Return to Fort Taylor

October 1st.The artillery battalion, one troop of dragoons, the commissary and quarter-master’s train, and the Indians and hostages under charge of Lieutenant Fleming, all under the command of Captain Keyes, left the camp on Pelouze River about six in the morning, and after marching eighteen miles, reached Snake River at noon and crossed over to Fort Taylor. We encamped on exactly the same ground we had occupied before the campaign. At the Fort, Major Wyse and Dr. Brown received us with the greatest hospitality.

October 2d This morning we took leave, with many regrets, of Lieutenants Mullan and Owen. The former is under orders for Fort Vancouver, and the latter for Fort Dalles, to resume his duties as Adjutant of the Ninth Infantry.

At noon. Colonel Wright, with the rest of the command, arrived at the river, and crossing over, encamped half a mile up the Tucanon. A salute was fired from Fort Taylor, in honor of Colonel Wright, as soon as he appeared on the opposite side.

October 3rd. Orders had been received for us to remain on Snake River, and we supposed, therefore, that for the present we had finished our march. Early this morning, however, an express arrived rescinding the former orders, and making Fort Vancouver the place of our destination.

The camp was therefore broken up, and we marched two miles and encamped on the Tucanon. In the afternoon Major Wyse joined us with his command, Fort Taylor having been abandoned by the troops. It was left in charge of an old Pelouze chief, named Slaviarchy.

October 4th, Left camp at half-past six this morning. Until eleven o’clock the weather was very cold and windy. It then moderated and changed to rain. The troops, however, made a long march of twenty-six miles, and encamped on Touchy River.

October 5th. “We were on our march this morning, by six o’clock, through a country which was familiar to us. On reaching Dry creek, a distance often miles, the command was halted, and the pack train ordered to the rear. We then resumed our march and arrived at Fort Walla Walla at twelve, having been absent just sixty marching days.

The four companies of dragoons came first; then our thirty Nez Percé allies; then the hostages, drawn up in two ranks, under the command of Lieutenant Fleming; then the two rifle companies; then Major Wyse’s company and battery of six pounders; then the howitzer battery, under Lieutenant White; and, lastly, the artillery battalion. By far the most conspicuous and distingue looking person in the command was Cutmouth John. He rode generally by the side of the Nez Percés, dressed in a red blanket, his head surmounted by a large skin cap, and holding in his hand a long pole, from the end of which dangled a scalp he had taken in the battle of the “Four Lakes.”

The Inspector General, Colonel Mansfield, had arrived a few days before, and it was determined that he should exercise the duties of his office on the spot. As soon therefore as- we reached the parade-ground, the column halted, the ranks opened, and. Colonel Mansfield, with Colonel Wright and his staff, made a thorough inspection. There was nothing about the command, of the “pomp and circumstance of glorious war.” During two months no one had slept under a roof) and all were begrimed with mud and rain and dust. The artillery and infantry wore blue flannel shirts drawn over their uniforms and belted at the waist; the dragoons had a similar dress of grey-flannel. The officers had adopted the same, with slouched hats. The only marks of their rank were the shoulder-straps sewed on to the flannel. Yet all this was showing the reality of service. If there was little display of uniforms, the arms were in perfect order, and we believe the troops had never been in a higher state of discipline, or a more efficient condition for action. At all events, Colonel Mansfield expressed himself highly gratified with the result of his inspection.

After the troops were dismissed, we were most hospitably entertained by the officers of the post.

October 6th. This morning notice was received from Colonel Wright that all the officers should meet at Colonel Steptoe’s quarters to pay their respects to the Inspector General. We met there at twelve o’clock, when a handsome collation was provided, and a couple of hours spent in pleasant intercourse.

October 7th. Today we turned to more solemn duties. At ten o’clock took place the burial of Captain Taylor, Lieutenant Gaston, and the remains of the men which had been found on Colonel Steptoe’s battle-ground. It was from this post they had marched forth, and here they were to be laid to their rest. They were of course buried with military honors, the ceremony being invested with all the pageantry which was possible, to show respect to the memory of our gallant comrades. All the officers, thirty-nine in number, and the troops at the post, amounting to eight hundred, (reinforcements having arrived since our departure,) were present and took part in the ceremonies. The horses of the dead, draped in black, having on them the officers’ swords and boots, were led behind the coffins. The remains were taken about half a mile from the post, and there interred. Three volleys were fired over them, and we left them where day after day the notes of the bugle will be borne over their graves, while we cherish their memories as those who laid down their young lives in the battlefield for their country.

With this scene this journal might fitly close. It began with the death of those whom we have now seen placed in a soldier’s grave.

There was but one more incident connected with the campaign. Two days afterwards, Colonel Wright had a “talk” with the Walla Walla Indians. The tribe is one much reduced in numbers and importance since the pioneer trappers first came among them. They range through the valley for thirty miles, to old Fort Walla Walla, once a central trading post of the Hudson Bay Company, on the left bank of the Columbia River, near where the Walla Walla empties into it.

They have been exceedingly troublesome, and it was necessary to teach them a lesson. The colonel told them he knew that some of them had been engaged in the recent fights, and that everyone who was in the two battles must stand up. Thirty-five stood up at once. From these the colonel selected four, who were known to have been engaged in several murders in the valley. One Indian, by the name of Wyecat, was particularly notorious. They were handed over to the guard and hung on the spot. I believe that sixteen of the Indians have been executed in this way.

On the 9th, the artillery battalion, under Captain Keyes, left Walla Walla, and after a march of eight days reached the Dalles. The distance being about a hundred and seventy-three miles, we have averaged twenty-two miles a day. It is exactly three months and nine days since we left there, and during that time we have marched seven hundred and sixty miles. On the 18th we reached Fort Vancouver, where we first landed in setting out on the campaign.

Fort Taylor,

Kip, Lawrence. Army Life on the Pacific: A Journal of the Tribes of the Coeur d'Alenes, Spokans, and Pelouzes, in the Summer of 1858. Redfield, 1859.

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