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.
During the summer of 1877, reports reached Fort Ellis, Montana, of troubles with the Nez Perce Indians in Idaho under their chief, Joseph. These people, who were friends of the whites, had always occupied the Wallowa Valley. They were in comfortable circumstances, having herds of cattle and horses. Whites had recently been encroaching upon their land, which had been ceded to them by treaty. These white squatters brought influence upon the state government to drive the Indians away and get Congress to give them title to the land. A number of the Indians had been murdered and they retaliated in kind against the settlers. Finally, troops were sent to arrest the alleged Indian culprits. Several sharp engagements took place in which Joseph showed General Howard the Nez Perces were formidable antagonists.
Late in July it was reported that these Indians had moved east into Montana with the intention of escaping to British Columbia. Having heard of the direction the savages had taken, Colonel Gibbon organized a small force at Fort Ellis to intercept the fugitives. The command consisted of four companies of the Seventh Infantry, a group of citizens, and eight men of Company L, Second Cavalry, in all about 180 strong. The latter were used as scouts and succeeded in locating the Nez Perce camp on August 8. Beginning next morning, a desperate engagement lasted two days, during which Colonel Gibbon’s force was so crippled he was unable to follow the savages when they withdrew on the night of the 10th. In this encounter Sergeant Edward Page, Company L, was killed, and Private Wilfred Clark of the same company was cited for gallantry and decorated with the Congressional Medal of Honor.