Mud Springs Indian attack of 1865.
This is the report of G. W. Nelson, Company 1, 11th Ohio Cavalry, taken from “Out of the Plains” National Tribune, May 1, 1890, page 3, and August 15, 1901, page 1.
“February 4, 1865, the commander of the post at Fort Laramie received a dispatch from Mud
Springs, 110 miles distant, to the effect that the station was surrounded by a large number of Indians,
and that unless speedily succored, the 14 men at the place (5 citizens and 9 soldiers) would be killed
or captured. Col. Collins of the 11th Ohio cavalry, realizing the importance of prompt action, started
about dark the same day to the rescue.
We marched all the night of the 4th and until about 11 o’clock of the 5th, when we arrived at
Fort Mitchell, one-half of the distance to Mud Springs. Here we rested and refreshed ourselves and
horses until about 7 p.m., when we resumed our march, the Iowa Company, under Capt. Fouts,
having been in advance. Having marched for two nights and a day in terribly cold weather, with no
sleep and but little rest, we were in a rather sorry plight, many of the men having their hands and feet
badly frozen. The number of Indians was estimated at 1500 to 2000. Hastily forming a corral out of
four wagons, and thus securing our stock, we prepared to give them a warm reception, and they
came at us in fine Indian fashion. Soon after the fight began Col. Collins telegraphed to Laramie for
reinforcements. The 'affair' continued without intermission from 7 a.m. to dark. Our loss was very
light compared to that of the Indians, as we did most of our fighting from two log houses, while they
were in the open. The Indians made several desperate attempts during the day to stampede our
horses and mules and get them out of the corral. The fight ended at dark by the Indians drawing off.
During the night the 7th reinforcement, consisting of 60 men of the 11th Ohio, with cannon, arrived.
We now had about 180-190 men able for duty having lost twenty to thirty men killed, wounded, and
frozen since leaving Laramie. With this small force Col. Collins concluded to pursue and catch the
Indians. Catching them was an easy enough matter, but we had a terribly hard time letting them go, as
the sequel will show. When we arrived at the Platte, at the mouth of Cedar Creek, we could see the
Indians in great numbers on the opposite side of the Platte, which was frozen over solid, so that we
could have crossed easily. This Col. Collins wanted to do, and attack them in the hills.
Better council prevailed, however, and it was determined that if they would fight they should do
so on the ground of our own choosing. As soon as they saw we were not going to cross the river,
they came pouring out of the bluffs by the hundreds, the ice on the river being literally black with
them. We had a very strong position made by digging a trench in the sand thus removed for a
breastwork as described by Comrade Rowan. The Indians now had surrounded us except on the
side nearest the Platte, and it seemed as though the prairie was literally alive with them. True, we had
a very strong position, but they outnumbered us at least 10-1; were well armed, well mounted,
cunning and brave, in fact, they fought like old warriors from away back. About 200 to 300 yards
from our ditch was what seemed to be a long, low piece, or dry branch where the grass and
sagebrush had grown very rank, and the dead grass having fallen down, offered good concealment
for the redskins.
Our situation was growing more desperate every minute. But the redemption of that ravine was
close at hand. Lieut. Patton, of the 11th Ohio, asked permission to take 20 picked men and charge
into the infernal nest and route the Indians out. It was finally granted and Lieut. Patton forming his
man line and giving a few parting and final instructions, gave the command “forward” and into the
nest they went pell-mell and out the Indians went -- those of them who were not killed or wounded.
The 20 men, after emptying the two revolvers that each carried, started to regain his breastworks.
This charge and volley from our position virtually ended the fight, the Indians recrossing the river and
disappearing among the hills on the opposite side of the Platte. The next day we started on our return
to Fort Laramie, getting back on the 11th. I am not certain as to the name of the Lieutenant who led
the charge, but think it was Bob Patton, if not correct, hope some comrade will correct me -- Geo.,
W. Nelson, Co. I, 11th Ohio Cav., Eaton, O.”