Along Cow Creek, a small detachment of thirty volunteers from Fort Benton caught up with the Nez Perce just as the warriors were attacking a bull train hauling supplies from Cow Island to Fort Benton. The command of Major Guido Ilges was too small to do anything other than worry the rear of the Nez Perce caravan briefly.

I went, with thirty other Benton volunteers, under command of Major Ilgis, on horseback.... We then proceeded rapidly towards Cow Island, and arrived there just at night (after the Indians had left the island), and saw the goods still burning, but could at first see no men. Soon we saw a boat with three men in it. We hailed it and learned that eight men had kept the Indians at bay for forty-eight hours at that point, and finally had caused them to retreat, after firing the goods. We then sent by them, down the river, a message to Gen. Miles, who was forty miles below, and told them the directions the hostiles had gone, and what they had done at the island. We remained there that night, and, fearing the Indians might attack a train of wagons known to be on the north side of the river, early the next morning we crossed and went in pursuit. About nine miles from the crossing, we came upon the Indians just as they were stripping the canvas from the freight wagon. A half-breed along with us darted in advance of our party, and rode up to within two hundred yards of the hostiles, then suddenly wheeled his horse and ran back to us. Meantime, we had entrenched ourselves in a ravine, so that we could fire from under cover.

About one hundred charged back after the half-breed, and when within range of our rifles, we opened fire upon them, and they fell back. They fought us at long range for about five hours, during which ... they killed one of our men. They then left us, seeing that we were not strong enough to pursue and charge them. We returned to the crossing.

John Samples

Fort Benton volunteer

After the Nez Perce crossed the Missouri, the leadership of the camp reverted to Chief Looking Glass.

Looking Class upbraided Poker Joe for his hurrying; for causing the old people weariness; told him that he was no chief, that he himself was chief and that he would be the leader. Pokerjoe replied, 'All right, Looking Glass, you can lead. I am trying to save the people, doing my best to cross into Canada before the soldiers find us. You can take command, but I think we will be caught and killed.'

Many Wounds

Prior to arriving at Cleveland, MT one passes Miles Butte on the south side of the road. In this vicinity, the scouts of Colonel Nelson A. Miles finally found the Nez Perce trail they had been looking for.

We saw a bunch of them running buffalo, probably ten or twelve of them. They soon discovered us, as they had glasses. I soon noticed that they were the Nez Perces as they had striped blankets-the other tribes had solid colors. I sent another Indian back to tell the General [Miles] that we had found the Nez Perces and that they had better hurry up. The Nez Perces took what meat they wanted, as we did not crowd, not getting nearer than one-half mile.

Louis Shambow



The Nez Perce Flight to Canada - An Introduction

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