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The Diaries of John Gregory Bourke Volume 4

July 3, 1880--May 22, 1881

Edited and Annotated by Charles M. Robinson III

Publication Year: 2003

John Gregory Bourke kept a monumental set of diaries beginning as a young cavalry lieutenant in Arizona in 1872, and ending the evening before his death in 1896. As aide-de-camp to Brigadier General George Crook, he had an insider's view of the early Apache campaigns, the Great Sioux War, the Cheyenne Outbreak, and the Geronimo War. Bourke's writings reveal much about military life on the western frontier, but he also was a noted ethnologist, writing extensive descriptions of American Indian civilization and illustrating his diaries with sketches and photographs. Previously, researchers could consult only a small part of Bourke’s diary material in various publications, or else take a research trip to the archive and microfilm housed at West Point. Now, for the first time, the 124 manuscript volumes of the Bourke diaries are being compiled, edited, and annotated by Charles M. Robinson III, in a planned set of eight books easily accessible to the modern researcher. Volume 4 chronicles the political and managerial affairs in Crook’s Department of the Platte. A large portion centers on the continuing controversy concerning the forced relocation of the Ponca Indians from their ancient homeland along the Dakota-Nebraska line to a new reservation in the Indian Territory. An equally large portion concerns Bourke’s ethnological work under official sanction from the army and the Bureau of Ethnology, work which would make a profound change in his life and his place in history. Aside from a summary of the entire Ponca affair in approximately two pages, virtually none of this material appears in Bourke’s classic On the Border with Crook. Bourke’s staff duties bring him into contact with many prominent individuals. He is particularly unimpressed with the commander of the army, General W.T. Sherman, who, he wrote, “is largely made up of the demagogue and will not survive in history.” He also is harsh on President Rutherford B. Hayes, now finishing out his term. This volume contains detailed descriptions of several tours, including those to Yellowstone National Park and the Santa Fe regions. Bourke reveals the profound changes that have overtaken the Indians in only a few years of settlement on reservations. At the new Spotted Tail, or Rosebud, Agency, he found a conference in progress, where the Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad was attempting to buy right of way across the reservation. The leaders Spotted Tail and Red Cloud had wasted little time in determining what was valuable to the whites—they astutely bargained for a high price. Extensively annotated and with a biographical appendix on Indians, civilians, and military personnel named in the diaries, this book will appeal to western and military historians, students of American Indian life and culture, and to anyone interested in the development of the American West.

Published by: University of North Texas Press


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pp. vii


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pp. viii-ix

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Introduction to Volume 4

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pp. 1-10

Volume 4 of this series covers John Gregory Bourke’s diaries and notebooks from July 3, 1880, through May 22, 1881,1 and from half-way through manuscript volume 34 to about one-third of manuscript volume 40. The material comes from 124 manuscript volumes and several subvolumes held in the United States Military Academy Library in West Point, New York. The diaries...

Part 1: More Staff Duties

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pp. 13-14

This section covers staff duties along much the same lines as Volume 3, and in some instances is a follow-through on material covered in that volume. One particular instance is Fort Niobrara, Nebraska,1 the site for which Crook selected in 1879. Bourke covered that expedition in detail.2 In this volume, construction of the new post is underway, and Bourke is sent to inspect its progress. ...

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1: The Ute Country and the Mining Districts

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pp. 15-42

July 3rd 1880. An unusually pleasant and congenial party of ladies and gentlemen, left Omaha and Fort Omaha1 this morning for a ride over the line of the Omaha & Northern Nebraska R.R., to its terminus at Oakland Neb., and back. It consisted of Mrs. J. A. Horbach and her daughter, Miss Mary2 and son Paul, Mrs Watson and son, Burt; Miss Jeannette C. Jewett—all of Omaha, and Mrs. W. B. Royall, Miss Agnes Royall and Dr. [Richards] Barnett, Lieut. M. ...

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2: Into the Uintahs

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pp. 43-63

July 26th. Major C.S. Roberts 17th Infantry, reported to Genl. Crook for duty on his Staff as Aide de Camp. Applied to War Dep’t. for revocation of my detail to the Mily. Academy. July 28th. General Crook, Major Roberts, A.D.C., Miss Gertrude Belcher (a bright, pleasant young lady daughter of Major [John Hill] Belcher, U.S.A.) and the writer, left Omaha for the West. In the car with us were Mr. Burt Watson and Miss Yates, accompanying...

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3: Carl Schurz and Yellowstone National Park

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pp. 64-85

August 9th. Dr. Tanner, so the telegram to-day informed us, completed his 40 days’ fast, a wonderful achievement of fortitude and endurance, which may yet prove of value to the medical profession in the treatment of obscure intestinal troubles. The report, published a short time since, of the rout and destruction of Genl. [George] Burrough’s [sic] Brigade of the British Army, near Candahar [sic], in Afghanistan, has been confirmed.7...

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4: Wilderness Trails

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pp. 86-103

August 16th 1880. Monday. Awakened at 3.30 a.m. to discover heavy frost on the ground. Breakfasted at 4 o’clock, the piêce de rësistance being steak, and liver from an antelope shot the day before yesterday by “Old Faithful”. Alunged [sic] at once into the “forest primeval” and began to re-ascend the Continental Divide. The trail was much better than that of yesterday altho’ it wound through miles of storm-wrecked timber which gave some trouble to our...

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5: A Trip East

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pp. 104-120

Sept. 5th 1880. Left Omaha, viâ “Burlington” road1 for Chicago and the East. At dépôt, met my friend, Mr. William Carter, son of Judge Carter of Fort Bridger, Wyo., and also met ex-Senator [John Milton] Thayer of Nebraska. In Chicago dined at the Palmer House and then took the Balt[imore]. and Ohio Express for Washington. Sept. 6th 1880. Major [Azor H.] Nickerson met me in the R.R. dépôt, ...

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6: More Memories of Arizona

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pp. 121-130

We have all day been in the drainage of the Niobrara, to which Plum creek is tributary. A few miles beyond this is Evergreen creek, a pretty stream full of beaver. These streams head in the country near the sources of the Loup and Colemans through which I passed in July 1879, in company with Genl. Crook and others.1 Stanton has been recalling reminiscences of a trip we made together...

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7. Fort Niobrara and the New Agencies

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pp. 131-149

Lieut. Davis took me over to the new post which is rapidly approaching completion. The site is a most agreeable and healthy one, being a flat table-land well drained, ending in a bold bluff at the river, into which a dozen first class springs gush from the banks above. The quarters are of adobe, with brick corners to resist the encroachment of the sand-laden winds. The roofs are of shingles made at the post saw-mill. Each house is well provided...

Part 2: The Ponca Question Continues

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pp. 153-157

In Volume 3 of this series, Bourke discussed the legal case in 1879, by which the Ponca chief Standing Bear won the right to return to the ancient homeland and live unmolested, a right that the presiding judge, Elmer Dundy, believed should be accorded to any law-abiding resident of the United States, Indian or non-Indian.1 Although Dundy’s ruling settled the immediate status of Standing Bear, public outcry against the government’s forced relocation policy...

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8: A Summons to Washington

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pp. 158-171

...General Crook, accompanied by his Aides, Captain Roberts and Lieut. Bourke, left Omaha, Neb., for Washington, D.C. At Council Bluffs, Iowa, we met Mr. S. S. Stevens, General Passenger Agent of the Chicago, Rock-Island and Pacific Rail Road, and Mr. Morris of the Wabash Line and Mr. Ezra Willard. On our train, were Dr. George L. Miller, Editor of the Omaha Herald, ex-Senator P. W. Hitchcock, Mr. N. Shelton, Cashier of the U.P.R.R., ...

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9: The Ponca Commission

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pp. 172-184

Antoine Leroy and Joseph Esau, half-breed interpreters. Secretary Schurz. When I talked with them day before yesterday about the sum of money, provided in the Bill laid before Congress two years ago, I made a mistake. I thought then that the valuation of the lands they now occupy, in money, had been much higher than it is, and that it would cost more to buy them. I thought then that it would take about $80.000 to buy them, but...

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10: The Indian Territory

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pp. 185-198

Christmas 1880. I have been much disappointed in not being able to pay a brief visit to mother and sister, a pleasure which our present official trip to the Indian Territory will cause me to defer until the middle of next month. Left Washington at 8 a.m., the snow-fringed branches of the trees looking like exquisite patterns of thread lace, as we drove through the streets to the D

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11: Agency Operations

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pp. 199-217

January 6th 1881. 9 a.m. The Commission met. Present all the members. The proceedings of yesterday were read and approved. Agent Whiting was sent for, and questioned by the Commission. He spoke in the highest terms of the general honesty of the Poncas; said he never had found any fault with any of them on that respect, except with one half-blood and two half-witted persons. Poncas generally well-behaved and orderly, there is a...

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12: The Poncas Before Removal

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pp. 218-233

January 8th 1881. Reached Fort Omaha, Nebr., Mr. Stickney going to Genl. Crook’s Qrs., Mr. Allen to Major Roberts’ and Captain Huggins to mine; the other members are to meet us at Council Bluffs. This night was fearfully cold—on our way to the Fort, the thermometer indicated -25°Fahr., but fortunately there was no wind. In the papers to-day appeared a telegram to Presdt. Hayes, purporting to have come from the Ponca Commission, announcing...

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13. The Dakota Poncas Speak

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pp. 234-261

Towards noon, Standing Bear and others came over to our Hotel; there they met Cheyenne, Hairy Bear and Peter Primand. When Standing Bear met the two old men, they kissed each other warmly but when it came to Primand’s turn, the young man did not venture upon a kiss, but simply pressed his cheek against the old man’s cheek in a very respectful manner. At 2 P.M., the Ponca Commission assembled in the Academy of Music. ...

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14: The Commission Concludes

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pp. 262-283

Reverend Mr. Riggs, General Miles and Lieutenant Bourke took sleigh, and started for Santee Agency at 3 P.M. an exceedingly cold, biting wind cut our faces and hands in spite of the heavy fur wraps in which we folded ourselves; the thermometer must have indicated at least -20°F. Our sleigh was made of a wagon on “bobs”,—our team, two half bred ponies which developed such very excellent powers of speed that we made the 14 miles to the Agency in less than 2½...

Part 3: The Bureau of Ethnology

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pp. 287-289

Upon returning to Washington to finalize the work with the Ponca Commission, Bourke met with Maj. John Wesley Powell, director of the two-year-old American Bureau of Ethnology. Powell had learned of Bourke’s work from E. S. Holden of the Naval Observatory, who had been a year behind Bourke at West Point, and from Rev. Dorsey, who, aside from his ministry with the Episcopal Church, and his work with the Ponca Commission, also...

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15. A New Assignment

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pp. 290-312

January 27th. After breakfast at the Riggs’, visited Major Powell—at the National Gallery, the new building of the Smithsonian Institute. This is a magnificent structure, of the finest I have ever seen. Being a little bit too early, I whiled away the moments, preceding Major Powell’s arrival, in making a hurried examination of a number of the apartments and cases. I succeeded in walking through those devoted to the “seal family”, the “rattlesnakes” and “skunks” and was delighted...

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16. Bannock and Shoshone Customs

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pp. 313-342

...March 22nd 1881. Left Omaha, Neb., in obedience to the above telegram from Lieut. General P. H. Sheridan....The road between the Fort and city was in an extremely muddy condition from rapidly melting snow. The present winter has been phenomenal in severity, lasting, almost continuously, from October 10th, until the present date and during nearly all that time only one night when snow melted. There has been more than twice as much snow this winter as during the...

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17. Back to the Southwest

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pp. 343-361

April 8th. The U.S. Railway Mail Agent invited me to enter his car and examine its workings. I was much interested. The Railway Mail system has been methodized, almost to perfection since 1870 and has done wonders in expediting the transmission of letters and postal packages across the country. We reached Cheyenne on time to catch the Denver Pacific train. We pulled out in a severe gust, but this did not last long and did us...

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18. In and Around Santa Fe

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pp. 362-375

April 16th 1881. From my rambles around Santa F

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19. Navajo Country

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pp. 376-396

We had another lovely day for our journey and a very good team of mules. For the first twelve miles, there was not much to notice beyond the Titanic blocks of sandstone piled up into great hills, one of the most peculiar being the spire called the Navajo Church, a land-mark distinguishable for a number of miles in every direction. The ranch at the Mineral Spring (ferruginous.) 12 m. from Wingate, furnished our relay, which had been sent out from the post the day previous. ...

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20. Among the Zunis

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pp. 397-421

May 11th 1881. Recd. a very pleasant personal letter from Lieut. General Sheridan, in reference to the prosecution of my work under his orders. Bade adieu to Genl. Crook, Roberts, Williams, Ludington, Col. & Cap’t. Stanton, Col. Burnham, Genl. King, the Bachelor’s Mess. (Foote, Palmer, Lee’s, Hay.) and started for Santa Fé. Passing through town saw several of my best friends and on the train met numerous pleasant acquaintances...

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21. “So That I Could Show the White Men”

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pp. 422-441

May 20th 1881. Breakfast over, Mr. Graham took me to one of the corrals to see the Zunis shearing their sheep. The corral was a simple affair of small poles fastened with rawhide and contained as many as 250 sheep and goats, whose bleating and baa-aaa-ing made the place a pandemonium. A man would seize a sheep by the hind leg, and as soon as the animal had become exhausted with kicking, a squaw would seize the front leg on the...

Appendix: Persons Mentioned in the Diary

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pp. 442-509


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pp. 510-515


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pp. 516-545

E-ISBN-13: 9781574413687
Print-ISBN-13: 9781574412635

Page Count: 560
Illustrations: 31 b&w illus.
Publication Year: 2003