Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Beecher Island, Part Four: Impossible Odds

Let’s see now, where were we? Oh yeah, when we last talked, Lieutenant Forsyth and his fifty-one scouts had barricaded themselves on a small sand bar (Beecher Island) in the middle of the Republican River. They had survived the initial attack with only two casualties. Second in command, Lt. Beecher and civilian scout, George W. Culver had both been killed. Lt. Forsyth had been shot in the leg, and acting surgeon, Dr. JH Moores had been shot in the head, but for some reason or another, was still alive. They were now bracing themselves for an all out assault on their position from a band of approximately 300 Indian warriors led by the well known, Cheyenne Warrior, Roman Nose.

Because of the way the ravine Roman Nose had decided to attack from was situated, the men could hear the Indians coming before they ever saw them. Forsyth shouted out a few last minute orders. He told them this was it, there was no more time to prepare. He directed them to look out for one another, to hold their fire until the Indians reached the edge of the river, and to make every shot count. It probably wasn’t politically correct, but he also told them he’d personally kill any man who tried to desert his post.

The attack was classic, Roman Nose. There he was, fearless, and like always, front and center. But because of the narrow ravine he had chosen to attack from he and his men had become easy targets for Forsyth and his men.

As they emerged, the Indians were only two or three abreast and with the new Spencer Seven-Shooter, one after another fell. The attacks came wave after wave and the results were all pretty much the same. Every Indian who came within range was met with another, deadly accurate bullet.

Roman Nose called off the attack long enough to regroup. It was decided they’d break up into several smaller groups and try to surround the men on the sand bar. Maybe if they’d tried this tactic from the beginning, things would have turned out different. Who knows?

Roman Nose led his group from the top of a hill just west of Forsyth’s position. By now he was full of rage. He was driven by his hatred of the white man and had become frustrated by his inability to slaughter this small group of men. Maybe he had become careless by making himself such an easy target. But this would be Roman Nose’s last fight.
As he reached the river’s edge, Roman Nose was met with a fatal shot. He struggled to stay on his horse for a while. But finally, death overtook him and he fell where he was. His death had an immediate, demoralizing effect on the warriors and the attack was called off.

Because of a good, last minute plan, and superior fire power, Forsyth and his men had won the battle against what seemed like impossible odds.

But it wasn’t over. The battle had now become a siege. The Indians decided if they couldn’t beat the white men in this battle, they’d keep them pinned down on their sand bar and simply starve them to death. And so it began.

Once it became clear the battle was over Forsyth and his men slowly crawled out of their holes in the sand to take stock of themselves and each other. They had lost two more men in the battle. Civilian Scouts, William Nelson and Lewis Farley had both been killed. When they went to check on the surgeon, DH Moorse, they discovered he had also died of the gun shot wound to the head he had suffered earlier in the day. On top of all that, there were 18 more men wounded, some of them critically.

All the food and medical supplies the men had were loaded on the four pack-mules they brought with them. All four mules had been killed and were laying some hundred yards to the north of them. They might as well have been on the moon. There was no way the Indians were going to allow the men to retrieve any of their supplies. They tended to the wounded as best as they could and tried not to think about having no food.

As night fell, they buried their dead on the battlefield and Forsyth explained their situation to his men. He told them it looked like the Indians intended to starve them out and asked for volunteers to break through the Indian‘s lines and head some sixty miles away to Fort Wallace for help. Four men stepped forward.

Okay, I promise to wind this story down by next week. I’m still looking for someone who knows how this story will end though. How about it, how about joining me on the blog to talk about it at: Surely there’s a historian out there somewhere.


  1. Thanks for stopping by my blog, Kevin.

    I liked that detail about warning to shoot any man who deserted. The guys had to think that was their last chance to get out: run while the bullets are flying in the other direction.

    You reminded me of a story about Lincoln who was visiting the Army of the Potomac. Some private stepped up to him and said, "Mr. Lincoln, my sergeant said if I deserted he'd shoot me!" The president, a former officer himself, leaned down to the young man and said, "I believe he would."

  2. That's a hell of a good story about, Lincoln. I'd never heard that one before. So much for getting his sergeant in trouble with the president. LOL!

    You know, I really wish I had paid more attention in history class when I was a kid. And maybe if I'd have given a damn and if I'd have had teachers who didn't make the whole thing as exciting as watching your fingernails grow, I would have.

    It seems, the older I get, the more these kind of stories facinate me.

  3. tell us mcginty did you even go to school? you sure cant tell by the way you write. okay maybe you got as far as the fifth grade but i doubt it.
    and how long are you going to insult us with your nonknowledge of history? ive noticed you havent bothered to provide us with any sort of refrences to back up this stupid story youre pretending to know something about.
    why don't you just do us all a favor and shut the hell up.

  4. That's funny. You asked how long I'm going to insult you.

    Well, Anonymous, if my writing is insulting you, it'll probably go on for quite some time.

    Actually, I probably will include a few refrences in next week's column. But not because you think I should.

    If you're so sure I'm pretending to know something about this story and you believe I'm wrong about some of my information, point it out.

    Anyway, thanks for stopping by. I always appreciate good, positive feedback from some of my more dedicated readers. LOL...

  5. And I always appreciate the ironic pedantry of Anonymous. I mean how many writing critics spell as creatively as our dear Anonymous? And how many people spout St. Paul's "love never fails" or "love always wins" and still spew such venom and hatred for someone he doesn't know? It's quite annoying, I know, Kevin. But it's also cute, somehow. Not adorable. Just cute.

  6. You're probably right, Fred. He probably is kind of cute.

    I can see him now. He's sitting there in his, Scooby Doo, pajamas, in the corner of his mom and dad's basement. He's probably about 35-years-old and still hasn't been able to find the "right" job for his paticualr set of skills.

    He's pissed off at the world and blames everything that's wrong in this world on conservatives.

    But hey, whether he wants to admit it or not,he reads my stuff. I think he's having trouble accepting the fact that he's become a fan of "Room 235." LOL...

  7. Okay, let's talk about the fact that, Roman Nose knew he'd die that day.
    I know the story, do you?

    Just a reader.

  8. Great writing my friend

    I'll be curious as to the rest of the story too.

    Hey anonymous, you can blog with us too.

    Sounds like you REALLY need Christ in your heart.
    Come out of your closet and become non-anonymous.

  9. Thanks for stopping by, Myron.

    And Anonymous, I'm assuming you're a different one that my ol' bitter little buddy who shows up from time to time but never really has anything to add to the conversation. Thank you for your question.

    Because of Roman Noses' "medicine" given to him by his medicine man in the form of his head dress, Roman Nose truly believed he was invincible. But he had to meet certain requirements to keep it that way. For instance, he couldn't eat anything that was prepared by any kind of white man's utencils. The night before the battle one of the women who had helped prepared the feast used a metal spoon made by white men.

    By the time they found out about it, it was too late, the meal had already been eaten. The medicine man tried his best to stop Roman Nose that day. He told him he'd have to go through a cleansing ritual that would last for several days. Otherwise his medicine would be no good.

    So yeah, Roman Nose knew he was going to die that day. He chose to fight anyway.

    Looking back, I wish I'd have included that part in the story. You mentioned that you know the story. How'd I do?

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