and Scenes of a Military Party on the Great Western Prairies.
Special Correspondence of the New-York Times.
On the 12th of August the Lieutenant-General and a couple of staff officers, and a few civilian friends, left St. Louis for a trip on the Plains. . . .
At St. Joseph we boarded the steamboat J. H. Lacy, bound for Omahaw [Omaha], a frail and rather suspicious looking craft, filled to overflowing with passengers, to say nothing of the "big bugs" found in the staterooms. I could only get a peep at St. Joseph, but I am told it is the business town of all this section of country.
We are now all together, and our party may be counted as follows: Lieut.-Gen. SHERMAN, Lieut.-Cols. DAYTON and AUDENREID, Capt. MCGINNIS, Senator JOHN SHERMAN, Mr. B., the nephew to the General, and Mr. BUSHSER, the Swiss artist, who brought to the General a letter of introduction, &c., from Mr. Secretary SEWARD, and last, though not least, your humble servant. No doubt, if Gen. SHERMAN ever reads this he will say; "Yes, and last of all came Satan also." But the General is in good humor, he is going out into the wilderness, and has a boyish fondness for frontier life, and a real zest for frontier duties. . . .
This is the 16th day of August. We have passed the mouth of the Platte River, and some beautiful country, where the Missouri meanders along the high and wooded bluffs and grassy prairies, vastly more inviting than the low, flat country below. The boat tied up at the landing, about four miles distant from the town, wither we were conveyed in a one-horse express wagon, the road running over a low, flat prairie. This is an old place of about ten years, and probably has seen its best days, being too near Omaha, a place possessing more natural advantages and greater enterprise, to grow rapidly. But our visit here was too short to obtain much valuable information respecting the resources of the country. Returning to the boat, and moving up the river a few miles, we arrived at
which is situated on a second plateau from the river, backed by high lands and bluffs, both picturesque and beautiful. We took rooms at the Herndon House, which is a brick building of respectable dimensions, and very well kept for a public house in the back settlements. Here, as at most of the important places we visited, the General had some military business to transact, and, under the escort of Major BRENT, we sallied out to the military headquarters. On our way we encountered a specimen of Indian chief dressed in blankets, with a superabundance of rings and gewgaws, armed with bow and arrows and a paper, which latter he regarded of great value because it was supposed to set forth his title of Indian chief, and which he insisted upon being read. The General having examined the paper, and having pronounced it "all right," our chief was greatly delighted, and parted with us with the most emphatic assurance that he would not steal.
Omaha has about 6,000 inhabitants. The people are intelligent, hospitable and enterprising. We have been hunted, feasted, danced and driven about to our heart's content, and now we must pack up and be off. I made the acquaintance of Gen. DODGE here, and also Gen. COOK, to whom I am greatly indebted.
Only think of a ride on a railroad out here, and a good one too. Promptly at the hour of 8 1/4 A. M. on the 18th our party assembled at the depot of the N. P. R. R. for a trip across to the Valley of the Platte, several ladies having joined the party. The road runs across the hills which divide the waters of the Missouri and Platte, a distance of 33 miles, to where it strikes the low lands of the latter river. From Omaha to Fremont, 47 miles; to Columbus, 90 miles; to Kearney, 100. We dashed over the entire route to
at the rate of 25 miles an hour. Here we leave the railroad and journey thence forward after the old-fashioned style.
AUG. 19.—This morning we were summoned to an army breakfast by the sound of the bugle—nothing but coffee, bacon and bread served on tin plates and with tin coffee cups. Ambulance for the General, military escort, mules, baggage-wagon. &c., all ready. Now we are off at the rate of six miles an hour. We travel along the Platte on the emigrant road. Government wagons and emigrant trains raise a terrible dust. The country is dry, flat, destitute of timber and uninteresting. The most notable thing to be seen is the queer and grotesque pictures drawn against the sky, known as the.
by which wagon trains appear to be lifted up, distorted, turned up side down, and horses and mules are made to appear as if pawing the sky. Sometimes the phenomenon will last full twenty minutes, and then the object vanishes. We saw one train of Morman emigrants containing fifty wagons and three hundred oxen, bound for Salt Lake, mostly Germans. We made 22 miles without halting a good beginning. We passed but four dwellings on this march, and these were made of sod.
is now strictly military; the civilians who in greater or lesser numbers journeyed with us through the settlements and were wont to show the Lieutenant-General and the distinguished Senator special honors and attentions, have all fallen out by the way, and now all our movements are in obedience to military orders, and the General begins to enjoy the trip. To form an idea of the caravan one must imagine five ambulances with the one conveying the General and the Senator in front, with baggage stowed in the bottom. Every officer and man has apencer Scarbine lashed to the side of the ambulance ready for use in case of need, and fourteen mounted dragoons serve as guard. The General is evidently bent on finding out something about alleged Indian depredations and where the trouble is. He explores every available source of information, and takes careful note of the capacity, efficiency and condition of our troops, and I am quite confident it is his purpose to put a speedy end to these Indian depredations if they are real, and if carried on through the instigation of bad white men he will surely find them out and bring them to merited punishment. These depredations are going to be stopped, and that right soon. Yesterday we were met by Col. OTIS, returning from an inspecting tour, who reports from information derived by him that the Indians are above and about Fort Reno, but not so bad as reported. One Mormon train had been attacked, about 20 miles east of Deer Creek, and the stock driven off, but no one was killed. About 24 in all have been killed, but these were mostly stragglers. Lieut. DANIEL was two miles away from his column, hunting a camping-ground, when killed.
One meets all sorts of wandering people here. The road we are journeying over has long been the great highway for adventurers. The Indian trappers and traders were the first to mark out the path. The Mormons made it a broad trail, and when gold was discovered in California, it became the most traveled public road in America. I met to-day a party of Californians returning to Missouri, over the same road they had traveled to Eldorado in 1849. It seems that, however others might have succeeded in that land of promise, they, at least, remain poor, in spite of all their exertions, and they are going back to begin the world again in Missouri. One of the teamsters had a pair of strange pets,
which had been caught and tamed. These dogs live in villages, and construct their habitations in the ground. They look like the Guinea pig, though as large as the large fox squirrel, and are colored like a fox squirrel. They eat meat like a dog, and corn and nuts like a squirrel. They bark like a dog, but on the least appearance of danger they retire into their holes. It is next to impossible to get a shot at one. The rattlesnake and owl sometimes dwell with the prairie doe, which shows him to be an animal of generous impulses, and has some talent for politics.
Dick, our cook, declared he could set a better table if we could get him some game. We see plenty of antelope on the hills; now and then flush a sage hen and start up a jackass rabbit; but we are on a trip of business, or rather the General is, and whoever follows his lead will get but little time for sport. The most he has been known to do as yet by way of amusement is to fire a few shots at a target-and, by the way, he is a capital shot, and the Senator also makes a mighty good score.
It is not easy to remember the day of the month away out here where we get no morning papers and have no almanacs, but I believe this is the 21st of August. Last night was very cold, and I had as much as I could do to keep from suffering, with my boots and clothes on and two army blankets in addition. Before the peep of day this morning we were up and off and made 25 miles before 10 o'clock. This brought us to Fort McPherson, formerly Fort Cottonwood. The name was changed in honor of the memory of that excellent officer who was killed near Atlanta. The Fort is in command of Lieut.-Col. MIGNER of the Second Cavalry, a gallant officer, who has a charming wife and wife's sister here with him, and all as happy and contented as possible. The post is garrisoned by two companies of Second Regiment Cavalry, (U. S. A.) and two companies Sixth Regiment Cavalry (U. S. V.) We camped near the fort when all the officers came down to see us, and invited us all to dine at 4 P. M. After dinner we were furnished with fresh horses, when we took a merry ride over the hills and through the vallies, (an awful poor country for white folks to live in as it appeared to the naked eye)—gazed at a very fine view of the Platte Valley, and at a beautiful sunset, and returned to the headquarters of our kind host, and spent the evening with the family, much to our delight and edification. The ladies gave us some charming songs and music. There is happiness everywhere-and it's home where the heart is.
Next morning at 4:30 we breakfasted with the officers of the garrison, and soon after sunrise pulled out of camp for another march. The morning was cold and windy. Ten miles out at Minow's Ranch we saw an
of fourteen lodges, containing in all ninety persons. they were a poor squalid, wretched looking set of creatures as ever were seen, the men wearing nothing but breech-cloths and filthy blankets, and the squaws wearing scarcely covering enough to hide their nakedness, while the purpooses were stark naked. Alas poor Indians! We visited the camp, took a very cursory view, and pursued our journey. Short views ore often the most satisfactory.
Further on, at Baker's Ranch, we came to another Indian encampment of half-a-dozen lodges. While we were at lunch, three or four of the men, including the Chief, came and sat by our fire in a most friendly manner. Some coffee was given them, when the squaws came too, and also some boys with bows and arrows. A split stick was forced into the ground, in which was inserted a piece of coin, the prize for the boy that could first knock it out at twenty paces. They made some fine shots, but without success, when the old Chief took his turn, and knocked down the stake at the first trial. The old Chief was much elated with this success, the more because he knew the great white Chief was looking on. The Chief then handed his bow and arrow to Gen. SHERMAN, as much as to banter him to a trial of skill. The General, more in sport than anything else, and to gratify the vanity of the Chief, drew on the target, and by a lucky chance let the arrow slip at the proper moment, which went to the right spot exactly! If he had made a hundred shots, not one could have been more lucky. The old Chief made a grunt of disappointment and signified a desire to try again; but our lunch was over, our teams were hitched, and we pulled out to finish the day's journey.