ONE HUNDRED YEARS WITH THE SECOND CAVALRY
By Joseph I. Lambert, Major, Second Cavalry
Copyright 1939 Commanding Officer, Second Cavalry, Fort Riley, Kansas
Capper Printing Company, Inc.
Company L reached Fort Ellis as an escort to General Sherman on August 2, 1877. While preparing to escort its distinguished visitor to the Yellowstone Park, the company received an order from Colonel Gibbon to report to him at once. Leaving the fort that same day, it marched the 160 miles without stops except to feed the men and horses. Upon arrival at the Big Hole battlefield, it was found the Indians had fled. Company L was then ordered to join General Howard, who had also come to the relief of Colonel Gibbon, in pursuit of them.
From here the trail led southeast back and forth across the continental divide to Camas Meadows, Idaho, just west of Yellowstone Park. Although the trail was easy to follow, the Indians were difficult to catch as they were traveling lighter than the troops. After almost continuous marching, General Howard decided to let the command rest on the night of August 19. Just before dawn the next morning the Nez Perces slipped into camp and by the discharge of firearms and much yelling and whooping, stampeded the herd of the pack train. This was a serious loss and the General took steps to pursue at once.
Company L, Second Cavalry, under Captain Norwood, and two companies of the First Cavalry were sent to rescue the herd. About fifty of the animals which had strayed were captured a few miles from camp before reaching the Indians. The three companies pursued on a broad front, with one company of the First Cavalry on the right, Company L, Second Cavalry, in the center, and one company of the First Cavalry on the left. After a rapid march of about eight miles they overtook the Indians and went into dismounted action.
The Indians began a spirited fight at once. In a short time they had turned the flanks of the two companies of the First Cavalry on the right and left. All of the cavalry were then ordered to take up a position in the rear. The hurried withdrawal of the two companies of the First Cavalry made it difficult for Company L, Second Cavalry, to extricate itself at once. Finally it withdrew to a position in a grove of trees about 500 yards to the rear and prepared for a defense. Meanwhile, the companies of the First Cavalry had gone further back. After sniping by both sides for four hours, the Indians withdrew, leaving Company L in possession of the field until the arrival of General Howard with reenforcements.
The casualties in this fight were two killed and four wounded in the Second Cavalry. The following men were decorated with the Congressional Medal of Honor for bravery in this action: First Sergeant Henry Wilkins, Corporal Harry Garland, Farrier William H. Jones, and Private Wilfred Clark. The first three had already been cited for their conduct in the Lame Deer fight on May 7.