From Fort Laramie to Wounded Knee: In the West That Was

By Charles W. Allen; Richard E. Jensen | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 25
The Last Fight of North American Indians

On that eventful day of December 29, 1890, we were up shortly after the sun had risen on one of God's glorified, peaceful mornings. In nearby trees the birds were singing their matins. Cooperative quiet prevailed in the military camp, where the last blue fringe of smoke was floating away from company cook-fires. To the initiated, the usual worshipful sunrise singing of Indians from the hilltops near their camp was conspicuous by its absence. Situated as they were, they certainly had little cause to be joyous or thankful, for their hearts must have been filled with sadness and their minds with dark foreboding.

But we who were more fortunate, with no thought of a devil of destruction lurking in a shadowy offing, could feel the tang of life-giving elixir in the soft breeze. This beautiful weather elevated our spirits to a pitch of unusual elation, and yet it was but one of the frequently recurring spells of South Dakota weather which are excelled only in duration (if at all) on any coast in the wide, wide world.

In making our "rough-and-ready" camp toilet that morning we discussed the probabilities of a satisfactory breakfast, and decided that a cup of mooched coffee among the soldier boys would be preferable to a cold meal over the store counter. This accomplished, we sauntered out to find our meal. Noticing a spiral of smoke rising from the roadside near a ravine we had crossed when coming in, we kept on past the main body of tents and soon found ourselves before the tents of the kitchen department, where a kettle-encumbered fire smoldered in the open. Between this fire and the road there lay a mammoth fresh-cut sawlog that, judging from blocks lying at one end of it, served both for fuel and a nice windbreak and dust-break for cooking food. Standing humbly on our side of this log, we accosted a stern-looking cook with the query:

"Mister, have you any coffee that hasn't been used?"

"That's about all I have left," he replied, "except the bacon and hard- tack, but you are welcome to that."

Assuring him that the welcome alone furnished all the condiments necessary, he became busy at once, and, using the big log as a table, we soon partook of an enjoyable meal--bacon sandwiches with hardtack and hot coffee and even sugar if desired.

-191-

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