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Yellowstone County History

Rescue of Captain Fisk


Monday, May 28, 2012


EXPEDITION FROM FORT RICE, DAK. TER. Page 795 (War of the Rebellion, Volume 41-1)

SEPTEMBER 11—30,1864 - Expedition from Fort Rice, Dakota Territory, to relieve Captain Fisk’s emigrant train under siege while traveling to Idaho Territory

Report of Col. Daniel J. Dill Thirtieth Wisconsin Infantry.

Fort Rice, Dak. Ter., October 4, 1864.

CAPTAIN:    I have the honor to report for the information of the general commanding that in pursuance to instructions from headquarters Northwestern Indian Expedition, dated September 10, 1864, I left this post on the morning of the 11th of September with a column of 850 men, viz, 550 infantry, 300 cavalry, and one section of artillery, and followed the trail of the Northwestern Indian Expedition for five days. I then bore to the left, going a very little south of west, on the trail of the emigrants, seeing but two or three small parties of Indians until the tenth day out from this post, when we reached the corral of the emigrant train, after marching a distance of 180 miles. They had fortified themselves, and were in a condition to resist any attack made by the Indians. The emigrants stated that the Indians had left some days previous to my arrival at the corral, evidently satisfied that they could not take it, and that no Indians had been seen since they first left. I think there is no doubt but that the Indians moved forward into the Bad Lands (which were quite close by), thinking perhaps the train would commence to move when they disappeared, when they undoubtedly could have captured the whole train, as they could not have doubled the train up short enough to have protected it with the force they had. Captain Fisk told me he had been trying to get the emigrants for some days to break the corral and move forward, but he could not get them to do it. The emigrants told me they never intended to move one mile forward without a strong escort. They appeared to be fully aware of the danger of going forward into the Bad Lands. I think Captain Fisk deserves censure at least for trying to urge the emigrants forward under the circumstances, and knowing as much as he should of the Indian character. I informed Captain Fisk and the emigrants that I had come to relieve them and escort such as wished to go back to Fort Rice to that point. Captain Fisk requested me to send two companies of cavalry to escort him and the train for three or four days, which he claimed would put him beyond danger, when, as he stated, he could go through without an escort. I of course refused to grant any such request, knowing the folly and madness of such a move as that.
I informed the emigrants that my command would march at 9 o’clock the next morning for Fort Rice on its return and that any who wished the protection of the command could have it by being ready at that time. Captain Fisk made another and a last effort to get the emigrants to go forward with him without an escort, calling on them to divide and show by that their decision in the case; at the same time faulting them for what he called backing out. They divided and about twenty decided to go on with Fisk, the rest to go back with me, saying they would never go forward without a heavy escort. Fisk declared his determination to go on with the twenty men and even less, but after sleeping on the matter and finding in the morning that a number of the twenty men had changed their minds amid were going back with my command, he concluded to return with them. I left the corral at 9 o’clock on the 21st of September with the whole train, arriving at this post on the afternoon of the 30th without meeting with any Indians and seeing but one or two small parties. I crossed a number of trails of small parties and one of a large party apparently going south toward the Black Hills. I also saw fresh tracks and evidences of small parties on the Cannon Ball River on my return, but saw but one small party of six or seven Indians on the river. The losses in the command were 1 man, 15 horses, and a few oxen. The [lost] man obtained liquor from some of the emigrants and became intoxicated the morning we left the corral and supposed to have laid down and [been] left behind. He belonged to the Eighth Minnesota Volunteers.
On the sixth morning out from this post at your 50 camp, a small party of Indians charged through the picket-line just at the break of day, and stampeded about thirty horses, and succeeded in getting away with fifteen. We were compelled to leave about fifteen or sixteen oxen, they becoming completely worn out. As before stated I arrived at this place on the afternoon of the 30th and the following day ordered the troops of the command to their several destinations as directed by you, viz: The detachment of the Second Minnesota Cavalry to Minnesota, via Fort Wadsworth, escorting such of the emigrants as went that way; and the detachments of Brackett’s battalion, Sixth Iowa, and section of artillery, to Fort Randall and Sioux City, escorting a Government train of wagons and those of the emigrant’s train going that way, which was the larger majority of the emigrants, but few went across to Minnesota. The detachments of the Eighth Minnesota Volunteers and Seventh Iowa Cavalry I ordered to report to Lieutenant-Colonel Pattee, who took boats and left the evening of the 1st instant for Sioux City.
I am, captain, very respectfully, your obedient servant
Colonel Thirtieth Wisconsin Infantry, Commanding Expedition.

Assistant Adjutant- General.

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Katy Hestand
Yellowstone County Coordinator

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