The Battle of the Big Hole - Quotations of the Nez Perce Flight

"We came to that place in the afternoon, towards evening. We stayed that night and next day. Evening came on again, and it was after sundown - not too late - lots of us children were playing. It was below the camp towards the creek that we … boys played the stick or bone game. They were noisy, having lots of fun, and I was with them. We were only having a good time."

White Bird, Nez Perce Child
 

"We received orders to give three volleys, then charge - we did so. That act would hit any one, old as well as young, but what any individual soldier did while in the camp, he did so as a brute, and not because he had any orders to commit such acts"

Charles N. Loynes, Corporal, 7th Infantry


[Photograph]: Colonel John Gibbon. "Suddenly a single shot on the extreme left rang out on the clear morning air, followed quickly by several others, and the whole line pushed rapidly forward through the brush. Logan's company being sent in on the run on the extreme right. A heavy fire was at once opened along the whole line of tepees, the startled Indians rushing from them in every direction, and for a few moments no shots were returned."

Colonel John Gibbon, Commander, 7th Infantry


"We were trapped - sleeping - unarmed. They spied on us across the mountains when we thought not of foes."

Yellow Wolf, Nez Perce Warrior


"The women, all scared when the soldiers charged the camp, ran into the water, the brush. Any place where they could hide themselves and children. Many were killed as they ran. They had no guns. Those two brave women must have run for shelter, but seeing so many women and children falling, got guns, maybe from dead soldiers, and helped drive the enemies from the camp."

Red Wolf, Nez Perce Warrior


"Why are we retreating? Since the world was made, brave men fight for their women and children. Are we going to run to the mountains and let the whites kill our women and children before our eyes? It is better we should be killed fighting. Now is our time. Fight! Shoot them down. We can shoot as well as any of these soldiers."

White Bird, Nez Perce Chief


"The soldiers had set fire to some of the tepees. I heard the voice of an Indian calling to the warriors to drive the soldiers from the camp. Many had no guns, but the few who did have them rallied. Those soldiers soon turned back across the creek. The fighting continued, and I, Two Moon, crossed the creek and helped in driving those soldiers, shooting whenever a chance offered."

Two Moon, Nez Perce Warrior


"At this stage of the game our forces … were badly whipped. General Gibbon rode up the right bank of the creek and ordered a retreat. Our forces then fell back, one half mile up the creek … Here General Gibbon called a halt and told his men that we would make this place our final stand. Our men were mad and desperate."

Captain John B. Commander, citizen Volunteers


"The fighting now stopped for a while; The Indians returning to the camp. They all cried when they saw what had been done, so many killed every where. Men, women, and children lay dead among dead soldiers and burned tepees and bedding."

Red Elk, Nez Perce Warrior


[Photograph]: Yellow Wolf."We came back … to find part of our village in ruins. This tepee here was standing and silent. Inside we found … two women lying in their blankets dead. Both had been shot. The mother had her newborn baby in her arms. His head was smashed, as by a gun breech or boot heel … Some soldiers acted with crazy minds."

Yellow Wolf, Nez Perce Warrior


"Few of us will forget the wail of mingled grief, rage and horror which rose from the camp when the Indians returned to it and recognized their slaughtered warriors, women, and children."

Colonel John Gibbon, Commander, 7th Infantry


"I was getting pretty hungry and dry. After we had dug in the trenches for a while, three soldiers were detailed to go down to the creek and get water for the wounded. It was pretty risky business, but they got back all right. One of them stopped to ask me to take a swallow of water, which I willingly did. It had been some time since I had had any food or water, and it tasted mighty good."

Thomas C. Sherrill, Citizen Volunteer


"The night grew old, and the firing faded away. Soldiers would not shoot. Would not lift head nor hand above their hiding ... We knew then they were holding cartridges for maybe a charge by us. We did not charge. If we killed one soldier a thousand would take his place. If we lost one warrior, there was none to take his place."

Yellow Wolf, Nez Perce Warrior


"All along on that trail was crying. Mourning for many left where we thought no war would come. Old people, half-grown boys and girls, mothers, and little babies. I can never forget that day."

Black Eagle, Nez Perce Warrior


"What made Joseph so hostile was the killing of some of their women and children by accident as we were told not to shoot the squaws and I honestly can say it was not done on purpose."

Homer Coon, Private, 7th Infantry


[Photograph]: Chief Joseph - 1901."The Nez Perce never make war on women and children; we could have killed a great many women and children while war lasted, but we would feel ashamed to do so cowardly an act"

Chief Joseph


"After this battle the Indians knew that there was no safety for them in Montana; they fled and led General Howard a lively chase … "

Lt. Charles A. Woodruff, Adjutant, 7th Infantry


"Every day was struggling. Fighting and hurrying on. Faint for food; tired with the hard travelling. Many difficulties I cannot explain. Little children, some of them wounded. Women dying of wounds on the trail. Men left to die or be killed by the soldiers and scouts because they were too old to travel further, or shot too badly to ride."

Raven Spy, Nez Perce Warrior


"What sort of man will brag as to how many he killed. There were many killed on both sides."

Charles N. Loynes, Corporal, 7th Infantry


[Photograph]: Lt. Charles A. Woodruff"… General Miles struck across the Missouri, by forced march, with 600 men, intercepted steamboats and made them ferry him across the Missouri, attacked and surrounded Joseph, and after four days of fighting captured hundreds of ponies and compelled the surrender of Joseph and all of his band, except those under White Bird, who escaped through his lines and fled to British America."

Lt. Charles A. Woodruff, Adjutant, 7th Infantry


"You know how you feel when you lose kindred and friends through sickness-death. You do not care if you die!

With us it was worse! Strong men; well women and little children killed and buried. They had not done wrong to be so killed.

[Photograph]: In-who-liseWe had only asked to be left in our homes; the homes of our ancestors. Our going was with heavy hearts, broken spirits. But all this is now placed back of us."

"White Feather" (In-who-lise), Nez Perce Woman


"The soldier, the big white chief had said: 'My brother, we will no more fight. When you turn back, and I turn back, we make the path clean from blood. Next generation coming will have friendship pure for all.' Of course we have hurt on both sides; destroyed on both sides. But all this is now placed back of us."

Red Elk, Nez Perce Warrior


"What I now feel as I sit here, what comes to me, is this: My own blood - our mothers and fathers, our brothers and sisters - if you dig in this ground you will find their bones. It was not our fault, all of that early morning killing. I speak it for the record I recognize to be true. I think of only the few of us left."

White Hawk, Nez Perce Man


"If the white man wants to live in peace with the Indian he can live in peace. There need be no trouble. Treat all men alike. Give them all the same law. Give them all an even chance to live and grow … Whenever the white man treats the Indian as they treat each other, then we shall have no more wars. We shall be … brothers of one father and one mother, with one sky above us and one country around us … Then the Great Spirit … will smile upon this land, and send rain to wash out the bloody spots made by brothers' hands upon the face of the earth. For this time the Indian race are waiting and praying."

Chief Joseph


[Photograph]: Colonel Nelson Miles"The Assiniboines are killing the Nez Perces as I sent them word that they could fight any that escaped and take their arms and ponies."

Colonel Nelson Miles


"I had no food, no blankets except the one I used for the horse's saddle-blanket. Along came an Indian, and when we threw the signs, I discovered he was a friendly Cree. He was kind and generous, for he gave me a pair of moccasins and some food."

Ten year-old Suhm-Keen, Nez Perce


"Just how many Nez Perce died at the hands of the Assiniboine and nearby Gros Ventre is unknown. At least one report claims as many as thirty-four."

Sherman to General Otis Howard, 12 December 1877 And Sherman to Philip Sheridan, 31 August, 1887, Records of the U.S. Army


[Photograph]: Tom Sherrill"At the same time, the Bannock scouts began to disinter the Nez Perce dead, scalping and mutilating the bodies. They scalped one dead warrior, then kicked him in the face, and jumped on his body and stomped him. In fact they did everything mean to him that they could."

Tom Sherrill


"And it is said some of them traded ammunition, powder, etc. to the redskins for their stolen property, gold dust, etc."

Dr. John FitzGerald


"I was told by one of Colonel Gibbon's officers that the squaws were not shot at until two officers were wounded by them and a soldier or two killed … "

Dr. John FitzGerald


[Photograph]: Chief Joseph"I rode closer, Eeh Crows! A new tribe fighting Chief Joseph. Many snows the Crows had been our friends. But now, like the Bitterroot Salish, turned enemies. My heart was just like fire."

Yellow Wolf


"Hear me, my Chiefs! My heart is sick and sad. From where the sun now stands I will fight no more forever."

Chief Joseph





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