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XI the seventh marches Far away, One foggy morning in the midst of May, Fort Lincoln had beheld the marshalling Of Terry’s forces;1 heard the bugle sing, The blaring of the band, the brave hurrah Of Custer’s men recalling Washita And confident of yet another soon. How gallantly in column of platoon (So many doomed and given to the ghost) Before the weeping women of the post They sat their dancing horses on parade! What made the silence suddenly afraid When, with a brazen crash, the band went whist And, dimmer in the clinging river mist, The line swung westward? Did the Ree Squaws know, Through some wise terror of the ancient foe, To what unearthly land their warriors led The squadrons?2 Better suited to the dead Than to the quick, their chanting of farewell Grew eerie in the shadow, rose and fell— The long-drawn yammer of a lonely dog. But when at length the sun broke through the fog, What reassurance in the wide blue air, The solid hills, and Custer riding there With all the famous Seventh at his heel! And back of those the glint of flowing steel Above the dusty infantry; the sun’s Young glimmer on the trundled3 Gatling guns;4 And then the mounted Rees; and after that The loaded pack mules straggling up the flat And wagons crowding wagons for a mile! What premonition of the afterwhile5 Could darken eyes that saw such glory pass When, lilting6 in a muffled blare of brass Off yonder near the sundering7 prairie rim, The Girl I Left Behind Me8 floated dim As from the unrecoverable years? And was it nothing but a freak of tears, The vision that the grieving women saw? For suddenly a shimmering veil of awe Caught up the van. One could have counted ten While Custer and the half of Custer’s men Were riding up a shining steep of sky As though to join the dead that do not die But haunt some storied heaven of the bold.9 And then it seemed a smoke of battle rolled Across the picture, leaving empty air Above the line that slowly shortened there And dropped below the prairie and was gone. Now day by day the column straggled on While moody May was dribbling out in rain To make a wagon-wallow of the plain Between the Muddy and the upper Heart10 Where lifeless hills, as by demonic art, Were hewn to forms of wonderment and fear,11 Excited echoes flocked about to hear, 436 the song of the indian wars And any sound brought riotous applause, So long among the scarps12 and tangled draws Had clung that silence and the spell of it. Some fiend-deserted city of the Pit13 The region seemed, with crumbling domes and spires; For still it smoked with reminiscent fires, And in the midst, as ’twere the stream of woe,14 A dark flood ran. June blustered in with snow, And all the seasons happened in a week. Beyond the Beaver and O’Fallon creek They toiled.15 Amid the wilderness of breaks The drainage of the lower Powder makes, They found a way and brought the wagons through; Nor had they sight or sign of any Sioux In all that land. Here Reno headed south16 With packs and half the troopers for the mouth Of Mispah,17 thence to scout the country west About the Tongue; while Terry and the rest Pushed onward to the Yellowstone to bide With Gibbon’s men the news of Reno’s ride. Mid June drew on.18 Slow days of waiting bred Unhappy rumors. Everybody said What no one, closely questioned, seemed to know. Enormous numerations of the foe, By tentative narration made exact And tagged with all the circumstance of fact, Discredited the neat official tale. ’Twas well when dawn came burning down the vale19 And river fogs were lifting like a smoke And bugles, singing reveille, awoke 437 The Seventh Marches A thousand-throated clamor in the herd.20 But when the hush was like a warning word And taps had yielded darkness to the owl, A horse’s whinny or a kiote’s howl Made true the wildest rumors of the noon.21 So passed the fateful seventeenth of June When none might guess how much the gossip lacked To match the unimaginative fact Of what the upper Rosebud saw that day: How Crook, with Reno forty miles away, Had met the...


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MARC Record
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