ESCAPE FROM BIG HORN MOUNTAINS

From:
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.

IWWhile awaiting reenforcements at his camp on Goose Creek, General Crook decided to send out a reconnoitering party northwestward to try to locate the Indian village. Lieutenant Frederick W. Sibley, Company E, Second Cavalry, with twenty-five picked men from Companies A, B, D, E, and I, was chosen to command the unit. Scouts Frank Gruard and Baptiste Pourier, and a newspaperman, John F. Finerty, accompanied the expedition. Leaving camp in the afternoon of July 6, 1876, the party marched cautiously that night, arriving in the vicinity of the Little Big Horn, a distance of about fifty miles, the following morning.

Scout Gruard soon discovered a large war party of Sioux, led by White Antelope. As the troops were greatly outnumbered and had not been discovered, it was decided to try to elude them. The guide led them west toward the Big Horn Mountains where few Indians were ever found. The path went through natural parks and meadows, bordered by woods and rocks. Late in the afternoon, when it was thought they had eluded the savages, they were fired upon from a nearby wood. Galloping for the nearest cover, they dismounted in the edge of a grove of trees. The Indians had soon killed several of the horses, making escape mounted more unlikely. Meantime, many more savages had arrived, extending the line until the little party was nearly surrounded.

Upon the advice of the scouts, Lieutenant Sibley decided to abandon the horses and attempt to escape through the mountains. Taking with them the extra ammunition from the saddle bags, the little party moved out single file through the rocks and trees. By leaving the horses tied where some of them could be seen by the Indians, and then firing more rapidly before leaving, it was hoped the savages would not discover their departure for some time. They soon crossed a branch of the Tongue River and ascended a mountain so steep no mounted men could follow them. Then they heard several volleys in the distance, indicating the hostiles had assaulted their camp.

For two nights and days the band struggled through the most precipitous kind of country, and with no food to eat. They were in such a weakened condition that at one time the scout stated they had made only six miles in four hours. They discovered several parties of Indians but always eluded them. At about 6:30 a.m. July 9, they saw two horses grazing some distance away, and noticing rifles in the gun boots, knew they belonged to cavalrymen. It was a group of men from their own regiment out hunting. A messenger was sent to camp and soon Captains Dewees and Rawolle, Second Cavalry, arrived with led horses and provisions. They had escaped without the loss of a man due to the courage of Lieutenant Sibley and the ingenuity of the two scouts.

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