During the coldest time in winter, in the month of January,
1863, nine freight wagons left
on their way East. A few miles before they reached the Nine Mile Ridge
they encountered a band of almost famished
who hailed with delight the freight wagons, thinking they could get some
coffee and other provisions. In this lonely part of the world, 75
miles from Fort Larned,
and a 175 miles from
Fort Lyon, Colorado
without even a settler between, it was uncomfortable to even an Indian
to find himself without rations.
The Nine Mile
Ridge was a high elevation above the
Arkansas River road running close to the river, on top of the ridge.
Indians followed the wagons several miles, imploring the wagon
boss to give them something to eat and drink, which request he
steadily refused in no uncertain voice. When it was known by the red
men that the wagon boss was refusing their prayers for subsistence
they knew of no other method to enforce division other than to take it
from the wagons.
The leader of the
band went around to the head of the oxen and demanded them to corral,
stop and give them some provision. During the corralling of the train
one wagon was tipped partly over and the teamster shot an Indian in his fright. Then the
Indians picked up their wounded warrior, placed him on a horse and
left the camp, determined to return and take an Indian's revenge upon the caravan. The wagon boss went into camp
well satisfied--but not long was his satisfaction to last.
Indians departed several teamsters who thought they knew what was
desired by the Indians reproached their wagon-boss for not having complied with
their request to give them food. His action in refusing food resulted
in a mutiny on the part of the teamsters, and after the oxen were
turned out to graze, the dispute between the teamsters and the
wagon-boss became so turbulent that if a few peaceably inclined
drivers had not arraigned themselves on the side of the wagon-boss he
would have been lynched.
Before daylight the Indians returned and attacked the wagons and killed all the whites
but one man who escaped down the bank into the river. He floated down
until he was out of hearing of the Indians. When he was almost worn out and half frozen he got out of
the river, wrung the water from his clothing and started for
Fort Larned, seventy-five miles distant. After leaving the water he noticed
a fire, and knew instinctively that the Indians had set fire to their wagons, and wondered how many, if
any, of the company had escaped as he had so far done.
Late in the afternoon of the next day a
troop of soldiers discovered this man several miles from
in an almost exhausted condition, dropping down and getting up again.
The commanding officer sent out some soldiers and brought him to the
fort. I talked with this man, and he told me that if the wagon-boss
had given the Indians something to eat, entertained them a little, or given them
the smallest hospitality, he believed they would all have been saved
from that massacre. He said the Indians plead with the wagon-boss for food, and he thought if the
teamster had not lost his equanimity and made that first luckless shot
the massacre of the Nine Mile Ridge would never have become a thing of
This tragedy created a great fright and made traveling across the plains
difficult. The Indians
were hostile only because they did not know the minds of the white
men, and what their attitude toward them would be, if they were not
always prepared to defend themselves.