The original Stray Shots was first published on June 15, 1890, by Post Chaplain Charles Pierce as editor. Annual subscription rate for 52 issues was a modest 50 cents. In the masthead, Pierce noted that Sunday services consisted of Sunday school at 9:30 a.m. and prayer, praise, & sermon were at 8 p.m., and all were invited and “every seat free.”
The first issue asked, “…the cooperation of all, regardless of the question of rank.” The columns of personals were as free to privates as to officers. The second and third pages were for local news items. The editor wrote that, “Short items and many of them will be our motto.”
Many times the post chaplain was called upon to be the school teacher. Pierce was given approval by the Secretary of War, Redfield Proctor, to teach “…illustrated lectures in U.S. History…” It is intended that the present version of Stray Shots will provide an opportunity to post materials that promote the learning of history.
The Letters of Andrew T. Fitch
After prior service with the Army during the Civil War, Andrew T. Fitch joined the Third U.S. Infantry in 1866 as an Acting Assistant Surgeon. He served on the frontier at military posts such as Forts Riley, Harker, Fletcher/Hays in Kansas; Stanton in New Mexico; and Camp Supply, Fort Sill, and the Cheyenne and Arapaho Agency in Indian Territory. The letters in the collection to members of his family reflect his observations concerning life at the frontier posts in the post Civil War era of the Indian Wars. He returned to civilian life in New York in 1880. 1.
Fitch was recognized officially as a citizen physician employed on a contract basis to supplement the medical officer needs of the Army. He was posted to Camp Supply by Special Order #73, Headquarters Department of the Missouri, May 11, 1869, after several years at Kansas posts. The outpost had been in existence only about seven months and the hospital consisted only of several large tents and a log hut. He remained at Supply on duty either in the post hospital or in the field with the troops until a transfer to Fort Dodge in April 1873. 2.
The following letters pertain only to Fort Sill, Cheyenne and Arapaho, and Camp Supply, Indian Territory, in what is now western Oklahoma. Personal family conversations have been left out with only those lines pertaining to military history and Indian affairs referenced. Editorial notes have been included to clarify events mentioned.
1. The original repository for the letters is the Western Americana Collection (WA Mss S-1638 F551), Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University. Copies of the letters are on file at the Fort Supply Historic Site, Fort Supply, Oklahoma.
2. Post Returns, Fort Supply, National Archives and Records Administration, Microfilm 617, roll 1243.
Camp Supply, Ind. Territory
June 4th 1870
You will have read in the newspapers long before you get this that the Indians have been committing depredations in various places, but it is only within the last two or three weeks that they have shown any signs of hostility in this vicinity. The Cheyennes & Arapahoes have been encamped near us for a year past and have been fed with as much regularity as the soldiers. They have also been supplied with clothing and blankets. During the last fall and winter they have brought in ten thousand buffalo robes which they have sold to the traders for whatever they wanted. Some time in April the Indians were ordered to leave here and go to a place which had been selected for them about 100 miles east of this. The latter place was selected on account of its being a better farming country than this. Very few have gone there either because they don’t like farming or because they have decided to go to war. Within two weeks five men have been killed. A few days ago they drove off all the mules belonging to a train of wagons loaded with provisions and blankets sent out here to be issued to them. The wagons were on the road from here to the new reservation and had gone about 40 miles. Two companies of Cavalry were sent out to save the wagons and goods and I went with them. We reached them in a ten hours march and found that all the mules had been driven off by the Indians as they were being driven to water. There was only one man with them and he was killed. We took down mules enough to bring the wagons back.
On Sunday last a man rode out after a stray mule. He did not return at night and the next day some men were sent out to look after him. He was found four miles out; dead and scalped terribly mutilated and an arrow through his chest.
At the half way station between this and Fort Dodge where the mail couriers stop over night, two soldiers were killed and another badly wounded a few days ago.
A party of Indians called at the log hut during the day, went in a friendly manner and asked for something to eat. The soldiers gave them what they wanted and the Indians in return commenced firing on them killing two and wounding another. A party of soldiers on their way from here to Fort Dodge then made their appearance and the Indians fled.
I have learned that Frank (illegible) has distinguished himself in several encounters with the savages. There is a classmate of his here. Lieut. Maxon who speaks of him as having stood high in his class. 3.
Your affectionate brother
3. The agency for the Cheyenne and Araphoe had been at Camp Supply from early 1869 to April 1870, when it was moved over 100 miles down the North Canadian River. The agency was named for the first agent, Brinton Darlington.
Hostilities had begun early in 1870 and would culminate in the Battle of Camp Supply, June 11, 1870, just a few days after the letter was written. Much of the trouble was actually caused by the Kiowa and Comanche. On May 29, warriors attacked a civilian contractor supply train of thirteen wagons filled with subsistence stores for the Cheyenne agency. One teamster was killed and fifty-eight mules were lost. Capt. Louis H. Carpenter, Tenth Cavalry, led the relief force that Fitch accompanied.
The station attacked was the Bear Creek Mail Station northwest of present Ashland, Kansas. Two soldiers were killed and the sergeant wounded. Only the timely arrival of a cavalry patrol saved the other men.
Carriker, Robert. Fort Supply, Indian Territory: Frontier Outpost on the Plains. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1990, pp. 42-52.
November 30th 1871
I returned here on the 26th from Fort Sill where I went with a troop of Cavalry which was relieved from duty here and ordered to that post. Fort Sill is 200 miles S.E. of this post. We were 12 days making the trip there. I rode the whole distance on horseback. The distance made each day looks small but the Cavalry always walk their horses and it consequently takes about 6 hours to make 20 miles.
Fortunately the weather was pleasant most of the time though rather too cool for comfort. We had only one rainy day.
We made the 20 miles which it was necessary to make that day in order to get a good camp for the night, without halting. It rained from the time we left camp in the morning until we reached the camping place in the afternoon. We then had to wait an hour for the wagons to come up before we could pitch our tents. But we had plenty of wood and soon were drying our clothes before a large fire.
I remained 9 days at Fort Sill and made the trip back in 11 days in an ambulance walking the mules all the way to keep with the train of wagons. I am boarding with the Quartermaster who is married and like Quartermasters generally knows how to live. We had a Thanksgiving dinner today consisting of wild turkey, venison, mince pie, etc., etc.
Camp Supply, I.T.
April 4th 1873
I promised to write as soon as I could conveniently after getting back to this post. I arrived here on the 31st March and mail left – The following morning. Being to tired to write by that mail I (illegible) it until the next one which will leave tomorrow morning. I left New York on the evening of the 17th March by the Erie R.R. and traveling night & day with a delay of only a few hours in Cincinnati arrived at St. Louis on the morning of the 20th where I was obliged to remain until 10 o’clock p.m. The day passed off very pleasantly as I found a lady there who lived at Fort Dodge while I was stationed there. She took me in her carriage and drove me all about St. Louis showing me many parks of the city which I had never been before. One of the most interesting places that we visited was a splendid hot house built by a wealthy citizen and kept open to the public. It is filled with a great variety of beautiful plants, many of them imported from tropical climates. The hot house is situated within a fine park which has been laid out by the same gentleman and will be given to the city at his death.
After taking supper with the lady I returned to the hotel in time to take the train for Leavenworth which leaves at 10 p.m. arrived in the latter city next day at 2 p.m. and remained there until the 24th. Reached Fort Dodge in the 25th remained there until the 29th when I started in a four mule wagon with four soldiers for this camp. Had fine weather out with no Indians and no accidents and arrived here on the 31st the last day of my leave of absence.
It has been so hot here for the past two days that I have wished myself back at your house where I have no doubt the snow is still at least two feet deep.
Yr affec brother
Cheyenne & Arapahoe Agency
July 13th 1875
I wish I could start at once for home but it is out of the question. I should like to leave my present occupation and settle down somewhere where it would seem like home, but I see no prospect of doing so at present.
There are so many changes going on in the Army that one never feels settled.
Troops are stationed here for the purpose of protecting the people employed at the Indian Agency and holding in check the Cheyenne and Arapahoe Indians all of whom are encamped within a few miles of us.
We are all living in tents but orders have been given to provide some more comfortable shelter for the coming winter. A log house is the best quarters that those of us who are destined to spend the next winter here can look forward to. 4.
Your affec. Brother
4. The Darlington Agency occupied the north bank of the North Canadian River. The military camp may have been at the agency or on the location where Fort Reno (mentioned in the following letter) was later built in 1875 across the river to the southwest.
Cheyenne & Arapahoe Agency, I.T.
December 16th 1875
I should like to make you a visit – very much, but I don’t think there is much chance of getting away again until I leave for good, which may be before long.
A military post has been established here (it has heretofore been only a camp) and buildings are now being put up for the accommodation of troops and the storage of the necessary
supplies. The storehouses are so nearly completed that the supplies have been moved into them.
One building large enough to accommodate about half the soldiers was occupied yesterday. The Cavalry horses were all got under shelter. The balance of the soldiers have put up log houses in which they can keep very comfortable during the cold weather.
The Officer’s quarters are the last to be built. They are all now living in tents and will probably spend the winter in them. My quarters consist of two tents put together end to end, making one room 18 by 9 feet. The wall of the tents is 4 feet high and it is 4 feet high and it is 8 feet from the floor to the ridge pole. The tents are drawn over a frame on which they fit closely and are thereby kept from flapping as much as they do when secured by guy ropes. They are floored and warmed by a stove and have a door but no windows. We have a rough log house covered with canvas which we use as a kitchen and dining room.
I returned on the 4th inst. from Fort Smith, Arkansas where I had been as a witness in a case before the U.S. Dist. Court. The distance for the round trip is over 900 miles. More than half of which is by stage coach. The roads are very rough and the journey was by no means a pleasant one. I came back by way of Emporia, Kas. And being delayed there 24 hours had some photographs taken one of which I enclose.
Your affec. Brother
Fort Sill, Ind. Ty.
March 21, 1878
I found your letter of Dec. 30th here on my return from Texas. A good many changes had taken place during my absence. The four companies of the 4th Cavalry which I accompanied to Fort Clark, had been replaced by three companies of the 10th Cavalry (Colored). General Mackenzie (General by Brevet); Colonel of the 4th Cavalry, formerly Commanding Officer of this post went to Texas with the companies of his Reg’t and Genl. Davidson, Lieut. Colonel of the 10th has taken his place.
You may have heard me speak of Gen’l Davidson and his family when I was at home last or I may have mentioned them in some letter. They were at Camp Supply when I was there seven or eight years ago and as we were on the best of terms then it is very pleasant to meet them again. Gen’l Mackenzie is a bachelor but a very good fellow not withstanding. Gen’l Davidson has two grown up daughters who are fond of dancing and several hops have already been given principally for their benefit.
We have also been favored by a visit from an Episcopal Bishop who spent several days here and held service several times. He came on the invitation of Gen’l Davidson and we sent him off richer than when he came.
Not long after the Bishop left, there came along two Sisters of Charity. They came in company with the Paymaster, a very good time to come, as everybody then has money, and that is what the Sisters are after. They are collecting funds to build a hospital at Kansas City. They have got here and at Fort Reno 75 miles north, nearly $1000.
The weather is very mild. Our peach trees were in blossom three weeks ago and our gardens are nearly all planted.
Your aff. Brother
Fort Sill, Ind. Ty.
April 5, 1879
Your letter of Dec. 22nd was forwarded to me while I was in that section of Texas, lying west of the Indian Territory called the “Pan Handle.” I was with some troops which had been sent out to look after Indians who had been allowed to go from their reservation, near this post for the purpose of hunting buffalo, and who were reported to be committing depredations on the settlers.
We had no difficulty in finding the Indians and soon learned that the depredations that they had committed were the killing a small number of cattle out of the vast herds now grazing in that section. They were unable to find buffalo in any considerable numbers and were driven by hunger to take the cattle which have succeeded them in that fine grazing country. The settlers however cannot be expected to feed the Indians but are afraid to refuse them anything they ask for. The officers in command gave the ranchmen receipts for all the cattle killed and bought enough more to feed the Indians on their way back to their reservation where they reluctantly consented to go. We were out fifty days and during that time occurred the coldest snap of the winter. It lasted however only about twenty days. It was cold enough here at the post to make ice nine inches thick and about three hundred tones were gathered before our return.
After remaining here a few days I went on another trip in the same direction stopping a few days at a Military Post in the Pan Handle. The first trip I made on horseback distance upwards of 300 miles. The second was made in a comfortable spring wagon and the weather being much milder, was more pleasant in every respect. On our return from the last trip, March 16th , we found our peach trees in full blossom. Our gardens have been made some time and some of the earlier vegetable such as radishes, onions, etc. are already up. 5.
Yr. Affec. Brother
5. The referenced post was Fort Elliott in the east central part of the Texas Panhandle. It was built in 1875 to complete the four posts that controlled the Indian Territory region.
The present Post Cemetery at Fort Supply was established in September 1871 because the 1869 post cemetery near the Beaver River had washed away in a flood. The new cemetery, on higher ground, was used by the Army for soldiers and civilians until the post closed in 1894.
In January 1895, soldier’s remains were removed to the Fort Leavenworth National Cemetery, an official practice upon the closing of posts. One row of headstones, non-military personnel, marks the only identifiable graves from the military period.
During the period 1895-1913, area residents were buried in the old fort’s cemetery. The Western State Hospital interred patients there until 1964. There are about 970 patients in the main plot and in an additional section to the west.
On November 27, 2000, the Cheyenne tribe re-buried the remains of a man known to archaeologists as “Sandman.” His remains were discovered in 1972. He is believed to have died between 1835 and 1845.
Historic Headstone Information
Wife of Ben Clarke
Died Oct. 5, 1875
Age 22 years
Died June 17, 1877
Aged 22 years
Died June 12, 1877
Aged 32 yrs. Q.M.
Born County Roscommon
Ireland, March 17, 1878
Aged 36 years
Co. B Indian Scouts
Reburial Nov. 27, 2000
Company B, Cheyenne Indian Scouts
In the early 1880s, cattlemen from Kansas and Texas had leased large areas of the Indian reservation lands in Indian Territory for grazing. The agent for the Cheyenne and Arapaho and some tribal members believed that the money from the leases would benefit their people economically. However, by mid 1885, agitation by an anti-leasing faction, an agent’s incompetence, and the desperation of reservation life threatened to spark a general uprising. General Philip Sheridan and Army troops were sent by President Grover Cleveland to assess and gain control of the situation. Sheridan determined that both the cattlemen and the agent should go. It was apparent that there were never enough regular soldiers to adequately patrol the region to keep the peace. Because there were never enough regular soldiers to patrol the large western Indian Territory reservations effectively, he devised a plan to organized three companies of scouts composed of native men. They would help keep the peace while earning an income. American Indians had long been engaged by the military to act as scouts and guides, most often during periods when the Army actively campaigned against other hostile tribes. During the relatively peaceful1880s, Cheyenne men enlisted for a variety of reasons. Perhaps most important was that the old ways, although suppressed, were still a potent influence. Many of these men were veteran warriors that had fought both red and white enemies. The new units provided a way to demonstrate the virtues held in traditional esteem and required for status in a warrior culture.
On July 20, 1885, Indians, former warriors, gathered at the Cheyenne and Arapaho Agency at Darlington across the North Canadian River from Fort Reno. Approximately 120 men were enlisted as scouts for a six month duration of service. Three units were formed of forty men each with Company B stationed at Fort Supply. Companies A and C were at Fort Reno and Fort Elliott in the Texas Panhandle, respectively. The units were to see service as cavalry attached to a particular post but not affiliated with a certain regiment at that post.
The primary function of the Company B scouts was to patrol the Cheyenne and Arapaho Reservation and the Cherokee Outlet to the north in which Fort Supply was located. They reported intrusions by non-Indian trespassers intent on cutting timber, selling whiskey, or the theft of Indian livestock. Along the Western or Texas Trail, the scouts were detailed to keep the great cattle herds up from Texas on the trail moving north toward the Kansas border. As part of their duties, the native horsemen carried dispatches, hunted game, chased deserters, and if they spoke English, served as interpreters. Around the posts, the men of Company B, as well as the other two scout units, helped the regular soldiers in the garrison with the more mundane tasks in the daily post routines. They stood guard duty, drilled as soldiers did, cut firewood, and even assisted in training horses.
Captain Jesse Lee, an Army officer as well as a Cheyenne and Arapaho agent, stated in his 1886 report to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs that, “The enlistment of Indian scouts,…by the military authorities was a wise step. They render good service because disciplined, and instead of being termed “dog soldiers” for the tribes, they are soldiers of the government.” Dog Soldiers were an honored and powerful Cheyenne warrior society responsible for policing the tribe in the old days.
A Glimpse of the Past
Company B and its kindred units are little known except for passing references in a few publications, archival materials, and a handful of images. However, a composite story from these sources reveals a unique cultural and historical experience from Oklahoma’s past. The scouts of Company B come alive through the images produced by both white and Indian contemporaries.
Photographs collected by the first Company B commanding officer, John Brereton, provide a view of Indians as soldiers. As depicted in the accompanying photographs and a scout’s drawings, the men are shown uniformed, equipped, and armed the same as regular U.S. soldiers. The image of First Sergeant Stone shows him replete in dark blue wool, five brass buttoned fatigue coat with the chevrons of his rank as the top non commissioned officer in the company. The brim on his black fatigue or campaign hat has been cut down but retains the hat cord around the crown. He wears a web ammunition belt with an “H" shaped brass buckle. The weapon in his grasp is the 45.55 Springfield carbine issued to cavalry troops.
The image of the three young Cheyenne warriors as soldiers illustrates several variations of the standard issue Army clothing. All three men have the regulation fatigue or campaign hat that appears to have the brim cut down. Big Wolf’s coat is the brown canvas duck stable coat. Corporal Darlington wears the dark blue fatigue coat with five brass buttons and the chevrons of his rank. As a concession to their cultural heritage, the three men have not been required to cut their hair in the fashion of white soldiers.
The scouts were allowed to provide their own mounts for which they were paid a monthly stipend. The photograph of the company mounted in front of the post and canvas stable shows the majority of mounts to be the smaller, painted Indian pony. The McClellan saddle and the other Army standard issue horse tack gave a military appearance to the Cheyenne war ponies. Mounted on the dark horse in front of the ranks is Lieutenant Brereton.
Enlisting as a scout had a definite economic advantage. Opportunities to earn an income for the support of a family and other dependents were scarce on the reservation. Army pay and rations were much better than the hand to mouth existence that many experienced after confinement to the reservation. The men were paid according to their rank – for example, $13 a month for a private - when the Paymaster rolled into the post. They were rationed an equal amount of food from the post’s Commissary Department. Unlike most regular soldiers, the men were allowed to have their immediate families accompany them to their post. The families put up their lodges outside the bounds of the fort. Rations were drawn for their families from the Commissary or from the Cheyenne and Arapaho Agency at Darlington near Fort Reno. Occasionally the men had their extended families in camp, which placed a burden on the military. The image of the scout camp shows the canvas lodges pitched on the open prairie east of the post. Two uniformed scouts and a traditionally dressed woman can be seen in camp.
One of the scouts, Squint Eyes, was an artist whose work portrayed significant periods in Plains Indian life. His traditional-style ledger art drawings show a unique perspective on Plains Indian life and an unexpected view of Indian and Army interaction. Made between 1886 and 1887 at Fort Supply, his drawings show the Cheyenne scouts hunting wild game along side Army officers and civilians. Hunting was a favorite pastime of officers and enlisted men, whether white or Indian. The scouts acted as guides but also participated in the events depicted. The art is rendered in typical Plains Indian style with the emphasis placed on culturally important details that in this instance show a quite untypical appearance. The warrior artist depicts himself and comrades dressed in their Army uniforms with the arms and accoutrements of service while performing an activity that was also basic to traditional Cheyenne life.
Similarly, the photographic image of Squint Eyes and his two female cousins shows the juxtaposition of two very different cultures. The warrior who had once fought against the Army now wears the blue uniform while the young women are dressed in traditional finery.
Indian auxiliary units were often commanded by junior grade line officers, as was the case with Company B. First Lieutenant John J. Brereton, 24th Infantry, commanded during the first years of the unit’s existence. He graduated from the U.S. Military Academy in 1877 and was assigned to field duty with Company H, 24th Infantry, one of the four African-American regiments in the Army. His brother-in-law, Lieutenant John Bullis, achieved fame as the leader of the famed Seminole-Negro Indian scouts along the Texas and Mexico border.
The photographs of the scouts of Company B were located in the Brereton collection at the United States Military Academy Library at West Point, New York. A private collection contained a notebook in which he entered comments relating to the activities of the scouts. Given were their names, family members, food rations, and clothing allowances. He also kept a listing of Cheyenne words indicating an attempt to learn their language. Brereton was one of those rare officers who went beyond the call of 19th Century duty. He attempted to bridge racial gaps and assimilate African Americans and American Indians into the white military. Brereton’s collection sheds much light on a heretofore little known aspect of Cheyenne history.
White Man’s Road
The scout units enlisted from the Southern Plains tribes in Indian Territory were the precursors to a larger assimilation experiment undertaken by the Army. In early 1891, the Army ordered that Troop L from each of eight cavalry regiments and Company I of those Infantry regiments in the West were to be reorganized as all Indian units. The intent was to mold Indian warriors into disciplined American soldiers and speed integration into the dominant society. Recruiting was attempted all over the west among many tribes with varying success. The experiment met with resistance not only from many Army officers, Indian Bureau bureaucrats, and other whites but also from the new Indian soldiers. Unlike the scouts of Company B, the men of the new units were required to live in barracks. As with regular soldiers, family life was discouraged. The Indian soldiers resented being moved away from their home regions when regiments were transferred. These new outfits came into existence in the waning days of the Cheyenne and Arapaho scouts. By the mid 1890s, both the scouts and the regular Army Indian units were all but gone.
Company B and the other two companies initially raised in late July 1885 demonstrated their worth in the field augmenting regular Army troops in Indian Territory into the early 1890s. Theirs was a unique story in American history, a success when measured against other attempts to include Indians into Anglo-American life at the close of the frontier.
- National Archives and Records Administration, Microfilm Publications
- Post Returns
- Fort Supply, microfilm 617, roll 1244
- Regimental Returns
- Twenty-fourth Infantry, M 665, roll 247
- Fifth Cavalry, M744, roll 53
- Post Returns
- Oklahoma Historical Society, Research Division
- Cheyenne and Arapaho File
- Cheyenne and Arapaho Papers
- Cheyenne and Arapaho Letter Books
- Indian and Pioneer Papers
- Oklahoma State University, Government Collections
- Report to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, 1886. Report of Captain Lee, 114-124
- United States Military Academy, Special Collections & Archives, USMA Library.
- John J. Brereton Collection
Carriker, Robert. Fort Supply, Indian Territory: Frontier Outpost. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1990.
Heitman, Francis B. Heitman’s Historical Register & Dictionary of the United States Army From Its Organization, September 27, 1789 to March 2, 1903.
James, Louise. "Company B". Woodward Daily News, May 7, 1989.
National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution
Squint Eyes: Artist and Indian Scout,
http://www.nmnh.si.edu/naa/scout Tichkematse: A Cheyenne at the Smithsonian, http://nmnh.si.edu/squinteyes/squinteyes.htm