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The Diaries of John Gregory Bourke Volume 3

June 1, 1878--June 22, 1880

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 3 begins in 1878 with a discussion of the Bannock Uprising and a retrospective on Crazy Horse, whose death Bourke called "an event of such importance, and with its attendant circumstances pregnant with so much of good or evil for the settlement between the Union Pacific Rail Road and the Yellowstone River." Three other key events during this period were the Cheyenne Outbreak of 1878-79, the Ponca Affair, and the White River Ute Uprising, the latter two in 1879. The mistreatment of the Poncas infuriated Bourke: when recording the initial meeting between Crook and the Poncas, he wrote: "This conference is inserted verbatim merely to show the cruel and senseless ways in which the Government of the United States deals with the Indian tribes who confide in its justice or trust themselves to its mercy." Bourke's diary covers his time not only on the Plains and Midwest, but also digresses to his time as a young junior officer, fresh out of West Point, and experiencing his first introduction to the Southwest. He comments on issues in the military during his day, such as the quirks and foibles of the Irish soldiers who made up a large part of the frontier army, and also on the problems of Johnson Whittaker, who became West Point's only black cadet following the graduation of Henry Flipper in 1878. 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. ix

A large group of people have made this series possible, particularly Ron Chrisman, director, and Karen DeVinney, managing editor, University of North Texas Press, for whom this is an on-going, and sometimes seemingly endless...

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Introduction to Volume 3

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pp. 1-11

Volume 3 of this series covers John Gregory Bourke’s diaries from June 1, 1878, through June 22, 1880, and manuscript volume 23 to half-way through volume 34. During this period, the notebooks progressively deviate from the standard daily journal to a “stream-of-consciousness.” Increasingly, Bourke is aware...

Part 1. The Life of a General’s Aide

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pp. 15-18

This section covers a period of relative peace on the frontier. Concerned mainly with office work, and inspection and procurement assignments, Bourke offers more detail on daily life in the Midwest and along the frontier. Little, if any, of this material appears in On the Border With Crook, or in his other writings, so...

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1. Nostalgia, a Society Wedding, a Day at the Races, and a Parting

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pp. 19-34

The present year, 1878, has been rendered illustrious in its century, by the discoveries of the celebrated scientific electrician, Mr. [Thomas] Edison: in other note-books, allusion occurs to the telephone, one of the emanations of his inventive genius.¹ This one must chronicle the “phonograph”, or...

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2. The Bannock Uprising

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pp. 35-52

July 15th, 1878. General Crook, Lt. [Walter S.] Schuyler, A.D.C., and self left Omaha for the Shoshonee and Bannock at Fort Hall, Idaho. Weather was fearfully hot. Mr. R.E. Strahorn and wife were on train with us, on their way to the “parks” and springs of Colorado. The Chicago Times received to-day, contained a telegram, announcing...

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3. Retrospective on the Sioux War and Crazy Horse

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pp. 53-64

The death of the renowned chief Crazy Horse was an event of such importance, and with its attendant circumstances pregnant with so much of good or evil for the settlement between the Union Pacific Rail Road and the Yellowstone River that I do not feel that it would be proper for me to pass it over with the condensed...

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4. The Death of Crazy Horse

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pp. 65-78

When, finally, after many days of waiting, it was announced at Red Cloud Agency that Ta-Sunca-Uit-Co, Crazy Horse was on his way in to surrender it was understood at once that our campaigning days in the Department of the Platte were over and that the Sioux problem, as a problem, was solved. No further...

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5. The Developing Frontier

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pp. 79-96

With no military campaigns, Bourke’s routine duties took him not only through the Department of the Platte, but elsewhere in the West as well. He writes virtually nothing of this in On the Border With Crook, or his other published works, yet his observations published here and in Chapter 6 allow us to...

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6. Sojourn in the Mountains and a Visit to Denver

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pp. 97-110

Thursday, August 29th. Bade farewell to our good friends, the Stantons and started at 6 in the morning for Salt Lake, to take the train for the East. On the cars, fell into conversation with a gentleman from Arizona; his description of the overt progress made in that Territory amazed me greatly. He showed me a mining...

Part 2. The Cheyennes and the Poncas

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pp. 113-116

The Cheyenne Outbreak and the Ponca Affair involved northern tribes that had been transported to the Indian Territory. The Northern Cheyennes who surrendered to Crook as the Great Sioux War drew to a close, were relocated to congregate them with their Southern Cheyenne cousins, who already were...

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7. Cheyenne Life

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pp. 117-143

This chapter almost could have been called “The General and the President’s Son,” because Webb C. Hayes, son of President Rutherford B. Hayes, accompanied Crook and Bourke on an expedition to the West. At Sidney Barracks, Nebraska,¹ however, Crook conferred with a group of Cheyennes about the...

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8. Hunting the Refugees

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pp. 144-159

Sept. 26. Thus far no news of any kind concerning the Cheyenne refugees: Major Thornburgh has had scouts sent out along the South Platte river, to the South and East of Sidney, to watch for the first intimations of their presence. Day before yesterday, Dr. Munn told me a story he had heard from one of the cattle men...

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9. Misery on the Trail

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pp. 160-176

October 7th. Awakened at a very early hour: night had been very cold. Tried to make ourselves a cup of coffee or tea with a fire of cow-chips, but the attempt was not a success. Lt. Bowman and Lt. Palmer had quietly monopolized the fire which Major Thornburgh and I had made with so much difficulty and...

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10. The Ponca Affair

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pp. 177-201

March 11th 1879. Lieutenant-General P. H. Sheridan, with Generals G. A. Forsyth, A.D.C. and Captain [James Fingal] Gregory, Engineer Officer of his Staff, and Brigadier General Crook and the writer, left Omaha, Neb., for a visit to the posts of Forts Robinson and Sheridan. The journey by rail, over the Union...

Part 3. Americanizing the Frontier

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pp. 205-207

After a retrospective on Irish officers and their often humorous quirks, Bourke spends much of this section on the rapid development of what, only a decade earlier, was raw frontier. Homesteaders were pouring into the area, willing to endure privation in order to be their own masters. Visiting one family of settlers, living...

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11. Of Irish Lords and Irish Soldiers

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pp. 208-224

This night, (June 20th) a Farewell Hop was given by the officers of Fort Omaha to Colonel [Edwin F.] Townsend and family. Colonel Townsend has just been promoted from the majority of the 9th to the Lieutenant-Colonelcy of the 11th Infantry, (Station, Fort Custer, Montana.)

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12. “It Is of Such Stuff that Good Commonwealths Are Made”

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pp. 225-248

July 8th The members of our party were up about 4 o’clock. Capt. Munson invited us all to breakfast at his house, as he was to command the escort & would have to get breakfast ready anyhow, and the other good people of the garrison would only have to arise at that unearthly hour to prepare it for our...

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13. Fort Craig to Camp Grant

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pp. 249-275

Almost on same date came the news from South Africa that Lord Chelmsford had with almost 5.000 men defeated the Zulus who had a force of 12.000. Sir Garnet Wolsely [sic] who had been sent out to relieve Chelmsford had not yet assumed command and consequently whatever credit was due for the affair belonged to...

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14. Back to the Present

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pp. 276-288

General Miles, Colonel 5th Infantry, has for the past month, had a strongly equipped expedition of nearly one thousand men, all mounted, on the British Boundary north of Milk river, Montana, to drive back any hostile Sioux from Sitting Bull’s Camp who might make an invasion of our...

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Part 4. The White River Ute Uprising


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pp. 291-293

The White River Ute uprising had its roots in the usual well-meaning, but totally unrealistic policies of federal government. As Bourke noted, the public seemed to understand the problem. “Very generally, the Indian Bureau was blamed and not a few expressed the hope that the Indian Agent might be...

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15. Merritt’s Ride

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pp. 294-316

My own preparations were made at same time, and orders received, to proceed to join the command of Major T. T. Thornburgh, 4th Infantry, then marching to the Agency of the White River Utes, to assist the Agent, who reported that he was in need of military force to quell the turbulent and unruly Indians on his...

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16. Camp Under Fire

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pp. 317-337

The remains of Major Thornburgh and men [were] buried this morning, rather roughly, however, as at this time, the sharp rattle of musketry from our picket stations announced the approach of the enemy; positions were taken up without the loss of a moment, the long line of Infantry and dismounted cavalry...

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17. From Field to Staff

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pp. 338-361

In this chapter, we see the beginning of a turn in Bourke’s life. Up until now, he has been very circumspect in his personal relations. If there were any women in his life, he does not mention them. The entry for New Year’s Day 1880, however, states he spent the day with friends, including the Horbach family, who had...

Part 5. Staff Duties and Nostalgia

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pp. 364-365

To the nineteenth century army, the horse was every bit as important as the tank or armored vehicle to the army of the twenty-first century. In combat, the soldier’s life depended on the quality and stamina of the mount. Much of this section is taken with a remount detail to acquire new horses for the...

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18. Procuring Mules and Mounts

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pp. 366-387

Friday, March 5th. Breakfasted at 5 A.M. with Colonel Royall, and then in company with him and Mr. Chambers left Fort Omaha, at 6 o’clock to catch the early “dummy” for Council Bluffs, Iowa. There we took the local or morning train, over the Kansas City, St. Joseph and Council Bluffs R.R., for Saint...

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19. Phil Reade and Old Jerry

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pp. 388-399

Reade was brought up in good circumstances—a great misfortune for him—as poverty would have stimulated his ambition and given his intellectual powers something to work for. At the Mily. Academy, he was a shrewd, bright fellow, quick as a flash to seize upon the subtle points of a mathematical demonstration, but unjust to...

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20. More Horses, More Nostalgia, and Miscellaneous Rambling

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pp. 400-419

April 8th 1880 and April 9th 1880. Hard at work buying horses. The dust in Kansas City, especially in and around the different horse yards is simply beyond description. There has been no rain of consequence for months, and soil is reduced to an impalpable powder which the strong shifting breezes lift in dense clouds to annoy and...

Appendix 1: Persons Mentioned in the Diary

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pp. 420-502

Appendix 2: Authorities. Personal notes of the Campaigns Conducted by Brig. General George Crook

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pp. 503-517


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pp. 518-527


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pp. 529-555

E-ISBN-13: 9781574413830
Print-ISBN-13: 9781574412314

Page Count: 576
Illustrations: 13 b&w illus., 2 maps
Publication Year: 2003