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Part II


1st U.S. Infantry Volunteers trip to the Dakota Territory



Their story begins

With General Grant’s order transferring the 1st U.S. Volunteer Infantry Regiment from North Folk Virginia to the Western frontier he had specified Milwaukee, and Wisconsin, as their point of destination. The orders stated “They will proceed via New York, and reporting on their arrival to Major General John Pope, commanding the Department of the West.”

Most of the officers and men received this news with enthusiasm, and on Monday afternoon, August 15, 1864, the entire regiment of 1,000 strong, boarded the transport ship, Continental. This vessel was later destined to play a romantic role in the history of the West. Less than two years the Continental would carry more than 100 unmarried women, who were to be known as Asa Mercer’s Belles, around Cape Horn to Seattle as prospective brides for male settlers out west.

The only attached woman aboard this trip was the 21-year-old wife Elizabeth Cardwell. Her husband was Private Patrick Cardwell, from company “E”. She boarded the Continental with the 1st regiment; he had married her before he shouldered a musket and marched away from his Virginia farm to later become captured and sent to Point Lookout. After taking the oath and going with his regiment to Northfolk, Elizabeth then came down the James River from their home near Charles City so that she might see him occasionally when he was off duty. Evidently Patrick and Elizabeth was a winsome pair; when they had asked Captain Alfred Fay if she could go west with his regiment, the captain recommended to his colonel that permission be granted. And indeed, they were granted permission and so the youthful couple became the darling of the regiment.

The Continental docked in New York Wednesday morning, on August 17, and for the next 24 hours the officers had their difficulties in controlling their men in New York. It seems that because of some misunderstanding by their local quartermaster, they marched to the wrong railroad station, (Whoops). Then after another march across New York City, in the hot August sun, arriving at the correct train station, but they arrived just a tad bit early, it seems their train wouldn’t be ready until the next day.

When the Regiment was at the Warf, Captain Richard Musgrove gave orders that the men were not allowed to leave their ranks. It seems the Captain was still unable to stop the swarm of pocket peddlers, which sold his men whiskey in bottles. Captain Musgrove wrote that while he was waiting in line to enter the station, he captured one of his men. The man made no attempt to resist while the captain worked two bottle of whiskey from the mans pants, but then the man bolted and ran, so the captain threw one of the bottles at the running soldiers head but missed and struck him in the middle of his back. The bottle hit the pavement and broke; this caused a round of applause from the mass of spectators, which had gathered on the surrounding sidewalks.

Now approximately 20 men vanished from the ranks among all this chaos at the train station. The Captain considered them good riddance. When describing his thoughts on the 1st Regiment, the Captain said, “Many were Unionists from North Carolina, who had been forced into the Confederate service, and now were glad to transfer their allegiance and fight under the old flag. But yet others from the south were men of no principle and were at home with one flag as much as the other and this class of men were foreigners, who found themselves forced by circumstances in the rebel army and then becoming prisoners of war. These men took the oath of allegiance and enlisted in the Union Army to better their conditions, and, as soon as opportunity offered, some deserted.”

By making this statement Captain Musgrove was being just Alltel prejudice. Because the company descriptive books indicate that North Carolinians made up about 40 per cent of the regiment; Virginians 15 per cent; foreigners 10 per cent, with the Germans and Irishmen predominating. The remaining 35 per cent were mainly men from Georgia, Louisianans, South Carolinians, and Tennesseans, with a few scattering of Alabamians, Kentuckians, Mississippians, Floridians, and Marylanders.

On August 18, at Noon, the entire regiment moved out aboard a New York Central Train, bound for Chicago. Even aboard the train, Captain Musgrove and his officers still had liquor troubles, because the men were still able to come up with ways to buy liquor from the liquor peddlers.

At every train station in the State of New York, whisky was being sold very freely. At one train station they stopped there were only four houses in the hamlet, and everyone thought there would be no liquor sold there, but everyone soon realized that in three of these building they were licensed saloons. The Captain saw this and became boiling mad and told one of the proprietors if he sold any more whisky to his men he would tear his shanty down over his head. If the fellow did not go “into the air,” he fairly foamed with rage, and stepping to his desk he place a gun in his pocket, saying he paid for a license and had a right to sell liquor. Just then the engine bell rang and hostilities were averted.

When in New York, Colonel Dimon had received a change of orders. Six companies were to proceed to St. Louis, four to Milwaukee. Arriving in Chicago on August 21, the regiment was divided, Lieutenant Colonel William Tamblyn took companies A, F, G, and I to Milwaukee, Colonel Dimon continued on to St. Louis with the remaining six. Among those six, was my 2nd Great grandfather, Henry Clay Shives.

Awaiting Colonel Dimon when he and the remaining regiment arrived in St. Louis on the 22nd there were new orders from General Pope. The orders stated, “Immediately take boat up Missouri River, destination Fort Rice, Dakota Territory. On arrival at Fort Rice, Colonel Dimon will report himself and command to Brigadier General A. Sully, commanding Northwestern Indian Expedition.”

Now Pope meanwhile had notified Sully that the 1st U.S. Volunteers were not to be considered as additional troops but replacements for the 30th Wisconsin, which was badly needed in the South. “The six companies I send,” Pope added, “consist of refugees and rebel deserters, and while many of the men are excellent, I do not doubt there are also many who will require strict discipline.”

Around a dozen of those men whom Pope lacked faith in did desert while the regiment was quartered in St. Louis, and on the journey upriver several more would go over the boat’s railing. The six companies boarded the Effie Deans, on August 27th, which was being captained by the famous River man, Joseph La Barge. So in little over a fortnight after General Grant had decided to send the regiment west, they were indeed well on their way into the heart of hostile Indian country of the Dakotas.

August 29th, Colonel Dimon wrote of “The Effie Deans,” as a large stern wheel 25 feet high and makes just 45 miles a day…is a regular Indian trading boat…all the crew wore moccasins. The captain and pilot are Frenchmen and the steward is a Indian.”

After a week splashing her way down river away from St Louis the 600 or so men grew restless from close confinement and lack of activity. On one night near Independence, Missouri, several men had left the boat and from that time on Dimon worried about wholesale mutiny and desertion. He knew that for every day that passed and heading further away from St Louis, that the Effie Deans would become more isolated as a ship at sea, with only the boat’s crew and just a handful of officers against 600 former enemies.

So Dimon ordered all his officers to be doubly alert, and to keep their eyes and ears open for any sign of rumors of sedition. Then on September 5th, Captain Alfred Fay of “E” company was informed by one of his corporals that a Private William C. Dowdy had threatened to desert.

So two days later a general court martial was convened aboard the Effie Deans. Private Dowdy was charged with two violations. The first being the 7th Article of War, which states that any officer or soldier who shall begin, excite, cause or join in, any mutiny, or sedition, in a troop or company in the service of the United States, or in any party, post, detachment or guard, shall suffer death, or such other punishment as by a court martial shall be inflicted.

The specification read: “in this that he the said William C. Dowdy, Company E, of the 1st U.S. Volunteers, did make use of the following seditious language ‘that he would be dammed if he would not take the first opportunity to desert the Regiment and also cursing his Superior Officer and this on board the Steamer Effie Deans, Missouri River, on or about the 3rd day of September 1864.”

The second charge was violation of the 21st Article of War, or absenting himself from his company without leave.

Now private Dowdy was a fair-skinned man, with blue eyes, and red hair, who was a blacksmith in Bedford County, Tennessee. He was big and muscular and he also carried a very hot temper, but perhaps this was due to his age of 22. Anyway, at the advice of his counsel, he pleaded not guilty to the first charge. But when all was said and done the court found Private William Dowdy guilty of all charges and specifications, and the court handed down the sentence, considering the best interest of the service and Regiment that Private William C. Dowdy be shot to death by musketry in the presence of his entire Regiment at such time as the Commanding Officer may direct.

So within an hour after the verdict was read, on September 8th, Colonel Dimon received the written proceedings, and without so much as delay of a day to even review the testimony he had approved the court’s sentence. Colonel Dimon said “Private Dowdy would be shot to death by musketry in the presence of his Regiment on the 9th, exactly at 3 p.m. The officer of the day is charged with the execution of the order.

Private Dowdy has had full warning and after betraying the confidence of his officers and inciting his comrades to unlawful acts can expect no sympathy of officers or men.

September 9th came and the Effie Deans had just passed Omaha. The clock was nearing 3 p.m. so at the first convenient landing point on the Iowa bank of the river, the boat was moored up and planks were run ashore. The grave digging detail was ordered ashore. Not long afterward the six companies marched off the boat, into a hazy September afternoon, with Private Dowdy. They arrived at the gravesite and formed three sides of a hollow square, with the freshly dug grave at the open side of the three-sided column. To the doleful beat of drums and in a slow measured tread, the officer of the day with his firing squad, of four men bearing a board coffin, and the manacled prisoner Dowdy marched to their positions. And at 3:00 p.m. Private William C. Dowdy died from musketry fire.

One might say that Colonel Dimon exceeded his authority is a gross understatement. The entire court martial was in violation of the Articles of War, because even in wartime, regimental commanders had no authority to try or punish capital offenses. And on the basis of recorded testimony in the case of William C. Dowdy, no responsible reviewing board would have ever approved the death sentence. And because only the slightest evidence was ever brought forward in the court martial to show that Dowdy had begun or joined in any kind of mutiny.

You see Captain Fay’s original informant was a 19-year-old corporal, who which was of Danish descent and who’s English was not the best. Under questioning, the most damaging remark Hardy could recall Dowdy saying was that “if anybody wanted to desert he did not care when they went, he had as lief (soon) they would go one time as another.” Dowdy’s sergeant, Alvin C. Harrold from Hinds County, Mississippi, had testified that he had heard Dowdy say, “he would be damned if he didn’t leave the first opportunity that he got.”

Captain Fay told the court that Dowdy was “a poor soldier and a very hard man to get along with,” but that he had never heard him make any remarks about deserting. It was due largely to the testimony of these three witnesses that the court had found Dowdy guilty of violating the 7th Article of War, that is, engaging in mutiny or sedition.

Now as for the second charge, absenting himself from his company without leave, the court relied entirely on Captain Fay’s testimony. As everyone else in this case, Alfred Fay was a young and inexperienced; being 21 very slender, sprouting a downy moustache and chin whiskers, he was a special friend of Dimon, and liked to listen to him sing. Fay had said the Corporal Hardy had come to him on the evening of September 5th and reported hearing that Dowdy “was going to leave to desert.” Instead of assigning a non commissioned officer and observing Dowdy movements, Fay had decided to watch the man himself, “About eleven o’clock p.m. I went out to his quarters and found him lying down. I should judge he was asleep. His eyes were closed. The next place I saw him to recognize him was about 3 o’clock a.m. down by the gun on the starboard side.”

During the court martial the defense counsel asked Fay if Dowdy might not have changed his position on the boat to find better shelter from a heavy rain which was falling that night, Fay replied in the negative. “During the night,” he concluded, “Dowdy was seen by me in several different places on the boat, evidently with the intention of deserting.” Although he never left the Effie Deans and was scarcely out of sight of his hovering commanding officer all night long, Dowdy was still found guilty of “absenting himself from his company without leave.” Now to me I feel that Deserting ones post, during a time of War, is a capital offense, except Dowdy did not ever leave his Post, (Effie Deans) so therefore to me he did not desert his regiment or company. He was used as an example because of a letter that Dimon and written to his sweetheart one week earlier. Colonel Dimon wrote a letter to his sweetheart dated August 29, casually noting that “I shall shoot one of my men for desertion next week. It’s hard, but an example must be set.

I would imagine that Dimon saw it a different way. For example; on a riverboat filled with several hundred soldiers whose loyalties were in doubt or untried, given the power of life and death in the hands of one-man as young and inexperienced as Dimon. Poor Private Dowdy was in my opinion, doomed to be executed.

Charles Augustus Ropes Dimon was at times overconfident, and also equipped with the egotism of youth, at times badly frightened. But most of his men respected him. He came up through the ranks, first serving as a private in the 7th Massachusetts from the beginning of the war. But by the end of 1861 he was a first lieutenant of the 30th Massachusetts, Ben Butler, who promoted him to major in 1862 was a very close friend of Dimon, then in April of 1864 promoted him to lieutenant-colonel, promoting him again in August to full colonel.

On the day Butler sent Dimon a colonel’s commission, the general enclosed a letter, which may partly explain Dimon’s later behavior:

I have sent you a commission in order to show that I appreciate your soldierly qualities, and that I am kindly disposed. There are and have been grave charges against your personal habits. If I did not believe that you both could and would alter them, I should not have sent the commission. Pray do not attempt to deny the habit of drinking to excess and absence from Quarters to late hours of the night. These are not recommendations, and must now cease. A Colonel cannot afford to do so. Officers should not suppose that they are out from under my eye when I happen to be away. It is not so. Now, your officers are getting into bad habits-one was arrested in a drinking-house asleep, and it was reported to me. Three others, for one of whom you have asked promotion, have been arrested for drunkenness. Many are getting so that their Colonel will be ashamed of them, and he cannot control them, and why, they may accuse him of the same offence. I have written this letter as the kind friend. Be sure and not give further occasion either for caution or action. The last will come if it is needed. I reward good service and punish for bad, with equal facility. Remember the words of a friend.

Truly yours,

Benj. F. Butler.

Being transferred from Butler’s command, Dimon probably felt that he was still not out from under the eye of his ubiquitous protector. Perhaps in one brief hour when Dimon held in his hands the power of Life and Death over Private William Dowdy, he asked counsel not from God But from the his friend and all Benjamin Butler.

There is evidence on record that some of Dimon’s officer who served on the court martial and did not vote for the death sentence were shocked by the hurried execution and expressed themselves openly against this action. Because, less than a week after Dowdy was taken ashore a shot, Dimon has issued an order siteing attention to an Army regulation that prohibits military discussions, whether of a political or a military nature. “Hereafter, any officer,” Dimon decreed, “who may in violation of said order engage in any discussion either to the praise or censure of any officer will be immediately reported to the Secretary of War for immediate dismissal from the service. This order was an edict worthy of Dimon’s military mentor.

As Dimon was heading down the Missouri, Dimon’s new commanding General Alfred Sully was just returning from a summer expedition into hostile Indian Territory. General Sully was by temperament the exact opposite of Dimon’s friend General Butler. Sully was a professional soldier and could smell a pretender a mile and a half away; Dimon soon would find that he would have to adjust to West Point ways modified by the frontier conditions.

Sully wrote to Pope on September 16th, from Fort Rice, notifying Pope that he (Sully) did not expect the 1st U.S. Volunteers to arrive until sometime in October because of low water on the Missouri. “No boat can get here now…. They will have to march up.”

The regiment knew absolutely nothing of this until September 27th, when the Effie Deans settled onto a sand bar, just five miles below the mouth of the White Earth River. The Ships Captain had sent out a scouting party, and after returning they reported that farther progress was impossible for an indefinite period. Fort Rice was 272 miles to the north, but the Crow Creek Agency was only 40 miles upriver. Dimon hoped he could obtain transportation wagons there, so he ordered his officers to load their men with all the ammunition and rations they could carry disembark and “in heavy marching order” they started for the agency. Dimon and his junior officers, who had brought their own horses with them on the boat, rode in the advance of their regiment.

They marched 13 miles the first day, Elizabeth Cardwell, the only woman in the regimental column, walking cheerfully with her heavily laden husband. “The country,” one of the officers recorded, “was barren and desolate, monotonous hills and prairies, nearly destitute of vegetation, all dreary, all a blank, the marching regiment the only living objects about, birds few, wild animals seldom seen, but many grasshoppers. The wind swept with unchecked fury over the forestless waste, great clouds of dust hung like a mist over the empty space.”

On the second day the regiment encountered rain and hail, which pelted the column. “I was so much overcome,” Dimon wrote, “that when I got off from my horse I reeled and went down like a log-the first time I ever fainted in my life. A good fire and constant rubbing brought to. I had before that put one of my men on my horse to ride he had given out, and walked several miles. In this letter, the colonel mentioned that they had “no tents and nothing to cover us.” Rations were two hard crackers and two tablespoons of coffee grounds and sugar mixed together per day and three fourths pound of pork every four days.

Arriving at Crow Creek Agency at Noon on the Third day, September 30th, was just a little fort surrounded by teepees and their inhabitants. The fortified area consisted of a 300-foot square with a small stockade of 12-foot cedar pickets. The men found themselves glad to see any human form; mostly though they were, with their robes, feathers, beads and fringes, and not a slight admixture of grease or dirt.

Elizabeth Cardwell finally meets the company of her own sex, a pretty black-eyed schoolmarm. The woman’s husband was the principal, but with her sparkling glances and ceaseless activity she seemed to be the presiding genius of the institution.

Three days after arriving there at Cedar Creek, a Lieutenant S. B. Noyes, the regimental quartermaster, managed to gather a few ox-drawn wagons, so on October 3rd the column moved out heading north for Fort Sully, which was a 60-mile land journey. The regiment found that the vegetation beneath their feet was crisped and parched with drought. Prickly pears covered large spaces of ground, in the low bottoms the tall wiry grass rustled like shattered glass in deserted houses. Soon gone from their sight were the teepees; gone was the fort, hidden by the seemly everlasting barren bell-shaped hills. The first night after they left the Agency they camped at Soldier’s Creek.

On the evening of October 6th the regiment arrived at Medicine Creek. Here was a beautiful and lovely sheet of water, but it was nauseous to the taste. The nights were very cold and the crackling fires burning briskly made the scene one of unique beauty. One can imagine the beauty that they saw that evening, perhaps even a painter would like to paint this as soldiers sitting round a camp fire at night, in an uninhabited county. Perhaps my 2nd Great Grandfather Henry Clay Shive for a few brief hours had found some peaceful tranquility and solitude in his young life.

Arriving at Fort Sully on October 7th, the regiment found the fort a crude post consisting of just a pair of earth-roofed barracks running parallel, with the ends connected by picket stockade. To their surprise they found that General Sully and his returning expedition were camped nearby. And there they first saw the old warrior, General Sully. With no pomp or parade but practical, energetic, simply great in his appearance, his face betokened a man of action, the right man in the right place and time.

General Sully had expressed sympathy with Dimon for their lack of supplies; the General transferred a few of his wagons and shelter tents to the regiment for the remaining 170-mile march, which lay ahead of them. General Sully later wrote to General Pope, “I was much pleased with the appearance of the officers and men.”

But less impressed, General Sully’s Sergeant, J. H. Drips, of the 6th Iowa Cavalry, stated that, “At Fort Sully we met six companies of the 1 U.S. Volunteer Refugees from Alabama, who were on the march to Fort Rice. Where they were to relieve the 30th Wisconsin who were ordered south. The Alabama fellows looked rather seedy. Their marching and the difficult climate account for that.” Sergeant Drips perhaps conversed with some of the few Alabamians in this predominantly North Carolina regiment.

I don’t believe the sergeant was not mistaken about the poor condition of the men, many of which was suffering from acute dysentery brought on from drinking stagnant water along the way, and after the march was resumed for Fort Rice their condition was aggravated. Then on October 13th the regiment suffered their first death on the march, Private John Blackburn, just 21 years old, of Pike County, Kentucky, died from chronic diarrhea.

His company commander wrote in the record book: “A good and faithful soldier.” Three others would soon die of the same ailment before their column was to reach Fort Rice.

On October 14th the regiment spotted their first Indians at Wood Lake, as soon as Dimon hear of the Indians he prepared for action. In a few minutes the regiment was in line and prepared for a fight, but after a few nervous minutes, Dimon was relieved to learn they were friendly, band of 60 or so Yanktonai Sioux under Two Bears. Who had waged war against General Sully and then had signed a peace treaty.

This was their first meeting with this good Indian and true friend of Sully. In simple majesty he stood this king of the uncultured untamed land. Proud as an Eastern King in his fancy trappings, a combination of simplicity and style, which no being exhibits so much in this whole wide would, as an Indian.

Colonel Dimon and Two Bears held a long parley and when it was over Dimon was convinced that he was an authority on Indians. Dimon had prepared a report to General Sully, informing him that he had arranged with the Yanktonais to bring a number of hostile chiefs to Fort Rice for peace overtures. But Dimon would learn soon enough that friendly Indian Chief cannot make a peace, General Sully soon learned that an inexperienced young Colonel seeking peace could stir up more Indian trouble than an armed expedition.

So after leaving Two Bear’s camp on Wood Lake, the regiment moved on to Beaver Creek. The nearby woods appeared like old-deserted orchards on a worn out old farm, with one of the officers from New England recorded. “In the ravine we found skulls of men, whether Indians or whites we could not tell. The shuddery was full of wild fowl, and our men put in practice their early lessons in the art of hunting with good effect,”

By the early morning of October 17th, the regiment sighted Fort Rice, on the West Bank of the river, arriving at the bank of the river the regiment began crossing on the post ferry. A cry of joy had burst out, among the men, as they saw Fort Rice’s unfinished battlements! They had marched 272miles since leaving the Riverboat Effie Deans.

Fort Rice, lay on a five-acre stretch of land about 100 feet above the river, was still uncompleted, General Sully named the Fort after the late General James C. Rice. The building were made of cottonwood-log building, earth-roofed, which formed a square 400 by 500 feet. The 30th Wisconsin, which had started construction four months earlier, had departed for the battles waging in the South, just a few days before the 1st U.S. Volunteers arrived. The 6th Iowa was present to receive the new arrivals. The Iowans left the next day, using the ox-wagons given the regiment at Fort Sully.

Dimon’s first orders was to assign details for cutting timber, because most of the building at the post were still incomplete, there were only four buildings with roof’s, so the two small sawmills were kept busy cutting wood for the remaining building. Reveille was posted for 6:00 a.m., surgeon’s call at 6:15a.m. Breakfast at 6:45a.m. Guard mounting 7:30a.m. Dinner 12 noon, recall from fatigue 4:30 p.m. retreat at sundown; tattoo at 7:45 p.m. and taps at 8:00 p.m.

Before the end of the month, four more men had died from diarrhea, which was contracted, while on the march. A young Thomas Hobbs of North Carolina, who was 19 years old, Slipped and fell into the river and drowned. He was given the job because of his experience as a sailor.

Come November the weather became colder which helped spur the men to even extra efforts, to get the Fort Completed. Dimon kept a watchful eye on all the building details, he insisted that elaborate shelving and gun racks be added to the interiors. Dimon made it a point to live in a tent himself until all his men were in barracks, and he changed the standard army mess system, of four men rotating duties of preparing food for each other, he assigned regular cooks to the company cookhouses.

By mid November rations were running low, so the food supplies had to be rationed carefully during the coming winter, no boats could be expected to travel down river before spring, the regiment had only the food they themselves hauled overland from Fort Sully, which was supplemented by what had been left behind by the 30th Wisconsin. In order to build up a meat larder, Dimon released a few men from work details to go out as hunting parties, but never a hunting party less than 6 privates and they were to be accompanied by a noncommissioned officer. These small hunting parties were instructed “to always be on the alert for Indians but never to molest them unless attacked by them.”

By the end of November Dimon had learned that not all the Indians around Fort Rice were as friendly as Two Bear’s Yanktonais. On November 21st, a band of peaceful Indians attacked a group of soldiers outside the fort, Private Edwin Durham, was wounded in this fight. Just six days later Lieutenant Noyes’s hunting party had to fight off a similar attack. In this attack Private George Townsend was killed, Lieutenant Noyes and his Quartermaster Sergeant, C.D. Thompson, were wounded.

Because of these attacks, Dimon issued new orders concerning Indians, “On and after Tuesday November 29, 1864, all armed Indians except those dressed in soldier uniforms and on the west side of the Missouri River will be regarded as enemies and be immediately fired upon and if possible killed.” This General order and precautions adopted by officers and men whenever duties took them outside the fort, indeed ended if but for a short time, casualties inflicted by the Indians. But disease still continued to take it toll of life in the post hospital. By the months end Surgeon George H.W. Herrick reported that seven deaths resulted from chronic diarrhea, typhoid fever, dropsy, and consumption.

Thanksgiving Day, Dimon wrote to his parents’ back east that the completion of the barracks had been completed and that he was already moved into his quarters. He wrote, “I have four rooms, an office, sitting room, sleeping room and a dining room. I have a good stove and plenty off wood. All is ice and winter about us.” Also in his letter he states how proud he was; “My men among themselves have raised $1,000, one thousand dollars, to buy me a gift sword, as a token of their esteem.”

A few horses arrived in early December which were brought up from Fort sully, quickly Dimon organized a mounted infantry force which was to be used for patrolling the area and to carry mail to Forts Berthold and Fort Sully. The winter storms came much more frequently toward the end of December, during a howling night blizzard Sergeant Aguilla Williams, believed that no Indian would be on the prowl in such severe weather, took pity on his picket guards and let them go to their quarters. And for this the Sergeant was reduced to the ranks for “exposing the garrison to danger from attack and from fire.”

Now to keep his officers and noncoms busy during the days of inclement weather, Dimon organized classes on a regular basis in tactics and army regulations. He also issues orders to enforce cleanliness. The barracks floors were to washed spotless twice a month. “Sinks for washing will be built in company quarters and in future any soldier appearing on duty with face of hands dirty will be punished the same as if clothing or accoutrements were dirty. Bastion in the southwest corner, to be outfitted as bathrooms. Companies to rotate using it daily except Sundays. Company commanders be held responsible that every man of their company washes himself thoroughly once a week.”

In mid December Dimon mounted up a patrol to go in search of Mrs. Fanny Kelly, who became captive of a band of hostile Sioux, which were reported to be somewhere in the vicinity of the Fort. While searching for Mrs. Kelly Dimon and his men came upon Indians and these Indians presented Dimon with three fine looking horses. The temperature soon dropped to 34 degrees below zero, which caused several of Dimon’s men to suffer from frozen feet, faces and fingers, so they gave up their 40-mile chase.

Returning to the fort, Dimon ordered a flagstaff mounted in front of his headquarters being just to the West End of the parade grounds. Then on Christmas Day the regiment fell in for assembly, then the first United States flag was raised over Fort Rice. “The cheering was long and loud when the flag fell open and swept out upon the breeze.”

Colonel Dimon dedicated the banner to General Sully and made a speech: “Let Fort Rice stand as a monument of what soldiers once rebel, now Union, can do for the cause they have espoused. In this inhospitable region, this desert sea of land, they have reared a light house whose beams shall conduct in safety the Ship of State across these vast shoals into the broad and deep bays of the Pacific.”

At the Christmas feast Two Bears brought his friendly band to draw rations for the winter, and after the ceremonies, Dimon ordered a spread set up for the Indians. Frank La Framboise, the fort’s resident interpreter, explained that his mission in their country was to help keep the peace. Captain Enoch Adams of company “D” later described this occasion by writing “Bears’ claws, bears’ teeth, feathers, fringes, beads and porcupine quills, and an abundant supply of red and yellow paints. The way they stowed away the groceries in their human breadbaskets was a caution to beholders. As the camels drink water, so the Indian eats, laying in at once in his stomach enough to last him for a week.”

So the regiment closed out the year of 1864 by mustering in for pay. And what an empty ceremony it was, for there was no paymaster at the ceremony, and word had it that their probably would be no paymaster until spring, when there boat arrive. Luckily the soldiers were able to buy tobacco, candy, ale for credit from a man named W.L. Marsh, who had come out from New Hampshire to prosper from the soldiers, he ran absolutely no risk of loosing his monies because the army’s benevolence guaranteed him first claim at the pay table.

The first weeks of the New Year were without any incidents, except when Colonel Dimon and his mounted patrol made off to Fort Sully. His detachment came upon Mrs. Fanny Kelly, who had recently been given her freedom from her captors, so the detachment brought her back to Fort Sully with them.

Meanwhile back at Fort Rice, the Southerners were experiencing the coldest winter they had ever encountered. It had become a terrible ordeal just to go to the outdoor sanitary trenches in below zero temperatures, so a order had to be given authorizing the sergeant of the guard to arrest any persons found committing any nuisances in places other than the sinks provided. “Said nuisances includes urinating in the immediate vicinity of the Fort.”

Two Bears and some young Yanktonais came down from Fort Berthold on January 24th, with disturbing reports. The Yanktonais told Colonel Dimon that some Half-breed traders, who were flying the British flag, had come to their winter camps near Berthold to stir up the Indians for a big war against the American forts all along the Missouri. The Yanktonais quoted the Canadian invaders as saying: “This flag will not be put down for anybody, only for God Almighty. Those who join us will not get hurt. We will return the last of the month with more powder, ball, and arms, and some Santee’s and will take Fort Berthold and Fort Rice.”

Dimon quickly reported to General Sully, the information provided by the Yanktonais, Dimon requested permission “To break up these trading parties from the British possessions and execute summary justice on the principals engaged this winter. I have no doubt but what there is a Confederate element at work.”

Colonel Dimon also noted that the health of his command was in poor condition. As a direct result of scanty and unbalanced rations, scurvy had again broken out among his men. “My supply of anti-scorbutic is limited, but I trust will be sufficient to soon check its progress.” Colonel Dimon was very optimistic that the health of his men would get better, but before long one of his soldiers had died of the disease. Before spring would arrive many more would become fatally stricken also, the thought to be buried in “this waste, howling wilderness, far from home and the place that saw their birth and the sports of their childhood.”

As unpalatable as the food was, some of Dimon’s men began complaining that the cooks were not serving sufficient quantities to fill a soldier’s belly. So surprise inspections soon showed shortages in the kitchens. Colonel Dimon suspected the cooks of “trading rations for their own benefit to Indian squaws.” He returned his two cooks back to the ranks and ordered that, “any cook or cooks giving, selling, or disposing in any way of any rations, will be subject to immediate confinement and trial. Any cook or cooks allowing any Indians to enter their cook house will be severely punished.”



Part III

Return to Part I