Press enter after choosing selection

At Cimarron Ford

At Cimarron Ford image
Parent Issue
Public Domain
OCR Text

Near the town of Cimarrón, in Gray county, Kan., as the cars pass swiftly westward, the tourist frora his píate glass window may look npon the locality of the onco famons furd of the Arkansaa river known as the Cimarrón crossiug. The two routes to Santa Fe here diverged. That by the way of the crossing was over the sand desert, so called in the days of the "commerce of the prairies," which was relatively devoid of water. In the droughtiest tirnes the oxen would frequently drop dead in their yokes from the terrible torture of thirst. The Arkansas at the ford iswide and generally but a few inches in depth. It was, therefore, an excellent place to make the passage of the stream. The other trail to Santa Fe followed the Arkansas river to Bent's fort, where it crossed a spur of the Rocky inountains, a rauch longer but safer journey for the caravans, for there was, of course, always an abundance of water, the grass generally good, besides sorne timber existed in spots on the banks of the stream. The boundary line between the United States and New Mexico ran north and eouth throngh the Arkansas river at the Cimarrón crossing, and that point the American troops changed places with the Mexican, the former returning eastwardly in escoi'ting the caravans, while the latter made their way back through Mexican territory to Santa Fe. Cimarrón crossing was a famous spot for attacks by the Indians on the freight caravans, the government trairis, the overland stage, or any outfit passing along the old Santa Fe trail in the long ago, bef ore the railroadwas regarded as a possibility even. One of the most unequal in point of uumbers and fierceness of the numerous attacks occnrred in the spring of 1865, in which several prominent Kansans were participants. Major Rodney Sinith, paymaster United States army, who was on one of his periodical trips to pay the troops stationed at the several military posts in the department of the Missouri that were located on the Arkansas river at the datespecifiedabove, encountered the notorious Satanta, war chief of the Kiowas, and above a thousand of his bloodthirsty followers at Cimarrón crossing, holding his own against such fearful odds until his brave little party were ' rescued by a detachment of cavalry hurriedly sent to his relief on the second day of the fight. The gallant band of men who did such rernarkable work iu , defending themselves against the horde of the worst savage cutthroats on the plains at that time was composed of the paymaster, who was the ranking officer and in command ; Major A. P. Shaw, uow in Topeka; John E. Jones, now in Oklahcrua ; Jack Angle, Ed Doy le, Torn Smith, and a srnall escort of enlisted men of the Fifth United States iufantry, which had been furnished at old Fort Lyon, the last post in the upper Arkansas valley. Having completed his duties at Fort Lyon, Major Smith, with his companions, escort and "strong box," left there on Wednesday morning immediately after a very early breakfast, intending to make Fort Dodge, the next post on his route whero the troops were to be paid. When the party, who were in excellent spirits, had traveled about 80 miles along the broad old trail, a trapper well known to the major, hailed him and iiiforrned him that the Kiowas were out on the warpath, headed by that incarnate flend, Satanta, their war chief, and advised him to keep a good lookont fpr an ambascade or a direct attack from the old he devil. He toldthe major further thai the savages, a large band of them, had congregated in the sand hills south of the Arkansas, near Cimarrón crossing, and were watching for a favorable opportunity to ponnce upon some freight caravan, government train, the overland coach, or any outfit that promised them plunder and a few scalps. The paymaster's little command camped that night under the high bluffs bordering Sand creek, putting out doublé guards and exercising every precaution to prevent a surprise, but there was no disturbance of any character excepting the usual hideous concert of howling wolves ; not au Indian was seen nor heard, nor were any signs discovered by the scouts indicating that they had been prowling around. The next morning the journey was resumed, every one now especially vigilant for the first appearanee of a savage, but everything went along sraootbly until they were witbin a few miles of Cimarrón crossing. There one of the advance guard, who was mounted on a ruagnificent American horse, and who had ridden a few miles farther ahead on the trail, carue dashiug back and reported to Major Smith that an immense number of Indians, rigged out in all their war parapherualia, were right on the bank of the river, and evidently projwsed to prevent the command from proceeding any farther. He said that they had their guns unslnng, their robes off, their lances were poised, their bows 6trung, and they were prancing about on their ponies, certainly getting ready for a fight. Upon this intelligence the major closed up his small column, and, sending his scouts on, kept all his force on the alert in momentary expectation of hearing the wild, ringing warwhoop of the bloodthirsty Kiowas echo over the prairie. The savages did ïiot make their appearance then, liowcvor, and the uow excited little command arrived at (Hinarron, crossing long before dark. Going into camp at the usual gpot, the wagons and ambulances were corralled, and every preparation made for the anticipated charge of the Indians. The venturesome little outfit was well armed, the majority of its members with that most effective weapon, the Martini-Henry rifle, aud f elt thernselves equal to the offer of battle, though it carne from even a hundred times their uumber of dirty savages. Iminediately after the camp had been established and all was in readiness to givo Satanta and his innumerable scalp hunters a warm reception, a couple of scouts were sent out to make a reconnoissance of the condition of afiairs in front. They returned in about an hour, having successfully made their way to within a few hundred yards of the gathering savages. They discovered them concentrated in the sand billa on the south side of the Arkansas, numbering more than 1,000 warriors, according to their best judgment, and were evidently awareof the proximityof thepaymaster and his escort, for they, as the cavalryman had before reported, were going through their savage tactics usually preparatory to an attack. Major Smith gave positive orders for no one to fire a shot at the Indians until they committed the overt act by commencing the attack. One of the : lotis provisions of the so called "peace policy," inaugurated at Washington by the huruanitarians in congress was that no officer or enlisted man of the regnlar army, under any circumstances, was to ' shoot at au Indian unless the savage himself commenced hostilities, under the penalty of punishment by court martial. It is safe to presume, however, that the order was better observed in the breach than in its performance, for no oue was quite fooi enough to permit an Inclian toget the "drop onhim," not on the plains or in the mountains at least. All stood ready, however, with rifles at a carry, to repel the first demonstrationof hostileintent. They did not have j to w.tit long. With a blood curdling yell Satanta, at the head of his warriors, charged furiously on the little camp, thinking, no doubt, they could ride over it like a herd of buffalo tumbling over a bluff. They had a very poor conception, however, of the mettle of the few determined men who stood behind that cordon of half a dozen wagons ; men who were familiar with all their devilish tactics, who hadencountered the noble savage more than once on his own heath. Down they came, riding like the tornado, making the usnally quiet spot resound with their unearthly yells - such yells as only the plains Indians eau give ntterance to. Bang, bang! went their guns. Whiz-z-z! showered the arrows around the camp, one of which stuck right through the top of themajor's ambulance, but their efforts were in vain They could not make those men waver, all of whom had passed eventful lives on the plains and wereperfectly at home to such warlike demonstrations on the part of "poor Lo. " Now came the moment for them to act. The major gave the word, and clearly, as one discharge, rang out on the evening air the repeating rifles of the besieged. So effective was the restilt that the savages, as quickly as they ever did in their whole lives, threw themselves on the off side of their ponies and Bcattered mighty lively for the frieudly shelter of the "sand dunes," out of the reach of the unerring balls from the magnificent weapons of the victorious little party. It was give and take, the paymaster'a handful of men holding the vicious horde of Satanta.'s warriors at bay, after repeated charges, until the next morning. During thenight Major Smith had dispatched one of his trusty scouts to Fort Dodge to inform thecommander of that post of the situation of affairs at Cimarrón crossing, and requesting aid immediately. Acompany of the famous Seventh cavalry - Custer's regiment - was ordered out at once, and ty a f orced march, leaving the garrison at midnight, arrived at the crossing at 4 o'clock without the Indians having the slightest idea of their coming. The latter, full of brilliant hopes, were just making ready for one of their daybreak charges, that hour in which they lovewell tocommit their devilish deeds. But as they were in the act of crawling stealthily toward the watchful little campeóme of their "runners" saw the cavalry approaching, aud the whole band of savages fled, afraid to attack the boys whose flashing sabers had done such effective work among them on more than one occasion. So the besieged party were relieved from their embarrassing situation. There is no doubt that if it had not been for the opportune arrival of the troops the payrnaster and his escort, together with his "strong box, " would have fallen a prey to such an overwhelming f orce of savages; their ammunition would have shortly become exhausted. The Indians would havecontinued to annoy them, and they would have been obliged to succumb, perhape not one left to teil the story of their capture and eventually terrible death


Ann Arbor Argus
Old News