Letters and Quotations of the Nez Perce Flight

[Photograph]: The destruction of Looking Glass Village

Destruction of Looking Glass Village


[Photograph]: Chief Joseph"What are we fighting for? Is it for our lives? No. It is for this land where the bones of our fathers lie buried. I do not want to take my women among strangers. I do not want to die in a strange land. Some of you tried to say once that I was afraid of the whites. Stay here with me now and you will have plenty of fighting. We will put our women behind us in these mountains and die on our own land fighting for them. I would rather do that than run I know not where."

Chief Joseph

"The Indians ride with a hair-rope knotted around the under jaw for a bridle. The men use a stuffed pad with wooden stirrups. The women sit astride, in a saddle made with a very high pommel and cantle, and in travelling carry their infants either dangling by the cradle-strap to the former, or slung in a blanket over their shoulders; while children of a little larger growth sit perched upon the pack-animals, and hold on as best they may."

George Gibbs

Surveyor and ethnologist, 1855

Lieutenant Farrow"The ascent of the heights beyond Kamiah was tedious in the extreme. It was raining hard, and the muddy, slippery trail was almost impassable, filled with rugged rocks and fallen timber. The descent to the Lolo Fork was made by slipping, crawling and scrambling over rocks and through thick underbrush. At the "We-ipe" was an opening in the forest with water and grass. Here was a camp made for the weary, footsore animals and exhausted men, after a sixteen mile march of the greatest severity."

Lt. E.S. Farrow

"At the "We-ipe"…there was quite a lengthy opening in the forest, and plenty of water and grass. The hostile Indians had pastured this plat pretty well, and had dug over much of the land for the camas roots … "

Gen. Oliver Otis Howard

"The first night we camped at the Wey-ipe (Nez Perce for a marshy place in the mountains), where camas was so plentiful that the path had taken by our men was in many places actually white with that favorite Indian bulb."

Thomas A. Sutherland

General Howard"The camp was generally rectangular in form. One battalion covered the front, usually, camping in line, and sending guard and picket details well out. A second covered the sides or flanks, a third the rear. The battery took its place at will … For headquarters a place was sought of easy communication, and having a neat plat of ground, with wood and water convenient … The "big tent" was a common square tent. Mason had a smaller one of special make … His was put beside the big one, on one side; a tent-fly was pitched, with open front and back, on the other [for Dr. Alexander, Lieutenant Fletcher and Sutherland] … The quarter-master, Lieutenant Ebstein, pitched still another tent-fly for himself and his clerks. A small pack train, under Louis, the Mexican, came up promptly after the night's halt was called. The kitchen was placed some twenty paces off … The kitchen consisted of our mess-chest and one or two canvas bags, one or two mule-loads, according to the state of the supplies. When the nights were damp or cold we always had a large fire made in front of the big tent. Our beds were common blankets or robes … Our table consisted of a square of canvas, spread near the "kitchen," in fair weather, and within the big tent when it was rainy. "

Gen. Oliver Otis Howard

[Photograph]: Arrest of the Red Heart Band

Arrest of the Red Heart Band at Weippe Prairie

The Lolo Trail

"The trip through Lolo Trail was made in excellent time, and to General Howard is due the full credit, as he alone appeared to be the man anxious to hurry ahead, at all hazards to life or limb, and at all times. On leaving Kamiah we were accompanied by a severe rain which kept us company for the entire day, making the march. Which was single file on account of the narrowness of the path, far the most slippery, sticky, muddy and filthy of the trip.

For about three days and a half of our experience on this trail our horses were entirely without grass, the only semblance of it being a tough species of wire growth which mules and horses alike refuse to eat. The rapid marches, lack of food and camping on the sides of the mountains which deprive the poor brutes of rest at night, made our last tramps before reaching the east end of the Lolo very laborious."

Thomas A. Sutherland

"For ten days we toiled along this pathway. The marching hour was sunrise, the camping hour sunset. Often the hillsides were so steep that we could not sleep comfortably without digging out a bed. Each calvaryman had been required to start with ten pounds of grain for his horse, but several times horses and patient pack-mules were tied up at night without a mouthful of any kind of fodder."

Lt. C.E.S. Wood

Lieutenant C.E.S. Wood"The trail ahead being obstructed by fallen trees of all sizes and descriptions, uprooted by the winds and matted together in every possible troublesome way, a company of forty "pioneers," with axes, was organized and sent ahead to open the trail, wherever possible. It is true that the Indians had gone over this trail ahead of the troops; but they had jammed their ponies through, over and under rocks, around, over and under logs and fallen trees and through the densest undergrowth, and left blood to mark their path, with abandoned animals with broken legs or stretched dead on the trail."

Lt. C.E.S. Wood

Soldier Meadows

"The second day's march involved a perpetual vaulting over fallen timber and wallowing in mud holes until our arrival at the next camp. Here we found a most delightful marsh, filled with mosquitoes and bog holes seemingly without depth. Our cavalry horses on being turned out fell into the holes [from which they were extricated only by means of considerable neck and tail stretching] … "

Major Mason

(Major Mason informed his wife that "we live on hard bread, bacon and occasional potatoes, coffee.")

Weitas Meadows

"The command left Camp Winters at seven A.M. Artillery at head of column. Day clear and pleasantly cool … The trail led through woods of the same general character as before; rather a "slow trail," owing to mountainous country and fallen timber. The summit of the hills was covered with rough granite boulders, making the path quite difficult. There was plenty of excellent springs on trail; our men travel it well, and are in good order. We march sixteen miles and encamp on a slope of the mountain. Poor grazing, indeed, here. The only feed consists of wild dwarf lupine and wire-grass. Several mules were exhausted, and some packs of bacon were abandoned by the way … Loose Indian horses, broken-down always, were seen along the trail. "

Gen. Oliver Otis Howard

August 2, 1877

Bald Mountain

"This Friday morning is cold and disagreeable. It began to rain during the night and this morning it's almost cold enough to make ice - for we are up near the snow line, with the snow peaks all around us. We are making a late start this morning for our mules are almost played out on this trail. How can I describe … this mountain trail? It runs through the thickest of forests, and the most broken mountains I have ever seen. The fallen timber covers the trail so that every few feet there is a log to climb over or crawl around. We have to keep our pioneers at work [with] their axes all day long. We start at 6 A.M. and … work hard all day and make about 16 miles by 6 P.M. Our train and troops string out about 5 miles in length, as there is no danger of a flank attack in these forests, for no one can travel a foot off the trail, it makes no difference about the length of our line. The scenery is very grand from the top of some of the mountains we cross. While all day long it has the top of some of the mountains we cross. While all day long it has been very pleasant to travel through the dense forests with the sunlight glinting through the trees. It looks a little brighter in the sky just now and I think it will clear up. We will have only a short march today - about 10 miles - but that will take until late in the afternoon. The grass is very scanty in these mountains and it's very poor feeding for the poor fellows [horses and mules]."

Major Mason

"This camp was on the side of a mountain and so precipitous that at dinner … Gen. Howard had to rest his coffee cup on a stone, on one side, to keep it from going over the hill. According as the tents were pitched, or rather beds made in them, we slept almost erect or standing on our heads"

Thomas A. Sutherland

Howard Camp

"Our American horses were not used to the fodder of the native cayuse. We carried no forage. If we should chance upon one of the little mountain valleys where there should be grass, we found it either trampled down by Joseph's ponies or destroyed in some other way. Many is the time we have cut bark from the trees for our horses. Colonel Sanford, in charge of the cavalry arm of the service, reported that there were not more than 20 or 25 horses in the entire command fit for a run of 70 or 80 miles."

Pvt. William Connolly

21 Mile Camp

General Howard"We had passed the last tine of the Clearwater, where at night, after twenty-one miles of the roughest country, with Spurgin's pioneers ahead, cutting out the trail, we came into camp in the twilight, where we had heard loud echoes of firing by the advanced scouts, and thought they had come upon Joseph's rearguard. Then we spurred up the weary animals into a tired trot, and, along this narrow trail descended for miles through the almost impenetrable forest, till we came to the narrowest of valleys, to find not a mouthful of food for horse or mule, but the nicest of salmon for the men, in water about knee-deep, water clear as crystal, rushing and splashing over the rocks. The echoes which deceived us into thinking the enemy near, were from the scouts' carbines, shooting the bigger fish, as they were swimming up the Clearwater [Crooked Fork]."

Gen. Oliver Otis Howard

Packer Meadows

"Here was the place where mule and man enjoyed a rest and a breakfast far more satisfying than in inhabited regions which are replete with abundance."

Gen. Oliver Otis Howard