TELL TALE EXTRA: Heart River
Journal of N.P.R.R. surveying expedition from Missouri River to Powder River - two parties - A. O. Eckelson [and] W. E. Welch chiefs of party - accompanied by Gen. Rosser [and] Mr. Linsley .
Struck camp on west side of Missouri River at 6 A.M. and took up the line of march west - accompanied by Capt. Moore - twelve scouts, and a small detachment of soldiers as escorted - Marched twenty miles and camped on Buck [C]reek near a fine spring the water of which had a slight taste of sulphur - Heavy shower with strong wind in the evening three of the tents were upset.
Clear [and] very warm - Struck camp at seven and marched two miles where we halted to await for our escort from Fort Rice under command of Gen. Stanley. Escort arrived at one o’clock. Marched between two and three miles in the afternoon. Went into camp about four o’clock.
Rained in the morning until eight o’clock. Struck camp at six and marched two miles to the North fork of the Cannon Ball where we went into camp for the day - Very warm after the shower.
Clear [and] warm - Struck camp at five o’clock [and] marched about fifteen miles through quite a heavy rolling country. Went into camp at 1 1/2 on the border of a creek where we found good water although rather warm – [and] plenty of good grass for the cattle.
Clear [and] chilly in the morning with a raw wind. Struck came at 1/4 to five - Reached Hart (Heart) River at [ten] o’clock which we forded without accident - Got all the team across at one o’clock - Marched to Spring [C]reek and went into came at 4 1/2 - Water very good - supply of grass fair - Distance marched about eighteen miles.
Wednesday, July 31st
Clear [and] chilly with strong westerly wind - Rations had to be served to troops which delayed us so that we did not march until [eight] o’clock - Roads very good and country much more level than we had been previously [traveling] through - Made good time on the march - Passed Hart Butte between ten and eleven - Went into camp about [two] o’clock on the bank of a small creek - Water good - grass abundant - Marched 13 miles.
Thursday, Augt 1st
Clear [and] chill in the morning - warm after nine o’clock – Broke camp at [five o’clock] made fast time on the march until ten o’clock when we struck a branch of Hart River [and] were delayed some time - Went into camp about six miles from the creek - Had to leave the trail and go about 1/4 of a mile to the north for water - grass plenty - no wood in the [immediate] vicinity - good supply about a mile and a half west - Marched about 15 miles.
Friday, Augt 2d
Clear - Air very sharp in the morning but came out very warm in the middle of the day - Crossed Hart River between [eleven and twelve o’clock] - Commenced running line after lunch - ran three miles of chronometer line - Went into camp at [four o’clock] - Found a splendid spring near camp – Supply of grass fair - Marched about 19 miles
Saturday, Augt 3
Clear [and] warm - Stuck camp at 5 A.M. [and] marched until 2 1/2 making nearly 22 miles - Marched through a level country - Camped on Sandy Creek - Wood plenty also water [and] grass - Chronometer party ran 17 miles.
Sunday, Augt 4th
Clear [and] warm - Broke camp at 5 1/2 - Crossed the south branch of the Hart River at noon and went into camp on the north side - Chronometer party ran eleven miles - Indians reported. Gen. Rosser sighted two ahead - Train marched 15 miles.
Monday, Augt 5th
Clear [and] warm - Struck camp at five o’clock and marched until twelve when we were obliged to halt as the chronometer party report impossible country ahead - Gen. Rosser East - MacDonald [and] [Eckelson] accompanied by the [s]couts rode forward to the Little Missouri to find a road. We marched fifteen miles to-day.
Clear - Laid in camp until [two o’clock] waiting for return of Gen. Rosser [and] party - On their return we stuck camp and marched south two miles and camped again - The reason for moving was to get better water than we had at our previous camp, which was very poor.
Wednesday, Augt 7th
Clear [and] warm - Struck camp at [five o’clock] and marched south for several miles and then struck [southwesterly] - Had a very rough hilly road - We got through without any accident to our own teams, but three of the government team broke down - Marched twenty miles - Camped on a branch of the Little Missouri, plenty of wood and water no grass of any account.
Thursday, Augt 8
Rainy - Bugle sounded at [two o’clock] did not break camp until eleven o’clock as we had to wait for the scouts who had been sent out to find a train - Roads very heavy from the rain and very hilly - The country so rough that chronometer party had to dispense with their wagon and pack the instrument - Marched [seven] miles.
Friday, Augt 9th
Clear [and] cool - Struck camp at [five o’clock] - Marched through a country less broken than that we have been [traveling] through for the past few day although still very hilly - Saw numerous coal veins along the road. Reached the bluffs of the Little Missouri at [twelve o’clock] the river was too high to cross so we went into camp on the best camping ground that we have had yet. The scenery from our camp ground is very grand - Found some very fine specimens of petrification, the finest specimen is an immense fern tree, said by the geologist of the party to be of a species extinct before the creation of man - It was found at the foot of a high bluff that has been worm away by the elements - Saw several [e]lk - Marched ten miles.
Clear - Laid in camp all day as the river is still too high to cross the teams - All of the party passed the morning in collecting fossils - Found several very good specimens but the rock in which we found them was very soft [sandstone] so that it was no possible to preserve many of the specimens - In regard to the ferns of which I wrote yesterday there is a great deal of uncertainty about them - They prove to be [sandstone] and if they are not fossil trees are certainly very remarkable formations - Gen. Rosser and Mr. Linsley both think that they are ferns but I doubt it as I [cannot] see anything except the shape that looks like [a] tree.
Sunday, Augt [Eleventh]
Clear - Crossed the river without any difficulty and were all across by ten o’clock - Gen. Stanley saw three buffaloes probably old bulls - Marched twelve miles camped at [Station] 4599 on [c]hronometer line.
Monday, Augt 12th
Clear - Pettit the clerk for Clark [and] Waits outfit died last night and was buried this morning - Struck camp at 7 1/2 - Went out with chronometer party - Struck the Bad Lands at 2 1/2 and had to abandon the wagon [and] pack the instrument - Ran four miles through very rough country - Ran until after six o’clock as we were not in sight of the train and expected every minute to see a messenger to let us know the way to camp - Stopped the line at 6 1/4 making about 16 1/2 miles of a run - Did not find camp until 7 1/2; walked about six miles through as rough country as I ever saw and reached camp pretty well used up - Had a very poor camp as there was very little grass and poor water and that was two miles off.
Tuesday, Augt 13
Clear - Did not break camp until past [seven] as the scouts had to go out to hunt a road - [Stayed] in bed until 5 1/2 - Had considerable digging to get a road down from the bluffs to the low ground - Mr. Linsley had all the engineer corps out picking and shoveling - Did not get to work on the line until noon. Ran until three o’clock when the train went into camp. Have the poorest camp that we have had yet - In the midst of a sage prairie, very poor water and no grass - Ran [five] miles - Scouts sighted 25 Indians.
Wed, Augt 14th
Clear [and] warm - Broke camp at [five o’clock] - Ran the line [southwest] through the hills for two miles and then ran westerly through a rolling prairie - No water for the horses from the morning until four o’clock in the afternoon when we camped on the edge of a creek on a [sagebrush] prairie - [Distance] marched 15 [miles].
Thurs, Augt 15th
Cloudy [and] cold - Pickets attacked by Indians at daybreak - Casualty list, one mule wounded - Followed the course of O’Fallon’s [C]reek all day - Were delayed again by train being behind - Scouts saw twenty Indians come into our camp after we left it this morning - Ran about 14 miles - Camped on [O’Fallon’s] [C]reek.
Friday, Augt 16th
Clear [and] warm - Entered the valley of the Yellowstone about ten o’clock - Just as we left O’Fallon’s [C]reek the alarm of Indians was given and the train was [corralled and] a skirmish line thrown out but the Indians did not show themselves - Ran the chronometer line up the valley until four o’clock when we camped - Found plenty of grass for the animals - In the evening Gen. Stanley fired several shells from the Napoleon [and] also from the Gatlin guns as a salute.
Sunday, Augt 18
Clear - Started from camp as usual to run the chronometer line to Powder [R]iver - Had two teams and sent the line through flying - Ran the eight miles by ten o’clock - Shortly after the line party started Gen. Stanley had a large number of the officers with two hundred soldiers and the Napoleon gun followed - After reaching Powder [R]iver some of the officers opened some wine etc. and we were just beginning to enjoy ourselves when the alarm of Indians was sounded and this time it proved to be a reality - On reaching the top of the bank we saw a footman about a mile out on the plain and about a dozen mounted [I]ndians on the full run after him and our scouts also going on the full run to the rescue which they fortunately accomplish(ed) as on their approach the [I]ndians turned back and made for the hills where quite a lively skirmish occurred but no one was injured - The footman that was chased turned out to be no less a person than H. C. Davis of [Eckelson's] party – Shortly after the skirmish the [I]ndians all crossed to the west side of Powder [R]iver and came down to the bank and talked with one of the scouts - As they turned to go away the [I]ndians shot at our men when another skirmish hotter than the other one ensued and two [I]ndians were shot - After this we were not troubled any more - Ran three miles of transit line. Reached camp at sundown.
Mon, Augt 19th
Clear [and] very hot - Ran 6 1/2 miles of transit line.
Tues, Augt 20
Clear [and] very hot until four o’clock when it clouded up and the wind blew very hard - Camp moved two miles to the east; went back to [Station] 235 and [chained] the line - [Eckelson] commenced at 545 and ran back until we met then my party took up the line at 545 and rant to 626 - quit work at 4 1/2.
Wed, Augt 21
Clear [and] strong wind - Both parties ran to-day - I ran from 626 to 741 [plus] [and] from there on ran curves and Eckelson’s party ran tangent - Indians appeared again and chased Eckelson and shot one of the scout’s horses.
Thursday, Augt 22
Clear [and] very warm - Indians showed themselves as soon as we left camp - Reynolds the hunter for the government outfit drove (off) a dozen of them single handed - About nine the [I]ndians reappeared in force and the line party had to withdraw to the train while the skirmish line was thrown out to drive them back and we returned to work again as soon as this was done. The skirmish lasted about an hour and (a) half when the [I]ndians retired – They numbered about one hundred [and] have evidently been heavily reinforced – Line was run from [Station] 1029 to 1142.
Friday, Augt 23
Clear [and] very hot - Ran seven miles of line to-day – Both parties were out and lapped over each other - Worked fourteen hours - Nothing seen of the [I]ndians to-day.
Saturday, Augt 24
Clear [and] hot - Had to go back two miles on yesterday’s line and change it. Ran about three miles - Stopped at [one o’clock] and went into camp - Had to unload the teams that are going for supplies. Train for Missouri River [s]tarted at 11 1/2 P.M. Thirty-seven wagons with escort of 100 men. Mr. Linsley went in with them.
Sunday, Augt 25
Cloudy [and] windy - Both parties laid in camp all day – Gen. Rosser was off all the forenoon exploring a creek that runs off from O’Fallon[‘s] [C]reek S.E. An [I]ndian scout from Ft. Rice arrived in the afternoon with [dispatches] for Gen. Stanley. He brought word that Baker had had a fight with the [I]ndians at Price’s [C]reek on the 14th and been badly whipped (overwritten with: cut up) although he had succeeded in repulsing the [I]ndians - The scout who brought the [dispatches] had been only four days on the trip. He reports having seen a few hostile [I]ndians in the Bad Lands.
Monday, Augt 26
Cloudy - Ran seven miles of line and reached the point where we leave O’Fallon[‘s] [C]reek - Eckelson [and] myself moved into Gen. Rosser’s tent to-day - We are to mess with him from this time.
Tuesday, Augt 27
Clear. I did not go out on the line to-day as hereafter Eckelson and myself go out on alternate days - Party ran 8 1/2 miles; camped opposite our camping ground of Augt 14th.
Wednesday, Augt 28th
Clear. Gen. Rosser with Jordan [and] party ran back through a new route to O’Fallon[‘s] [C]reek and found it two miles shorter than the other one - I ran four miles up a creek opposite our camp - trying to find a break in the bluffs to get through but did not succeed - Four [I]ndians reported to have been seen - Train did not move.
Thursday, Augt 29th
Clear [and] warm - Capt. Goodloe with his company went ahead of the train to the place where we camped to dig wells as there is a great scarcity of water - The water did not hold out to water all the stock.
Friday, Augt 30th
Clear [and] very warm - Train did not move today - Party ran about five miles - Line will probably have to be abandoned as the ground rises [too] rapidly to get a grade line up.
Clear [and] warm - Reached Cabin [C]reek about two o’clock – Indians reported to-day [and] train [corralled] - Line party quit about three miles from camp.
Sunday, Sept 1st, 1872
Clear - Laid in camp all day - Gen. Rosser went out [e]xploring with the scouts.
Monday, Sept 2d
Rained very hard indeed from two to four in the morning and raised the creek very high - The traveling was very muddy indeed and made it very hard running - Line was turned down Cabin [C]reek towards the Yellowstone as we have got to abandon the line we have been running - Ran twelve miles.
Tues, Sept 3d
Clear and intensely hot had some very hard pulls and a great many crossings of the creek to make - Line party ran twelve miles.
Wednesday, Sept 4th
Clear [and] intensely hot - Ran 8 1/2 miles; the last part of the way was through very rough country and will not do for line.
Thursday, Sept 5
Had a tremendous rain [and] hail storm just after breaking camp and it was showery through the day - The line party went up to the [I]ndian grave just west of [O’Fallon's] [C]reek and connected with the line there and ran east.
Friday, Sept 6th
Cloudy, windy and cool - I went out with the party to-day and we had very good luck with the line. Ran up on to the plateau - Found a quantity of plums on the creek up which the line was running and gave the creek the name of Wild Plum. Had an alarm of Indians in the forenoon but it proved to be a false one.
Saturday, Sept 7th
Clear - [Stayed] in with the train - Went into camp at noon on Sandy Creek - Line party connected with our line down Cabin [C]reek and got good grades.
Sunday, Sept 8th
Clear - Marched twenty-two miles - Line party did not work – One of Gallagher’s leaders broke his wiffle tree coming up an hill and got away and charged at every thing visible. He knocked down one man and injured him slightly.
Monday, Sept 9th
Cold [and] showery - had poor luck with the line in the forenoon and had to abandon it - Gen. Rosser was out exploring the Bad Lands for four hours.
Tuesday, Sept 10th
Clear - Train went into camp at noon - Had fine grazing and good water - The line party worked all day and got into the Bad Lands - It begins to look very dubious for our prospects of getting the line through near here.
Wednesday, Sept 11th
Clear - Camp did not move - Had to abandon the line again as we got into an almost impassable country - the roughest and most broken country that we have struck yet.
Thursday, Sept 12
Clear - The line party took up the line on Cabin [C]reek and ran up the creek 13 1/2 miles and found a good line as far as they went - Train moved at five o’clock and camped at eleven - Fair grazing and good water.
Friday, Sept 13th
Clear [and] warm - Backed up on yesterday’s line three miles - I [stayed] with the party until noon when the [general] sent me in to connect the A line with the L line - Had to walk six miles to do it - The line party got into rough country again; it seems as if we were never to get out of this cursed rock.
Saturday, Sept 14th
Clear - The line party ran until past noon and reached the top of the bluffs where the line was abandoned as impractical. The view of the Bad Lands from the top of the hills was very fine indeed - The train [traveled] until five o’clock and camped on Truman’s [C]reek.
Clear [and] cool - Whole outfit laid still except for Gen. Rosser who took the scouts and was gone from 5 1/2 in the morning until seven in the evening exploring the country - They rode at least sixty miles but did not find any route for the line - The Gen. has decided to run a line over the Bad Lands had have a tunnel at the summit.
Clear - Stated a line about two miles west of Truman’s [C]reek and ran 4 1/2 miles the last mile through terrible rough country in the Bad Lands - Made the survey with the view of getting a location for a tunnel as it has been found impossible to get a grade line over the summit unless the tunnel plan is adopted.
Clear and windy - Camp did not move - Set up stove in tent for the first time - Line party tried another route to-day but it was not successful.
Clear [and] pleasant - Stated a new line from the summit and ran 200 [Stations[ through a very rough country where we were able to get a grade line but the work is tremendous - Camp did not move.
Snow squall in the morning but clear by [eight o’clock] – Clear - Line party continued the line of yesterday and connected it with our survey up Cabin [C]reek and then returned to the summit and ran east - Struck tents at 8 1/2 P.M. and moved four miles easterly down the creek.
Clear - Ran nine miles of line - Camp did not move - I did not go out to-day as I was not feeling well - Scouts reported seeing two horsemen in the direction of the Little Missouri but were not able to get within speaking distance as they ran from them. They are supposed to be scouts from Reed’s party as they were riding shod horses.
Clear - Ran nine miles and stopped two miles east of Pettit [C]reek - Eckelson came out with some mail - Reed’s train is at the Little Missouri and Davis brought our mail over - Gen. Rosser received news of the death of his youngest child.
Clear [and] warm - Train moved to the Little Missouri and joined Reed’s party - It was pretty lively around camp in the evening.
Rainy - No work done on the line to-day - Took account of freight that came out and loaded the teams that are to stay. Good many men were full to-day - Dohna got so wild and abusive that Eckelson had to send him to the guard house - Gen. [Stanley] got full and Eck and myself gave up our bed to him.
Rainy and very cold wind - Ran five miles; last three in the valley of the Little Missouri.
Clear but very windy and disagreeable - Camp did not move as they were busy all day fitting out the train to go in to Ft. Rice to-morrow – Line party went back and altered the line; threw out two river crossings by greatly increasing the amount of curvature.
Clear [and] pleasant - Train for Ft. Rice left at daybreak – Dohna has been discharged and went in with it. Taylor [and] Davis also went in both leaving of their own will - Ran four miles of line to-day in [Little] Missouri valley and made five river crossings. Had two miles of heavy [traveling] to make camp.
Friday, Sept 27th
[Cloudy and] warm - Moved camp about two miles - Line party left the valley of the [Little] Missouri to-day [and] ran two miles up the creek on which we were camped - Eastman got hold of some whisky today and got full.
Sat. Sept 28th
Cold windy day with frequent heavy showers - Ran four miles [and] quit work at 3 1/2 - Got a very good grade line but were obliged to exceed the limit of curvature in one place where we put in a [four degree] curve - Camped on the creek where Linsley [and] I had the row coming out.
Sunday, Sept 29th
Clear [and] warm - Line party worked to-day as Gen. Rosser is anxious to get out of the Bad Lands and they passed the summit to-day making a nine mile run.
Monday, Sept 30th
Clear [and] warm - Only a small portion of the line party worked and they ran only two miles to bring the line up opposite to camp – Gen. Rosser went off exploring with the scouts and was gone all day. Eckelson, Major Worth [and] myself went off hunting antelope in the afternoon and rode about twenty miles but did not kill anything.
Tuesday, Oct 1st
Clear [and] very warm. Jordan had to stay in camp to do some work so I ran his instrument - We started at [seven o’clock] and by 11 1/2 had [eight] miles run quit work at 4 1/2 after a run of 13 1/2 miles, the longest run yet made.
Clear - Line party ran ten miles - Eckelson ran Jordan’s instrument.
Clear [and] pleasant until [three o’clock] when the wind shifted to the N.W. [and] blew very hard - I ran the transit again - Ran thirteen miles.
Friday, Oct 4th
Clear [and] warm. Camp moved nineteen miles to find wood - Went into camp about two o’clock - About three a scout was chased into camp by [I]ndians and a small party of them were plainly seen from camp - Gen. Rosser had a very narrow escape as he was two miles ahead of the line party when he discovered the [I]ndians who numbered about 100 - They did not rush on him as they evidently thought they had a sure thing of it - Lieut. Adair who was out with the escort that day was a mile away from the command on foot hunting. Gen. Rosser saw him and motioned him to run. Eckelson joined the Gen. just then and they turned back to help Adair whom they had not recognized but thought was a private soldier. When they reached him they found he had been wounded and had wounded one of the [I]ndians. There were three [I]ndians within five hundred feet of him when Rosser got there and he killed the one that Adair had wounded and got all his trappings off him - The fight occurred six miles from camp – The ambulance and a company of soldiers were sent out to bring Adair in - Steve (Gen. Stanley’s mulatto cook) was caught by the [I]ndians while out hunting and when found had three arrows in his body and five gun shot wounds in his head and neck.
Saturday, Oct 5th
Clear - Adair died this morning at 4:40 - Went back to where the fight occurred to start the line - Ran seven miles. Did not [see] anything of the [I]ndians.
Sunday, Oct 6th
Clear - Camp moved to the east side of Heart [R]iver - Gen. Stanley’s cook was buried at [four o’clock] - Line party ran the line to Heart [R]iver [and] stopped at [five o’clock].
Monday, Oct 7th
Clear [and] warm - Ran the line six miles down Heart River – The pickets reported in camp that we were attacked on line and the scouts started out to our assistance - Did not reach camp until a half an hour after dark - Two of the scouts reported seeing fresh tracks of about 100 [I]ndians near Heart Butte going east.
Tuesday, Oct 8th
Clear [and] windy - Line party ran eight miles.
Wednesday, Oct 9th
Clear, cold [and] very windy and disagreeable - Reed [stayed] in camp and I ran his transit. Made only about four miles on line. Lazelle's train arrived at noon. They report that Lieut. Crosbie of Crofton’s battalion was killed and scalped by the [I]ndians on Heart [R]iver on last Thursday.
Thursday, Oct 10th
Clear [and] warm - Camp moved to the first crossing of Heart River - Line party ran seven [and] 1/4 miles - Louis Agar left for Ft. Rice at sunset with the mail.
Friday, Oct 11th
Clear [and] warm - Ran 5 3/4 miles.
Saturday, Oct 12th
Clear [and] warm - Camp moved to the Big Muddy - Capt. Pearson’s company from Ft. Rice under command of Lt. O’Neil joined us to-day – They are to act as our escort after Gen. Stanley leaves.
Sunday, Oct 13th
Clear [and] warm - Eckelson [and] self hunted prairie chicken in the morning got six - Gen. Rosser decided to start for the crossing in the morning escorted by the scouts - Passed the evening in Worth’s tent.
Monday, Oct 14
Clear [and] warm - a perfect [I]ndian summer day - Gen. Stanley and his train left us this morning and we are left with Lt. O’Brien and his company - ran 8 1/2 miles and quit at 3:20 as we could not see camp and were afraid that we might have trouble in finding it - I left Jordan in camp and ran his transit all day.
Tuesday, Oct 15
Cloudy [and] cool - Ran about seven miles - Saw a large [I]ndian trail and followed it all through the day - Also saw where they had camped within two days - In the evening while Eckelson and I were talking together we heard a horseman ride into camp and upon going out found it was Lieut. Webster - H reported that there had been fighting at Ft. McKeen yesterday and Gen. Rosser had sent to Gen. Stanley asking him to send out a reinforcement of fifteen men and he sent out seventy-five under Niner, Conway, [and] Webster - [They] brought 14 wagons and the big Gatlin gun.
Wednesday, Oct 16
Clear - Ran seven miles of line, had considerable brush to go through in the first part of the day.
Thursday, Oct 17
Clear [and] warm - Gen’l. Rosser came out to our camp about noon with supplies for Eckelson [and] men to relieve Niner - He went back in the afternoon with Niner [and] his command - Ran seven miles.
Friday, Oct 18th
Clear [and] warm - Ran 3 1/2 miles and then had to quit as the fire got into the valley ahead of us - Found Capt. Powell of the [Sixth] with twenty-five men at camp to escort me in to the river.
Saturday, Oct 19th
Clear [and] warm - Separated from Eckelson’s party at seven o’clock and started for Ft. McKeon. Reached Ft. McKeon at 11 1/2 - Pitched camp in the bottom - Lunched with Capt. Powell - These military fellows at the post are the worst frightened men on the [I]ndian subject that I have ever seen.
Sunday, Oct 20th
Clear [and] warm - Intended to have taken up the line again to-day by Smith got drunk and was not on hand in time so I could not - Jordan [and] myself went over to the east side of the river - [Stayed] there until eleven - Broke the axle on the wagon on our way back - Got on board the steamer 'Key West' to cross the river but she got wind bound and we did not get across for five hours and had to cross finally by the ferry.
Monday, Oct 21st
Clear, windy [and] cool - Went up to the [fort] at six o’clock for our escort and had to wait on the hill until seven o’clock before it was ready - Had a [lieutenant and] twenty men - Marched nine miles to the line and did not get to work until eleven o’clock - Ran three miles.
Tuesday, Oct 22
Clear [and] warm - Had a sergeant and ten men for escort – Connected out line with Meigs in the afternoon - Scout brought up word to Col. Carlin that 250 [I]ndians are coming to attack this post.
University of Montana, Mike and Maureen Mansfield Library, K. Ross Toole Archives, Northern Pacific Collection 128, Box 218, Folder 12.
Author: John A. Phillips, III. Title: Tell Tale Extra: Heart River.
© February 22, 2001