Henry Weeks Sanderson
Scouting Johnston's Army
As the Army neared Ham's Fork River (*Perhaps 60 miles NE of Fort Supply.), I was called upon to go out as a scout. A good Flat Head Indian horse was furnished me as I had no horse of my own. I had for a team, one yoke of broke cattle, a yoke of partly broke steers, and one yoke of unbroken steers. I went out and fell in with a company of thirty or forty men commanded by Colonel Collister. The notorious William Hickman was in the company. I continued with them. Our special duty was to watch the movement of the enemy. We kept continually on the move while near Ham's Fork and also kept out scouts and picket guards. Some of us suffered for loss of sleep.
At one time I had been actively engaged day and night, and being sent out on picket guard with three others near the enemy's camp, we took our position after night, by a large rock that covered two or three acres of ground, close to the main road, and about three miles from the camp of our company. We took our horses a half mile from our guard post and lariated them in a ravine and left two of our party with them. A Brother Mumford and myself went back to our post to keep guard until midnight. It was expected that two should be on guard at a time, but we talked the matter over and agreed that inasmuch as we had been broken of our rest for some time, one should lie down and sleep. I took first watch. When my time had expired, I aroused Brother Mumford and I lay down on the solid rock and dropped to sleep without loss of time. It appeared to me as though I had not lain there more than ten or fifteen minutes before I was aroused with the request to go to our comrades (with the horses) and send them back to relieve Brother Mumford. I was aroused but not awakened. I had no real sense of what I was doing. I started out and wandered around for nearly an hour and returned to Brother Mumford more by accident than design. He then went with me to the horses. After starting the other two parties out, we slept, and aroused much refreshed in the morning.
Returning to the main camp, we found that our comrades had left sometime in the after part of the night. We took their trail and it was sometime in the afternoon when we overtook them.
About this time we concluded to make a raid upon a band of mules belonging to an Army camp on Ham's fork. Our pack animals we left some five miles from the field of action, and all but twenty of the company were left to guard them. We also divested ourselves of everything that could be considered surplus, or that would in any way retard our movements. We moved up within 3/4 of a mile of the enemy's camp. The band of mules were about half way between us and the camp. Three or four men were guarding the mules. We stopped behind a ridge, cinched up our saddles and checked everything to see that it was in order for a speedy charge. As we rode up the ridge, coming in plain sight of the camp, imagine our surprise to see a full and complete company of dragoons riding up to the enemy camp. Instead of orders to charge on the herd, orders were given to retreat, which was done without delay, with the exception of Hickman and myself. I think we stayed on the ridge about half an hour. I was anxious, knowing that we had been seen, to know if that mounted company of soldiers would give chase.
I was in no wise uneasy for my own safety, as I was aware that the soldiers were poor horsemen and their horses were no match for ours, outside of a beaten road. Our horses would dodge around among sage brush and grease wood without any guiding, while their horses would plow through the brush, checking their speed and generally throwing their riders in advance of their saddles. While Hickman and myself were on the hill, a man came in sight of us some three hundred yards off, on a very fine horse. As he was riding quartering us, he did not observe us. Hickman proposed that we should get that man's horse. I told him there would be a possibility of its leading to murder, if the man should show fight, and I did not wish to be compelled to shed blood unless it should be in a better cause, and the matter ended there. The soldiers dismounted, unsaddled their horses, and seemed to be intending to send them onto the range. We followed on after our comrades, and being mounted on good horses, we overtook them before they reached the packs.
I was the only one out from Fort Supply. In a day or two after the above occurrence, as it was nearing night, I suddenly became impressed with a desire to go home. I lost no time in laying the matter before Colonel Collister. He raised no objections, but requested that if I found everything all right, that I return. Which I agreed to do. We were near forty miles from home.
I ate my supper and started, reaching home sometime after midnight. I found that orders had been received from President Young to abandon the place. My brethren were considered to be about ready to start out in the morning. My stock had been gathered up. It will be remembered that my family were in the valley, so it therefore remained for me to pack up and load in order to be ready to start with the company. Various things conspired to keep the company from starting as early in the day as was contemplated. I had ample time to pack and I regretted that I had not taken an hour or two for sleep during the night. I had three yoke of cattle, but only one yoke was broken. Father Sanders had but one yoke. I had more than I needed for one wagon, but he was a poor teamster and could not manage my unbroken cattle. I could not spare the yoke that was broken, therefore I put them on my wagon. As Father Sanders followed next behind me, I had to render him much assistance. So much, that my mother concluded it would be safer to ride in my wagon.
Instead of going down to Fort Bridger and taking emigration road, we started on a cut off, on which we would travel twenty-five or thirty miles before striking the road. As we got a late start, we only traveled five or six miles and then camped for the night. One yoke of my steers were troublesome to handle. When I unyoked the near one, the other started for the range on a stampede. I went with him, holding with one hand the end of the yoke, the other hand resting on his back. In the race he kicked me pretty much all over, from the shoulder down, and even kicked several times over the yoke, one end of which was on his neck. I was not hurt and when he became short of wind and stopped to recuperate, I relieved him of the yoke. I think he never undertook the same again. But he could kick, and many times he put his foot over the yoke when hitched up in the team.
About the time we camped, we noticed a large fire in the direction from which we had come. Some speculated about what it could be. We were not long in suspense as Barney Ward came on express and informed us that the soldiers had resumed their journey toward Salt Lake City, and at the rate they were traveling they were likely to come in ahead of us. A few of the brethren had been left at our settlement, and upon this false report, that must have been hatched up in the brain of cowards, Fort Supply was immediately set on fire and utterly consumed. Our grain was in shocks. There was an endeavor made to burn that also but without success as the straw had too much sap in it.
The news raised much excitement in camp, which I had no part or lot in, yet I was willing to admit that there was a bare possibility that the story was not a hoax. Still I saw no occasion for manifesting fear. The order was given by President Isaac Bullock to lighten up our loads as speedily as possible, then hitch up and travel. It came to the President's ears that I was putting nothing out. He came to me requesting me to respect the order given. I informed him that I had a light load for my team and he need give himself no uneasiness about my keeping along with the company. I should require no assistance, nor in no way be a hindrance. He insisted for a few minutes. I felt as though it was a spirit of tyranny that he was exercising, and I came near an open rebellion, but I had always been respected by him, and I had respect for him. I said I would comply. This I did by putting off three or four small articles that probably did not amount to fifty pounds. We traveled all night and I think the general feeling then was that we were out of danger.
Nothing of interest occurred, unless it was that I put my knee out of joint by putting my hand onto a fence and carelessly springing over.
I had, some few years before, been working out poll tax on a dugway, on state roads, by what was then Gardner's Mill on Big Cottonwood. P. Rockwood was supervising. He was stepping around, as the hands thought, with an air of importance. As he stood on the bank much of the time, there was a plan formed to undermine the bank in such a manner as to let him down with it. I was barely cognizant of the fact, being engaged in shoveling the dirt away as the ones picking brought it down. They had made an extra large hole under the bank to let a large amount down at once. Those that were using the picks were on their guard. Not so with me. I was busily engaged and as luck would have it, as I was in the act of throwing a shovel of dirt and looking away, the bank came suddenly down, knocking me down and burying me from my hip down. I got out without assistance and did not think that I was hurt. I continued my labors, but it was not long before my left knee began to pain me and was growing continually worse. I was helped home and for a few days, the hurt was so painful that I used turpentine to alleviate the pain. I thereby weakened the joint. But at the time the knee joint slipped this time, I had supposed that I had entirely recovered from the hurt.
I arrived home at Union Fort and procured a horse team belonging to Alonzo Knight. I got it from a party with whom he had left it in charge, as he was out on the road about Bridger, also. I had cached nothing of any particular value at the time we took our scare, but Father Sanders had, among other things, put off a barrel of very good vinegar. I went back more for his benefit than my own.
I started the next day after getting home. When I got into Echo Canyon, General D. H. Wells was there with a large company of militia, and as I was traveling alone, he issued his order to have me stopped. I was invited to go before him and give an account of myself. All of this I complied with, and I got permission to proceed by agreeing to travel in company with William Maxwell. I should overtake his company that was on its way to Bridger. I am not sure whether I overtook him that day or the next, but after overtaking him, and finding his baggage wagon heavily loaded, I took on some of the load. This enabled him to get on some faster.
Major Maxwell was an old acquaintance of Mormon Battalion days, for whom I had much regard for his kindness to me while I was sick on the way to Santa Fe. At times when I was feeble, he, having charge of a mule team, would get off the saddle mule and allow me to ride. He also rendered other attention to me.
On arriving at Bridger, Colonel Collister was in command of a company of militia. Just as I drove up, a load of oats was brought in from Fort supply, in the sheaf. As it was near the middle of the day, I wished to feed my team and go on to Fort Supply as there was also a small company there. I went to Colonel Collister and asked him for a feed of oats for my horses. He informed me that it had been brought down for the officer's animals and that they could hardly be expected to feed any and everybody's horses. I replied that I had raised two hundred bushel and left it in the shock at the place that his oats came from, and remarked that I should suppose that I should be allowed to feed at least once out of my own oats. He saw the point at once and requested me to help myself. After feeding, I proceeded on to Fort Supply. Alonzo Knight was there and he was somewhat surprised to see his team.
The next day, I took time to look around at the devastation of everything that could be destroyed. Some of the grain had been burned and the rest was destroyed by horses. some potatoes and turnips had been cached in a manner to escape observation. While I was thus leisurely looking around, an express came direct from General Wells, to the commander of the forces in the region, to enlist me into the service and not allow me to return. I took it very cooley, merely remarking that General Wells very likely was not aware that I had already been in service longer than half of the parties now out. I was led to wonder what had moved him to such a step as I was an entire stranger to him. All the solution that I could arrive at was that some acquaintance of mine had informed him that I was thoroughly acquainted with the country in that region and would make an efficient scout.
Soon after, two parties called Doc and Jeff Hickman, brothers of Bill, were taken prisoners. They were taken into the U.S. Army camp. There was a desire to send some dispatch to Colonel Alexander who was then in command of the army. It was feared that if a Mormon was sent, he would be retained a prisoner. It was decided that mountaineer should be induced to go if one could be found.
They, the mountaineers, supposing that there was going to be a bloody contest, and also being afraid their wealth in stock, which they supposed would become a prey to either army if committable, they therefore, went off and secreted themselves. I was consulted as to my knowledge or belief of their whereabouts. I did not know where they were, but I thought I could find them. It was therefore decided to furnish me the best horse in the camp, one that was considered able to hold out equal with myself. So I started out alone to hunt them up. I took a direct route to them, having no trail to guide me until I came to the gap in the mountain that they had crossed. They were on what was called Henry's Fork. Many of them knew me, and they were overjoyed to see me. Because they had kept so close, they knew nothing of what was transpiring. They had also run out of supplies. In fact, they were almost in a suffering condition. Still, they dared not venture out. They supposed there had been severe battles fought. I rehearsed the situation of affairs which they received with eagerness. I informed them that they could, with safety, send out for supplies. Jack Robinson's squaw wives got a meal, the best they could, under existing circumstances, of which I partook. I held another short conference with the company en masse. One of them had volunteered to go into the U.S. Camp after the situation of the two opposing forces had been explained. I gave them my assurance that there was no occasion to fear.
One simple circumstance in this connection, I will relate. The men at Fort Supply, or a portion of them, were accustomed to the use of tobacco. Their supply had been exhausted for some time and they were feeling very despondent. They thought that now was the time to lay in a small supply by sending with me. They had not supposed that the mountaineers would be destitute. They, therefore, made up a purse of a dollar or two--all there was in camp. I mentioned that matter to the mountaineers and was informed that our boys could not be in a more suffering condition than they were. But now for the sequel: When I had mounted my horse and had said good-bye to the company, a man beckoned me to follow him, which I did. He conducted me to his lodge and brought out a plug of tobacco one foot in length, and handed it to me. I offered to pay for it but he would accept nothing. What surprised me was that he had kept it on hand while his associates had been without.
The man that was to undertake the mission to the U.S. camp mounted a splendid horse. We crossed over a mountain ridge in company, then our roads separated. My course was west and his north-west. Night soon came on and being aware that it would be hard for me, without a trail, to keep my course, I selected a star, as soon as they began to show, as my guide, and formed a determination to continue directly towards it. Some time after the night had become fairly dark, it appeared to me that I was going on the wrong course and I was tempted to bear more to the right. Then I considered that I had taken my course and the best thing to do was to trust my guiding star. Had I done otherwise, I would not have found camp that night. Near the end of my journey, my horse became tired and in going down a steep bank to a small stream, it fell down in such a manner that my left foot was fastened under him. I was unable to extricate it. I therefore was compelled to make him rise with me on his back.
I arrived at camp near midnight, having ridden something over fifty miles in a rough country. The parties suffering for tobacco got out of bed and sat by the fire, smoking and chewing the remainder of the night. They declared it was as good as a feast.
The mountaineer arrived at Fort Bridger and found one of the Hickman boys there. He had been sent in by Colonel Alexander with a communication for President Young. He said there was no occasion for uneasiness on their account, as they were treated with civility. They were not closely confined, and he was expected to return with an answer from President Young.
I had no more calls for active service. We got out of provisions and were living on potatoes and turnips that had been raised there. Winter was coming on, as snow storms indicated. There was no officer who considered he had jurisdiction over me, under the circumstances of my enlistment, so I concluded to depart, and did so without let or hindrance. Alonzo Knight went with me. I offered to let him have charge of the team, since they belonged to him, but for some reason he refused. We put on the things that I had gone after and came on down to General Wells camp in Echo Canyon. He had us stopped and kept us three days, but as we were well treated, we made no complaint. He turned us loose and we made our way home without further trouble.
I made up my mind to stay at home and endeavor to obtain labor to accumulate provisions for the support of my family. I rented a house and moved my family into it. Before I had time to accomplish much else, there was a call for what was called a standing army.
The militia officers of Union Fort were called upon to raise a certain number of men to go out on the road and remain during the winter. I was among the first consulted. I told the officer that I had lost the entire summer, not having saved anything from my farming operation. I had been on the road all the time since the U.S. Army had neared Ham's Fork, and it was necessary that I should make some exertions for the support of my family. He acknowledged that my cause was just and said he would try to raise the compliment of men without me.
Shortly after, I was beset by himself and others, some of whom appeared to think that I was the most suitable man they had in the district for the service. I told them I thought it was hardly fair for one portion of the community to bear all the burden. There were plenty of men who had seen no service, had been allowed to attend to their business, and had been successful in their farming operations. I also told them that they should try more diligently to raise the men, and should they not succeed, I would not refuse. That was what they wanted from me, for the idea seemed to prevail with some that they could not get along without me. I was soon informed that the compliment of men could not be raised without me and I said I would go, but I thought there should be something done for the support of my family.
I, therefore, went to Bishop Richards and stated the situation and closed by asking him what ought to be done under the circumstances. He informed me that the best thing to do was to sell a yoke of cattle. I accepted the counsel, and sold the cattle to old man Van Volkenborg for wheat and potatoes. To make sure of my pay, I did not delay collection, as he was inclined to be tricky as I well knew.
The following was Van Volkenborg's style of doing business: I sold him the cattle without yoke, bow, or chain. After the bargain was made, he wished to borrow yoke and bows. I said, "I shall probably have no use for them this winter, but" says I, "having some knowledge of your character, I am very sure that if I should lend them to you for any length of time, you would say that you had received them with the cattle when the trade was made and would likely be willing to stand a law suit on the matter." He thought I had rather a poor opinion of him and he was very sure he was not that kind of a man. I let him have the outfit. In the spring, when I went after them, he seemed much surprised and asked if he did not purchase them with the cattle. I looked at him without uttering a word, but he could see indignation in every feature. I asked again where I would find them and he went with me and produced them. That was the last deal we ever had.
Our military company was reorganized. I was elected a lieutenant and a platoon of ten men was assigned to my jurisdiction. I was also promised a horse and outfit which was afterwards produced. The horse was furnished by Benjamin Jones. After we had got started on the road a few miles, I concluded that I would be faster on foot, and as the opportunity presented itself, I sent the horse back to Union.
It was now severe winter weather. Snow was deep in the mountains. We camped the first night in the canyon near an old man Killian's place. It was so cold, we could not keep comfortable by a good log fire. One side would be scorching, the other would be freezing. All during the evening, I kept away from the fire, running up and down the road, scuffling with comrades whenever one would come out away from the fire. Sometimes I wallowed in the snow. I thereby, kept more comfortable than standing by the fire. Two or three parties had their feet frozen in bed during the night and had to return home in the morning. Brother Otis L. Terry had charge of the baggage wagon. He thought to knock some of the ice from the wheels and to accomplish it took a light hatchet. About the first time he struck the tire, it flew to pieces as though it were glass.
It was a very hard day's journey to get over the first mountain. Some companies had gone over some days before, but the road had drifted up with the snow four or five feet deep much of the way. We arrived at the main camp between the mountains after night. The men and teams were worn out.
We made a general move the next day over the big mountain and camped on Big Canyon Creek. It was not as hard a day's work as the day before. When the company to which I belonged had all got onto the summit of the mountain, I started out on a run and kept it up for three or four miles, passing companies of men, mounted and otherwise, and arrived on the camp ground with the officers in advance of the command. When my messmates came up, I had firewood sufficient for the night and a fire started.
We were all stationed for a time on the Weber River at or near the mouth of Echo Canyon. There was quite a large force of men. Each company quartered by themselves. One Colonel Harmon was in command.
Some log houses were built for the officers, for commissary quarters, etc. Some lumber was needed. It was thought it might be obtained at Snyder's Mill, off in the southeast direction from our camp. One other and myself were called upon to make an endeavor to reach the mill and get lumber if it was available. We succeeded in obtaining the required lumber with two good span of animals and a sled. It was hard on the team.
About this time there had been a beef dressed and as the wolves were prowling around, someone had dragged the offal down to the river and poisoned it. A company of Indians came into camp. They soon discovered the offal, and began to clean it up for food. I learned the particulars and went to the Indians and informed them, in their own language, the condition of affairs, and told them they must not eat the offal. They dropped it and left.
The word soon got to the Colonel's quarters that I could talk with the Indians. He sent for me and held a short conference with the Indians to ascertain what their business was, where they had come from, where they were going, etc. They informed him that their having their families with them was sure evidence that they had no evil intentions. They were furnished a dinner and allowed to depart.
Bill Hickman came into camp with a prisoner that had been caught about Bridger, a mountaineer, that had appeared friendly to our people, while acting as a spy for the Army. They ate breakfast in our camp and started on towards Salt Lake. Shortly after, the mountaineer's horse returned to camp riderless. I supposed he had been killed. I started out and gave a thorough search for the body in the most likely places, but I failed to find it. He must have been thrown into the Weber River. Hickman, in his history, in order to implicate others, says this party was killed at Jones camp above us, at the mouth of Echo Canyon, and has a picture showing Hosea Stout holding a lantern while the deed is being done, which is false to my certain knowledge.
Although the weather was very cold, there was a general time of enjoyment and much speculation as to how the present trouble would terminate. There were, apparently, as many different opinions as individuals.
Firewood was plentiful. A company of men would take out the running gears of a wagon, put on a good load of wood and draw it into camp, while the horses ran on the mountain side that wind had kept clear of snow.
Lot Smith was in the camp. It was generally known that he was the best horseman in the country. A small company of men rode into camp and were preparing to take their horses out to the band. One of their horses was fine and fat. Lot desired to go out to the band and bring up his own horse. He proposed to the man of the fat horse, to ride it out and leave it with the band. The man did not know Lot and he informed him that the horse could not be ridden without a saddle, that a man's neck was in danger that should undertake it. Lot informed him he was willing to risk it, and mounted the horse and rode off quietly, to the disappointment of the onlookers who expected to see some sport.
Orders came to station men down on the last fork of the Weber. Major Casper's Command was called upon for that post. This was the command to which I belonged. While making preparations to move, Colonel Harmon, learned that I belonged to that detachment, and sent for me to come to his quarters. He consulted me in relation to staying with him, as he did not know how he would manage without an Indian interpreter. He kindly left it to me to decide to go or stay. I chose to go, but I informed him of one or two others, who would still remain in his camp, who could converse some in the Shoshonian language.
We moved to our new location, and in a short time had excellent quarters prepared. Each mess of ten men built a comfortable dwelling in the form of an Indian wickiup by setting up poles, covering them with cane and grass, then banking up four or five feet high with dirt. We left a trench all around except at the entrance. It was stormy weather much of the time, some rain, some snow, making it very disagreeable while we were laboring on our new quarters. But we continued until all was complete.
We had regular mustering, morning and evenings, for the purpose of roll call. Some men were slow about falling into line. It was ascertained that the reason was that their arms and equipment were sometimes misplaced and they could not readily find them. I instructed each and every member of my own platoon to see to it that he had a place for everything and kept everything in such order that he could lay his hands upon them at any and all times, day or night. I was particular myself and deemed it an offense for one party to meddle with the accouterments of another. But the most of the men were raw recruits that had never before seen service. They were careless and thoughtless. These things were often spoken of by the officers, but little heed was taken by the men. The officers, therefore, thought to give a practical lesson.
The time was favorable, as it had been reported that Indians had been induced by the U.S. Army to make raids upon the Mormon camps. Our officers, therefore, instructed the guards to, at a certain time of night, when the camp was in sleeping repose, raise an alarm by discharging their guns. It all worked nicely and we rallied into line in front of large log fires. It was very amusing to hear the remarks made by individuals. Some had not been able to find their guns or their pistols or butcher knife or their belt upon which some of these things should be hanging. One or two of the lieutenants reported there was a man missing from their ranks. The men seemed to think it safer to not come out. My platoon was all in line, but mistakes were made. Joseph Sanders reported, in a melancholy tone, that he did not have his own gun. Some others did not have their full equipment.
While all these things were going on, I was in front of my men talking to them with the expectation momentarily of being fired upon by an enemy. I was troubled in mind about being formed in line by those fires, giving such a great advantage to an enemy, as our guns were all empty, and no general orders were given except to ascertain if the men were all in ranks. My first orders to my ten were to load, and I remarked that we would not stand but one fire from an enemy in that position. Immediately upon such a fire, we would scatter out and lay on the ground and endeavor to exchange shots with the enemy by shooting wherever we saw the flash of a gun. All these things transpired much faster than I can write them.
An officer came along and informed us that it was not necessary to load our guns. It was too late in my case, but that remark, taken in connection with the fact that we were not fired upon, gave me to understand the true situation of affairs. I remarked, "It is all a hoax." This, I noticed, relieved the feelings of some and steadied their nerves to such an extent, that they could hold still. The circumstance furnished amusement for some days and some parties were subjected to many jokes.
After we had our quarters fixed up as comfortable as was possible, we were somewhat troubled to pass off the time. We would, therefore, take opportunities between showers, as it continued stormy, to get up games of baseball, as the game was then played. I was considered the best catcher in the camp. It was very seldom that a ball would pass me, and there was no occasion for any party to stand behind me. I could catch a ball equally well with either hand, and was active enough to spring after those that came out of reach even though the ground was wet, muddy, and slippery.
The damp weather had seemed to relax the cords of my injured leg, that had once been out of joint at the knee. In jumping around after the ball, my knee came out of joint. I sat down and had it pulled into place, but I was unable to play ball anymore. The next day or two, it again came out of joint, just by standing awkwardly on it. I became discouraged about my efficiency as a soldier. I went to the officers and informed them that the best thing they could do was to send me home on the first opportunity. They objected, stating that they would impose no duties on me, only such as I could perform, and I could lie around and nurse my leg. I asked them what would become of me if we were called into active service. They replied that in that case I should have a horse to ride or be allowed to drive the team on the baggage wagon. I accepted the situation readily.
A few days thereafter, it was considered necessary to send an express to Willow Creek in Salt Lake Valley for the reason that the brethren in our camp, from that place, were not provided with supplies as they should have been. They had few or no cooking utensils.
There were some feelings existing against the ward for sending men out so poorly provided for, and the general feeling was that they were not very public spirited and that they would have to be labored with in a manner that would give them to understand that they must do something for their country and do it without delay. I was asked if I would not undertake the mission. I informed them that I would go and I promised to be successful, but I would go on condition that I should not be expected to return.
A wagon came along from some other camp, going for supplies, traveling down the Weber, as that was considered to be the most passable route. I got in and went along. I got to Union, obtained a horse and visited Willow Creek, eight miles south, without delay. I went under the impression that I should have trouble in getting them to respond to the call. But when I made my business known to an officer of the place, he manifested interest in the matter and immediately got some of the leading men together. I was enabled to state to them the situation of their men in a manner that touched their sympathy and they lost no time in raising the necessary supplies and starting them out.
--George Hawkins, ed., Autobiography of
Henry W. Sanderson, 1990, pp. 85-100.
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