Fort Abraham Lincoln — Bismark

Fort Abraham Lincoln — today

Fort Lincoln was the home of the Seventh Cavalry. The ill-fated expedition led by Colonel Custer had set out from here the preceding year. In May 1877, Colonel Samuel D. Sturgis, field commander of the Seventh Cavalry, had left here with his troops to scout in central Montana. The Seventh Cavalry had failed to catch the Nez Perce at the Clarks Fork, at Canyon Creek, or at the Musselshell and had given up the pursuit. Three companies of the Seventh were at the Bear's Paw. And now the Seventh Cavalry was escorting the defeated Nez Perce from Fort Buford to Fort Lincoln.

Saturday forenoon Major Bates and two companies of the First infantry arrived in mackinaws with two hundred Nez Perces, comprising, the wounded, women and children. They were quartered at Fort A. Lincoln.... The balance of the captives, 240, with the Seventh cavalry are expected in this evening or to-morrow.

The Bismarck Tri-Weekly Tribune

November 19, 1877

By now all the flat boat fleet had reported to commanding officer of the Fort. The Main Street of Bismark of only three blocks was crouded with scouts, trappers, miners, gamblers and river men....

The little city was by now on the buzz getting ready to give a grand ball and supper in honor of Chief Joseph. The ladies at the Fort joined in. There was no printed tickets. The tickets was a $ 10.00 gold coin, ladies free and oppen to all. A runner came in from the West and reported that Gen. Miles and his command had camped the night befor in the Painted Woods. The NPRR agent had wired on the now single wire to Fargo N.D. 200 miles away for a full train of passenger cars to take the Nez Perce prisoners to the Indian Teritory... The next day Washington and I had just got seated to breakfast in the restaurant when the Irish waitress and the cook rushed out of the Restaurant saying they comming they comming we joined the anxious croud and shore enough at the head of 4th Street comming down its slope was the Gen. Miles command. Early that morning they had sent a body of troops with the fort band to meet Gen. Miles. These troops had now formed a hollow squar arround the entire command protecting all flanks. The band was playing star spangle banner. Gen. Miles with Chief Joseph on is left was in the advance. The appearance of all was heart rending very sad. At the corner of Main and 4th Street the stampeed commenced. Women children and even men rushed the hollow square with all kinds of cooked food. I seen our restaurant waitress beating her way through the hollow squar with one half of a boiled ham. They beat the guards back to the center line and the wagons. The command had to halt till each Nez Perce prisoner and even the over land Guard was furnished with food of good kind. The officers of the command said nothing till all was given.... Satisfied the women and children drew back and the command passed on to the Fort. We went in to finish breakfast but Washington was too sad to eat and the Irish waitress said ["]The Divels to put those poor people under soldiers guard.["]

Fred G. Bond

The American public had been reading about Chief Joseph for over five months by this time. They had heard how a small group of Native Americans had repeatedly bested the same army that had won the Civil War just twelve years earlier. They had been impressed with the honor and strength with which the Nez Perce fought while General Howard and his troops came across in the newspapers as a group of tired and incapable bunglers. No doubt about it, the sentiment of the American public was for the underdog. And the underdog Nez Perce were about to encounter the American public.

The following invitation was issued this morning to Chief Joseph:

Bismarck, D.T, Nov. 21, 1877

To Joseph, Head Chief of Nez Perces.

Sir: Desiring to show you our kind feelings and the admiration we have for your bravery and humanity, as exhibited in your recent conflict with the forces of the United States, we most cordially invite you to dine with us at the Sheridan House, in this city. The dinner is to be given at 1 112 Pm. to-day.

Respectfully, Geo. W Sweet, H.R. Porter,Wm. A. Bentley

At the Sheridan House the above invitation was interpreted to Joseph, Yellow Bull, Shaved Head [Husishusis Kute], and Yellow Wolf. They all accepted it and said they were glad to see the good feeling upon the part of the white people.

Joseph, and the other chiefs named, about twelve o'clock, held a reception in the Sheridan Parlors, and was presented to a number of the ladies of the house. They were told that this respect was on account of their humanity to our soldier prisoners.

Bismarck Tri-Weekly Tribune
November 21, 1877

A few hours later, however, Chief Joseph learned of yet another broken promise.

Joseph, on Wednesday evening in his tepee down in the wood, was told by interpreter Chapman ... that another movement had been ordered by the government. Joseph's head dropped and he murmured in his mother tongue, "When will those white chiefs begin to tell the truth?"

Bismarck Tri-Weekly Tribune
November 23, 1877

On November 23, a train pulled out of Bismarck headed east to St. Paul and then south for Fort Leavenworth.

And Chief Joseph stood on the rear platform of the train to wave good bye.

Fred G. Bond



The Nez Perce Flight to Canada - An Introduction

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