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- The Great Salt Lake Trail - 60/86 -

to eat wild fruit and berries, and to take plenty of exercise in the open air. There was a plum grove about four miles from the camp, and as this wild fruit was very wholesome, the sick men went out nearly every day to gather it.

One morning, Captain Mitchell, of the Seventh Iowa Cavalry, procured an ambulance, and, taking with him a driver named Anderson, an orderly named Cramer, and seven hospital patients, started for the plum grove. They arrived at the first grove about ten o'clock, and, finding that most of the plums had been gathered, drove on to another grove some three miles farther up the cañon. They were now about seven miles from camp, too far to be safe, but, as no Indians had been seen lately in the country, they did not feel uneasy. At the upper grove they found two soldiers of the First Nebraska Cavalry, named Bentz and Wise, who had been sent out by the quartermaster to look for stray mules, and they had stopped to gather some plums. As both these men were well armed, Captain Mitchell attached them to his party, and felt perfectly secure.

Bentz and Wise went up the cañon a little way, and while eating fruit were suddenly fired on from the bushes by almost a dozen Indians. At the first volley Bentz had his belt cut away by a ball, and lost his revolver. The soldiers turned to fly, but, as they galloped off, another ball entered Bentz' side, desperately wounding him. They now rode down the cañon, hoping to rejoin Captain Mitchell's party, but soon saw a body of Indians riding down the bluff ahead of them, evidently with the design of cutting them off. Wise told Bentz to ride hard, at the same time handing him one of his revolvers, to defend himself in case of emergency. Bentz was very feeble and dizzy, so much so, indeed, that he could barely sit in the saddle.

Wise was mounted on a superb horse belonging to Lieutenant Cutler, which he had taken out to exercise, and, seeing that the Indians would head them off, and that Bentz, who was riding an old mule, could not keep up, he gave the powerful brute rein, and shot down the cañon like an arrow. He passed the intervening Indians in safety, just as three of them dashed out of a pocket in the bluff and cut off poor Bentz.

Wise saw Bentz knocked from his mule, and, knowing it was useless to try to save him, left him to his fate, and thought only of saving his own life. He rode hard for Captain Mitchell, who was not far distant, but before he could reach him another party of Sioux headed him off, and he turned and rode up the bluffs to the flat lands. The Indians pursued him, and made every effort to kill or capture him, but his fine horse bore him out of every danger. Three times he was cut off from the camp, but by taking a wide circuit he managed to ride around the Indians, and at last succeeded in reaching the high road above the camp. As many settlers lived on this road, the Indians did not venture to follow him along it, and he was soon safely housed in the log-cabin of a frontiersman, and relating his adventures.

Meanwhile Captain Mitchell, having seen the fate of Bentz and escape of Wise, made haste to assemble his party, and, lifting those who were too weak to climb into the wagon, they set off for the camp. Mitchell and Anderson were the only two of the party who had arms, but they assured the sick men they would defend them to the last. Anderson took the lines and drove, while Mitchell seated himself in the rear end of the ambulance, with a Henry rifle to keep off the Indians.

They had not gone far before they came upon a large force of warriors drawn across the cañon, to cut off their retreat. The bluffs were very steep and high on both sides of them, and escape seemed impossible; nevertheless Mitchell ordered Anderson to run his team at the right-hand bluff and try and ascend it. The spirited animals dashed up the steep bank and drew the wagon nearly half-way up, when one of the wheels balked and nearly overturned the wagon. A loud yell from the savages, at this moment, so frightened the horses that they sprang forward, and, before they could appreciate it, they were over the bluff on the level prairie, and flying toward the camp at the rate of ten miles an hour.

They now began to hope, but had only gone as far as the first plum grove when they saw the Indians circling around them, and once more getting between them and the post. Still they hoped that some soldiers might be in the first grove gathering plums, or that Wise had reached the post and given the alarm, so that help would soon come to them. Captain Mitchell fired his rifle once or twice, to attract the attention of any persons who might be in the plum grove, but there was no response, and Anderson drove rapidly on.

The Indians now began to close in upon the ambulance from all sides. They would ride swiftly by a few yards distant, and, swinging themselves behind the neck and shoulders of their ponies, fire arrows or balls into the wagon. Two of the sick men had already been wounded, and Captain Mitchell, finding it impossible to defend them while the ambulance was in motion, the shaking continually destroying his aim, ordered Anderson to drive to the top of the hill near by, and they would fight it out with the redskins. Cramer now took the lines, when, either through fear or because he did not believe in the policy of stopping, he kept straight on. Captain Mitchell twice ordered Cramer to pull up, but, as he paid no attention, he told Anderson to take the lines from him. In attempting to obey the Captain's order, Anderson lost his footing and fell out of the wagon. The Captain now sprang forward, put his foot on the brake to lock the wheels, when a sudden lurch of the wagon caused him to lose his balance, and he fell headlong on the prairie. Fortunately, he alighted near a deep gully, where the water had cut out the bank, and, rolling himself into it, he looked out and saw Anderson crawling into a bunch of bushes near by. When these accidents happened, the ambulance had just crossed over the crest of a little hill, and, as the Indians had not come over as yet, they did not see either of the men fall from the wagon. The Captain had only two revolvers, but Anderson's gun, a Spencer rifle, had been thrown out with him, and he picked it up and took it into the bushes.

In a few moments the Indians came up, riding very fast, and the main body crossed the ravine near where Captain Mitchell lay. Some of them jumped their horses directly over the spot where he was concealed, but in a few moments they were gone, and soon had disappeared behind the neighbouring divide, leaving the Captain and Anderson to their own reflections. What to do was the next question. That the Indians would overtake the ambulance, kill all its occupants, and return, the Captain had not a doubt. He determined to go down the ravine, and, calling Anderson to follow, started off. He had already crawled some distance when, hearing the clatter of horses' hoofs, he peeped over the edge of his cover, and saw about seventy-five Indians riding directly up to where he was concealed. Giving himself up for lost, he lay down, drawing his revolvers and preparing them for action, for he was determined not to let the savages have his scalp without making a desperate resistance. The warriors came up, and, dismounting within thirty yards of him, began a lively conversation. The chief walked up close to the brink of the ravine, and almost within arm's-length of the Captain, and stood gazing on the ground. Mitchell now saw the chief was blind of an eye and wore a spotted head-dress; and he knew by these marks he was none other than the celebrated Sioux warrior, Spotted Tail. On making this discovery the Captain levelled both his revolvers at the chief's breast, and was fully determined to fire. He believed that the loss of five captains would be a small matter, if by their death they could secure the destruction of the great leader of the Sioux. Just as he was about to pull the triggers a loud shout from the warriors caused Spotted Tail to start forward and run rapidly up the hill. The ponies were led down the ravine and the warriors scattered in all directions, seeking cover. One of them ensconced himself in the ravine not more than thirty feet from Mitchell. Raising his head so that he could see out, the Captain endeavoured to ascertain what caused all the excitement among the Indians. At first he had thought he was discovered, then that reënforcements from the fort had arrived, and a battle was about to begin; but now he saw Anderson was discovered. When the Captain had started down the ravine Anderson had followed him, and just emerged from the bushes when the Indians suddenly came up. He had dropped on the ground, and endeavoured to roll himself back among the sage-brush, when an Indian saw him and gave the alarm. The warriors, not knowing how many white men might be in the brush, with their usual caution, had immediately sought cover.

A hot fire was opened on Anderson's position, and at first he did not respond at all. A warrior, more bold than discreet, ventured to go closer to the bushes, when a small puff of white smoke was seen to rise, a loud report rang out on the air, and the warrior fell, pierced through the heart. A yell of rage resounded over the hills, and three more Indians ran toward Anderson's cover. Three reports followed each other in rapid succession, and the three Indians bit the dust. There was now a general charge on Anderson, but he fired so fast and true that the Indians fell back, carrying with them two more of their number.

The Captain now felt it his duty to help Anderson, and was about to open fire with his revolvers, when Anderson, who, no doubt, expected as much, yelled three or four times, saying in a sort of a cry, “My arm is broken; keep quiet; can't work the Spencer any more.” The brave fellow no doubt intended this as a warning to the Captain not to discover himself by firing, and he reluctantly accepted the admonition and kept quiet.

A rush by some thirty warriors was now made on Anderson, and, notwithstanding his disabled condition, he managed to kill three more Indians before he was taken. He was overpowered, however, dragged out of the bushes, and scalped in full sight of the Captain. He fought to the last, and compelled them to kill him to save their own lives. Nothing could exceed the rage of the Indians, and especially old Spotted Tail, as he saw the body of warrior after warrior carried down the hill, until nine dead Indians were laid beside Anderson. In his grief for the loss of his braves, the old chief kicked the corpse of poor Anderson, and the other Indians came up and mutilated it horribly.

In a few minutes after the death of Anderson, a mounted party was seen coming over the hills, and about thirty warriors rode up to Spotted Tail, and reported that they had captured the ambulance and killed all who were in it. They exhibited to

The Great Salt Lake Trail - 60/86

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