John F. Casey, late I st Sgt, Troop H,10th U.S. Cavalry enlisted at Kansas City, Mo. Sept. 28, 1872, was assigned to Troop H, 10th U.S. Cavalry at Ft. Gibson, I.T. Served in several military campaigns at Parker, Kansas in pursuit of horse thieves and renegades. Troop transferred to Ft. Sill, I.T. in 1873. Several Indian campaigns in 1873, Red River, 2nd Campaign, Washitaw Agency, 1873 in pursuit of Kiowas and Commanche Indians. In the Spring of 1873 the Kiowa and Commanche Indians surrounded the Post of Fort Sill, which caused the command to keep their horses saddled and to arms for three consecutive days.
The number of Indians were supposed to be between five and six thousand surrounding the Post, which were Kiowas and Commanches, whose chief was Lone Wolf. At that time the Indians were going on the war path so they called for volunteers. Co. B.H. Grayson, (Grierson) commanding the Post, called for a volunteer to carry a dispatch to the Indian Agent who was about two and one-half or three miles East of the Post. Out of nine troops of Cavalry and three of Infantry and two U.S. Indian scouts, none would volunteer, so the Sergeant Major, having known me personally before I entered the army, came to my troop and asked me would I volunteer to carry a dispatch for the Colonel to the Indian Agent. I told him I would, if they would permit me to ride my Captain's horse. He complied with my request and the orderly brought the horse to my barracks at once and I reported to the Adjutant for orders. He gave me a sealed envelope which contained the orders of the Commander to carry to the Indian Agent. I charged right through the Indians who lined the road and all the surrounding country, clear to the Indian commissary, got the dispatch O. K'd by the Indian Agent and returned safely without firing a shot, which would have been futile for me to do, as the Indians were in great numbers and had their bows and arrows pointing at me as I rode through, but they did not fire a shot. I returned safely, delivered the message to the Adjutant and in about two and one-half hours the Indians began moving away from the Post. This was not entered on my discharge, because at that time my captain had been promoted or was on leave and I was discharged by a young West Pointer, C.G. Ayres, who did not know my military career, therefore gave me no mark of distinction.
In a very short time, probably ten or twenty days, the regiment was moved out on a campaign in pursuit of Chief Lone Wolf and the Kiowas and Commanche Indians who had gone on the war path. This campaign lasted about one and one-half years, from 1873 to 1875. In this campaign the regiment was for ten days snowed in without rations but one hardtack a meal and very little coffee because our supply train was lost in the snow storm. For ten days they wandered across the plains and could not find our camp. In the meantime I was detailed under the Lieutenant with twenty men from my company to go to the rescue of a band of buffalo hunters who were surrounded by a band of Indians and had asked for reinforcement and we were sent to relieve them. During this trip each man was only allowed to carry one blanket and his poncho and we had to drive our picket pins between the pommel and canta [sic] of the saddle. In this way we had to sleep with our heads upon our saddles and the horses kept us awake and uncovered most of he night. It was very cold and we nearly froze. After five days out we got orders to return to headquarters. On our return trip two days before we reached camp it rained and snowed and we had nothing to eat as we had no fuel for cooking. We had to bum buffalo chips and they were wet and would not burn and there was no wood within twenty miles. When we returned to camp the command had moved, but they had left a wagon with hardtack, bacon and beans and coffee, which we came upon after being without food for two days and nearly froze. After we had eaten our meal and fed our horses we started to find headquarters, which was about twenty miles away.
It rained and snowed continually all day and night and we had no overcoats, only our ponchos. When we reached headquarters, about 12 o'clock at night, the snow was six or eight inches deep. In this we had to lay down to sleep with our clothes and blankets wringing wet and the weather continued very cold during the entire time we were there, which was ten days or more. In the meantime we were on half rations or less. Our horses had no forage; as the train was lost in the snow storm and we could get nothing to them or ourselves. We had to go one-half or a mile to cut down cottonwood trees and carry the limbs for the horses to eat. This was all the food they had during the whole ten days and had to carry wood and build log heap fires in the rear of our horses, night and day, to keep them from freezing to death. We had no tents to sleep under only shelter tent haves. We lost between three and four hundred horses and mules for the three regiments, which were two of Cavalry and part of one infantry in this camp. Gen. Scofield [sic] was in command as near as I can remember. This ends this campaign of 1873, 74, and 75, which to the best of my knowledge ended along about Feb. 1875 at Fort Sill. When we arrived at Fort Sill there were orders waiting for our regiment to be transferred to Ft. Davis, Texas.
We arrived at Ft. Davis, Texas, May 1, 1875, from which Post I was on continuous scouting from ten days to thirty days, and from that to a year and a half at a period. At this post we were stationed ten years. From this Post we were continuously scouting either as a whole company or in detachments from ten to twenty men in each. In May, 1877, at 12 o'clock at night we were called out to go to the rescue of a band of men who were besieged in Musker Canyon. When we got to the canyon we had to file in and charge the Indians in columns of fours, the canyon being so narrow we couldn't deploy. It was so dark we could not see one from the other and there was danger of falling into a subterranean lake. On this charge my horse fell into a partly filled up well or spring and two horses fell on top of me, which knocked my left shoulder out of place. In this condition I continued on the drive for six days until I received relief and returned to the Post.
In the year 1879 and 1880, I was on another campaign which is known as the Victory Campaign, in pursuit of Muschalary [sic] Indians which came from New Mexico to Texas, murdering and pillaging as they went, about four hundred strong. My company and several other troops, in fact a whole regiment, or parts of regiments were sent in pursuit of them. This campaign lasted about a year and four months. During this campaign we traced the Indians from Texas into Old Mexico and Mexicans drove them back into Texas crossing the Rio Grande near El Paso, Texas. We first intercepted them at Eagle Springs, Texas, had a running fight about dark on the following day, and drove them back in toward Mexico and the Copoka mountains and thence into the Crecey Mountains in the Salt Lake Valley where we engaged in battle and drove them from the Salt Lake Valley into the mountains again, and two companies of us kept them engaged all day until about 3 o'clock in the afternoon when our ammunition ran out and we were called to the Reserves and other troops took our place in the firing line. Shortly after the Indians retreated going in the direction of Old Mexico and between 4 and 5 o'clock in the evening my company was ordered to flank them on the west and keep them out of Old Mexico.
While traveling over an unknown trail over sage brush, sand and alkali we became very thirsty and very nearly perished from lack of water, as we had no fresh water, nothing but salty water for two days. About 7 o'clock that evening a cloud appeared in the horizon and in about twenty minutes the rain commenced pouring down in torrents which gave us fresh water for the first time in 24 hours. We got water and watered our stock and kept on the trail to Old Mexico. We arrived too late to keep the Indians off. We followed on the trail until we came to the Hot Springs in the bed of the Rio Grande, where the Indians had crossed into Old Mexico. The Mexican soldiers, who were on the opposite side, took up the trail and followed them into the Candleary Mountains, Mexico, and there captured all of the band except about eight, including Chief Victory, who was chief of the tribe. They beheaded him and carried his head to Mexico City. This ended this campaign.* (See footnote at end of story.)
In 1885, April 1st, our regiment was ordered from Fort Davis, Texas, to Fort Grant, Arizona, which was also headquarters at this time of the 1st U.S. Infantry. Sometime in July we were ordered on a campaign in pursuit of Geronomo [sic], Chief of the Cherhuarhua [sic] Indians. This campaign lasted about one year and a half, which ended in the capture of Geronomo [sic] and his entire band of Indians in Skeleton Canyon, Old Mexico. While on this campaign we had our supply camp in Oak Canyon, twenty miles south of Fort Bowie, Ariz. And from this camp which was our headquarters we continued scouting at various times from ten to twenty days at a time, down to the border of Old Mexico and as far as Silver City, New Mexico and into the Cherhuarhua [sic] Mountains. On this campaign in the fall of 1885 we encountered a very severe snow storm, rain, sleet and snow. We got lost in the mountains for four days being snow bound and we could not get out on account of the snow. While in this camp we were not able to build a fire on account of the rain. sleet and snow which continued for four days. Neither could we lay down on our blankets to sleep as our clothing was wringing wet and our blankets were frozen, and the earth was so wet that we couldn't lay down on the ground, so we had to cut down brush and lie on logs. There were only two blankets to a man.
On this campaign I contracted a cold which developed into catarrh, which caused the Captain to send for the doctor from Fort Bowie when we arrived in camp, and in the meantime a great many of our men developed symptoms of scurvy. The doctor gave us medicine, what it was I do not know, but it caused me and a great many of the men to suffer great pain and lose our teeth. This campaign ended in the capture of Geronomo [sic] and his entire band of Indians. in Skeleton Canyon. Old Mexico. in 1886. During all of these campaigns I lost my health on account of my company being without water half of the time as we could only find water in the mountains and would have to make dry camp and travel all day in the hot sun and dust without any water to drink either for ourselves or our horses. On account of the many campaigns I was on at the end of my term of service in 1888 I was completely broken down physically. When I came off the campaign of 1886, I never was myself again. as I had to frequently have my teeth worked on and be excused from duty by my doctor or Captain, because I suffered with neuralgia of the head. In the winter of 1887 I contracted what the doctor called the catarrh. This confined me to my office for two weeks.
Shortly after my time expired in March 1888. with no objections to re-enlistment [sic], I then went to St. Joseph, Mo. and there took a back set of the same disease with which I suffered at Depcha, which the doctor in St. Joseph called the Grippe, which settled in my eyes, back and jaws, which caused me to lose my teeth and also my eyesight. I was almost totally blind for two months or more, from which I have only partly recovered by good medical treatment.
When I was in the service I had been sharp shooter for several years and have been with three department rifle teams. From this you can see that at that time I have very good eyesight, but now my eyesight is very bad and I suffer with the neuralgia in my head so severely that I was compelled to quit working at my trade, which was a barber, and am now in the Military Soldiers Home at Leavenworth, Kansas, because I am no longer able to work and make a living for myself and family. I will further state that I never drank a drink of whiskey or beer in my life. My military career is per excellent, with three fine discharges.
We were ordered back to our post at Fort Grant, and from there my company moved to Fort Apache, Arizona. After we had been in Arizona but a short time, about October 17th, 1886, our commanding officer received word that a band of Cherekow [sic] Indians which had been on the war path for about five years, and had been in and near the Candleary Mountains in Old Mexico all this time. were on their way back to the United States and were committing depredations as they returned. Orders were received to send out detachments of one officer and twenty men each to intercept them as they tried to get back to the reservation. About six o'clock the evening of October 17th my detachment, consisting of Capt. C.L. Cooper, twenty men, and two Indian scouts, sighted the Indians. We went into camp and put out a chain guard. Next morning we took the trail and followed it. In the meantime our two Indian scouts became sick and the Captain detailed me as trailer and scout and I selected Sergt. Cole to assist me in trailing. In this way we followed the trail without difficulty, and about twelve o'clock we came in sight of them going down the mountain. We waited until they got to the foot of the mountain and we followed them. The mountain was so steep we had to hold the horses back to keep them from falling down. When we arrived at the foot of the mountain the Indians had not yet detected that we were following them and they were going up the opposite side, going west, making for the reservation, supposing that Geronomo [sic] was still on the reservation, not knowing that he had been captured. Chief Mangus was supposed to be Geronomo's [sic] half brother. Now we struck out on the trail and followed them to the side of the canyon and waited until they had all gotten to the top of the mountain. This way we had to walk and lead our horses, as the mountain was so steep we couldn't ride. Of course, me being the guide and trailer, had to go ahead with Sergt. Cole. While climbing this mountain there would be places where two or three horses could pass each other on the trail. In this way six of us men got ahead of the command and followed on the hot trail up the mountain, while the Captain and the remainder of the company followed on behind. The Captain being a very large man, had to stop and rest very often and of course we arrived at the top of the mountain one half hour ahead of the command.
When we arrived at the top of the mountain we held a council of war of six men, Sergt. Cole and myself, Blacksmith Boyer, Corp. Foster. Pvt. Sparks and C.E. Miller, and we all swore to each other that we would follow the trail without the command because we knew if we would wait for the command they would get on the reservation and mixed with the other Indians and we could never capture them, so we mounted our horses and followed the trail on walk, trot and gallop, until we came to the rear of the renegades.
We were then going down into a canyon which formed the letter "T", the canyon running due north and south. In this way they went in from the East and we hemmed them into the canyon. Two men went to the South, two to the North, Sergt. Cole and myself closing up the gap behind them. At a certain signal they commenced firing, but not to hit them, but to intimidate them, and one of them returned about twenty shots, which was Mangus' young son, and they all surrendered to us six men, except the chief, his wife and his interpreter. When the Captain arrived we had them all captured and their ponies all corralled. That night the Captain had to negotiate with Mangus' aged mother, and as I spoke Spanish, I induced her, by giving her something to eat and sending food to induce them to come in and surrender the next morning at eight o'clock, which they did. This capture occurred at about 4:30 P.M. Oct. 18, 1886. For this service my captain promoted me to I st Sergt. I had held this rank off and on in the company for twelve or fourteen years, but had been reduced, then reinstated for this service. At this time I was Corporal, but I was promoted by my Captain to 1st Sergt. for distinguished service in the capture of Chief Mangus and his entire band of Cherekow [sic] Apaches and also was commended by Gen. A. Miles, and given the honor of taking them to Florida under the command of a Lieutenant.
My time expired in this troop in the last military service March 6th, 1888, with character excellent on two of my discharges, and very good on one. Time of service 15 years. I am drawing a pension of only $6.00 per month since 1905, for fracture of left shoulder and nasal catarrh.
A special thank you to Harold Sayre for allowing the use of this material.
Warriors of Color
Harold Ray Sayre
© 1995 Harold Ray Sayre
Harold Ray Sayre
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