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The Diaries of John Gregory Bourke Volume 2

July 29, 1876--April 7, 1878

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 Bourkes 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 six books easily accessible to the modern researcher. This volume opens as Crook prepares for the expedition that would lead to his infamous and devastating Horse Meat March. Although Bourke retains his loyalty to Crook throughout the detailed account, his patience is sorely tried at times. Bourke's description of the march is balanced by an appendix containing letters and reports by other officers, including an overview of the entire expedition by Lt. Walter Schuyler, and a report by Surgeon Bennett Clements describing the effects on the men. The diary continues with the story of the Powder River Expedition, culminating in Bourke’s eyewitness description of Col. Ranald Mackenzie's destruction of the main Cheyenne camp in what became known at the Dull Knife Fight. With the main hostile chiefs either surrendering or forced into exile in Canada, field operations come to a close, and Bourke finishes this volume with a retrospective of his service in Tucson, Arizona. 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

Front Matter

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pp. i-vi


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pp. vii


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pp. viii-ix

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Introduction to Volume 2

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pp. 1-10

This second volume of the John Gregory Bourke1 Diaries includes the period from July 29, 1876, through April 7, 1878, during which he served as Brig. Gen. George Crook’s aide-decamp. It is comprised of manuscripts designated Volumes 7 through 22 at the United States Military Library at West Point, which holds the collection. Altogether, the Bourke Diaries at West Point, with one additional volume in the...

Part 1. The Great Sioux War: (Continued from Vol. 1)

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pp. 13-20

In this volume, Bourke’s account of the Great Sioux War opens with Crook camped at Goose Creek in extreme northern Wyoming, in the final stages of preparation for resuming his Big Horn and Yellowstone Expedition. The expedition was organized the previous May, but went into hiatus after Crook’s defeat at the Rosebud, in Montana, on June 17. Consequently...

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Chapter 1. Camp Life

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pp. 21-43

[28 July 1876]1
I begin in this note-book an attempt to reproduce the contents of the 5th Volume of the Journal of the Sioux campaign, which 5th Vol. was lost or stolen sometime in the year 1877–1878. That volume comprehended the period between July 28th 1876 and the morning of Sept. 8th of the same year or the dates covering the reinforcement of General Crook’s. ..

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Chapter 2. Linking with Terry

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pp. 44-66

August 4th. Very high winds prevailing all day. Prairie fires burning for miles; sky black with fog and smoke. The timber in the foot-hills of the Big Horn range is also burning and after dark the hills are crowned with a wreath of golden flame. The organization of the Command, as at present constituted, was announced in General...

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Chapter 3. On the Yellowstone

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pp. 67-85

We remained on the Yellowstone from the 17th to the 24th of August, a description of one day answering for all the others. There was not much work to be done: cavalry commanders looked to their horses; Infantry officers picked out the men who began to show signs of exhaustion. General Crook’s command...

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Chapter 4. The Ordeal Begins

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pp. 86-104

August 24th. We awakened, or rather arose, (because we had not slept a wink during the storm which lasted all night.) and after considerable trouble got our fires going once more and coffee boiling. A good cup of this helped greatly to cheer us for our task of marching which began almost immediately after. It was impossible to cross the Powder river...

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Chapter 5. Fighting and Starving

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pp. 105-120

Friday Sept. 8th (Continued.) The smooth grassy contour of the district to the rear of us was gradually giving way to the encroachments of some rugged spurs of the little range laid down on the maps as the Slim Buttes. The sturdy little Indian fig thrust itself forward obtrusively, hand...

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Chapter 6. The Campaign Ends

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pp. 121-148

Sept. 14th. The busy hum of lively conversation could now be heard around every camp-fire and from every knot of soldiers: the change was most agreeable from the glum and early moroseness of a few days previous. The inspirating [sic] influences of abundant food and bright, clean skies, were never more patent than now; the greatest...

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Chapter 7. The Powder River Expedition

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pp. 149-163

The Powder River Expedition of the winter of 1875–76 was Crook’s last field operation during the Great Sioux War, and is remembered for Col. Ranald Mackenzie’s destruction of the main Cheyenne winter camp on November 25, 1876. Known as the Dull Knife Fight, because of one of the principal Cheyenne chiefs present, it effectively broke Cheyenne military power.1 Bourke...

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Chapter 8. Forging Indian Alliances

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pp. 164-178

November 10th and 11th. Officers and soldiers busily engaged in the duties preliminary to our contemplated operations, receiving and issuing clothing, camp and Garrison equipage. Ordnance, Forage, ammunition, fur boots, and Quartermaster’s stores: drilling new recruits, and other incidentals of a campaign. The telegraph line brought news of the closeness of the Presidential election and the fierce excitement...

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Chapter 9. The Dull Knife Fight

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pp. 179-200

(Thanksgiving Day.) November 30th. As completely as the pressure of business and the crowd of events will admit, I shall now attempt to record the history of the work just accomplished. A page or so back, I transcribed a telegram from General Crook to Lt. Genl. Sheridan, conveying his determination to move down after Crazy Horse’s band on the Rosebud. For this movement,...

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Chapter 10. Grouard and Bourke on Indians

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pp. 201-220

December 9.1 In Camp on the Belle Fourche. Our progress to this point has been tedious and exhausting. Our departure from Supply Camp, at Dry Fork did not take place until 10 A.M., of the 6th , between which hour and two in the afternoon, our column got as far as a series of large water holes in the bed of a dry course tributary to the Powder. Sufficient fuel for...

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Chapter 11. Belle Fourche to Fort Fetterman

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pp. 221-239

December 21st. Another snow storm last night: two inches on a level. General Crook summoned the Indians to a council, at which all the principal chiefs of the Sioux, Cheyennes, and Arapahoe bands made their appearance. After dwelling upon the fact that our lack of forage for the animals prevented our continuing in the field much longer and the non-return of our messengers from Red Cloud Agency deprived...

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Chapter 12. The Hostile Bands Surrender

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pp. 240-264

Bourke made no entries from January 3 until February 7, 1877. December 28 through January 3 takes up the first twelve pages of manuscript volume 16. The remainder of that volume, together with all of volumes 17 and 18, consists of pasted-in clippings and orders. He begins volume 19 on February 7, with a recapitulation of the intervening events. Even portions...

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Chapter 13. The Indians Speak

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pp. 265-293

Tuesday, April 17th. Heavy shower in the morning before reveille. Day gloomy and chill. Major Randall and Mr. Strahorn arrived from Cantonment Reno. Companies “B” and “L”, 3d Cavalry, returned from the Black Hills, Lieuts. Simpson and Cummings in command. Parties from Crazy horse’s [sic village have been coming in all day yesterday and this morning; their stories...

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Chapter 14. Crazy Horse

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pp. 294-301

May 4th. 1877. Spotted Tail is still with us. He has been installed as an honorary member of our mess. He conducts himself quietly and with perfect propriety at the table, calling for the different dishes in his own language, but understanding most of what we say to him in English: when he said—“Ahúyapé” we have learned that he means “bread”; Wosanría,...

Part 2. Staff Officer

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pp. 305-310

On May 7, 1877, Miles attacked and destroyed a hostile camp of about three hundred people under the Minneconjou chief Lame Deer. This camp had been spared much of the chasing and fighting of the previous six months, and its wealth was intact. It contained robes, about thirty tons of dried meat, along with firearms, powder, and ammunition. The troops captured...

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Chapter 15. A Hunting Trip

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pp. 311-329

[July 1, 1877]1 Our party assembled at Camp Brown, Wyo., a pleasant little post on the Little Wind River, one of the head-waters of the Big Horn River. To reach there, Lieut. Schuyler and self started in advance of the main party and came, via U.P.R.R. to Green River Station, 900 miles or so West of Omaha, Neb., thence by stage and ambulance (150) miles north to Brown. (A description...

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Chapter 16. The Little Bighorn Battlefield

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pp. 330-343

July 14th. Broke camp, taking trail alongside of Mountain overlooking Shell Creek. Had considerable difficulty in forcing a trail through trees and bushes and over rocks and especially across ground made miry by the great number of springs bubbling to the surface. After one and [a] half miles...

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Chapter 17. Downriver By Steamer

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pp. 344-354

July 23d. We embarked on the steamer Silver City, a new boat, which had just completed its maiden trip. Before casting loose, the officers of the post, those of our Battalion, Mr. Moore and Mr. Mears, Frank Gruard and Baptist[e] Pourier and our Indian guides, came aboard to shake hands and say good bye: then the gangway planks were run aboard, the hawsers undone...

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Chapter 18. Of Indians, Missionaries, and Irishmen

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pp. 355-371

The extant diary skips almost exactly eight months from July 29, 1877, to March 28, 1878. In this instance, we may assume that Bourke did not bother to record mundane, day-to-day activities, because in his entry for March 28, he mentions a demonstration of a telephone, the preceding December, as though it were fresh news. Nevertheless, two major events occurred during this period. On September 5, 1877, Lt. W. P. Clark attempted...

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Chapter 19. Memories of Old Tucson

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pp. 372-385

April 3rd. Not being able to secure seats in the stage, we had nothing to do, but keep on to Bear River in our spring wagon, in the hope of catching the construction train before it had left for Franklin. General Crook had me telegraph to Mr. Thatcher, the Superintendent of the R.R., asking him to detain the train for us. The whole day was beautiful beyond description. We had unusually good...

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Appendix 1. Persons Mentioned in the Diary

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pp. 387-463

Due to the large number of sources for the biographical sketches in this section, footnotes or endnotes would have been impractical. Consequently, I have placed the sources in parentheses at the end of each entry. In cases where the author has only one publication in the bibliography, I have used only the author’s last name. In cases of multiple publications by the same author, I have placed the date of publication of the edition cited....

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Appendix 2. Soldiers’ Perspectives on the Horse Meat March

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pp. 464-481

The notorious Horse Meat March was the low point of General Crook’s career. Even Bourke, loyal though he was, found his patience strained. The following writings are from others who accompanied the Big Horn and Yellowstone Expedition on the trek. They begin with Crook’s orders as transmitted to the 5th Cavalry by its lieutenant colonel, Eugene A. Carr....

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Appendix 3. [Clipping in Volume 12, Pages 1292–94] Conflicting Policies

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pp. 482-486

The following interview is between Major Frederick Mears, 9th Infantry, and Joseph Wasson, correspondent for the San Francisco Alta California. It appeared in the Alta California on October 14, 1876. It illustrates the frustrations facing the civilian authorities in dealing with Indians and, using Mackenzie’s showdown with Red Cloud, makes a case for military control....

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Appendix 4. Crook’s Animal Losses

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pp. 487-488

(From Charles M. Robinson III, “Crook, Crazy Horse and the Great Chief Myth,” M.A. Thesis, University of Texas-Pan American, pp. 115–17) One of the most remarkable features of Crook’s 1876 campaigns was the extensive loss of animals, most of whom were literally driven to death. The total number of animals killed in action, shot for food by starving soldiers, or simply wasted will never be known for the simple reason that army record...

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Appendix 5. Lieutenant W. Philo Clark’s Recapitulation of the Great Sioux War

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pp. 489-498

The following account of the Great Sioux War was prepared by Lieutenant William Philo Clark, Second Cavalry, on orders from General Crook. It was submitted to Lieutenant General Sheridan, who endorsed it on October 31, 1877. If Crook intended this as a justification for his actions, he was...


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pp. 499-506


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pp. 507-530

E-ISBN-13: 9781574414035
Print-ISBN-13: 9781574411966

Page Count: 560
Illustrations: 25 b&w illus., 2 maps
Publication Year: 2003