(Originally published in 1872)
BY FANNY KELLY
A train of wagons were coursing their westward way, with visions of the future bright as our own. Sometimes a single team might be seen traveling alone. Our party were among the many small squads emigrating to the land of promise. The day on which our doomed family were scattered and killed was the 12th of July, a warm and oppressive day. The burning sun poured forth its hottest rays upon the great Black Hills and the vast plains of Montana, and the great emigrant road was strewed with men, women, and children, and flocks of cattle, representing towns of adventurers. We looked anxiously forward to the approach of evening, with a sense of relief, after the excessive heat our journey had been pleasant, but toilsome, for of the day, we had been long weeks on the road. Slowly our wagons wound through the timber that skirted the Little Box Elder and, crossing the stream, we ascended the opposite bank.
We had no thought of danger or timid misgivings on the subject of savages, for our fears had been all dispersed by constantly received assurances of their friendliness. At the outposts and ranches, we heard nothing but ridicule of their pretensions to warfare, and at Fort Laramie, where information that should have been reliable was given us, we had renewed assurances of the safety of the road and friendliness of the Indians. At Horseshoe Creek, which we had just left, and where there was a telegraph station, our inquiries had elicited similar assurances as to the quiet and peaceful state of the country through which we must pass. Being thus persuaded that fears were groundless, we entertained none, and, as I have mentioned before, our small company preferred to travel alone on account of the greater progress made in that way. The beauty of the sunset and the scenery around us filled our hearts with joy, and Mr. Wakefield’s voice was heard in song for the last time, as he sang, Ho! for Idaho. Little Mary’s low, sweet voice, too, joined in the chorus. She was so happy in her childish glee on that day, as she always was. She was the star and joy of our whole party. We wended our way peacefully and cheerfully on, without a thought of the danger that was lying like a tiger in ambush in our path.
Without a sound of preparation or a word of warning, the bluffs before us were covered with a party of about two hundred and fifty Indians, painted and equipped for war, who uttered the wild war-whoop and fired a signal volley of guns and revolvers into the air. This terrible and unexpected apparition came upon us with such startling swiftness that we had not time to think before the main body halted and sent out a part of their force, which circled us round at regular intervals, but some distance from our wagons. Recovering from the shock, our men instantly resolved on defense, and corralled the wagons. My husband was looked upon as leader, as he was principal owner of the train. Without regard to the insignificance of our numbers, Mr. Kelly was ready to stand his ground; but, with all the power I could command, I entreated him to forbear and only attempt conciliation. “If you fire one shot,” I said, “I feel sure you will seal our fate, as they seem to outnumber us ten to one, and will at once massacre all of us.” Love for the trembling little girl at my side, my husband, and friends, made me strong to protest against any thing that would lessen our chance for escape with our lives. Poor little Mary! From the first she had entertained an ungovernable dread of the Indians, a repugnance that could not be overcome, although in our intercourse with friendly savages, I had endeavored to show how unfounded it was, and persuade her that they were civil and harmless, but all in vain. Mr. Kelly bought her beads and many little presents from them which she much admired, but she would always add, “They look so cross at me and they have knives and tomahawks, and I fear they will kill me.” Could it be that her tender young mind had some presentiment or warning of her horrid fate? My husband advanced to meet the chief and demand his intentions. The savage leader immediately came toward him, riding forward and uttering the words, “How! how!” which are understood to mean a friendly salutation. His name was Ottawa, and he was a war chief of the Ogalalla band of the Sioux nation. He struck himself on his breast, saying, “Good Indian, me,” and pointing to those around him, he continued, “Heap good Indian, hunt buffalo and deer.” He assured us of his utmost friendship for the white people; then he shook hands, and his band followed his example, crowding around our wagons, shaking us all by the hand over and over again, until our arms ached, and grinning and nodding with every demonstration of good will. Our only policy seemed to be temporizing, in hope of assistance approaching; and, to gain time, we allowed them unopposed to do whatever they fancied. First, they said they would like to change one of their horses for the one Mr. Kelly was riding, a favorite race horse. Very much against his will, he acceded to their request, and gave up to them the noble animal to which he was fondly attached. My husband came to me with words of cheer and hope, but oh! what a marked look of despair was upon his face, such as I had never seen before.
The Indians asked for flour, and we gave them what they wanted of provisions. The flour they emptied upon the ground, saving only the sack. They talked to us partly by signs and partly in broken English, with which some of them were quite familiar, and as we were anxious to suit ourselves to their whims and preserve a friendly intercourse as long as possible, we allowed them to take whatever they desired, and offered them many presents besides. It was, as I have said before, extremely warm weather, but they remarked that the cold made it necessary for them to look for clothing, and begged for some from our stock, which was granted without the slightest offered objection on our part. I, in a careless-like manner, said they must give me some moccasins for some articles of clothing that I had just handed them, and very pleasantly a young Indian gave me a nice pair, richly embroidered with different colored beads. Our anxiety to conciliate them increased every moment, for the hope of help arriving from some quarter grew stronger as they dallied, and, alas! it was our only one. They grew bolder and more insolent in their advances. One of them laid hold of my husband’s gun, but, being repulsed, de-sisted. The chief at last intimated that he desired us to proceed on our way, promising that we should not be moles-ted. We obeyed, without trusting them, and soon the train was again in motion, the Indians insisting on driving our herd, and growing omin-ously familiar. Soon my husband called a halt. He saw that we were approaching a rocky glen, in whose gloomy depths he anticipated a murderous attack, and from which escape would be utterly impossible. Our enemies urged us still forward, but we resolutely refused to stir, when they requested that we should prepare supper, which they said they would share with us, and then go to the hills to sleep. The men of our party concluded it best to give them a feast. Mr. Kelly gave orders to our two colored servants to prepare at once to make a feast for the Indians. Andy said, “I think, if I knows any thing about it, they’s had their supper as they had been eating sugar crackers from our wagons for an hour or more. The two colored men had been slaves among the Cherokees, and knew the Indian character by experience. Their fear and horror of them was unbounded, and their terror seemed pitiable to us, as they had worked for us a long time, and were most faithful, trustworthy servants. Each man was busy preparing the supper; Mr. Larimer and Frank were making the fire; Mr. Wakefield was getting provisions out of the wagon; Mr. Taylor was attending to his team; Mr. Kelly and Andy were out some distance gathering wood; Mr. Sharp was distributing sugar among the Indians; supper, that they asked for, was in rapid progress of preparation, when suddenly our terrible enemies threw off their masks and displayed their truly demoniac natures. There was a simultaneous discharge of arms, and when the cloud of smoke cleared away, I could see the retreating form of Mr. Larimer and the slow motion of poor Mr. Wakefield, for he was mortally wounded. Mr. Kelly and Andy made a miraculous escape with their lives. Mr. Sharp was killed within a few feet of me. Mr. Taylor—I never can forget his face as I saw him shot through the forehead with a rifle ball. He looked at me as he fell backward to the ground a corpse. I was the last object that met his dying gaze. Our poor faithful Frank fell at my feet pierced by many arrows. I recall the scene with a sickening horror. I could not see my husband anywhere, and did not know his fate, but feared and trembled. With a glance at my surroundings, my senses seemed gone for a time, but I could only live and endure. I had but little time for thought, for the Indians quickly sprang into our wagons, tearing off covers, breaking, crushing, and smashing all hinderances to plunder, breaking open locks, trunks, and boxes, and distributing or destroying our goods with great rapidity, using their tomahawks to pry open boxes, which they split up in savage recklessness. Oh, what horrible sights met my view! Pen is powerless to portray the scenes occurring around me. They filled the air with the fearful war-whoops and hideous shouts. I endeavored to keep my fears quiet as possible, knowing that an indiscreet act on my part might result in jeopardizing our lives, though I felt certain that we two helpless women would share death by their hands; but with as much of an air of indifference as I could command, I kept still, hoping to prolong our lives, even if but a few moments. I was not allowed this quiet but a moment, when two of the most savage-looking of the party rushed up into my wagon, with tomahawks drawn in their right hands, and with their left seized me by both hands and pulled me violently to the ground, injuring my limbs very severely, almost breaking them, from the effects of which I afterward suffered a great deal. I turned to my little Mary, who, with outstretched hands, was standing in the wagon, took her in my arms and helped her to the ground. I then turned to the chief, put my hand upon his arm, and implored his protection for my fellow-prisoner and our children. At first he gave me no hope, but seemed utterly indifferent to my prayers. Partly in words and partly by signs, he ordered me to remain quiet, placing his hand upon his revolver, that hung in a belt at his side, as an argument to enforce obedience.
A short distance in the rear of our train a wagon was in sight. The chief immediately dispatched a detachment of his band to capture or to cut it off from us, and I saw them ride furiously off in pursuit of the small party, which consisted only of one family and a man who rode in advance of the single wagon. The horseman was almost instantly surrounded and killed by a volley of arrows. The husband of the family quickly turned his team around and started them at full speed, gave the whip and lines to his wife, who held close in her arms her youngest child. He then went to the back end of his wagon and threw out boxes, trunks, every thing that he possessed. His wife meantime gave all her mind and strength to urging the horses forward on their flight from death.
The Indians had by this time come very near, so that they riddled the wagon-cover with bullets and arrows, one passing through the sleeve of the child’s dress in its mother’s arms, but doing it no personal injury. The terrified man kept the Indians at bay with his revolver, and finally they left him and rode furiously back to the scene of the murder of our train.
My Husband’s Escape, Burial of the Dead, Arrival of Survivors
When the Indians fired their fatal volley into the midst of our little company, while yet they were preparing to entertain them with a hospitable supper, my husband was some distance from the scene of horror; but, startled by the unexpected report, he hurriedly glanced around, saw the pale, terror-stricken faces of his wife and child, and the fall of Rev. Mr. Sharp from the wagon, while in the act of reaching for sugar and other articles of food with which to conciliate our savage guests. The hopelessness of the situation struck a chill to his heart. Having laid down his gun to assist in the preparation of the feast, the utter futility of contending single-handed against such a host of infuriated demons was too apparent. His only hope, and that a slight one indeed, was that the Indians might spare the lives of his wife and child, to obtain a ransom. In this hope he resolved upon efforts for the preser-vation of his own life, that he might afterward put forth efforts for our rescue, either by pursuit and strategy, or by purchase. He was shot at, and the barbed arrows whizzed past him, some passing through his clothing. He saw Mr. Wakefield fall, and knew that he was wounded, if not killed. Mr. Larimer passed him in his flight for life toward some neighboring timber. Mr. Kelly then ran for some tall grass and sage brush, where he concealed himself, favored by the fast approaching darkness. Scarcely daring to breathe, his mind tortured with agonizing fears for the fate of his wife and child, he seemed to hear from them the cry for help, and at one time resolved to rush to their rescue, or die with them; any fate seemed better than such torturing doubt. But, realizing at last the utter hopelessness of an attempt at rescue, and knowing that it was a custom of the Indians, sometimes, to spare the lives of white women and children taken captive, for ransom, he again resolved, if possible, to save his own life, that he might devote all his energies, and the remnant of fortune the savages had not despoiled him of, to the accomplishment of the rescue of his wife and child. Lying in his perilous shelter, he saw darkness creep slowly around the hills, closing on the scene of murder and devastation, like a curtain of mercy dropped to shut out a hideous sight. He heard the noise of breaking and crashing boxes, and the voices of the Indians calling to each other; then came the culmination of his awful suspense. The Indians had again mounted their horses, and, raising the terrible war song, chanted its ominous notes as they took their way across the hills, carrying his yearning thoughts with them. Pen is powerless to portray the agony, to him, of those fearful moments. Still fearing to move in the darkness, he distinguished footsteps near him, and knew by the stealthy tread that they were those of an Indian. In breathless silence he crouched close to the ground, fearing each instant the descent of the tomahawk and the gleam of the scalping-knife, when, strange to say, a venomous reptile came to his rescue, and his enemy fled before it. A huge rattlesnake, one of the many with which that region is infested, raised its curved neck close beside him, and, thrusting forth its poisonous fangs, gave a warning rattle. The prowling Indian took alarm at the sound; other snakes, roused for the safety of their young in the dens around, repeated it, and the savage, knowing it would be death to venture further, retreated, leaving my husband in safety where he had taken refuge; for, although he must have lain close to the noisome reptile, he received no hurt, and the greater horror of his human foe rendered him almost indifferent to the dangers of his surroundings. Cautiously he crawled out of the weeds and grass, and, rising to his feet unharmed, started swiftly in an eastward direction. He had to go far out in the hills to avoid the savages, and, after traveling many miles around, he at last reached the large train, with which the small party I had seen pursued had previously taken refuge. They were already consolidating with other trains for defense, and would not venture to join Mr. Kelly, although he earnestly implored assistance to go out in aid of his friends and family, if any of them should be left alive. The colored man, Andy, soon after joined them. He came in running and in great excitement, and was about to report all the company killed, when he joyfully discovered Mr. Kelly. Great consternation and alarm had spread with the tidings of the massacre, and fears for personal safety prevented any one from joining my unhappy husband in efforts to rescue his wife and child, or succor his missing companions. The train did not move forward until re-enforced by many others along the road; and even then every precaution was taken to secure safety and prevent a surprise. Women in many instances drove the teams, to prevent their husbands or fathers being taken at a disadvantage; weapons were in every man’s hands, and vigilant eyes were fixed on every bluff or gorge, anticipating attack. A little time and travel brought them to the first scene of murder, where they found the dead body of the companion of the man who so narrowly escaped with his family. They placed the body in a wagon, and proceeded to the dreaded spot where the slaughter of our party had occurred. The wagons still were standing, and feathers, flour, the remnants of much that was but half destroyed, lay scattered about the ground. Mr. Kelly, with faltering steps, supported by the strong arm of Andy, was among the first to search the spot; his intense distress for the unknown fate of his family urged him on, although he dreaded to think of what the bloody spot might disclose to him.
The dead bodies of Mr. Sharp, Mr. Taylor, and our colored servant, Franklin, were discovered lying where they had fallen. Poor Frank had been shot by an arrow that pierced both his legs, pinning them together, in which condition he had been murdered by the ruthless wretches by having his skull broken. Both Mr. Sharp and Mr. Taylor left large families at home to mourn their loss. Mr. Larimer came up with an arrow wound in one of his limbs. He had passed the night in trying to elude his savage pursuers, and was very tired and exhausted, and very much distressed about his wife and son, a robust little fellow of eight or nine years. But Mr. Wakefield was nowhere to be seen. After searching the brushwood for some time, and a quarter of a mile distant from the scene of attack, they discovered him still alive, but pierced by three arrows that he had vainly endeavored to extract, succeeding only in withdrawing the shafts, but leaving the steel points still deeply imbedded in the flesh. Mr. Kelly took him and cared for him with all the skill and kindness possible. No brothers could have been more tenderly attached to each other than they. He then procured as comfortable a conveyance as he could for them, and picked up a few relics from our demolished train. Among them was a daily journal of our trip, from the time we were married until the hour that the Indians came upon us. This he prized, as he said, more than he did his life. The next thing that was necessary to do, after the wounded were cared for, was to bury the dead, and a wide grave was dug and the four bodies solemnly consigned, uncoffined, to the earth. A buffalo robe was placed above them, and then the earth was piled on their unconscious breasts. At that time the question of color had occasioned much dissension, and contro-versy ran high as to the propriety of allowing the colored people the privilege of sitting beside their white brethren. Poor Franklin had shared death with our companions, and was not deemed unworthy to share the common grave of his fellow victims. They lie together in the valley of Little Box Elder, where with saddened hearts our friends left them, thinking of the high hopes and fearless energy with which they had started on their journey, each feeling secure in the success that awaited them, and never, for a moment, dreaming of the grave in the wilderness that was to close over them and their earthly hopes. They were buried on the desolate plain, a thousand miles away from their loved wives and children, who bemoan their sad, untimely fate. Mr. Kelly found part of his herd of cattle grazing near by; Mr. Sharp’s were still tied to the stake where he had carefully secured them. The Indians had taken our horses, but left the cattle, as they do when they are on the war path, or unless they need meat for present use. They shot some of them, however, and left them to decay upon the plain. Many arrows were scattered upon the ground, their peculiar marks showing that their owners had all belonged to one tribe, though of different bands. They were similar in form and finish; the shafts were round and three feet long, grooved on their sides, that the blood of the victim might not be impeded in its outward flow; each had three strips of feathers attached to its top, about seven inches in length, and, on the other end, a steel point, fastened lightly, so as to be easily detached in the flesh it penetrates. The depth of the wound depends on the distance of the aim, but they sometimes pass quite through the body, though usually their force is exhausted in entering a few inches beyond the point. The wounded being made as comfortable as circumstances would allow, the train left the spot in the evening, and moved forward to an encampment a mile distant from the sad place, where the journey of our lost companions had ended forever, whose visions of the golden land must be a higher and brighter one than earthly eyes can claim. Early next day the travelers arrived at Deer Creek Fort, where Mr. Kelly found medical aid for the wounded, and procured a tent to shelter them, and devoted himself to alleviating their sufferings, and, with the assistance of the kind people of the fort, succeeded in arranging them in toler-able comfort. Captain Rhineheart was commanding officer at Deer Creek, and ordered the property of the deceased to be delivered over to him, which Mr. Kelly did. The story of the attack and massacre had traveled faster than the sufferers from its barbarity. The garrison had learned it before the train arrived, through some soldiers returning from Fort Laramie, where they had been to receive money from the paymaster, who had heard an account of the attack on the road, and had a passing glimpse of the terrible field of slaughter. The evening that the large train arrived at the fort, the officers gave a ball, and the emi-grant women were invited, from the trains camped in the vicinity, to join in these inappropriately timed festivities. The mother of the child, who had so narrowly escaped death, having lost her own wardrobe in her efforts to escape the pursuit of the Indians, borrowed a dress from a lady who resided at the fort, and attended the entertainment, dancing and joining in the gayeties, when the burial of their companion and our poor men had just been completed, and the heavy cloud of our calamity had so lately shrouded them in gloom. Such are the effects of isolation from social and civil influence, and contact with danger, and familiarity with terror and death. People grow reckless, and often lose the gentle sympathies that alleviate suffering, from frequent intercourse with it in its worst forms.
The Beginning of My Captivity
The facts related in the preceding chapter concerning matters occurring in Mr. Kelly’s experience, and adventures after the attack upon our train, were related to me after my restoration to freedom and my husband, by him. I now return to the narration of my own terrible experiences. I was led a short distance from the wagon, with Mary, and told to remain quiet, and tried to submit; but oh, what a yearning sprang up in my heart to escape, as I hoped my husband had done! But many watchful eyes were upon me, and enemies on every side, and I realized that any effort then at escape would result in failure, and probably cause the death of all the prisoners. Mrs. Larimer, with her boy, came to us, trembling with fear, saying, “The men have all escaped, and left us to the mercy of the savages.” In reply, I said, “I do hope they have. What benefit would it be to us, to have them here, to suffer this fear and danger with us? They would be killed, and then all hope of rescue for us would be at an end.” Her agitation was extreme. Her grief seemed to have reached its climax when she saw the Indians destroying her property, which consisted principally of such articles as belong to the Daguerrean art. She had indulged in high hopes of fortune from the prosecution of this art among the mining towns of Idaho. As she saw her chemicals, picture cases, and other property pertaining to her calling, being destroyed, she uttered such a wild despairing cry as brought the chief of the band to us, who, with gleaming knife, threatened to end all her further troubles in this world. The moment was a critical one for her. The Indians were flushed with an easy-won victory over a weak party; they had “tasted blood,” and it needed but slight provocation for them to shed that even of defenseless women and children. My own agony could be no less than that of my companion in misfortune. The loss of our worldly possessions, which were not inconsiderable, consisting of a large herd of cattle, and groceries, and goods of particular value in the mining regions, I gave no thought to. The possible fate of my husband; the dark, fearful future that loomed before myself and little Mary, for whose possible future I had more apprehension than for my own, were thoughts that flashed through my mind to the exclusion of all mere pecuniary considerations. But my poor companion was in great danger, and perhaps it was a selfish thought of future loneliness in captivity which induced me to intercede that her life might be spared. I went to the side of the chief, and, assuming a cheerfulness I was very far from feeling, plead successfully for her life. I endeavored in every way to propitiate our savage captor, but received no evidences of kindness or relenting that I could then understand. He did present me, however, a wreath of gay feathers from his own head, which I took, regarding it merely as an ornament, when in reality, as I afterward learned, it was a token of his favor and protection. He then left us, to secure his own share of plunder, but we saw that we were surrounded by a special guard of armed men, and so gave up all struggle against what seemed an inevitable doom, and sat down upon the ground in despair. I know now that night had come upon us while we sat there, and that darkness was closing the scene of desolation and death before their arrangements for departure were completed. The first intimation we had that our immediate massacre was not intended, was a few articles of clothing presented by a young Indian, whose name was Wechela, who intimated that we would have need for them. It was a pitiable sight to see the terrified looks of our helpless children, who clung to us for the protection we could not give. Mrs. Larimer was unconscious of the death of any of our party. I did not tell her what my eyes had seen, fearing that she could not endure it, but strove to encourage and enliven her, lest her excitement would hasten her death or excite the anger of our captors. We both feared that when the Indians made their arrangements for departure we would be quickly disposed of by the scalping knife; or even should we escape, for the time we saw no prospect of release from bondage. Terror of the most appalling nature for the fate of the children possessed me, and all the horrors of Indian captivity that we had ever heard crowded on our minds with a new and fearful meaning—the slow fires, the pitiless knife, the poisoned arrows, the torture of famine, and a thousand nameless phantoms of agony passed before our troubled souls, filling us with fears so harrowing that the pangs of dissolution compared to them must have been relief. It may be thought almost impossible in such a chaos of dread to collect the soul in prayer, but When woe is come, the soul is dumb, that crieth not to God, and the only respite we could claim from despair was the lifting of our trembling hearts upward to the God of mercy. Those hours of misery can never be forgotten. We were oppressed by terrors we could not explain or realize. The sudden separation from those we loved and relied on; our own helplessness and the gloom of uncertainty that hung over the future—surely none can better testify to the worth of trust in God than those whose hope on earth seemed ended; and, faint and weak as our faith was, it saved us from utter desolation and the blackness of despair. From among the confused mass of material of all kinds scattered about, the same young Indian, Wechela, brought me a pair of shoes; also a pair of little Mary’s. He looked kindly as he laid these articles before me, intimating by his gestures that our lives were to be spared, and that we should have need of them and other clothing during our long march into captivity. He also brought me some books and letters, all of which I thankfully received. I readily conceived a plan to make good use of them, and secreted as many as I could about my clothing. I said to Mrs. Larimer, “If I can retain these papers and letters, and we are forced to travel with the Indians into their unknown country, I shall drop them at intervals along the way we are taken, as a guide, and trust in God that our friends may find and follow them to our rescue, or if an opportunity of escape offer, we will seize it, and by their help retrace our steps.”
The property that the Indians could not carry with them, they gathered into a pile and lighted. The light of the flames showed us the forms of our captors busily loading their horses and ours with plunder, and preparing to depart. When their arrangements were completed, they came to us and signified that we must accompany them, pointing to the horses they led up to us, and motioning for us to mount. The horse assigned to me was one that had belonged to Mr. Larimer, and was crippled in the back. This I endeavored to make them understand, but failed. This was the first reliable assurance they gave us that our lives were not in immediate danger, and we received it gratefully, for with the prospect of life hope revived, and faith to believe that God had not forsaken us, and that we might yet be united to our friends, who never seemed dearer than when we were about to be carried into captivity by the hostile sons of the forest. Many persons have since assured me that, to them, death would have been preferable to life with such prospects, saying that rather than have submitted to be carried away by savages, to a dark and doubtful doom, they would have taken their own lives. But it is only those who have looked over the dark abyss of death who know how the soul shrinks from meeting the unknown future. Experience is a grand teacher, and we were then in her school, and learned that while hope offers the faintest token of refuge, we pause upon the fearful brink of eternity, and look back for rescue.
Mrs. Larimer had climbed into her saddle, her boy placed behind her on the same horse, and started on, accompanied by a party of Indians. I also climbed into my saddle, but was no sooner there than the horse fell to the ground, and I under him, thus increasing the bruises I had already received, and causing me great pain. This accident detained me some time in the rear. A dread of being separated from the only white woman in that awful wilderness filled me with horror. Soon they had another horse saddled for me, and assisted me to mount him. I looked around for my little Mary. There she stood, a poor helpless lamb, in the midst of blood-thirsty savages. I stretched out my arms for her imploringly. For a moment they hesitated; then, to my unspeakable joy, they yielded, and gave me my child. They then started on, leading my horse; they also gave me a rope that was fastened around the horse’s under jaw. The air was cool, and the sky was bright with the glitter of starlight. The water, as it fell over the rocks in the distance, came to our eager ears with a faint, pleasant murmur. All nature seemed peaceful and pitiless in its calm repose, unconscious of our desolate misery; the cry of night-birds and chirp of insects came with painful distinctness as we turned to leave the valley of Little Box Elder. Straining my eyes, I sought to penetrate the shadows of the woods where our fugitive friends might be hid. The smoldering ruins of our property fell into ashes and the smoke faded away; night had covered the traces of confusion and struggle with her shrouding mantle, and all seemed quiet and unbroken peace. I turned for a last look, and even the smoke was gone; the solemn trees, the rippling water, the soft night wind and the starlight, told no tale of the desolation and death that had gone before; and I rode on in my helpless condition, with my child clinging to me, without guide or support, save my trust in God.
From Narrative of My Captivity Among The Sioux Indians, by Fanny Kelly, 1872.
Editor’s Note: Subsequent excerpts of this vivid historical narrative will appear in the Montana Pioneer, revealing descriptive details of daily life in a Sioux village of thousands and the fate of both Kelly and her five-year-old, Mary.