Incredible ALS from General Elwell S. Otis ripping George Custer & the Black Hills Expedition! Four pages, dated September 1st, 1873 and written from Rochester, NY.
Otis is recuperating from an unsaid illness and is writing to a fellow officer in the 22nd US Infantry, who is serving at Fort Randall in Dakota Territory.
”Rochester September 1, 1873
My dear Mr. Campbell
It has been a long since I have use pen and ink that I am sure that I shall make some fearful mistakes if I attempted to write, still being ashamed of the letter interest I have opportunity taken in Randall during the summer I am forced to try a letter and make some kind of apologies. Dr. Fish has twice visited me, from him I have learned a portion of the Dakota news.
When the last here some two weeks since he informed me that he had learned through you that the regiment would probably move, either the present fall, or upon the following Spring. I placed no credit upon the rumored Fall movement and I am therefore making arrangements or rather anticipating returning to Randall sometime in November or possibly the latter part of October should the weather become cold.
Dr. Fish also informed me that you had taken possession of my Randall mansion & that, with the absence of Maj. Webb from the post, constituted all the important changes which Randall had undergone since my deportation therefrom.
all the news, concerning the Great Expedition which I have been able to obtain has been received through the medium of the papers. I there learn that Custer is at the head of the expedition & that Gen. Stanley is with him. I learned that Custer marched three hundred & forty three miles in twenty four hours & twice thrashed the Indians, with the aid of Mr. Ketchum, who unfortunately lost his horse in the encounter; and finally I learn so much which seems to be strange & unaccountable that I am ready to believe that the ghost of Maj. Galpin accompanies the expedition & is making the newspaper reports; for who on earth, having a knowledge of that country & of human nature in general, could, when fairly considering probabilities, ever suppose that several full barrels of whiskey were wantonly & purposely destroyed by the wish & consent of that entire command. For my part I am skeptical & I have come to the conclusion to place no confidence in Dakota reports.
I often think of you all at Randall & wonder what you can find to do. It would be madfully dull there this Summer. I have been quiet here for most of the time- have absolutely accomplished nothing at all if that can be considered possible.
but there is always some place to go to if you feel like going. I have been on a visit to Montréal & Québec, have navigated Lake Champlain & Lake George & yesterday. I returned from a fishing excursion to Alexandria Bay when I took in a goodly number of good big fish. My health is much better & if I remain quiet I suffer but little inconvenience from my cotton wood head. The return of cool weather will I hope find me able to read & write whenever the inclination seizes me & if so I can be contented at Randall or at most any other place.
When I left the post I turned over to Mr. Pratt the Indian vouchers which I received for the horses. The vouchers were from me in duplicate & Mr. Pratt ascertained that triplicates were necessary. I sent to Cheyenne for the triplicate copy with request that it be transmitted to Mr. Pratt & told Mr. Pratt that when he received it to send it to me for signature. He has not done so & I am ignorant as to the course he has taken. Please ask him if he has received payment on the vouchers.
Dr. Fish & myself called upon Commodore Durfee who is here sick, suffering from ‘Brights disease
of the kidneys’ (I think kidnies is more proper) he is much better & expects to be able to ride out soon. The poor fellow is hopeful of complete restoration of health but his friends are extremely anxious.
I suppose Maj. Webb has long since returned. I would write him a letter if I had the least belief that he would ever reply to it. I have more confidence in Capt. Minor & will write him someday when my friends leave me alone for a few minutes. Please remember me to all the officers & say to them that I hope to return to Randall with my nervous system improved & with my natural disposition sound, (which you know is ‘childlike & bland) tell Harry if he knocks a single chip off the house I’ll pull his ear when I see him again and say to Lou that she must match Harry all the time. I hope Mrs. Campbell is in good health and that she has at last found a set of quarters in which she can find some comfort.
Let me hear from you very soon. Should the regiment by any possibility move this fall I would not return to Randall, but would join it in its new location. Remember me to Dr. Woods & Lord. I did not know that Dr. Woods had received any serious injury until Dr. Fish told me.
Very truly yours,
E. S. Otis
$595.00 plus shipping
The military expedition of 1873, formed for the purpose of affording protection to the surveying parties of the Northern Pacific Railroad, west of Bismarck, was organized by General Terry, commanding the Department of Dakota. Gen. D. S. Stanley, of the Twenty-second Infantry, was placed in command. The expedition rendezvoused at Fort Rice in early June, and was made up of ten companies of the Seventh Cavalry under General Custer; ten companies of infantry from the Eighth and Ninth Regiments, under Lt. Col. L. P. Bradley, of the Ninth; five companies of Stanley's regiment, the Twenty-second; four companies of the Seventeenth Infantry, under Major Crafton, of the Seventeenth; seventy-five scouts; and also ten scouts who were with Stanley the year before; two Rodman rifled guns. The expedition was provided with sixty days subsistence, and arrangements had been made for further supplies at a depot to be established on the Yellowstone by General Forsyth, who was then en route by steamer Key West to the Yellowstone to select sites for two military posts. The expedition got away from Fort Rice about June 15th, and very soon thereafter it entered upon an active campaign, which kept the troops employed during the entire summer. - Early in August, General Custer, with Scout Bloody Knife and a squadron of cavalry, were detailed by General Stanley to go ahead and look up the route, and having advanced about two miles from camp, to a point two miles below the mouth of the Big Horn, they halted to wait for the train. Shortly after a large band of Indians appeared and made demonstrations toward the camp as though intending to attack; they were easily driven off, but proved to be a decoy for a large number in the woods in ambush, waiting for the troops whose route would be in their direction. Finding that the ruse had failed, the Indians to the number of 300 boldly advanced on Custer, who had but eighty men, under Captain Moylan, and began firing. They also fired the grass. A serious skirmish took place during which the ammunition of the cavalry gave out but the Indians did not observe this and gave up the fight. Two Indians were killed and three cavalrymen who imprudently ventured too close to the enemy. Three days later, Custer having been reinforced, was attacked by 800 Indians near a timbered strip. The troops returned the fire, and a battle lasting two hours followed, both parties using the trees as covers. About three hundred of the Indians then crossed the river above and below Custer's camp, and endeavored to gain the bluffs on the river. The cavalry were dismounted and desultory firing lasted for some time, the Indians protected by the ridges and timber. Finally Custer ordered a charge, when the troops mounted and pursued the Indians who fled in great disorder for eight miles. Happily the train with the main body of the escort arrived under Stanley, and joined in the running fight which was quite a battle at times, but the Indians finally disappeared and must have lost a good many of their number. This battle occurred within two miles of the mouth of the Big Horn. Custer and Lieutenant Ketchum had their horses shot under them. Lieutenant Braden was badly wounded in the thigh. Private Tuttle, Custer's orderly, was killed, and twenty of the soldiers wounded. The loss of the Indians, estimated by Custer, was forty killed and wounded. The Indians were all well armed with heavy rifles of the latest pattern, and had an abundance of ammunition. Some were dressed in clothes procured at the Grand River Agency and were supposed to be under the command of Sitting Bull. It was also suspected that they received their arms and ammunition from Fort Peck above on the Missouri River. The expedition was at Pomney's pillar on the 15th of August, and returned to Fort Lincoln in October, where it disbanded.
Galpin (Gilpin, Kiplin), Charles E., frontiersman (d.c. 1870). Galpin arrived in the North Plains by 1834, married a "very intelligent" Yanktonais Sioux woman of fine character and for many years engaged in the upper Missouri fur trade. He was at Fort William (the later Fort John, then Fort Laramie), Wyoming probably at the time it was built, in 1834. When the first stockade was up, he and John Sabille, another trader were sent to Bear Butte in the Black Hills where they induced Bull Bear with 100 lodges of Oglala Sioux to move to the Platte, "the first appearance of the Sioux in that region," it was said. Galpin still was trading in the Fort Laramie region in 1842, but later removed to the upper Missouri where he settled in to trade with his wife's people. In November of 1862 Galpin, descending the Missouri with some Idaho miners, ran into hostile Sioux moving into the Missouri country from the great Minnesota uprising. The Indians hailed the boat, urged that it tie up on their shore; Mrs. Galpin, although unaware of the Minnesota troubles as yet, sensed something wrong. She and the men of the party, after going ashore as requested, quickly pushed the boat back into the stream as an ambush was sprung. At this point a white woman ran down to the shore and called that white women and children were held captive by the hostiles. Galpin's party continued to Charles Primeau's trading house just above Fort Pierre where they told of the prisoners, who eventually were rescued. When the Jesuit, Jean-Pierre DeSmet in May 1868 reached Fort Rice, North Dakota with authority of the Peace Commission to visit the hunting, or "hostile" Sioux under Sitting Bull on Powder River and urged them to accept a formal peace, he persuaded Galpin and his wife to accompany him. DeSmet desired also at some point to extend his missions to the Sioux country; he had a reputation among that people for honesty and candor, as had Galpin. DeSmet and the Galpins left with an escort of 80 Sioux including many famous chiefs on this mission, which was attended by considerable risk. The Sitting Bull camp was located on the Yellowstone, four miles above the Powder, and included 600 lodges. The non-treaties were prepared for the delegation; it was hoped they would accept it peacefully, which they did. June 19 the party arrived. There was dissension among the Sioux, some urging that the whites be killed, but Galpin and DeSmet were taken into the lodge of Sitting Bull, where they were safe. Mrs. Galpin, a general favorite, visited other lodges, talking peace. A major council was held next day. Galpin recorded the speeches. Sitting Bull himself would not go to fort Rice to sign the treaty, but he sent Gall and Bull Owl and they did so July 2, 1868. Galpin was sutler at various army posts and Indian agencies during his late life. He died on the Indian reservation at Grand River, South Dakota.