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In civilized surroundings a Plains blizzard is bad enough; in a wild country, a blizzard is more appalling than a tornado, for the latter may be dodged, but the blizzard is everywhere and sets its teeth into a man's vitals, wherever he may be. A blizzard brings a feeling of terror that even the strongest man can hardly resist. 

I have seen men moaning and trembling in a blizzard, as if the last drop of courage had oozed from their bodies. They were not cowards. Their distress was due to an instinctive, animal-like feeling that death was everywhere about them, invisible, dread and mysterious. In time, however, this fearfulness wears away, but not until death itself has begun fastening upon the freezing body. As in drowning, death by freezing is comparatively painless. In their last hours, natural death usually is kind to all creatures.

In going from the Canadian River to Camp Supply, March 17, 1875, with a company of soldiers, I met with an experience in a blizzard that I never forgot. The snow had drifted so deep that the horses soon grew exhausted. My own horse was badly jaded. The men were suffering with the cold so intensely that they were unruly and hard to control. It was my duty to keep the lead. I was sure that I was going in the right direction, though it was impossible to see more than ten steps ahead.

Occasionally, one of the men would ride ahead of me, contrary to orders, and finally I told the lieutenant who was in command that the men would have to keep back or we would lose our way. He forced them to stay behind. My horse became so fatigued that he began staggering, and I knew that it was no longer safe to ride him, as he could not be trusted to hold his course, so I dismounted and led him. A soldier, compelled to remain in his saddle, said that he was afraid he was freezing, and asked me to mount his horse that he might have an excuse for walking. I then turned my horse loose.

Pretty soon we came to the forks of a draw. I took the one that I thought led to camp and, luckily, was right. Had we turned up the other prong we would have frozen to death. We had gone only a short distance from the forking when I noticed that the soldier on foot was not in sight. I asked the lieutenant if it might not be well to go back and look for the straggler.

The lieutenant merely shook his head and motioned for me to keep going. His manner displeased me, until I learned that he was so cold that he could not open his mouth--his jaws were set and practically locked.

After riding a few miles, we struck camp. There was plenty of timber, and we soon had a roaring fire, and thawed out. The soldier on foot was not with us. Three or four of us went back to where the draw pronged, and by the light of a lantern could plainly see his tracks in the snow, and where he had taken the wrong route, going off down the east prong, instead of following us.

We hunted and hunted for him, but could not find him. To our amazement, he came into camp next morning, more dead than alive. His feet were frozen solid, and had to be amputated.

Panhandle weather in the very early spring is the most unreliable in the world. We crawled into our blankets that night, numb and shivering, the wind howling in the timber, and the snow drifting and drifting around our tents. How about next morning? Well, the sun came up next morning, smiling and warm; a soft wind was whispering from the south, and by noon the hills were running with water from the melted snow. When the snow melted from the wild plum bushes we saw that they were in full bloom, and there was not a prettier sight in the Panhandle. There were worlds of plums that year. In two weeks the grass was green everywhere on the Plains, and spring came with a rush.

All old-timers in the southwest remember Jack Stilwell, scout, guide and good fellow. One of his exploits was to escape at night from the island where Major Forsythe, in the Battle of the Arickaree, was surrounded by Indians, and go to Fort Wallace for relief. Once Jack and I were out on the Staked Plains with nothing to eat. Jack persuaded me to kill a wild horse for meat. A large herd was grazing at the edge of a lake, and I shot a two-year-old filly. We built a fire and cooked some of the meat. Doing my level best, I was never able to swallow a single mouthful--always it stuck in my throat. I preferred to go hungry rather than try to eat it. The meat looked good, but the name was too much for me.

Stilwell was a frolicsome fellow and played many pranks. One time we were going from Camp Supply to Dodge City. Just to make fun on the trip, Jack told me that when we stopped for dinner he would dare me to shoot at his ears, to see what the army officers would do. Noon came and while the officer in charge was looking in our direction, Jack said:

"Billy, I'll bet you can't hit my ear with your '50' rifle."

"All right," I answered, "stand out there where you will not be in the way of the other gentlemen, and I'll see what I can do."

The old army officer looked at us with disgust and later with horror. I was a crack shot, and Jack knew he was safe. Taking careful aim, I fired just as close to his ear as I dared with safety. Jack dodged and scratched his ear as if a hornet had stung him.

"You come pretty close. Try again," he said.

I shot a second time, and Jack repeated his scratching performance, declaring that he was sure I barely missed breaking the skin.

The old army officer scowled at us as if we were devils. He told the men at the next station that we were the toughest bunch he was ever with, and that we had been shooting at each other all day. When the corral master wanted the old officer to ride the rest of the way with us, he positively and emphatically, even profanely refused, saying that we were the wrong kind of roosters for him to be with.

The rescue of the four Germain sisters who had been captured by the Indians was a romantic incident of the Miles expedition to subdue the hostile tribes in 1875. The circumstances surrounding their capture by the Indians shocked the whole country and inflamed the border settlements with a spirit of vengeance that would have wrought the destruction of every Indian west of the Mississippi had it been possible to attack the marauders at close quarters. From time to time news came from the Indian country that the girls were still alive, and mothers everywhere were praying for the restoration of the captives to their friends.

The fate of the Germain family was not unlike that of others in those troubulous times. John Germain was a poverty-stricken farmer at Blue Ridge, Fannin County, Georgia, when he returned from service in the Confederate Army in the Civil War. Contending armies had pillaged and devastated his neighborhood. Germain decided that he would recruit his broken fortune by moving west. With a yoke of oxen and his wife and children, he set out in April, 1870, halting for a time in central Tennessee, where he remained until the following September. Southern Missouri invited him further westward, and he moved to that State, where he took a homestead and lived three years. He was sick and discouraged, and continued his way to Elgin, Kansas. Unrelenting misfortune met him at every turn. His children, as he believed, were predisposed to tuberculosis. On the other side of the Plains was Colorado with its mountain air and its pure water. Germain yoked his oxen and once more started for the promised land.

Catherine Germain, the oldest of the four captured sisters, has related the incidents of that journey and its final catastrophe in these words:

"We left Elgin August 10, 1874. We journeyed along till we came to the Smoky Hill River. Here we were told by the people living along the line that we had better keep along the river, so we could get water. They said we could not get water if we went along the railroad. And if we took the old trail by the river we would not see a house for over a hundred miles. We took the river road and everything seemed perfectly quiet. We met several persons on our several days' journey up the river.

"Father said we would start early and make Fort Wallace the last day. I knew that he felt uneasy all that lonely way, but we had no indications of danger, and now we were so near to the settlement he seemed more at ease.

"It was September 11. We were just starting as the sun began to peep over the hills. Father took his gun and started on ahead of the wagon. My brother and I had gone to drive the cows along. We were driving two cows and two yearlings. We had just turned them toward the moving wagon when we heard yells.

"On looking we saw Indians dashing down upon the wagon and father. We were about a hundred yards off and we started to run in a northeastern direction. We got something like a half mile but we were followed by the Indians. Brother was killed and I was taken back to the wagon, only to see that father, mother and my oldest sister had been killed. Then they killed my sister younger than me. They thought they were taking the four youngest because I was smaller than my sister they killed last. This was all done in a very short time.

"Leaving the wreck behind, they then started south, and took the cattle along some distance; then they killed them, ate what they wanted and left the carcasses lay. That afternoon a thunderstorm came up and the rain poured down, but we had no shelter. When they stopped for the night they tried to fix blankets up for shelter, but made a poor attempt at it. There were nineteen Indians, seventeen men and two squaws. The little squaw (we called her) seemed very sorry for us and would try to prepare something for us to eat, but the big one was of a different nature and not much inclined to do anything for our benefit. If anything was done to make our distress greater, she seemed to enjoy it hugely.

"These Indians had left their main tribe on the plains of Texas and come on a raiding tour. There was a raiding party of about a hundred in the country at that time. We did not see the big party."

When an Indian war party moves rapidly over long distances in dangerous country, they become fagged just as do white men. When this band reached the Arkansas, a halt was made to forage for meat. Cattle were killed wherever they could be found, and the carcasses abandoned to wolves after the Indians had eaten their fill. The party seemed fearful that soldiers were following them.

"We travelled at a lively gait and I know they were expecting to be followed," wrote Catherine. "They scarcely spoke above a whisper. We travelled speedily till toward morning, then stopped till daylight. We were pretty hungry some days, for we did not have our meals very regular; once a day and sometimes not that often. Julia and Addie, the little ones, were kept together. Sophia and I were not allowed to be together, only now and then we got together for a while. When we came to the Canadian River the Indians seemed very uneasy, and hid in the hills, hollows and brush for three days. The troops had been that way only a short time before we got there. The wagon trails were fresh yet. They left the Canadian on the third night and travelled nearly all night. Then for several days we travelled across the highland between the Canadian and Red rivers.

"When we came to the hills of the Red river they took to traveling at night again. We had been traveling on this night about two hours, and I should think it was somewhere about 11 o'clock, when all of a sudden they became confused and held a whispered consultation. Whatever their fright was, they went around it, and travelled at a very lively rate for a while. When they stopped to rest a little I was given permission to get off my horse. I was so tired I threw myself on the ground. When I lay there I thought I heard the distant barking of a dog and it made me feel glad to think that there might soon be a chance for the deliverance of us four helpless girls. We resumed our traveling till nearly day and stopped in a canyon. When I awoke the sun was shining around. They went up the canyon some distance, then came out on the prairie where thousands of buffaloes were feeding. The buffaloes did not seem to be very much afraid of any one. We were probably a mile from where we came out of the canyon. The Indians became greatly alarmed, saddled fresh horses and started in the direction we came, only a little more northwest.

"My little sisters were sitting on the ground. Two Indian men were there. These two Indians often carried them on their horses, and I thought that was what they would do now; but I wanted to see, so I held my horse back. They saw me lagging behind, so they came up and drove me on, but blamed the horse because he was lame and they thought he stayed of his own accord. After a while I saw those two Indians who were last with Julia and Addie, and also that my little sisters were not with them. I felt that we would all be better off if we were out of our misery, but I did not like to think of their little bodies being left out there for the buffaloes to tramp over and the wolves to eat. As soon as I got a chance I told Sophia that they had killed Julia and Addie, and all she said was, 'they are better off than we are.' But God had a hand in that work, and I believe you will agree with me when I say He wrought a miracle and those little girls were taken care of. I never saw the little ones any more till June, 1875, when I met them at Fort Leavenworth."

After abandoning these two little girls, each of whom was less than ten years old, the Indians began pressing forward more rapidly than ever, to reach the vast solitudes of the Panhandle plains country, where the main body of Cheyennes had gone, and which the raiders reached after a three days' flight. The Cheyennes now divided into small parties, each going in different direction, to confuse the trails, and make pursuit by the soldiers laborious and difficult. Sophia and Catherine became separated, each going with a different band. Sophia was first in discovering that her two little sisters were alive--they had been found by other Indians. Julia said that she and Adelaide cried when they saw the Indians ride away, because they were afraid to be alone in such a strange wild place, and did not know where to find water or anything to eat. They stood in dread of the buffaloes, hundreds of which were near at hand. As the Indians rode away, they motioned to the little girls to follow them. This they tried to do, but finally lost the trail. They were abandoned September 25. Sophia scarcely had time to embrace the little ones before she was carried away by the band that held her captive.

Julia and Addie were with Chief Gray Beard's band of Cheyennes. General Miles was pressing the Indians upon all sides. His command was superior to the combined forces of all the hostiles in the southwest and the latter could have been annihilated in a single engagement had it been possible to attack them in a position where their only alternative would have been to fight their way out. But the Indians were too shrewd to be caught in a trap, and were running and dodging in every direction--their trails crossed and re-crossed and doubled back and turned aside until they were a confused jumble. The Indians knew the country as accurately as a stream follows its own windings. The only fact plain to the scouts was that the hostiles were trying to escape to the Staked Plains. In this uninhabited and practically waterless region a large body of troops would have been badly handicapped in its pursuit of small bands of the enemy, as the latter could move more rapidly and with greater comfort, and in time exhaust the endurance of troops traveling in more or less compact formation.

General Miles embraced every opportunity to employ the tactics of the Indians, and it was the result of this kind of strategy that brought Lieutenant Baldwin and his scouts within striking distance of Gray Bear's band on McClellan Creek. The Indians were so hard-pressed that they were forced to abandon Julia and Adelaide and much camp equipment. I remember vividly the appearance of the deserted camp. We had ridden almost past it when somebody noticed that a pile of buffalo hides seemed to be moving up and down. Pulling the hides aside, we were astonished at finding two little white girls, who proved to be Julia and Adelaide. They were pitiable objects. Hunger and privation had reduced them to mere skeletons, and their little hands and fingers were so thin that they resembled bird's claws. The children were trembling with fright, but upon seeing that we were white men their terror changed to a frenzy of joy, and their sobs and tears made hardened frontiersmen turn away to hide their own emotion. The children said that they had not been mis-treated by the men. The squaws, however, had forced them to work beyond their strength. The little girls were sent to Fort Leavenworth. Their rescue took place November 8, 1874.

Catherine and Sophia Germain were now far out on the Staked Plains. We had fought the Indians--principally Cheyennes, with a few Kiowas--at Tule Canyon on Red River, but without capturing them. General Miles, fearful that the two captives might be wantonly killed by the Indians, when the latter found themselves in increasing danger of attack or capture, employed a Mexican mixed-blood at Fort Sill to go to the hostile camp in the Staked Plains with a secret message to the Germain girls telling them Julia and Adelaide were safe and in the hands of friends, and not to become discouraged. This message fell into the hands of Catherine. It was written on the back of a photograph of Julia and Adelaide that had been made by W. P. Bliss, shortly after they were found by Lieutenant Baldwin's command.

The Cheyennes that had fled to the Staked Plains were under the redoubtable Chief Stone Calf. General Miles sent a formal demand for surrender to Stone Calf, with the specific provision that Catherine and Sophia Germain should be brought back alive. Stone Calf and his followers surrendered March 1, 1875, about seventy-five miles west of the Darlington Indian Agency.

"Just before the sun set," wrote Catherine Germain, "we came to the soldiers' camp. They stood at the side of the trail cheering. We stopped, but I could hardly say anything, and when I think of it now a lump rises in my throat. Oh, I was so glad. I thought I had never seen such white people. They looked as white as snow, but of course they were no whiter than the average people, but my being accustomed to the red people was why they seemed so white and pretty. I just lacked a few days of being 18 years old when we were re-captured, and Sophia was past twelve. We were at the Cheyenne Agency (Darlington) three months."

The warriors who surrendered with Stone Calf were stood in a row by General Miles, and the Germain girls asked to point out those who had engaged in the murder of the other members of the Germain family, or who had mistreated the captives. They pointed out seventy-five Indians, all of whom afterwards were sent to Florida as prisoners of war.

General Miles induced the United States government to appropriate the sum of $10,000 for the benefit of the four girls. He was their guardian for two or three years. They were educated at the expense of the military branch of the Government. All the girls married, and some of them are still living.

The Miles Campaign demonstrated that if there should be further Indian outbreaks it would be well to move a garrison within easy striking distance of the route that led to the Staked Plains. Fort Elliott was established as a permanent garrison in the spring of 1875. I was with the party that selected the site. I was attached as scout at Fort Elliott, and remained in service at that place until 1883. I was the last scout to be relieved of duty at that post, and when I went away the buffalo was becoming a rare animal on the Plains and the Indian was down and out.

Cattlemen began going into the Panhandle as the Indians went out. I remember how greatly I was surprised when I arrived at the Goodnight ranch one day in 1877, and found two white ladies--Mrs. Goodnight, who had joined her husband the previous year, and Mrs. Willingham, whose husband was afterwards superintendent of the Turkey Track outfit. Both were refined, educated women. I often think how helpful such women as Mrs. Goodnight and Mrs. Willingham have been to Panhandle communities. It required some grit for men to live there in those days, and for women the trials and burdens must have been disheartening.

The Staked Plains, by reason of the scarcity of water in summer, opposed great danger to troops in moving through that part of the country. I was with Captain Nicholas Nolan, in command of Troop A, Tenth United States Cavalry, in that memorable experience in August, 1877, in which the detachment barely escaped death from thirst. Captain Nolan was in pursuit of the Quohada band of Comanches, who had slipped away from their reservation at Fort Sill, Indian Territory. Far out on the Staked Plains we joined forces with a party of buffalo-hunters who had organized to fight the Indians. Captain Nolan told the buffalo-hunters that if they would help him find the Indians he would agree to do all the fighting, and assured them that he would do the work to their satisfaction.

Reports were brought in that the Indians were only a short distance away, and that it might be possible to overtake them by moving quickly. In the excitement, many of the soldiers as well as the buffalo-hunters forgot to fill their canteens with water. The Indians eluded us, the men were soon out of water, and a difference of opinion arose as to where the nearest water could be found. Some were in favor of trying for the Double Lakes and some for the Laguna Plata. I had been over this country from the north, not from the direction we were traveling. The men and horses were in a deplorable condition.

Captain Nolan told Lieutenant Cooper to take the course with his compass, which was set east by south ten degrees. The buffalo-hunters feared the distance was too great, and started in another direction, for Laguna Plata. Captain Nolan thought the Double Lakes were further west than I did. We argued over the route until about 3 o'clock in the morning, when he told me to go the way I thought was right. I at once turned more to the northeast. About 5 o'clock I waived my hat to attract the attention of the command, and an orderly came forward. I sent word to Captain Nolan that I thought I saw the Double Lakes. Happily, I was not mistaken. We had to dig for water, and 11 o'clock had passed before the horses were able to quench their thirst.

The sufferings of both men and horses were terrible, and all the way to the Double Lakes our trail was strewn with cast-off clothing and equipment. The buffalo-hunters were in no less desperate straits, many of them, like the soldiers, dropping down to die along the way. Horses were killed that their blood might be drank to assuage the fever of burning throats and tongues. The buffalo-hunters finally reached water at the Casa Amarilla. Both outfits carried water back to fallen comrades and revived them.