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.
The Sioux Indians signed a treaty September 17, 1851, in which it was stipulated they would be responsible that their people did no harm to the whites. The government agreed to prevent white men from wandering through the Sioux country and to pay them annuities for ten years. But the emigrants kept traveling through this area killing the game, and since there was no redress from the government the Indians began to act in a hostile manner. After several soldiers had been killed near Fort Laramie, Wyoming, while trying to arrest an Indian offender, the War Department decided to send an expedition against them.
Colonel Harney, then on leave in Paris, was selected to command the punitive force and hurried home in the early part of 1855 to receive the appointment. The units to compose the expedition were portions of the Second, Sixth, and Tenth Infantry, a battery of the Fourth Artillery, and Companies D, E, H, and K, Second Dragoons. After assembling this force at Fort Kearney, Nebraska, Colonel Harney marched west on August 24, 1855. When within several days’ march of Ash Hollow, he learned that the Brule and Oglala Sioux were encamped a few miles north of that place. As these were the tribes committing most of the depredations, he marched there without the knowledge of the hostiles.
Colonel Harney’s plan of battle was that the infantry should attack the enemy front at daylight and the cavalry should make a circuitous route and attack from the rear. Upon the approach of the soldiers the Brule chief advanced, carrying a white flag, and insisted the Indians were friends of the whites. Colonel Harney told them to go back to camp and defend themselves. In a few minutes the infantry advanced and opened fire. Meantime, Companies E and K, Second Dragoons, and a company of the Fourth Artillery and Tenth Infantry under Lieutenant Colonel Cooke marched about ten miles and reached a position in rear of the hostiles without being seen. Upon hearing the first firing of the infantry they mounted and galloped closer to get a more favorable position for attack. When the Indians saw they were about to be surrounded, they fled in every direction.
In the running fight for several miles, five dragoons were killed and seven wounded. Lieutenant Colonel Cooke’s bugler wrote:
“When our boys saw their comrades fall, they fought like tigers. And when the glorious charge rang out from my old bugle, you might have seen K and E dash en masse down the almost perpendicular mountain, where they met the Indian warriors hand to hand. We made them bight the dust in dozens.”