Random Recollections
by FQC Gardner

Copyright, all rights reserved


11. At Fort Sill
In June 1905, both the 2nd and the 15th Batteries were ordered to proceed to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, by rail, for about four months temporary duty. Ten Batteries of Field Artillery (1/3 of all in the Army) were assembled there to receive the new 3" R. F. Field Guns (to replace the old 3.2" non-recoil guns) and to conduct extensive exercises designed to develop the Drill Regulations and the Fire Control system for these new guns. These exercises were most interesting to me. Several things about our stay there stand out in my memory.

There were, on the Reservation, 300 Apache prisoners of war, who were paid ration money, but who were not allowed to leave the Reservation. Two room shacks had been built to house them, but they would not live in them, but insisted on constructing teepees in the vicinity, into which they crowded themselves. As a matter of fact their inactivity and the crowded living conditions had caused tuberculosis to become prevalent among them and a high death rate prevailed among them.

Their Chief was Geronimo (originally a Medicine Man, who had, in time, become Chief). While we were there Geronimo's daughter reached the mature age of twelve, and, presumably in accordance with the tribal custom, it behooved him to give her a Coming Out Party commensurate with his rank. So he invited about 300 Kiowas and Comanches to be his guests for about a week. They came and set up their teepees near those of the Apaches. They danced tribal dances all night, beginning at dark, slept until about 2 o'clock the next day, then got up and gorged themselves on barbecued halves of beef. The little girl wore a most elaborate dress, ornamented with thousands of beads, upon the making of which the Apache squaws had diligently labored for several years. The Apache custom in such affairs apparently required that she dance every dance, and a big, six foot Brave was assigned the task of seeing that she did dance every dance, and when, after many hours of dancing, she became obviously very tired, he, of necessary, would drag her back into the dance so that it could proceed.

One of the dances that I attended (as an observer, only) was the "Fire Dance", a war dance. A post, surrounded with wood, was set into the ground to represent a captive warrior, about to be burned at the stake. The Indian braves, wearing nothing bu loin cloths and a fancy head dress of feathers, with their bodies anointed with some kind of a black grease so that they glistened in the camp fire which provided the illumination, came in, single file, and after forming a large ring around the captive, executed for some time a dance, keeping time to drum beats, which consisted chiefly in marking time in place for about six beats and then taking one step to the left. All these movements were accompanied by what I assumed to be appropriate shouts and gestures. Then the large circle formed into single file again and passed along directly in front of the victim. Each brave in turn went through a performance of his own, keeping time with the drum, and throughout the performance apparently reviling him by casting aspersions upon his bravery, his tribe, his squaw, and probably everything else that could be thought of.

Each of the dancers in turn, after threatening to kill the captive with a tomahawk (and thus to end his suffering) would, with a sneering laugh, glide away. The last few dancers in the column, after a somewhat similar performance, would approach the captive, make a gash with his knife in his flesh and insert therein a large splinter of rich wood which would then be lighted. When the braves finished their act the squaws, also in single file, came in and each in turn paid her respects to the victim in quite emphatic, if non-understandable, terms, concluding her act by spitting on him (which I assume is a gesture of supreme disapprobation in any language).

The thing about the dance that intrigued me perhaps the most was that at the tail end of the column of braves three or four dressed (or, more precisely, undressed) except that they had pillows in their fronts and except that their faces were made up like those of circus clowns. They went through gyrations somewhat similar to those of the other braves except that they stumbled over one another, fell down, and otherwise conducted themselves as clowns.

I had occasion, many years later, to fall back upon my recollection of this dance. I was a guest at a dinner party given by a very fine and very wealthy old lady (Mrs. Senff, widow of the President of the Sugar Trust) in New York, and I found that I was assigned, as dinner partner, Ruth St. Dennis, perhaps the most famous American danceuse of her time. When we sat down the conversation seemed to lag considerably. Finally she turned to me and said, "Don't you think it rather absurd to seat you and me down here, perfect strangers to one another, and expect us to drop immediately into an interesting conversation?" While I thoroughly agreed with her, I determined to talk to her about something. I appreciated, of course, that most, if not all, artists find themselves and their particular art an interesting and never ending subject of conversation. I had never seen my dinner partner perform, and I couldn't therefore expect to be able to carry on a very extensive conversation about herself. I had, however (also as a guest of Mrs. Senff in her box at the Metropolitan) seen Pavlowa and Mordkin (probably the two most famous dancers in the world) so I began to comment on one of their dances. My partner took advantage of the first opportunity to inform me that she didn't consider either one of them to be real artists, and that she wasn't interested in them. The conversation understandingly lagged again. Finally, in desperation, I asked her if she was interested in Indian dances. To my relief she replied that she was very much so, that she had, for several years, been making a study of them. I thereupon launched into a description of the Apache Fire Dance at Fort Sill, and she manifested much interest, particularly when I asked her opinion as to whether the clowns that I had described were strictly Indian in their derivation or whether they had been copied directly from the modern circus. We talked volubly on this subject throughout the dinner. After dinner there was dancing, and I asked her if she would care to dance with me. I was surprised, perhaps not entirely without displeasure, that ball room dancing was so different from her type of dancing that she not only did not like it but actually did not know how to dance ball room dancing.

I recall one other experience with the Apache Indians. One day I was out riding, at some distance from the camp, and I came up to one of the Indian settlements. I saw an old (Indian squaws get old very soon) Indian squaw sitting out in front of the teepee, contentedly smoking a corn cob pipe, and apparently baby sitting a papoose, which, according to their custom, was strapped with its back against a board which was leaning up against a nearby tree. I was thirsty, and, observing what appeared to be a quite clean gourd hanging by the well nearby, I decided to ask for a drink of water. I rode up to the old woman and, speaking no Apache, I gesticulated toward the well and toward my mouth, hoping that this would be sufficiently close to Indian sign language to indicate that I wanted to get a drink of water. She carefully removed her pipe and said, in perfect English and with a well modulated voice, "Why certainly. Come in and help yourself, I think you will find that our water is at least as good as any on the Reservation." I got into conversation with her, and she told me her story, which, she assured me, was a typical one. As a young girl she had gone to Carlisle ( the famous school for Indians; not the Army War College); she had spent four (or more) years there; had specialized in English Literature; and, standing high in her class, had worked hard, with the expectation and ambition of becoming a teacher in that subject. Upon graduating, however, she spent several years trying to get a position, but no one cared to employ an Indian woman to teach English Literature. Finally she was, with great reluctance, forced to the conclusion that there existed for her no alternative except to go back to her tribe and become a squaw, which she had done. I talked to her for perhaps an hour, discussing subjects pertaining to English Literature (in which I also had been much interested as a student) and I do not recall ever having heard anyone talk about it in a more interesting and intelligent manner. I suppose she had much time, as she sat there and smoked her pipe, to think about the great works of Shakespear, Pope, Milton, Browning, Dickens, Thackeray and other of the older English masters. I doubt if she ever had another opportunity to discuss them with any body.

The Exercises concluded with a "Maneuver" lasting about a week. The General Commanding the Division (later called Department), an old Indian fighter, was about to retire. He had served much at Fort Sill, and it was his great desire, before retiring, to march down with a colored Infantry regiment and a Squadron of Cavalry and capture Ft. Sill, which would be defended by ten batteries of Field Artillery and a Squadron of Cavalry (a most unusual set up for a Maneuver. So our Cavalry was sent out in all directions to establish contact with the enemy. A Signal Station, using a Heliograph, was established on Signal Mountain (featured in one of Charles King's novels) 10 or 15 miles North of Ft. Sill, and we awaited developments, the Battalion remaining on an Alert status in camp. After several days of conflicting reports we finally located the enemy main body some distance to the North. There was great rivalry among the Battery officers (there were 17 of my classmates at Ft. Sill) to be the first Battery to move out whenever the orders came. I instructed the sentinel on the picket line that if any signals were observed from Signal Mountain during the night I was to be awakened so that I could read the message and thus get the jump on the other Batteries. About 2 o'clock in the morning he scratched on my tent and told me that signals were being sent. Hastily throwing a blanket about my shoulders, I left my tent. In a few minutes the other officers of the Battery joined me. The Signal station had great difficulty in getting its Heliograph oriented directly on the receiving station at Ft. Sill. A cold wind was blowing, and we all stood shivering and waiting impatiently for the message to begin. Finally the message started. The first word was DONT. This was unusual as normally a Field Message begins with From--, To-- and Date--. That word was repeated many times before the Heliograph was finally adjusted. We assumed that the urgency of the message was such that, to save time, the usual preliminary words were omitted. After a long delay the message was completed. It was "DONT FORGET MY TOBACCO IN THE MORNING." We all crawled back into bed and I told the sentinel to disregard any further signalling from Signal Mountain.

Our orders provided that, upon the completion of our temporary duty at Ft. Sill (about November 1st) the Batteries would return to their proper station at Ft. Sam Houston. I was designated to make the necessary arrangements with the railroad for the necessary passenger, freight, stock and flat cars required for the movement, which I did. When they were all in position we went down and loaded all the guns, limbers and caissons on the flat cars and secured them with cleats. It was raining as we rode back up the long hill to camp, but the men were all singing and laughing in anticipation of embarking next day for home. As we reached the top of the hill the Adjutant of the Provisional Regiment (Captain S. D. Sturgis, later a Major General) met us and showed the temporary Battery Commander, 1st Lieutenant Dan Hand, an order from the War Department, dated some ten days previously but just received, directing that the 2nd Battery (mine) change station and proceed, at once, by marching, to Fort Riley, Kansas. We turned around and went down the hill again to unload the flat cars and return all the equipment to camp. There was very little singing on the way down; there was considerable profanity.

That evening we received a 500 word telegram from Division Headquarters, Ft. Sam Houston, appointing me Acting Quartermaster and Commissary for the trip, and advising me that a government check book would be sent to Fort Reno (several days' march away) for me to use. The remaining 450 words prescribed in detail how, when occupying a camp for the night, a four page Lease (as elaborate as one would have been require for a year's lease on the Empire State Building -- had it then existed) would be prepared in quintuplicate.

The march was to be about 400 miles in length, mostly through small towns in regard to which there was no information available as to the availability of oats, hay, meat, wood, etc. It was to take place in November and December (midwinter). We had been ordered, on leaving Ft. Sam Houston, to take only summer clothing, and the men had no overcoats, winter underwear, good shoes or other warm clothing.

The Post Quartermaster, Lieutenant G. A. Purington, (son of a well known General) came out that night to our camp into the Battery Officer's tent, where we were gathered around a Sibley stove discussing the situation. He told us that he had just recently received the supply of winter clothing for th Cavalry Squadron stationed at Ft. Sill, that he knew that our men had no clothing suitable for the march, and that he would issue to us whatever we needed, letting his own troops wait until a new supply could be received (probably a month or more). I have always remembered Lt. Purington with a kindly feeling. I told him I hoped to be able to meet him again and to buy him a drink some day. He died several years later, and I never saw him again.

From such poor maps as were available (there were in those days no automobiles, service stations, or road maps -- and a very few good roads) we planned our route and I wrote letters to the Postmasters of each town we were to pass through asking them to return to me (at some designated Post Office in route) a blank form which I enclosed, showing the approximate amounts of hay, oats, wood, meat, etc., if any, that were available there for purchase.

We started a couple of days later, in the rain. I rode ahead to the little town of Apache, Oklahoma, where we planned to camp the first night, to make the necessary arrangements by the time the Battery arrived. I finally located a camp site, made arrangements with the town officials for watering the horses (we had about 200), and then went to the only feed store in town to see about buying the necessary amounts of oats and hay. The owner was about 70 years old, of the sharp, keen eyed, business like kind of man described in our modern fiction as being a typical Down East country store keeper. I asked him how much oats and hay he had on hand. He replied, "All you want, young feller, I reckon." I told him how much In needed, and it developed that he had about that amount on hand. I had never had occasion to buy any oats or hay, but I felt that it devolved upon me to make some kind of inspection. So I picked up several handfuls of the oats, let them dribble through my fingers and blew on them to see how much dust might blow off. Then I took one or two oats and chewed on them (on the general principle that if they tasted good to me they would probably taste better to a horse).

Finally, after extended negotiation, we agreed upon a price (I had no alternative but to accept his, the only available, bid). When the Battery arrived I sent a detail, with some escort wagons from our train, to sack the oats and bring them to camp. After they had left the store I returned to it and explained to the old fellow that I couldn't pay him until we reached Fort Reno, where I was to receive my Government check book. He objected (I could not help but feel but with some justification) strenuously. He asked me why I hadn't told him I couldn't pay for the oats and hay before I had them taken out. I replied, "Because I was afraid that if I did you might not let me have them -- and I had to have them to feed to the horses when they arrived." After much discussion I finally calmed him down somewhat by telling him that the horses, guns and other equipment of a Battery of Field Artillery cost, I supposed, at least a million dollars, and asking him if he really thought anybody would invest that much money in an outfit for the purpose of travelling around the country and defrauding a few grain store dealers out of $50 or $75.

I then went out to buy some wood for the kitchen range. I found out that there was no wood available -- that no one in Apache ever used wood, but that they used Buffalo chips (dried Buffalo dung) in their stoves. This was a new idea to me. I had some misgivings about the special flavor that Buffalo chips might be expected to give to food. Furthermore I had never seen (nor have I ever yet seen) a War Department table setting forth the amount of Buffalo chips equivalent to a cord of wood. Finally I located, in the back yard of a young lawyer, what was apparently the only load of wood in Apache, and, after explaining the situation to him, he at last agreed to sell it to me (at a good profit).

After we got settled in camp I went back to the Feed Store and handed the old man a Voucher, which I asked him to sign. He put on his glasses and very carefully read the fine print on the front and back of the Form. Then, looking at me very sternly over his glasses he said, "Young feller, you came in here and bought all my oats and hay, and after you had taken them away you told me you couldn't pay me for them. Against my better judgement I let you argue me into not getting my pay until God knows when. Now you have the unmitigated nerve to ask me to sign a paper that says I have received payment in full. This is all the most unbusiness like thing that I ever heard of, and I'll be darned (perhaps that was not exactly the word he used) if I'll sign any such darned darned paper." After many expostulations, denunciations and explanations I suggested that I write out and sign a statement setting forth everything I had done, together with all the promises I had made about future payment, and, with the utmost reluctance, he finally agreed. So, tearing a yellow page out of the book on the counter I wrote out such a statement. I signed it:

Fulton Quintus Cincinnatus Gardner,

2nd Lieutenant, Artillery Corps, United States Army,

SUMMARY COURT QUARTERMASTER, COMMISSARY, ADJUTANT, ENGINEER OFFICER,

2nd Battery, Field Artillery, U. S. Army.

This proved to be sufficiently official to satisfy him -- at least for the time being.

On the march the arrangement was that I took reveille and morning stables, broke camp, loaded the wagons and the pack train, and then rode ahead,accompanied by the two cooks with their pots and pans, in a spring wagon (which we bought out of the Battery Fund). Lieut. Hand brought the Battery on, and it was my job to have the camp located, watering arrangements for the animals made, hay and oats, and meat and wood for the kitchen, delivered, and supper ready, by the time the Battery arrived.

During the approximately twenty five days that we marched I probably averaged about fifty miles a day (I still have a tender spot on my seat)..

At that time the Regulations required that, in every march, long or short, a very detailed map, on the scale of 3 miles to the inch, be made by the Topographical officer and be forwarded to Division Headquarters. It was impossible for me to make such a detailed map and perform my other assigned duties, and I was in a quandary as to what to do. I decided to submit a "Quartermaster's Map", drawn to such a scale as to be about 36 inches long. I bought a County map of each county that we passed through, which gave me the distances and directions between towns, and during the day I made rough pencil notes as to any important topographical features (such as the width and depth of streams, the capacity of bridges, poor roads, telephone wires along roads, etc.), which were to be indicated on the map by appropriate symbols. Opposite to each town where we camped there was shown, in a bracket, the population of the town, the amounts of hay, oats, meat and wood normally available for purchase, the distance and direction of the camp from town, the method used in watering the animals, the name of the individual in town whom I had found by experience to be the most helpful in making the necessary arrangements, and the name of any local tradesman whom I had found to be unreliable. Upon arrival at Fort Riley I drew the map on tracing cloth (so that Blueprints could readily be made) and forwarded it to Division Headquarters with much trepidation, as it violated about every provision of the Army Regulations on the subject. I heard nothing from it for several weeks (although I expected each day to receive a reprimand for my entire disregard of the Regulations). Finally one day I received an official envelope from Division Headquarters, which I hesitated to open. When I did open it the first sentence began, "The 'Quartermaster's Map' submitted by you, as Reconnaissance Officer, 2nd Battery, Field Artillery, covering the march of that Battery from Ft. Sill, Oklahoma, to Fort Riley, Kansas, has been received at this Headquarters and has been brought to the attention of the Division Commander." This confirmed my worst fears. Apparently, I thought, my flagrant disregard of the Regulations was considered so serious a matter that it was brought to the personal attention of the Commanding General in order that he might make the decision as to what sort of disciplinary action should be taken. With dire anticipation of what was to follow, I read the next sentence, which was, "He directs me to advise you that, in his opinion, this map contains more useful information than any map that has been received at this Headquarters since he has been in command." I decided that, after all, perhaps there was some justification for having a few Generals in the Army, although I had had no previous experience with one.

During the march it was quite cold. The water in the canvas bucket in my tent froze solid at night. In each town we passed through several dogs followed us out of town. One of them attached himself to me, and he slept on my cot (a layer of Sunday Paper under the thin mattress on my cot helped keep out the cold), to our mutual warmth. The conditions were not conducive to shaving, so Hand and I agreed that we would not shave during the trip.


home
next
top
table of contents
index


eubank@santafe.edu