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Redfern Redfern Civil War memoirs, Part 6

September 1, 2011

This week the Paine-Gillam Scott Museum website is publishing Part 6 of the Civil War memoirs of Francis William Redfern in weekly serial form.

The next surprise for us was the attack by the Indians on the Rock Creek station, the station next east of us. This occurred a few days after the incidents just narrated. The men at Rock Creek had built a sod corrall for their horses at night and they had them in this corrall at the time the attach was made. The men themselves lived in their tents. One of these French trappers with his three squaws and some small children had a camp here.

A couple of days before the Indian attack this Frenchman took his pack and went off into the foothills towards Elk Mountain. The Indians as was their wont charged the camp just as it was breaking day. Rode around and around it and tried to set the tents afire with flaming arrows. The boys retired to the corall and put up their defense from it.

The Indians saw that they could not get at the horses and soon withdrew. The same afternoon that French trapper returned with his pack full of furs and he came in on the same road that the Indians had taken on going away. The first thing he said to the boys on entering camp was, “They gave you Hell didn’t they boys” This so angered the boys that they came very near stringing him up. They felt that he had been giving the Indians information about conditions at the camp.

Then it came our turn. In about a week after the Rock creek incident, I was awakened by a series of Zip, Zip, Zips, Indian war whoops and the clatter of onrushing Indian ponies and saw through the tent canvas covering of our shanty the slim forms of the men and horses.

We were surrounded and our Horses stranded. We had sense enough to remain in our shanties as the logs furnished protection from the flights of snows. There were sixteen of us and we at once had our carbines and revolvers in our hands. Our shanties were all in a row and quite close together so that we could talk to those in adjoining tents and we soon organized our defense.

There were four separate streams coming down from the mountains and uniting here to form The Medicine Bow River and we were at their Junction. Along all of these streams was cottonwood trees and dense bunches of willows. Behind these trees and in the willow bunkers the Indians were hidden. What they would try to do was a quandary. We seldom caught even a glimpse of one of them and then the sight was so quickly passed that it was next to impossible to get a shot.

We didn’t want to waste our ammunitions or throw away a shot and we waited. About ten o’clock the yells of the Indians suddenly ceased and soon thereafter we heard the patter of horses hoofs. The jingle of sabers and guns and with a rousing cheer a detachment of Cavalry from the fort rode into our camp.

This relief was entirely unexpected and you may be sure was most gladly received. It came about in this way. A Scout by the name of Thompson was out on Elk Mountain and near what was known as “The Pass”. With his spy glass he caught a glimpse of Squaws driving our horses away and knowing from this that we had been attacked he at once put spurs to his horse and rode to the fort and the detachment of cavalry was sent to our relief which occurred as stated.

The Indians heard the Cavalry coming and at once skedadled. We got out of the scrap in fine shape. Not a man even wounded but our horses (Save one old rone backed one) were gone and this we felt most keenly. The cavalry from the fort returned and our stage guard had to ride alongside the drivers and on top of the stage itself.

A short time after this Orders were received at the fort to call the 6th and 7th Mich Cavalry which were in the vicinity of Fort Laramie 75 miles north and east of Fort Halleck and to consolidate the two regiments with the 1st Mich Cav at Fort Hallack, and when the 6th and Seventh arrived at Fort Hellack all the sick or disabled together with all those whose terms of service had expired or was nearly expired were to be sent back to Fort Leavenworth for Muster out of the service and discharge.

As my term of service was nearly over I was one of those to be sent back. As soon as the remnants of the 6th and 7th Regts arrived at Fort Halleck, the consolidation took place and the Mich Cavalry Brigade became a matter of history.

Those of my detachment having a longer time to serve went on the Fort Halleck and those from the 6 and 7 whose time of service was nearly out returned to us. On the 19th of October two gov’t wagons from Fort Halleck came along and we loaded our equipment into them. Before leaving our camp we set fire to the leaves and small rush in our bushes and thus destroyed the last vestige of our occupancy. It seemed odd to march alongside or in rear of our wagons but this we did for the several days that elapsed before we reached Fort Collins and then for the next 100 miles to Denver.

Here the Government engaged a train of nine freight wagons to carry our effects back to Fort Leavenworth. Of the incidents, some numerous and some tragic I will not write. Suffice it to say that we had lovely Indian summer weather for the greater part of the trip. We were mustered out and paid off Dec the 15th and crossed the Missouri River took train for Chicago and thence home to Marshall Mich where I reached just before Christmas tide.

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