Friday, August 31, 2012

Dakota Conflict Timeline August 25-31 1862

Under Ryker's scouting, Company A was kept busy. They found numerous corpses in various states of mutilation and decomposition  strewn about the prairie, and after making records of them and identifying those they could, they buried them in shallow graves where they fell. At one juncture where a small pond sat surrounded by cottonwood trees, , the scout glanced up and saw several turkey vultures soaring in the sky.    "Something's dead over there, sir."
"Just a deer carcass probably," Major Brown replied, "or maybe a dead horse or cow from the tornado."
Ryker, however, had a hunch. "Hold up here a minute, will you, sir? Want to check our Beaver Creek Marsh over yonder."
Major brown, after conferring with Captain Grant, agreed this was a good idea and and ordered the troops to take a fifteen-minute breather. He drew out his chaw of tobacco, bit off a chunk, and as an afterthought said: "Smoke, if you got the makings."
Riding ahead, Ryker's hunch was soon proven true. He saw the flies first - swarms of them - and then caught the odor of death. Upon closer examination, he found the remains of Captain John Marsh and twenty of his men, all killed in the original massacre of August the 18th, lying in the tall weeds next to the pond. They had been scalped and mutilated, and three mangy coyotes and several vultures now feasted on the remains. With them, also dead, was a family consisting of a man and a woman and three children. He later learned that this was the entire Prescott Johnson family, immigrants who had crossed the ocean just five years before to make a new life as homesteaders in the Minnesota territory. Now, all they could homestead was a six foot hole in the ground.
The detail came forward and buried the dead and were about to head out when Ryker, seeing the glint of metal against the sun, narrowed his steely eyes and squinted towards the west. There he saw a war party of Sioux following Beaver Creek, which drained into Beaver Creek Marsh, heading in their direction. He saw the leader, whom he immediately recognized as Little Crow, draw up his pony and stand tall in his saddle, looking toward him. The Indian raised his lance, and Ryker heard a shout, and the Indians dismounted and disappeared into the weeds. Even the horses were quickly out of view, but Ryker knew they were hiding behind a tall knoll above the ravine known as Birch Coulee in this part of the state. "We got company, sir," he said. "And I don't think they came to pay a social call."


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