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Ute Indian Massacre 1879

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Written in 1891 by E. V. Sumner, Lt.-Col. 5th Cavalry.

In the fall of 1879, the author was part of a rescue mission to retrieve an Army unit that was under attack by Ute Indians. This is his account of the rescue operations.


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march, hoping soon to reach those we knew to be in distress, and who could only be saved by our coming. Getting through that canon at night was a desperate undertak­ing, leaving the Indians entirely out of the ques­tion, and on looking at the breakneck places afterwards by daylight, over which we had passed, it seemed a miracle that we succeeded in getting through without losing all the wag­ons carrying the infantry, and some of the horsemen as well.

 The cavalry was in the lead, but the " charioteers," as the infantry were called, followed close behind, and on the down grade occasionally ran into the rear of the cav­alry column. On the ascent the infantrymen jumped from their wagons and pushed horses, wagons and all up the grades. On reaching the summit each party boarded its wagon, and, with a cheer, away they went down the grade on the run. All were under so much of a strain that fatigue or sleep was not thought of. Thus it was, up one hill and down another all night, and no light-artillerymen were ever more ex­pert at mounting their limbers, than these in­fantrymen in getting out of and into those wagons on the run.

 Between 4 and 5 a. m. we reached a point about four miles from the intrenchment, and at that hour saw a sight that made the blood run cold. A citizen wagon train, hauling supplies to the agency,had been cap­tured by the Indians, and every man belonging to it had been murdered, stripped, and partly burned. As we had had no news from the front since leaving the railroad, this was something of a surprise, and as may be imagined, at that hour in the morning, not a pleasant opening for the day. The wagon train, for the last few miles, had been stretching out a little, but on reaching this spot it was observed that all in­tervals were rapidly closed up and kept closed. But notwithstanding this depressing sight, some rude jokes were made, as usual, by the old sol­diers in passing, and recruits were made to fear that before another sun should rise they would be broiled in like manner.

            General Merritt at this time was some dis­tance ahead with the cavalry, and crossing the last hill he entered the valley just at dawn of day. It was yet too dark, to see the intrenchment, but the column, while pressing on, was soon brought to a halt by a challenge from the besieged. A trumpeter was then summoned and officers' call sounded. This brought all hands to the top of the


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