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The Diaries of John Gregory Bourke Volume 2

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John Gregory Bourke kept a monumental set of diaries beginning as a young cavalry lieutenant in Arizona in 1872, and ending the evening before his death in 1896. As aide-de-camp to Brigadier General George Crook, he had an insider's view of the early Apache campaigns, the Great Sioux War, the Cheyenne Outbreak, and the Geronimo War. Bourke's writings reveal much about military life on the western frontier, but he also was a noted ethnologist, writing extensive descriptions of American Indian civilization and illustrating his diaries with sketches and photographs. Previously, researchers could consult only a small part of Bourke's diary material in various publications, or else take a research trip to the archive and microfilm housed at West Point. Now, for the first time, the 124 manuscript volumes of the Bourke diaries are being compiled, edited, and annotated by Charles M. Robinson III to be easily accessible to the modern researcher. This volume opens as Crook prepares for the expedition that would lead to his infamous and devastating Horse Meat March. Although Bourke retains his loyalty to Crook throughout the detailed account, his patience is sorely tried at times. Bourke's description of the march is balanced by an appendix containing letters and reports by other officers, including an overview of the entire expedition by Lt. Walter Schuyler, and a report by Surgeon Bennett Clements describing the effects on the men. The diary continues with the story of the Powder River Expedition, culminating in Bourke's eyewitness description of Col. Ranald Mackenzie's destruction of the main Cheyenne camp in what became known at the Dull Knife Fight. With the main hostile chiefs either surrendering or forced into exile in Canada, field operations come to a close, and Bourke finishes this volume with a retrospective of his service in Tucson, Arizona. Extensively annotated and with a biographical appendix on Indians, civilians, and military personnel named in the diaries, this book will appeal to western and military historians, students of American Indian life and culture, and to anyone interested in the development of the American West.

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1. Camp Life


Chapter 1

Camp Life

[28 July 1876]1

I begin in this note-book an attempt to reproduce the contents of the 5th Volume of the Journal of the Sioux campaign, which 5th Vol. was lost or stolen sometime in the year 1877–1878.

That volume comprehended the period between July 28th 1876 and the morning of Sept. 8th of the same year or the dates covering the reinforcement of General Crook’s column by the 5th Cavalry under

Colonel Merritt, the advance down the valley of the Rosebud until we joined General Terry, our abandonment of the great Indian trail, which we had followed to Powder River, our stay on the Yellowstone to replenish supplies, our resumption of the pursuit and parting from

General Terry, and the incidents of the ensuing painful and trying march through the grassy wastes of Dakotah: it covered the pages of my journal from 704 to 863 inclusive.

This loss would have been a much more serious one, had I not occupied the position of Adjutant General of the Expedition and as such had access to the official records which have not alone supplied much of what was in the original volume, but served as aids


2. Linking With Terry


Chapter 2

Linking with Terry

August 4th. Very high winds prevailing all day. Prairie fires burning for miles; sky black with fog and smoke. The timber in the foot-hills of the Big Horn range is also burning and after dark the hills are crowned with a wreath of golden flame.

The organization of the Command, as at present constituted, was announced in General Orders,

No. 5

1. Colonel Wesley Merritt, 5th Cavalry, is assigned as chief of all the

Cavalry serving with this Expedition.

2. Surgeon B.A. Clements having reported at this Hd. Qrs. in obedience to Par[agraph]. 2, G[eneral]. O[rders]. No. 98, Dept. Platte, is announced as Medical Director of the Expedition, relieving Assistant

Surgeon Albert Hartsuff.

3. Captain John V. Furey, A.Q.M., will, in addition to his present duties, exercise the functions of Ordnance Officer of the Expedition.

4. Major T.H. Stanton, Paymaster, will assume command of the irregular forces, comprised of citizens, volunteers and such others as may be assigned to duty under him by the Expedition Commander.” and by Special Field Orders, No. 22, 2 Lt. C.A. Rockefellar [sic] 9th


3. On the Yellowstone


Chapter 3

On the Yellowstone

We remained on the Yellowstone from the 17th to the 24th of August, a description of one day answering for all the others. There was not much work to be done: cavalry commanders looked to their horses;

Infantry officers picked out the men who began to show signs of exhaustion. General Crook’s command moved once up the Yellowstone to get better water and more grass and be more in proximity to fuel. The steamer Far West lay moored to the bank near our second camp. This craft is the one which first ploughed the waters of the

Big Horn. General Terry embarked upon her with the survivors of the Custer Massacre. Captain Grant Marsh, her commander, was the first navigator of the Upper Missouri and the first one to run a steamboat up the Yellowstone. He made his first voyage in company with General Sandy Forsyth, of General Sheridan’s staff, in the summer of 1875 upon the steamer Josephine. They advanced as far as

Pompey’s Pillar,1 and a few miles beyond, or something over a hun1. Bourke is referring to a Smithsonian expedition which, obviously, had a military escort. Pompey’s Pillar itself is a 120-foot sandstone pillar that rises above the plain on the


4. The Ordeal Begins


Chapter 4

The Ordeal Begins

August 24th. We awakened, or rather arose, (because we had not slept a wink during the storm which lasted all night.) and after considerable trouble got our fires going once more and coffee boiling. A good cup of this helped greatly to cheer us for our task of marching which began almost immediately after. It was impossible to cross the Powder river, which was greatly flooded by the torrent of water which had filled it during the night: our line of march lay up the

Left or West bank for about ten miles, men and animals floundering helplessly along in the deep, sticky mud, bearing as best they might the drenching rain which saturated their clothing and blankets and added much to their weight. Our poor horses and mules conduct themselves as if they never had a friend in the world. A fine black and white New Foundland dog has joined our Hd.Qrs. The orderlies call him Jack: where he came from, no one can say. It won’t do to inquire too closely: soldiers will steal dogs—they can’t help it and are not to be blamed as they must have a pet of some kind.*


5. Fighting and Starving


Chapter 5

Fighting and Starving

Friday Sept. 8th (Continued.) The smooth grassy contour of the district to the rear of us was gradually giving way to the encroachments of some rugged spurs of the little range laid down on the maps as the Slim Buttes. The sturdy little Indian fig thrust itself forward obtrusively, hand in hand with the feeble branchlets of the wild sage.

This latter vegetation, once so unwelcome, was now regarded with more friendly eyes: it would furnish fuel and fuel in some shape has become a sine quâ non. It will be borne in mind that since leaving the Head of Heart River to this point, a distance of between eighty and ninety miles, our poor column had trudged along half-starved, half clad and not half-shod.* Plodding through exhausting mud and under merciless rain clouds by day, sleeping under merciless rainclouds and wrapped in wet blankets coated thickly with viscous mud by night. The joy of the soldier, the one solace in all his troubles he has a right to expect under almost every circumstance—the cheering blaze of the camp-fire—was denied him. Exhausted by a fatiguing march through mud and rain, without sufficient or proper food, the soldiers arrived in camp at sun-down, to find only a rivulet


6. The Campaign Ends


Chapter 6

The Campaign Ends

Sept. 14th. The busy hum of lively conversation could now be heard around every camp-fire and from every knot of soldiers: the change was most agreeable from the glum and early moroseness of a few days previous. The inspirating [sic] influences of abundant food and bright, clean skies, were never more patent than now; the greatest enjoyment after our recent approximation to starvation was to sit about the fire and eat and chat: we had more than enough of all the components of ration to last the Command for four or five days and unlimited supplies were available in Deadwood. A wagon loaded with bread, beans, coffee and sugar was sent out to meet Major

Upham’s command which left us yesterday very poorly provided.

Major Upham’s detachment however returned to camp before the supplies were brought them. They saw no Indians, the trail they took up, proving to be a very old one. One of the men of the 5th Cavalry, straggling from this (Upham’s) command early this morning was shot and killed by a small party of Sioux lurking in advance.


7. The Powder River Expedition


Chapter 7

The Powder River Expedition

The Powder River Expedition of the winter of 1875–76 was

Crook’s last field operation during the Great Sioux War, and is remembered for Col. Ranald Mackenzie’s destruction of the main

Cheyenne winter camp on November 25, 1876. Known as the Dull

Knife Fight, because of one of the principal Cheyenne chiefs present, it effectively broke Cheyenne military power.1 Bourke, who accompanied Mackenzie’s cavalry column as a volunteer observer, used it as the basis for his article “Mackenzie’s Last Fight with the

Cheyennes, A Winter Campaign in Wyoming and Montana,” which appeared in the Journal of the Military Service Institution of the

United States. A very lengthy article, it has since been reprinted several times in book form.

Bourke was not the only officer to keep a journal during this campaign. Lieutenant Colonel Richard Irving Dodge, 23rd Infantry, who commanded the infantry battalions, kept a daily record, which has been published as The Powder River Expedition Journals of Colonel Richard Irving Dodge. It would be difficult to find


8. Forging Indian Alliances


Chapter 8

Forging Indian Alliances

November 10th and 11th. Officers and soldiers busily engaged in the duties preliminary to our contemplated operations, receiving and issuing clothing, camp and Garrison equipage. Ordnance, Forage, ammunition, fur boots, and Quartermaster’s stores: drilling new recruits, and other incidentals of a campaign.

The telegraph line brought news of the closeness of the Presidential election and the fierce excitement generated by the contest, which had become narrowed down to the decision to be given by Louisiana, North and South Carolina, and Florida. The friends of Hayes and Wheeler claimed all those states, the adherents of Tilden and

Hendricks stoutly opposed this assertion so that nothing exact and definite could be obtained until the official count should be rendered. In Florida the rival political factions threatened bloodshed: to repress disturbances likely to arise, General Augur had been sent there with ten companies of Infantry and a Battery of artillery. Such news is more grave than would be an intimation of hostilities with foreign nations; internecine wars are always the most frightful and most costly, excepting always those having an impassion of religious fanaticism. Severe as our coming experiences may be, they will be more welcome than a campaign in the sunny lands of the South


9. The Dull Knife Fight



10. Grouard and Bourke on Indians


Chapter 10

Grouard and Bourke on Indians

December 9.1 In Camp on the Belle Fourche. Our progress to this point has been tedious and exhausting. Our departure from Supply

Camp, at Dry Fork did not take place until 10 A.M., of the 6th , between which hour and two in the afternoon, our column got as far as a series of large water holes in the bed of a dry course tributary to the Powder. Sufficient fuel for cooking purposes had been carried along in wagons, to guard against any lack of wood at camp, but we found more than enough both of it and clear, cold water and as much grass as could reasonably be expected at this season.

Our line of travel was very indirect, it being impracticable to get wagons or even mules over the country in a straight line. In every direction, ravines and arroyos, with almost vertical sides, cut up the surface of the earth and enclosed us in a network of difficulties.

Our bivouac was South South East from the most easterly of the four Pumpkin Buttes.

The country on the South East side of the Pumpkin Buttes is almost a barren tract, productive of nothing but a thin crop of grass and a heavy one of cactus. Late last night, Lieutenant Lovering, 4th


11. Belle Fourche to Fort Fetterman


Chapter 11

Belle Fourche to Fort Fetterman

December 21st. Another snow storm last night: two inches on a level.

General Crook summoned the Indians to a council, at which all the principal chiefs of the Sioux, Cheyennes, and Arapahoe bands made their appearance. After dwelling upon the fact that our lack of forage for the animals prevented our continuing in the

field much longer and the non-return of our messengers from Red

Cloud Agency deprived him of any clue as to the whereabouts of the retreating Cheyennes, so that there was no use trying to do any more scouting for the present, the Commanding General went on to say:

“I understand they have been turning in their (the Indians’) horses and guns at the Agency. I don’t know by what authority. It was not by my order, but I don’t know whether it was by orders from

Washington or not.

[“]You are very lucky in having been out here with us, because if you had been at the Agency, you would have had to turn in your ponies; now, you have plenty.

[“]I want some of you to go on ahead pretty fast, as I want to send a letter through before the rest get in. Most of you have friends or


12. The Hostile Bands Surrender


Chapter 12

The Hostile Bands Surrender

Bourke made no entries from January 3 until February 7, 1877.

December 28 through January 3 takes up the first twelve pages of manuscript volume 16. The remainder of that volume, together with all of volumes 17 and 18, consists of pasted-in clippings and orders. He begins volume 19 on February 7, with a recapitulation of the intervening events. Even portions of Volume 19, however, show signs of having been written later. In one instance he writes,

“February 12th. Left Camp Robinson and, making the dreary trip of seventy-five miles, reached Fort Laramie, April 13th.”1 He obviously means February 13, which was reasonable for a group of experienced cavalrymen on a seventy-five-mile trek. The passage was written in April, and he mistakenly used the current month.

[February 7, 1877]

The journal of the operations carried on by General Crook against the hostile Indians in the Department of the Platte, would be incomplete were no mention made of the embassy undertaken by Spotted


13. The Indians Speak


Chapter 13

The Indians Speak

Tuesday, April 17th. Heavy shower in the morning before reveille. Day gloomy and chill. Major Randall and Mr. Strahorn arrived from Cantonment Reno. Companies “B” and “L”, 3d Cavalry, returned from the Black Hills, Lieuts. Simpson and Cummings in command.

Parties from Crazy horse’s [sic] village have been coming in all day yesterday and this morning; their stories agree in the main points.

All say that Crazy horse’s people are anxious to make peace, Crazy horse himself yielding to the pressure.

The attitude of the Cheyennes of which Crazy horse [sic] and the other hostile Indians have been duly informed by runners, is having a powerful effect, and the bands which have been within striking distance (i.e. 250 @ 300 miles) of the Agencies for some time past are now moving in as fast as possible.

General Crook, in a conversation with Red Cloud a week ago, told that chieftain that he was going to recommence active work at once and keep it up all summer and winter; that he had delayed his movements simply to give those who were tired of war an opportunity to surrender, but that those who had been dilatory in coming in should now have their “bellies full”.


14. Crazy Horse


Chapter 14

Crazy Horse

May 4th. 1877. Spotted Tail is still with us.

He has been installed as an honorary member of our mess. He conducts himself quietly and with perfect propriety at the table, calling for the different dishes in his own language, but understanding most of what we say to him in English: when he said—“Ahúyapé” we have learned that he means “bread”; Wosanría, Butter; Chahumpiská=White sugar; Wáka-máza, corn; Tollo, Beef; Pazuta-sapa, Coffee;

Wit-ka, eggs; Minnie-quia, Salt; Wassúnâ, Butter; Bellô, potatoes; and so on, and we have even got so proficient that we tackle boldly such words as, Ya-ma-nu-mi-ni-Pawpi=pepper; and Muncatchámuncapa=mushrooms.

Spotted Tail has one action at table, I can hardly call admirable; whenever a piece of meat which he doesn’t like, is put upon his plate, he puts it back on the main dish and waits quietly to be served with another.

Major T. T. Thornburgh, Paymaster and his clerk, Mr. Clark, arrived last night May 3d. As the morning was very pleasant, I thought I should improve it by riding over to the camp of Sharp Nose and Friday, the


photo section


When Crook’s starving soldiers arrived near Bear Butte, they were met by a column of wagons bringing much needed provisions for the hungry troops.

Among those along for the ride was photographer Stanley J. Morrow, who took these photographs which Bourke pasted into the diary. Morrow followed Crook to the agencies, photographing the scenery en route, events at the agencies, and notable Indians. A representative assortment is given here, all courtesy of the Special Collections Division, United States Military

Academy Library, West Point, New York.. The complete Morrow photographs for 1876 will be found in With Crook in the Black Hills: Stanley J.

Morrow’s 1876 Photographic Legacy by Paul L. Hedren.

A group of prisoners captured at Slim Buttes includes Charging Bear (standing left), who later became an army scout and was mentioned frequently by Bourke. Although most Indians captured in the Slim Buttes fight were released after interrogation, this group opted to remain and accompany the troops to one of the Indian agencies. (Photo By Stanley J. Morrow, U.S.


Part 2: Staff Officer







n May 7, 1877, Miles attacked and destroyed a hostile camp of about three hundred people under the Minneconjou chief Lame Deer. This camp had been spared much of the chasing and fighting of the previous six months, and its wealth was intact. It contained robes, about thirty tons of dried meat, along with firearms, powder, and ammunition. The troops captured the camp herd of about 450 horses, some of which were branded for the

7th Cavalry. They also recovered souvenirs of the Custer fight, and of various raids. This was the last major action. Although scouting expeditions would clash with small parties of Indians throughout the summer and fall of 1877, for all practical purposes the Great

Sioux War was over.1

Bourke, meanwhile, was at departmental headquarters in Omaha, where he handled the regular duties of a staff officer. Because General Crook did not exercise field command during the remainder of his tenure in the Department of the Platte, this would be Bourke’s home until 1882. Nevertheless, various errands for Crook and the army, such as courts-martial, inspection tours, and other assign1. The Lame Deer Fight is discussed in Greene, Yellowstone Command, Chapter 9, and


15. A Hunting Trip


Chapter 15

A Hunting Trip

[July 1, 1877]1 Our party assembled at Camp Brown, Wyo., a pleasant little post on the Little Wind River, one of the head-waters of the Big Horn River. To reach there, Lieut. Schuyler and self started in advance of the main party and came, via U.P.R.R. to Green River

Station, 900 miles or so West of Omaha, Neb., thence by stage and ambulance (150) miles north to Brown. (A description of this portion of the trip has been given in another diary.)2

At Camp Brown, we were received most hospitably by Captain

[John] Mix, 2d Cavalry, Lieut. [Henry Clayton] Lapointe, of same

Regiment, and Doctor Grimes, the Post Surgeon. We found Lieuts.

Rockwell and Wheeler already in camp with the escort, Company

“L”, 5th Cavalry, which had marched across country, up the Sweetwater Valley, from Fort Fetterman.

By June 29th, the entire excursion had assembled, comprising the following members:

Lieutenant General P. H. Sheridan

Brigadier General George Crook

------ D. B. Sackett

1. West Point’s designation, but more likely June 30.


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