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首页 » 英文名人传记 » Lives of Famous Indian Chiefs » CHAPTER XIV.
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This remarkable man, and greatest Indian since Tecumseh, was born, according to his own statement, in eastern Oregon, in the year 1841.
In the North American Review, of April, 1879, is an article dictated by Joseph, in which he states that his tribe was originally called the Chute-pa-lu, and gives the origin of the name Nez Perces (nose pierced), as applied to them, as follows:
"We did not know there were other people besides the Indian until about one hundred winters ago, when some men with white faces came to our country. They brought many things with them to trade for furs and skins. They brought tobacco, which was new to us. They also brought guns with flint stones on them, which frightened our women and children.
"Our people could not talk with these white-faced men, but they used signs which all people understand. These men were Frenchmen, and they called our people 'Nez Perces,' because they wore rings in their noses for ornaments. Although very few of our people wear them now, we are still called by the same name.
"The first white men of your people who came to our country were named Lewis and Clark. They also brought many things our people had never seen. They talked straight and our people gave them a great feast, as proof that their hearts were friendly. These men were very kind. They made presents to our chiefs and our people made presents to them. We had a great many horses, of which we gave them what they needed, and they gave us guns and tobacco in return. All the Nez Perces made friends with Lewis and Clark, and agreed to let them pass through their country, and never to make war on white men. This promise the Nez Perces have never broken. No white man can accuse them of bad faith and speak with a straight tongue. It has always been the pride of the Nez Perces that they were the friends of the white men."
Chief Joseph's father was also a chief, and called Joseph. It seems that this name was given to him by Rev. Mr. Spaulding, who was associated with Dr. Marcus Whitman, and at one time a missionary to the lower Nez Perces.
A strange man was old Joseph, a sturdy, strong-built man with a will of iron and a foresight that never failed him, save when he welcomed the Americans to his country. He had some strange notions, too, one of which was that "no man owned any part of the earth, and a man could not sell what he did not own." He seems to have been an aboriginal Henry George in his idea that ownership in land should be limited to occupancy.
In 1855 Governor Stevens and Rev. Mr. Spaulding invited all the Nez Perces to a treaty council. Old Joseph was present, and when Mr. Spaulding urged him to sign the treaty, he answered, "Why do you ask me to sign away my country? It is your business to talk to us about spirit matters, and not to talk to us about parting with our land."
When Governor Stevens also urged him to sign the treaty he refused, saying, "I will not sign your paper; you go where you please, so do I; you are not a child. I am no child; I can think for myself. No man can think for me. I have no other home than this. I will not give it up to any man. My people would have no home. Take away your paper, I will not touch it with my hand!"
Old Joseph was as firm as a rock and would never sign way his rights to Wallowa (Winding Water), claiming that it had always belonged to his people and their title should be perpetuated. He even went so far as to enclose the entire tract with poles firmly planted in the ground, and said, "Inside this boundary is the home of my people. The white man may take the land outside. Within this boundary all our people were born. It circles around the graves of our fathers, and we will never give up these graves to any man."
Deluded old Joseph! Vain was your effort; nor would a Chinese wall have long been an effectual barrier against the encroachments of the whites, who had seen and coveted the beautiful valley of the "Winding Waters." Ere long white settlers established homes inside the boundaries of the aged chief, in spite of his remonstrance. And the United States Government, instead of protecting him in his rights, coolly claimed that it had bought all the Nez Perces country outside of Lapwai reservation from Chief Lawyer and others.
On account of these encroachments another treaty was made in 1863. By this time old Joseph had become blind and feeble, and could no longer speak for his people. It was then that young Joseph took his father's place as chief, and made his first speech to white men. Said he to the agent who held the council: "I did not want to come to this council, but I came, hoping that we could save blood. The white man has no right to come here and take our country. We have never accepted any presents from the Government. Neither Lawyer nor any other chief had authority to sell this land. It has always belonged to my people. It came unclouded to them from our fathers, and we will defend this land as long as a drop of Indian blood warms the hearts of our men."
The agent told Joseph he had orders from the Great White Chief at Washington for his band to go upon the Lapwai Reservation, and that if they obeyed he would help them in many ways. "You must move to the agency," he said. To which Joseph replied, "1 will not. I do not need your help; we have plenty, and we are contented and happy if the white man will let us alone. The reservation is too small for so many people with all their stock. You can keep your presents; we can go to your towns and pay for all we need; we have plenty of horses and cattle to sell, and we won't have any help from you; we are free now; we can go where we please. Our fathers were born here. Here they lived, here they died, here are their graves. We will never leave them." The agent went away, and the Indians had peace for a little while.
In his narrative young Joseph said, "Soon after this my father sent for me. I saw he was dying. I took his hand in mine. He said: 'My son, my body is returning to my mother earth, and my spirit is going very soon to see the Great Spirit Chief. When I am gone, think of your country. You are the chief of these people. They look to you to guide them. Always remember that your father never sold his country. You must stop your ears whenever you are asked to sign a treaty selling your home. A few years more and white men will be all around you. They have their eyes on this land. My son, never forget my dying words. This country holds your father's body. Never sell the bones of your father and your mother.' I pressed my father's hand and told him I would protect his grave with my life. My father smiled and passed away to the spirit land. I buried him in that beautiful valley of 'Winding Waters.' I love that land more than all the rest of the world. A man who would not love his father's grave is worse than a wild animal."
Spoken like the noble son of an equally noble sire. Inspired by such words of burning patriotism, is it any wonder that young Joseph resisted the encroachments of the whites and the machinations of the Government authorities to the bitter end, and not only gave them "a run for their money," but the most stubbornly contested campaign of all our Indian wars?
Chief Joseph, of the Nez Perces, was more than six feet in height, of magnificent physique, strikingly handsome and graceful, with a native dignity, and a mind of great strength. He was a true patriot and in defense of his country evinced the genius of a natural born general, and could he have received the training of West Point, he would have become the peer of Grant, Lee or Sherman. He conducted, as will be seen, one of the most skilful and masterly retreats in the annals of warfare.
Chief Joseph
He was, moreover, as eloquent as Logan or Red Jacket, and a gifted logician, who could not be refuted. He disposed of the question in dispute in a manner that was at once logical and unanswerable. Said he, "If we ever owned the land we own it still, for we never sold it. In the treaty councils the commissioners have claimed that our country had been sold to the government. Suppose a white man should come to me and say, 'Joseph, I like your horses and I want to buy them.' I say to him, 'No, my horses suit me; I will not sell them.' Then he goes to my neighbor and says to him, 'Joseph has some good horses. I want to buy them, but he refuses to sell.' My neighbor answers, 'Pay me the money and I will sell you Joseph's horses.' The white man returns to me and says, 'Joseph, I have bought your horses and you must let me have them.' If we sold our lands to the government this is the way they were bought."
After the wrong was consummated, when Joseph was permitted to go to Washington and talk to our wise men, he said, "I have asked some of the great white chiefs where they get their authority to say to the Indian that he shall stay in one place, while he sees white men going where they please. They can not tell me." That question will never be answered.
In his report of September, 1875, Gen. O. O. Howard said, "I think it a great mistake to take from Joseph and his band of Nez Perces Indians that (the Wallowa) valley. The white people really do not want it. They wish to be bought out. I think gradually this valley will be abandoned by the white people, and possibly Congress can be induced to let these really peaceable Indians have this poor valley for their own."
Lieut.-Col. H. Clay Wood was another member of the commission who, in his report of August 1, 1876, on "The Status of young Joseph and his band of Nez Perces Indians," gave his opinion that the Government had so far failed to comply with its agreements in the treaty of 1855; that none of the Nez Perces were bound by it. He also made a minority report as commissioner, recommending that although Joseph's band would have to be moved eventually, yet that, "until Joseph commits some overt act of hostility, force should not be used to put him upon any reservation."
The other members of the commission, D. H. Jerome, William Stickney and A. C. Barstow, must have made a very different report, for certain it is, the Department of the Interior, acting on its recommendations, ordered the non-treaties to be placed on the Lapwai reservation.
By virtue of his office as commander of that district, General Howard was the agent to enforce this order. He met the non-treaties in May, and found, as he must have anticipated, that they were unwilling to go on the reservation.
General Howard held three councils with the malcontent Indians at Fort Lapwai, the station of the Indian agency for the Nez Perces reservation, said to be the loveliest valley of Idaho. The last of these councils, that of May 7, 1877, was indeed a stormy session. The principal speaker on this occasion was Too-Hool-Hool-Suit, who was a dreamer as well as a prophet, priest and chief. He taught that the earth having been created by God in its completeness, should not be interfered with, disturbed or improved by man, and that if the Indians continued steadfast in their belief, a great leader would be raised up in the East, at a single blast of whose trumpet all the dead warriors would start suddenly into life, and that the millions of braves thus collected would expel the white man from the continent of America, and repossess it for their own dusky race. The old dreamer was a man of great importance and remarkable influence among the Indians.
As the council proceeded, Too-Hool-Hool-Suit arose and said to General Howard: "The Great Spirit Chief made the world as it is, and as he wanted it, and he made a part of it for us to live upon. I do not see where you get authority to say that we shall not live where he placed us." Chief Joseph says General Howard now lost his temper, and said: "Shut up! I don't want to hear any more such talk. The law says you shall go upon the reservation to live, and I want you to do so, but you persist in disobeying the law [meaning the treaty]. If you do not move I will take the matter into my own hand and make you suffer for your disobedience."
Too-Hool-Hool-Suit answered: "Who are you, that you ask us to talk, and then tell me I shan't talk? Are you the Great Spirit? Did you make the world? Did you make the sun? Did you make the river to run for us to drink? or the grass to grow? Did you make all these things, that you talk to us as though we were boys? If you did, then you have the right to talk as you do."
General Howard replied, "You are an impudent fellow, and I will put you in the guard-house," and then ordered a soldier to arrest him. Too-Hool-Hool-Suit made no resistance. He asked General Howard: "Is that your order? I don't care. I have expressed my heart to you. I have nothing to take back. I have spoken for my country. You can arrest me, but you can not change me or make me take back what I have said."
Continuing, Joseph said: "The soldiers came forward and seized my friend and took him to the guard-house. My men whispered among themselves whether they should let this thing be done. I counseled them to submit. If I had said nothing, General Howard would never have given another unjust order against my men. I saw the danger, and, while they dragged Too-Hool-Hool-Suit to prison, I arose and said: 'I am going to talk now. I don't care whether you arrest me or not.' I turned to my people and said: 'The arrest of Too-Hool-Hool-Suit was wrong, but we will not resent the insult. We were invited to this council to express our hearts, and we have done so.' Too-Hool-Hool-Suit was a prisoner five days before he was released."
This Indian chief was, therefore, put under military arrest and confined for five days for delivering himself of what General Howard calls a "tirade" in a council to which the Indians had been invited to come for the purpose of consultation and expression of sentiment. As the Indian Commissioner, in his Annual Report for 1878, well says, "If such and so swift penalty as this, for 'tirades' in council were the law of our land, especially in the District of Columbia, it would be 'no just cause of complaint' when Indians suffer for it. But considering the frequency, length and safety of 'tirades' in all parts of America, it seems unjust not to permit Indians to deliver them. However, they do come under the head of 'spontaneous productions of the soil;' and an Indian on a reservation is invested with no such proprietorship in anything which comes under that head."
The position of the Government was now plain to the Indians. They must go to the reservation or fight. They decided to go. Joseph wrote: "I said in my heart that rather than have war I would give up my country. I would give up my father's grave. I would give up everything rather than have the blood of white men upon the hands of my people. General Howard refused to allow me more than thirty days to move my people and their stock. I said to him, 'My people have always been the friends of the white man. Why are you in such a hurry? I can not get ready to move in thirty days. Our stock is scattered, and Snake River is very high. Let us wait until fall, then the river will be low. We want time to hunt up our stock and gather supplies for winter. We want the people who live upon the lands we are to occupy at Lapwai to have time to gather their harvest."
General Howard replied, "If you let the time run over one day, the soldiers will be there to drive you on the reservation, and all your cattle and horses outside the reservation at that time will fall into the hands of the white men."
It does seem that this great haste was unnecessary and positively cruel, and that those Indians should have been given time to collect their stock, their sole means of subsistence, and get them safely over the river. But the theory is we must have firmness in dealing with the Indian, if we have nothing else; yet this time it proved to be a serious and costly blunder. Joseph truly said, "If General Howard had given me plenty of time to gather up my stock and treated Too-Hool-Hool-Suit as a man should be treated, there would have been no war."
The Indians went to make their preparations; they looked on their old home and their love for it increased at the thought that they were about to be deprived of it by fraud, even though they had never sold or signed it away. Too-Hool-Hool-Suit's indignation burned because of his imprisonment for the offense of telling his convictions in the council, the very thing he was expected to do. There was a warrior whose father had been killed by a white man, and the wrong was unrebuked. There were the two warriors who had been whipped by one Harry Mason. These formed a war party, and determined, over Joseph's counsel, to fight the soldiers when they came. It is said that at this time, Chief Joseph rode one day through his village, with a revolver in each hand, saying he would shoot the first one of his warriors who resisted the Government. Finally, they gathered all the stock they could find, preparatory to moving. A heavy rain raised the river so high some of the cattle could not be taken across. Indian guards were put in charge of the cattle left behind. White men attacked these guards and took the cattle. After this Joseph could not restrain his young men and the warfare began.
It was the desire of Joseph and others that the settlers should not be molested, in the hope that they would remain neutral; but it was voted down in the war-council, on the grounds that it was the settlers who brought on all the trouble, because they wanted the Nez Perces' land and stock, and, in fact, some of them actually got both.
The Indians now bought arms and ammunition wherever they could. They practiced military movements, in which they were already quite proficient. General Shanks says that "Joseph's party was thoroughly disciplined; that they rode at full gallop along the mountain side in a steady formation by fours; formed twos, at a given signal, with perfect precision, to cross a narrow bridge; then galloped into line, reined in to a sudden halt, and dismounted with as much system as regulars."
June 18 arrived; the thirty days were up; the soldiers had not come. Over on Salmon River three Indians killed an old hermit ranch man named Devine. The taste of blood whetted their appetites, and the next day four more fell victims. Mounting their horses, they hurried to Camas Prairie, where the main body of Indians was encamped. Riding through the camp they displayed the spoils of their bloodshed and exhorted the others to join them. Joseph and his brother, Ollacut, were not in the camp; they had placed their tepees some distance from the others, on account of Joseph's wife, who was sick and wanted quiet. White Bird, the next in rank and influence, gave way. Riding through the camp, he exclaimed, "All must join now. There is blood. You will be punished if you delay." Seventeen warriors joined the three and they hurried back to Salmon River. Eight more fell victims to them, including Harry Mason, who had whipped the two Indians.
On the night of June 14 another party attacked the people of the Cottonwood House, a ranch used as a frontier inn, on the road between Mount Idaho and Fort Lapwai. At ten o'clock they were warned by a messenger of the approaching Indians, and hurriedly started to Mount Idaho, two on horseback, the rest, including several women and children, in a farm wagon.
When they had covered ten miles of their journey they were overtaken by the Indians. Two men and a boy were killed and the others badly wounded, two men subsequently dying of their injuries.
Joseph protested against hostilities until he saw that war was inevitable. He then took command and moved his warriors to White Bird ca?on, where they prepared to fight the soldiers. Nor had they long to wait. Colonel Perry, at the head of ninety soldiers, was soon on the road from Fort Lapwai. On the evening of the 16th he reached Grangerville, four miles from Mount Idaho, where he was joined by ten citizens. Marching on through the night, he reached White Bird ca?on at daylight and began the descent of the broad trail, hoping to surprise the Indians. But the vigilant Joseph's keen eye was the first to discover the group of horsemen silhouetted against the sky at the head of the ca?on, just as the sun was rising. "Get the white man's glass I Tell White Bird. Horses! The soldiers are here!" he shouted in command.
Some of his young men became a little nervous as they saw the soldiers approaching and suggested that it would be better to move across the Salmon River, where the soldiers could not reach them. "No." said Joseph, "we will fight them here." The women and children were sent across the river and a party of mounted warriors under White Bird took a position in ambush behind a ridge on the south side of the ca?on. The rest, under Joseph, were crouched on the ground, squarely across the trail, hidden behind rocks and in hollows. On came the soldiers until well within range, when every bush and rock poured out its fire. At the same time White Bird's men appeared on the left and poured in another deadly volley. The soldiers were falling fast, and the order was shouted to fall back to the next ridge. This was immediately done, but with the enemy at their heels there was no time to stop. While the officers were trying to rally their men the Indians were pressing along the sides of the ca?on to gain the head and cut off retreat. Part of the command reached the ascent and hurried out. The remainder, under Lieutenant Theller, were cut off, and most of them, including the gallant lieutenant, were killed. Across the rugged country the Indians pursued the flying troops for twelve miles. But once out of that death trap the officers obtained control, and the retreat was conducted with some degree of order. Four miles from Mount Idaho Joseph withdrew his men. He had fought and won his first battle, even though largely outnumbered by his enemy.
Joseph says of this encounter: "We numbered in that battle sixty men, and the soldiers one hundred. The fight lasted but a few minutes before the soldiers retreated. They lost thirty-three killed, and had seven wounded. When an Indian fights, he only shoots to kill; but soldiers shoot at random. None of the soldiers were scalped. We do not believe in scalping nor in killing wounded men. Soldiers do not kill many Indians unless they are wounded and left upon the battlefield. Then they kill Indians."
The military reputation of the Nez Perces was altered. It would require a stronger force to subdue them. Reinforcements were ordered from all the neighboring forts. Skirmishing and minor engagements continued.
While waiting for these reinforcements a detachment was sent under Captain Whipple to attack Chief Looking-Glass and his band, and bring them in before they had time to join the hostiles. Whipple discovered the red men in the neighborhood of Mount Idaho, and dispatched Lieutenant Rains with ten picked men and a scout named Foster to reconnoiter. Following this advance-guard at a distance of a mile with his main force, the sound of firing was heard at the front. Hurrying forward with his command, Whipple was horrified to find that Rains and every man in his detachment had been killed. A company of seventeen volunteers, under Captain Randall, was attacked on the Mount Idaho road; two were killed and two wounded. All would have been cut to pieces, had not Captain Whipple and his company hurried to the rescue. As to Looking Glass, his camp was destroyed, and seven hundred and twenty-five ponies captured, but he and his warriors all escaped and joined Joseph.
Meantime, General Howard was at Fort Lapwai impatiently waiting for reinforcements. But the accounts of Indian horrors came so thick and fast that further delay, though desirable, was yet impossible.
Mason, in his account of this expedition, says: "The little band of men—cavalry and infantry—together with an old mountain howitzer and two Gatling guns, are drawn up in marching order. The train of pack-mules, with their immense loads of ammunition and provision, move restlessly back and forward in the parade-ground. The trained white mare, with the tinkling bell attached to her neck, stands thoughtful and attentive, ready to lead her restless followers along the stony trail."
Buckskin Charlie
"The last farewells are said. The last mule pack is adjusted. The last red-shirted artillery man takes his stand by his gun. There is a moment of quiet. Suddenly the commanding officer shouts, 'Attention!' and then a moment later, 'Column, march!' Every man steps off with his right foot. The cavalry are in front. The proud bell-mare, with her cavalcade of mules, stubborn to all else, but to her yielding the most perfect obedience, {FN} follow, and behind them, in column of fours, come the infantry."
{FN} The author's father has taken large droves of mules from Lexington, Kentucky, on foot to New Orleans, with no help but one assistant and an old white mare. If this queen of the drove was inclined to bite or kick her followers on the slightest provocation, her influence over them, was wonderful. Without her no fence would hold them overnight; with her in their midst no fence was necessary, for where she was there would they be also.
On July 11, General Howard and his little army of four hundred fighting men, besides teamsters and train men, came in sight of the enemy.
Joseph, at the head of about three hundred warriors, had crossed the country to the Lapwai reservation and taken a position on the Clearwater, and was waiting to give battle, having erected breast works of the most approved pattern.
This was done with the assistance of the squaws, who fought as hard as the men, and, as usual, worked harder.
The soldiers advanced in line of battle, leaving the supply trains unguarded. From the high point of vantage he had taken, Joseph was quick to notice this and dispatched thirty warriors to attack them. An officer with his field glass caught this movement just in time to send a messenger to warn them to hurry into the lines. A company of cavalry also galloped to their protection. The Indians gained the smaller train, killed two packers and disabled their animals, but were driven off by the fire of the cavalry. The large train, however, gained the lines uninjured. The battle raged all that afternoon, with its charges and counter charges, its feinting and fighting. During the night both parties kept up a desultory fire while strengthening their positions. The battle was renewed in the morning, and continued with no perceptible advantage to either side until the middle of the afternoon. At that time a fresh company of cavalry re?nforced General Howard's command. The troops now redoubled their effort by charging the enemy's line on the left. For a short time the Indians fought desperately from behind their rocky breastworks, but at length gave way and fled in all directions, bounding from rock to rock through the ravines, or plunging into the river out of sight only to reappear when its swift current had borne them out of range. The victorious troops pressed them so closely that the Indian camp, with its blankets, buffalo robes and cooking utensils fell into their hands. The Indians, however, made their escape with their herds and sufficient supplies for their purpose, and before the soldiers could cross the Clearwater, a large body of warriors was seen on the right front, apparently returning for an attack. While preparations were being made to meet this force, the remainder, of the Indians continued their flight and escaped. The returning warriors, having accomplished their purpose by this feint, shortly disappeared. In the morning the troops continued to pursue the retreating Indians, only to fall into an ambush by the rear-guard of the Nez Perces, and be thrown into confusion.
As Dunn says: "Night found the Indians safely encamped in an almost impregnable position, at the entrance of Lolo trail. Joseph had fought his second battle, against heavy odds, and though beaten, had brought off his forces most creditably."
Finding they were largely outnumbered, the Indians retreated through the mountain pass to Bitter Root valley, over what General Sherman says "Is universally admitted by all who have traveled it—from Lewis and Clark to Captain Winters—as one of the worst trails for man and beast on this continent." The Nez Perces came safely over this trail, encumbered with their women and children and herds.
In the valley of the Lou-Lou they were confronted by a hastily built fort, held by Captain Rawn with a few regulars and some volunteers. Looking-Glass said to them, "We will not fight the settlers if they do not fight us. We are going by you to the buffalo country. Will you let us go in peace?" Rawn replied, "you can not go by us." To this the Indian answered, "We are going by you without fighting if you will let us, but we are going by you anyhow."
The volunteers now interfered, and told the commander the Nez Perces had always been "good Indians." The settlers on the Bitter Root had no grounds for complaint in their conduct, as they passed each year to and from the buffalo country. Besides, in the expressive frontier phrase, "they had not lost any Indians," and consequently were not hunting for any. The Indians might pass, and God speed them out of the country.
The Nez Perces not only passed by in peace, but they stopped at the villages of Stevensville and Corvallis and traded with the whites. They also left a spy at Corvallis, who stopped until Howard had come up and passed on, and then sped away to Joseph with full particulars.
Meantime General Gibbon, with about two hundred cavalry, had hastened from Helena across to Fort Missoula, on the Bitter Root, but arrived too late to intercept Joseph. Gibbon followed the Indian trail, and overtook them August 8. Waiting through the night for "that dark still hour which is just before the dawn," he swept through the camp in a furious charge, completely surprising the Indians. It seems that Joseph and his men supposed the war was over, and having started to the buffalo country, were careless about posting sentinels. Though taken by surprise, General Joseph rallied his warriors and recaptured the camp. He also drove the soldiers back to a grove of timber, where they erected rude barricades, and made a stand.
Joseph said of General Gibbon: "Finding that he was not able to capture us, he sent to his camp for his big guns (cannon), but my men had captured them and all the ammunition. We damaged the big guns all we could and carried away the powder and lead." At eleven o'clock that night the Indians withdrew, leaving Gibbon wounded and his command so crippled that it could not pursue. Joseph had fought and won his third battle.
The Nez Perces remained long enough to bury their dead, but when General Howard joined Gibbon at this place, his Bannock scouts, ghoul-like, dug up the bodies, and in the presence of officers and men, scalped and mutilated them. The body of Looking-Glass, their ablest diplomat, who fell here, was abused in this manner, although the Nez Perces, being neither civilized nor the allies of civilization, neither took scalps nor mutilated. It is also their proud boast that they never made war on women and children while the war lasted. Joseph said "We would feel ashamed to do so cowardly an act."
Continuing the retreat, Joseph and his band crossed the continental divide again into Idaho, and camped on the great Camas prairie, on the Yellowstone, west of the National Park. He had replenished his supplies, captured two hundred and fifty good horses, and his forces were in excellent condition. General Howard's troops also camped in the prairie a day's march behind. Lieutenant Bacon had been dispatched with a squad of men to hold Tacher's Pass, the most accessible roadway over the divide into the park. The pickets and sentinels were posted, and the weary troopers were soon sleeping, unconscious of war's alarms.
In the faint starlight dark forms might have been seen creeping through the tall grass. Halter ropes and hobbles were cut and bells removed from the necks of the bell-mares. Creeping away in the same manner, but with less caution, a slight noise was made. "What was that?" asked a picket of a comrade. "Nothing but a prowling wolf," was the reply. For some time nothing could be heard in the camp but the regular foot falls of the sentinel. Suddenly a troop of horsemen came in sight, riding back over the trail of the Indians. They rode in column of fours, regularly and without haste. "It must be Bacon's men returning," said the pickets. On came the troopers to the very lines of the camp, but when they were challenged by the sentinel they answered with a war-whoop. At once pandemonium was let loose. A wild yell arose, followed by a fusillade of small arms, which startled the soldiers and stampeded the horses and mules, which were seen scampering away, with heads in the air, nostrils spread, snorting with excitement, followed by the Indians, yelling like demons. We must credit the great chieftain with a successful surprise.
The Nez Perces next eluded Bacon and retreated through Tacher's Pass into the beautiful National Park. In the region of the hot springs and geysers, they met a party of travelers. It consisted of Mr. Cowan, his wife, sister-in-law, brother-in-law and two guides. Three of the men were left for dead, but the other, together with the two ladies, were carried into captivity. Horrible fate! General Howard said they were "afterward rescued." But Joseph said, "On the way we captured one white man and two white women. We released them at the end of three days. They were kindly treated."
On September 9 word was brought that General Sturgis was coming from the Powder River country with three hundred and fifty cavalry and some friendly Crows. Joseph was now between the two forces. Can the Indian chieftain again escape? Yes, this savage, with a genius for war which would have made him famous among the military heroes of any age or country, made a feint toward the West, fooling Sturgis, and sending him on a wild-goose chase to guard the trail down the Stinking Water. At the same time Joseph and his people, under cover of a dense forest, made their way into a narrow and slippery ca?on. This was immensely deep, but the almost perpendicular walls were but twenty feet apart. Through this dark chasm slipped and floundered the cavalry and infantry. It must have been a strange sight as the column moved slowly along the bottom of the defile, men, horses, pack-mules and artillery, with only a narrow ribbon of sky high above them. All in vain, Joseph again escaped.
There was but one way to reach them and that was by direct pursuit. All day long the Indians retreated, fighting desperately as they went, and at dark the exhausted soldiers withdrew to camp at the mouth of the ca?on. Nothing had been accomplished during the day except to round up several hundred ponies which had been abandoned by the Nez Perces, while they continued their flight on fresh mounts. March as they would, the soldiers could not diminish the distance between pursued and pursuers.
The Nez Perces retreated up the Musselshell River, and then, circling back of the Judith Mountains, struck the Missouri September 23, at Cow Island. General Joseph had fought his fourth battle, against a greatly superior force, which he had held in check, while he brought off his own people in comparative safety. Crossing the Missouri, the Nez Perces moved on leisurely to the north. Having repulsed the forces of Howard, Gibbon, and Sturgis, each in turn, the Indians began to feel secure. They were now entering a beautiful country, a veritable paradise, lying between the Bear Paw and Little Rocky Mountains. It is also rich in romance and tradition, and the reputed locality of the "Lost Cabin of Montana," the new El Dorado of miners' thoughts by day and dreams by night.
The Indians established their camp on Snake Creek, a tributary of Milk River, within a day's march of the British dominions.
There was yet one hope. Days before, a messenger had embarked in a canoe and started down the Yellowstone River to Fort Keough, to inform Gen. N. A. Miles, the commandant, of the situation. General Miles at once put his forces in order and started northward to intercept the wily Joseph. He reached the Indian camp on the morning of September 30, at the head of three hundred and seventy-five men, and at once began the attack.
The Nez Perces knew of their coming only long enough to take a position in the ravines of the creek valley, and await the attack. General Miles ordered a charge upon the Indian camp, which succeeded in cutting it in two and capturing most of their horses. The soldiers, however, recoiled under the deadly fire of the Indians, with one-fifth of their force killed and wounded.
Joseph's warriors, though surprised, proved themselves worthy of the reputation they had established at Camas prairie, Big Hole and elsewhere, and fought with great valor. The continuous fire and unerring aim of their magazine guns at close range inflicted a loss to General Miles of twenty-six killed and forty wounded, while Joseph's loss for the first day and night was eighteen men and three women.
Each side found foe men worthy of their steel. Never, on any occasion, did the American Indians display more heroic courage, and never did the American soldiers exhibit more unshaken fortitude.
For four days and as many nights the two forces faced each other. The whites controlled the situation, as escape from the ravine was cut off, but were unwilling to attempt to capture the camp by storm. They knew, from their first experience, that such an attempt would involve a terrible loss of life. Meantime, Joseph strengthened his intrenchments and prepared for a siege. He also dispatched a messenger to Sitting Bull, who was just over the line of the British dominions with twelve hundred discontented and hostile Sioux. The hope was that this chief and his warriors would come to their relief; but for some reason Sitting Bull failed them in their extremity.
The Indians could not escape through the lines without abandoning their wounded and helpless. Joseph said of this battle: "We could have escaped from Bear Paw Mountain if we had left our wounded, old women and children behind. We were unwilling to do this. We had never heard of a wounded Indian recovering while in the hands of white men. I could not bear to see my wounded men and women suffer any longer; we had lost enough already. General Miles had promised that we might return to our country with what stock we had left. I believed General Miles, or I never would have surrendered. I have heard that he has been censured for making the promise to return us to Lapwai. He could not have made any other terms with me at that time. I would have held him in check until my friends came to my assistance, and then neither of the generals nor their soldiers would have ever left Bear Paw Mountain alive."
On the morning of October 5 Joseph and his band surrendered—those who were left. Ollacut, his brother, had fallen here at Snake Creek, with twenty-seven others. White Bird had flown in the night with a band of one hundred and five, including Joseph's daughter. They reached the British Dominions and joined Sitting Bull. So, to stop any further bloodshed, Chief Joseph now handed his gun to General Miles, in the presence of General Howard, who arrived the day previous with a small escort, and said with impressive dignity: "Tell General Howard I know his heart. What he told me before I have in my heart. I am tired of fighting. Our chiefs are killed. Looking-Glass is dead; Too-Hool-Hool-Suit is dead. The old men are all dead. It is the young men who say yes or no. He who led on the young men (Ollacut) is dead. It is cold and we have no blankets. The little children are freezing to death. My people, some of them, have run away to the hills, and have no blankets, no food; no one knows where they are—perhaps freezing to death. I want to have time to look for my children, and see how many of them I can find. Maybe I shall find them among the dead. Hear me, my chiefs. I am tired; my heart is sick, and sad. From where the sun now stands I will fight no more against the white man forever."
"Thus," says General Sherman, "has terminated one of the most extraordinary Indian wars of which there is any record."
The Indians throughout displayed a courage and skill that elicited universal praise; they abstained from scalping, let captive women go free, did not commit indiscriminate murder of peaceful families, which is usual, and fought with almost scientific skill, using advance and rear guards, skirmish lines and field fortifications.
Comes Out Holy
Gen. Nelson A. Miles, perhaps the greatest living authority, as he is certainly one of our ablest generals and most successful Indian fighters, says in his report: "As these people have been hitherto loyal to the Government, and friends of the white race, from the time their country was first explored, and in their skilful campaign have spared hundreds of lives and thousands of dollars' worth of property, that they might have destroyed, and as they have been, in my opinion, grossly wronged in years past; have lost most of their ponies, property and everything except a small amount of clothing, I have the honor to recommend that ample provision be made for their civilization, and to enable them to become self-sustaining. They are sufficiently intelligent to appreciate the consideration which, in my opinion, is due them from the Government. The Nez Perces are the boldest men, and the best marksmen of any Indians I have encountered, and Chief Joseph is a man of more sagacity and intelligence than any Indian I have ever met. He counseled against the war, and against the usual atrocities practiced by Indians, and is far more humane than such leaders as Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull. The campaign of the Nez Perces is a good illustration of what would be the result of bad faith or ill-treatment toward the large tribes of mountain Indians that occupy most of the Rocky Mountain range."
It must be understood that Joseph surrendered on honorable terms. General Miles said: "I acted on what I supposed was the original design of the Government to place these Indians on their own reservation, and so informed them, and also sent assurances to the war parties that were out and those who had escaped, that they would be taken to Tongue River and retained for a time, and sent across the mountains as soon as the weather permitted in the spring." The Indians understood also that they were to retain what stock they still had. General Howard also concurred in these conditions and gave orders to General Miles to send the Indians to his department in the spring, unless he received "instructions from higher authority."
The terms of this surrender were shamefully violated. Joseph and his band were taken first to Fort Lincoln. Then to Fort Leavenworth, afterward to the Quapaw Agency, Indian Territory. At Leavenworth they were placed between a lagoon and the river, the worst possible place for sanitary conditions that could have been selected, with no water but that of the "Big Muddy" to drink. All were affected by the poisonous malaria of the camp.
Joseph said, "Many of my people sickened and died, and we buried them in this strange land. I can not tell how much my heart suffered for my people while at Leavenworth. The Great Spirit Chief, who rules above, seemed to be looking some other way, and did not see what was being done to my people." Yet he is just and magnanimous enough to add in the same connection: "I believe General Miles would have kept his word if he could have done so. I do not blame him for what we have suffered since the surrender. I do not know who is to blame. We gave up all our horses, over eleven hundred, and all our saddles, over one hundred, and we have not heard from them since. Somehody has got our Horses."
As Helen Hunt Jackson well says in her "Century of Dishonor," "This narrative of Chief Joseph's is profoundly touching; a very Iliad of tragedy, of dignified and hopeless sorrow; and it stands supported by the official records of the Indian Bureau."
The Indian Commissioner, in his Annual Report for 1878, says: "After the arrival of Joseph and his band in Indian Territory, the bad effect of their location at Fort Leavenworth manifested itself in the prostration by sickness at one time of two hundred and sixty out of the four hundred and ten, and within a few months in the death of more than one-quarter of the entire number."
It is gratifying to record that General Miles left no stone unturned to have the conditions of the surrender respected. Some seven years later, when he had been promoted, he succeeded in having Chief Joseph and the remnant of his band returned to the neighborhood of their old home. Joseph and a few others were placed at the Colville Agency, in Washington, and the remainder were put with their people on Lapwai reservation.
A few years ago Chief Joseph attended the commencement exercises of the Carlisle Indian Industrial School, and there sat at the same banquet table with Gen. 0. 0. Howard. The two former foes, but at that time fast friends, toasted each other.
A special correspondent of the Inter Ocean wrote of this incident:
"These two men were the chief opposing figures in a most remarkable Indian war twenty-seven years ago. During this war, in 1877, Chief Joseph's battle line was fourteen hundred miles long. He proved one of the greatest foes who ever fought against an American army, but his present attitude is vastly different, as was shown by his speech at the banquet. He spoke in the Indian language, the literal translation being as follows:
"'Friends, I meet here my friend, General Howard. I used to be so anxious to meet him. I wanted to kill him in war. To-day I am glad to meet him, and glad to meet everybody here, and to be friends with General Howard. We are both old men, still we live, and I am glad. We both fought in many wars and we are both alive. Ever since the war I have made up my mind to be friendly to the whites and to everybody. I wish you, my friends, would believe me as I believe myself in my heart in what I say. When my friend General Howard and I fought together I had no idea that we would ever sit down to a meal together, as to-day, but we have, and I am glad. I have lost many friends and many men, women and children, but I have no grievance against any of the white people, General Howard or any one. If General Howard dies first, of course I will be sorry. I understand and I know that learning of books is a nice thing, and I have some children here in school from my tribe that are trying to learn something, and I am thankful to know there are some of my children here struggling to learn the white man's ways and his books. I repeat again I have no enmity against anybody. I want to be friends to everybody. I wish my children would learn more and more every day, so they can mingle with the white people and do business with them as well as anybody else, I shall try to get Indians to send their children to school.'"
During the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, at St. Louis, in 1904, Chief Joseph was one of the greatest attractions at the Indian Congress, the early part of the season. But the thought of exhibiting himself for money was very distasteful and humiliating to the proud chieftain. This, together with his habit of brooding over the wrongs and afflictions of his unhappy people, brought on a sickness. He went back to the reservation the early part of July, but it was simply going home to die. He lingered along until the 21st day of the following September, when his great soul took its flight to the "Great Spirit Chief," who will judge between him and the Government who (it would almost seem) deliberately wasted and destroyed one of the noblest and most civilized of the native American tribes.
Soon after his death, Dr. E. H. Latham, the agency physician, was interviewed by a newspaper reporter, and he declared that "Joseph had died of a broken heart."
No people on earth have a nobler patriotism, or greater love for their country than the Indians. We doubt not the doctor's diagnosis was correct, and we firmly believe that thousands of other leaders of that race have died of the same malady.
All fair-minded people now believe it was a mistake, and a burning shame, to take the Wallowa valley away from Joseph and his band for the benefit of a few greedy settlers, when there were at that very time teeming millions of acres of land just as good, and open to settlement, throughout eastern Oregon and border States. All the vast treasure and bloodshed would have been saved, and to-day there would have been in that valley of "Winding Water" one of the most civilized, prosperous and progressive Indian settlements in America.
It would actually pay our Government in dollars and cents to mete out the same protection and justice to the Indian as it does to every one else under the flag whose skin is white. Whatever the theory may be, the practice has been to regard the Indian as the legal prey and predestined victim for every white scoundrel who wanted to rob or even murder him, and he was often justified on the theory that "the only good Indian is a dead one."
But it is a long lane that has no turn. Those broken-hearted martyrs, like Joseph, have not died in vain. We seem to be entering on a new era of human brotherhood, in which the value is placed on the jewel rather than the color of the casket containing it. Manhood, worth, virtue, are now sought for and honored even by the proud Anglo-Saxon, regardless of race or color.
The proof of this statement is found in the splendid monument erected by the Washington University State Historical Society over the remains of Chief Joseph.
We are indebted to Prof. Edmond S. Meany, secretary of the above society, for an account of the exercises held at the unveiling and dedication of the monument. This took place at Nespelim, Washington, June 20, 1905, in the presence of a large number of white and Indian friends and admirers of the great chief.
The monument is of white marble and measures seven and one-half feet in height. On the front is carved a fine portrait of the famous warrior. On the base, below this portrait, in large raised letters, appears the name, CHIEF JOSEPH. On one side is his Nez Perce name, Hin-Mah-Too-Yah-Lat-Kekt, and its translation, "Thunder Rolling in the Mountains." On the other side, "He led his people in the Nez Perce war of 1877. Died 21 September, 1904, age, about 60 years," On the back of the shaft: "Erected 20 June, 1905, by the Washington University State Historical Society."
We also received from an Indian correspondent, Tom Eagle Blanket, of Nespelim, a newspaper containing a report of the exercises of the occasion. Several speeches were made by representatives of both races. The principal Indian orator was Yellow Bull, an aged Nez Perce from Montana, who was a sub-chief, next in rank to the younger Joseph, at the time of the war, and fought with him, side by side. Though old and blind. Yellow Bull walked erect and made quite an imposing appearance in his rich Indian dress. He spoke very earnestly, and said in part: "I am very glad to meet you all here to-day, my brothers and sisters, and children and white friends. When the Creator created us, he put us on this earth, and the flowers on the earth, and he takes us all in his arms and keeps us in peace and friendship, and our friendship and peace shall never fade, but it will shine forever. Our people love our old customs. I am very glad to see our white friends here attending this ceremony, and it seems like we all have the same sad feelings, and that would seem like it would wipe my tears. Joseph is dead; but his words are not dead; his words will live forever. This monument will stand—Joseph's words will stand as long as this monument. We (the red and the white people) are both here, and the Great Spirit looks down on us both; and now if we are good and live right, like Joseph, we shall see him. I have finished."
As soon as the two widows of Joseph and other old squaws who were with the fighting Nez Perces during the war heard the voice of Yellow Bull once more, and his words of the dead chieftain, they broke forth into loud wailing, thus proving that Indian women love as devotedly, and mourn for the loved and lost, exactly like their white sisters.
After electing Albert Waters chief, to succeed Joseph, the bands returned to their homes and reservations.


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