Richard Irving Dodge (May 19, 1827 – June 16, 1895) was a colonel in the United States Army. Dodge was born in North Carolina and died after a long and successful career in the U.S. Army. He began as a cadet in 1844 and retired as a Colonel May 19, 1891.
Dodge was Aide-De-Camp to General William Tecumseh Sherman from 1881–1882. In the second publishing of his memoirs General Sherman wrote, “… the vacancy made by Colonel McCook was filled by Lieutenant-Colonel Richard Irving Dodge, Twenty-third Infantry then serving at a cantonment on the Upper Canadian—an officer who had performed cheerfully and well a full measure of frontier service, was a capital sportsman, and of a perfect war record. He also remained with me until his promotion as Colonel of the Eleventh Infantry, 26 January 1882.”
“Fort Dodge was one of the most important forts on the Western frontier.”
Commanders at the fort included George Custer and Col. William H. Lewis. In July 1872, Richard Irving Dodge was in command at Fort Dodge and the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway needed a station on the Arkansas River.
Assuming command at Fort Dodge. Kansas in the spring of 1872, Major Dodge described to his department commander the killing south of his post, drawing attention to the danger of conflict between buffalo hunters and Indians. The hunters, he wrote Pope:
“are killing countless numbers of Buffalo, simply for their hides, Exasperating the
Indians by this wanton and wholesale destruction of game, and tempting them by the smallness and carelessness of the hunting parties. To let them go on as at present is to invite depredation and outrage by the Indians.”
Western Home Journal
Lawrence, Kansas 10 Oct 1872
The country south of Dodge is overrun with buffalo hunters. An average of 500 skins per day are brought in for shipment. – The buffalo are killed, for “their skins alone, the carcasses being left upon the ground. – Colonel, Dodge told us that the hunters had introduced a new method of skinning the buffaloes. It is by horse power. The hide is slit through down the legs and body, as in the ordinary way, preparatory to skinning, the skin started a little on the head, so as to include the ears, then a stake driven down into the ground through the buffalo’s head, a rope fastened around the hide at the ears, a span of horses attached, and away they go, stripping off the skin in no time. .A hundred buffaloes: can thus be skinned in a day by a single span of horses.
Is it any wonder that this wanton and wholesale destruction of the buffalo for the skins alone arouses the resentment of the Indians, who behold their means of subsistence being thus rapidly and surely destroyed. At the present rate of destruction the buffalo will soon be a thing of the past, so far as Kansas is concerned.
The Leavenworth Times
Leavenworth, Kansas 06 Apr 1873
The Cheyennes on the War Path and Vindictive.
They Will Not Have the Buffalo Destroyed.
White Traders to Blame.
The trouble on the frontier is becoming a matter of paramount interest. Hundreds of lives are being sacrificed. Scalping is the order of the day, and ye poor Indian is held responsible for all the barbarity that the telegraph reports to us. Much as we may condemn the atrocities of the Indians, there is something which history has yet to tell in his favor. Traders and traders’ agents have their record to make clear. Every story has two sides to it. The Indian’s is not yet told may never be. But in all charity, before we condemn and have them exterminated, let them have a hearing. They complain of the loss of their hunting ground, of the indiscriminate slaughter of their favorite game, the buffalo, of the faithlessness of the pale-face, of bare-faced robberies of which they are every day the helpless victims. Many of the tribes, demoralized, discouraged and awed by the advancing steps of an inhuman civilization, have got their dander up, among them the Cheyennes. They dare to use men’s noblest prerogative, the weapons of self-defense, and for using them are denounced as fit subjects for extermination. When will this system of civilization cease? Gen. W. H. Penrose, now in the city, and just arrived from Camp Supply, has informed a reporter of The Times, by whom he was interviewed, that Col. Dodge had been ordered to investigate the late massacre at Cimarron and that the Indians’ interests will not be neglected. We sincerely hope so. Col. Dodge will do well to remember that the Indian is fighting a death-fight against a progressive civilization which he cannot understand. Remove traders and agents and he will perhaps see it in a different light. The late massacres committed by the Cheyennes and kindred tribes wear a very revolting aspect in type, but when the naked facts are disclosed it may turn out that the poor Indian is not so much to blame after all.
Belle Plaine Democrat
Belle Plaine, Kansas 25 Apr 1873
GONE TO FRONT
Governor Osborn started Thursday for the Indian Territory, to learn what Indians committed the murder of the surveying party on the banks of the Cimarron last month. Gen. Pope has instructed Col. Dodge to investigate the matter and punish the offenders. It is probable that Gov. Osborn will cooperate with this officer.
The Leavenworth Times
Leavenworth, Kansas 10 Jun 1873
A FUNERAL PAGEANT
Burial of William Taylor the Victim of the Dodge City Butchery.
Full Particulars in Regard to his Death.
(I post this to help us paint a picture of the surroundings; Natives, buffalo hunters, settlers, chain of command and ruffians)
Sunday morning our colored citizens turned out en masse to escort to their last resting place, the remains of the late William Taylor who was so brutally murdered at Dodge City, by a gang of border ruffians. The body was brought from Atchison by a special train and was received at the depot by the colored Masonic fraternity, and taken to the home of the deceased where the funeral services were held.
The procession that acted as an escort to the remains was most imposing.
First came the Fifth Infantry band playing a mournful dirge, then the hearse with its ominous plumes, and following in a long line were members of the various colored Masonic lodges in town. The funeral was the largest that has been witnessed in the city for a long time, and it seemed that every colored individual turned out to pay a last tribute to the memory of one respected and esteemed by all.
The circumstances connected with his death are peculiarly aggravating. Captain Matthews, who went to Dodge City after the body of the murdered man, gives the following brief particulars:
Taylor left this city some time ago to visit a brother in the employ of Col. Dodge, the commander of the post of that name in Southern Kansas. Here he staid and became interested in the transportation of freight between Fort Dodge and Forts Larned and Sill and having by industry and enterprise accumulated considerable money, determined to locate in Dodge City, and conduct a restaurant, for, in connection with his early establishment and freight business, he received permission from Col. Dodge to run an express for carrying passengers between the Fort and City, a distance of six miles. This branch of his business was the indirect cause of his death. He hired a man to drive his express outfit, which consisted of a light, spring wagon and a stout pair of mules. This team was kept busy transporting the officers and soldiers back and forth, and the night before the shooting took place was ordered for the benefit of a party of men from the fort ; who desired to spend the first part of the night in the City and return before day break. The driver had driven this party in from the fort and put out his mules, as the parties did not intend to return for many hours. About ten o’clock a man appeared and notified the driver that the party wished to return to the fort. Not mistrusting an foul play, the man immediately hitched up the team and proceeded up town to take in the balance of the load, when the mules were stopped and the wagon filled with men, all strangers to the driver. When he made the discovery that the party aboard were not the same as those he had brought down in the early evening he became suspicious, and when he refused to go where the ruffians bid him a pistol was pointed and snapped, but the charge did not explode. And man then jumped from the wagon, but not till after he had received a severe blow on the nose with a pistol. He started at once for Taylor’s house and informed him the occurrence. Taylor thinking the party had been drinking and were making sport of the man so expressed himself, and started out expecting to find the men and his team at a noted saloon in the place. He had walked but a block when he recognized his wagon and mules in front of a drug store and containing other parties than the ones that he had agreed to transport. He remonstrated with the men on their holding possession of the team, and telling them that he was the owner, offered to drive them where they wanted to go. The only answer received was a brutal oath, and drawing his revolver one of the ruffians shot the off mule dead. Taylor then remarked upon their being inhuman wretches when he received a bullet through the left breast and on turning to run was shot through the kidneys. The desperadoes then cut loose from the dead mule and drove off, while the wounded man staggered into a drug store adjacent with two bullets in his body. The cut-throats who had done the shooting went from the scene of the affray to a dance house and boasted of the bloody deed. One of the company asked if they had “settled the negro,” and receiving a negative reply proposed that they go up and finish him.
They found Taylor in a drug store, where his wounds were being dressed, and one of the ruffians, in spite of the remonstrance’s of by-standers, deliberately walked up to the man already mortally wounded, and shot him through the head. They then dragged the body from the store and mutilated it in shocking manner.
Not one of the citizens of the place dared to offer any remonstrance, and the body lay in the street untouched for nearly a day, Toward morning of the day following the murder, the ruffians returned and emptied the contents of their revolvers into the already lifeless form, and stripping the body of everything valuable, attempted to bury it with the dead mule. They gave up the task, however, and distributed themselves about town.
The driver of the team, after bearing the shooting, mounted a horse and rode to the fort for help, but no troops were sent to protect the citizens of the place till morning.
Two days afterwards five of the desperadoes were arrested, and now await an examination of their misdeeds. Taylor, the murdered man, was well known in this city, where he started in life, and every one acquainted with him speak in the highest terms of his honesty and respectability.
The Murderers of Taylor in Limbo.
(special to the Leavenworth Times) MURDERED. Raymond, Kas, Jane 7.
I am on my way home with the remains of William Taylor (colored). He was brutally murderer in Dodge City on Wednesday morning about one o’clock by a set of ruffians, who after doing the bloody deed robbed him. This was done without any cause whatever. Too much credit cannot be given to Col. Dodge for his vigilance in bringing the ruffians to justice. Already he has five of them safely lodged in the guardhouse, and the guards well posted on the banks of the Arkansas river to prevent the other ruffians from escaping. No doubt before this they have been overtaken and justice will be meted out to each one in due time. The colored people of this State should ever remember with gratitude the kindness of Mr. Haas, of Leavenworth, in his kindness, both in words and acts in assisting me in recovering and preparing this body. I will be home via. Atchison by a special train to-morrow morning. Wm. D. Matthews.
HUNTING GROUNDS OF THE GREAT WEST
1873 In the fall, I went with some of the same gentlemen over the same ground.
“Where there were myriads of buffalo the year before, there were now myriads of carcasses. The air was foul with sickening stench, and the vast plain, which only a short twelvemonth before teemed with animal life, was a dead, solitary, putrid desert. We were obliged to travel south-east to the Cimarron, a distance of nearly ninety miles, before we found a respectable herd. Even there we found the inevitable hunter, the southern line of the State of Kansas being picketed by them. They were wary of going into Indian territory, where they might be arrested ; but an unfortunate herd no sooner crossed the line going north than it was destroyed. The butchery still goes on. Comparatively few buffalo are now killed, for there are comparatively few to kill. In October 1874 I was on a short trip to the buffalo region south of Sidney Barracks. A few buffalo were encountered, but there seemed to be more hunters than buffalo. The country south of the South Platte is without water for many miles, and the buffalo must satisfy their thirst at the river. Every approach of the herd to water was met by rifle bullets, and one or more buffalo bit the dust. Care was taken not to permit the others to drink, for then they would not return. Tortured with thirst the poor brutes approach again, always to be met by bullets, always to lose some of their number.
But for the favoring protection of night, the race would before now have been exterminated. In places favorable to such action as the south bank of the Platte, a herd of buffalo has, by shooting at it by day, and by lighting fires and firing guns at night, been kept from water for four days, or until it has been entirely destroyed. In many places the valley was offensive from the stench of putrefying carcasses.
Early in 1873 the organization of hunting parties had been properly effected. The ‘ hunter ‘ had learnt his work, and dead buffalo 142 GAME. were now so plentiful that skinning became arduous labour.
Little care was taken ; the skins, jerked off in any way, were frequently torn. The curer left flesh on, or failed to stretch them properly, and they spoiled. In the crop of 1873 one hide delivered represents two dead buffalo. As the game became scarce, more attention was paid to all details ; and in 1874, and up to this time, so much care is taken by the best hunting parties, that 100 skins delivered in market during that and the last year represent 125 dead buffalo. No parties have ever got the proportion lower than this, and it is therefore not a fair average. To avoid overestimating, I have in
every case taken the lowest figures :
It is much more difficult to estimate the number of dead buffalo represented by the Indians tanned skins, or robes, sent to market. This number varies with the different tribes, and their greater or less contact with the whites.
Thus the Cheyenne, Arapahoe, and Kiowas of the Southern plains, having less contact with whites, use skins for their lodges, clothing, bedding, par-fleches, saddles, lariats, for almost everything. The number of robes sent to market represents only what we may call the foreign exchange of these tribes, and is really not more than one-tenth of the skins taken. To be well within bounds I will assume that one robe sent to market by these Indians represents only six dead buffalo.
Those bands of Sioux who live at the Agencies, and whose peltries are taken to market by the Union Pacific Railroad, live in lodges of cotton cloth furnished by the Indian Bureau.
They use much civilized clothing, bedding, boxes, ropes, etc. For these luxuries they pay in robes; and as the buffalo range is far from wide, and their yearly ‘crop’ small, more than half of it goes to market.
The wilder Indians of the Upper Missouri yet use many skins, though their contact with whites has given them
a taste for civilized luxuries for which robes must be paid.
I have no personal knowledge of the proportion, but am informed, by persons who profess to know, that about one robe is sent to market for every five skins.
The yearly crop of robes already estimated represents
their dead buffalo as follows :
Making the enormous, almost incredible, number of nearly four and a half millions of buffalo killed in the short space of three years. Nor is this all. No account has been taken of the immense number of
buffalo killed by hunters, who came into the range from the wide frontier, and took their skins out by wagons; of the immense numbers killed every year by hunters from New Mexico, Colorado, Texas, and the Indian territory; of the numbers killed by the Utes, Bannocks, and other mountain tribes, who make every year their fall hunt on the plains.
Nothing has been said of the numbers sent from the Indian territory, by other railroads than the Atchison, Topeka, arid Santa Fe, to St. Louis, Memphis, and elsewhere; of the immense numbers of robes which go to
California, Montana, Idaho, and the Great West; nor of the still greater numbers taken each year from the territory of the United States by the Hudson Bay Company.
All these will add another million to the already almost incredible mortuary list of the nearly extinct buffalo.
WOODS OR MOUNTAIN BUFFALO
In various portions of the Rocky Mountains, especially in the region of the parks, is found an animal which old mountaineers call the ‘ bison.’ This animal bears about the same relation to the plains buffalo as a sturdy mountain pony does to a well-built American horse. His body is lighter, whilst his legs are shorter, but much thicker and stronger, than the plains animal, thus enabling him to perform feats of climbing and tumbling almost incredible in such a huge and apparently unwieldy beast.
These animals are by no means plentiful, and are moreover excessively shy, inhabiting the deepest, darkest
defiles, or the craggy, almost precipitous, sides of mountains, inaccessible to any but the most practiced mountaineers.
From the tops of the mountains which rim the parks, the rains of ages have cut deep gorges, which plunge
with brusque abruptness, but nevertheless with great regularity, hundreds or even thousands of feet to the
valley below. Down the bottom of each such gorge gurgles a clear, cold stream of the purest water, fertilizing
a narrow belt of a few feet of alluvial, and giving birth and growth to a dense jungle of spruce, quaking asp, and
other mountain trees. One side of the gorge is generally a thick forest of pine, while the other side is a meadow-like park covered with splendid grass. Such gorges are the favorite haunt of the mountain buffalo. Early in the morning he enjoys a bountiful breakfast of the rich nutritious grasses, quenches his thirst with the finest
water, and retiring just within the line of jungle, where, himself unseen, he can scan the open, he couches himself in the long grass and reposes in comfort and security until appetite calls him to his dinner late in the evening. Unlike their plains relatives, there is no stupid staring at an intruder. At the first symptom of danger they disappear like magic in the thicket, and never stop until far removed from even the apprehension of pursuit. I have many times come upon their fresh tracks, upon the beds from which they had first sprung in alarm, but I have never even seen one.
I have wasted much time and a great deal of wind in vain endeavors to add one of these animals to my bag. My figure is no longer adapted to mountain climbing, and the possession of a bison’s head of my own killing is one of my blighted hopes.
Several of my friends have been more fortunate, but I know of no sportsman who has bagged more than one. **
Old mountaineers and trappers have given me wonderful accounts of the numbers of these animals in all the mountain region ‘many years ago;’ and I have been informed by them that their present rarity is due to the great snow-storm of 1844-5, of which I have already spoken as destroying the plains buffalo in the Laramie country.
I ought to say here, however, that experience has taught me that the stories of these worthies must be taken with many grains of allowance. As a rule they regard every man who does not lead their life, who is not as unkempt, greasy, and filthy as themselves, as a ‘greenhorn’ whom it is their privilege and their duty to ‘stuff’ with as many impossible stories as they can. One may find out from them a good many valuable facts, by listening, apparently uninterested, to their talk with each other; but show any interest or ask a direct question, and a hundred to one that the answer is the hugest lie that the spokesman can invent for the occasion. Under the most favorable circumstances at least half of what these old fellows tell is downright fabrication, and as it and any thread of truth that there may be are told with the same grave face and apparent sincerity, one can never tell which half to believe.
One of my friends, a most ardent and pertinacious sportsman, determined on the possession of a bison’s head, and, hiring a guide, plunged into the mountain wilds which separated the middle from the South Park. After several days, fresh tracks were discovered. Turning their horses loose on a little gorge-park, such as described, they started on foot on the trail; for all that day they toiled and
scrambled, with the utmost caution, now up, now down, through deep and narrow gorges and pine thickets, over bare and rocky crags; sleeping where night overtook them. Betimes next morning they pushed on the trail, and about 11 o’clock, when both were exhausted and wellnigh disheartened, their route was intercepted by a precipice. Looking over they descried, on a projecting ledge, several hundred feet below, a herd of about twenty bison, lying down. The ledge was about 300 feet at widest, by probably 1,000 feet long. Its inner boundary was the wall of rock on the top of which they stood; its outer appeared to be a sheer precipice of at least 200 feet. This ledge was connected with the slope of the mountain by a narrow neck. The wind being right, the hunters succeeded in reaching this neck
unobserved. My friend selected a magnificent head, that of a fine bull, young but full grown, and both fired. At the report the bisons all ran to the far end of the ledge and plunged over.
Terribly disappointed, the hunters ran to the spot and found that they had gone down a declivity, not actually a precipice, but so steep that the hunters could not follow them.
At the foot lay a bison. A long, a fatiguing detour brought them to the spot, and in the animal lying dead before him my friend recognized his bull his first and last mountain buffalo. None but a true sportsman can appreciate his feelings.
The remainder of the herd were never seen after the grand plunge, down which it is doubtful if even a dog could have followed unharmed.”
London, Greater London, England
09 Apr 1877
Sport in America (extract)
Colonel Dodge’s book on the Wilds of North American Desert is by many degrees the best we have met with. It is absolutely comprehensive and exhaustive, and although occasionally he may be carried away by the inertest of his subject, yet he writes with so much animation that it is seldom indeed we tire of him. Colonel Dodge would seem to be a man of middle ago, and to have passed the greater part of his life in active service on the Indian frontier; at all events, he has travelled, in one way or another, over the whole of the vast region he describes. He has camped out among parties on the war path in country that has since been reclaimed by the squatter, and made safe front Indian foray as those snug pleasure grounds on the banks of the Hudson where Coopers Mohicans and Mingoes used to roam. He has been nearly stampeded by herds of buffalo in localities where there is now neither hoof nor horn of them. He has fought with Indians, and treated with Indians, and superintended trading with Indians. He has hunted and studied the habits of very kind of wild animal that is to be found on these great North America central ranges. He has examined the physical configuration of the landscapes with the eyes of a good practical geologist; and, finally, as we have said already, he has the pen of a pleasant writer, while his information is evidently as exact as his enthusiasm is unmistakable We may, in short; confidently accept his book as the best modern authority on its subjects, although how long it may remain so is another question altogether, for Colonel Dodge has seen extraordinary changes since he was sent out as a stripling on Indian frontier service. Nor can anything be more significant of these than the map at the beginning of his volume. It marks the range of the buffalo or bison in 1830 and in 1876, and it is lamentable to observe how the limits have dwindled between times, for the destruction of the buffalo means starvation and misery to the tribes who have lived by their chase from time immemorial; it means the shifting of these fierce nomads into their neighbors territories, and consequently desperate fighting and inveterate vendettas. The instincts of the Indian are altogether hostile to agriculture; he must hunt to live, to say nothing of making himself happy, and when game fails him he grows morose and reckless. He either precipitates himself on the tomahawks of hostile tribes, when the losing side is driven back upon the bayonets of “Uncle Sam’s” soldiers, or he sinks into the loafing hanger-on about the Settlements who has lost any savage virtues he possessed, and acquired the lowest vices of civilization. A third course is officially offered to him, it is true, and some of the tribes have been cooped up in reservations. But Colonel Dodge fully confirms all we have so often heard of the faithlessness with which the authorities have broken their bargains, and the last of the red men are being bandied about between the white squatters and the Indian agents, while they know not how to hope for redress of their grievance. There was a time when the Washington Government might have effectually interposed to save the buffalo and the remains of the tribes; now it is too late, so far, at least, as the former are concerned. The slaughter has been indiscriminate, the waste inordinate, and the extirpation of the buffalo is a foregone conclusion, four and a half millions of them are said to have been slaughtered in the last three years. At present the survivors only find tolerable safety in the debatable lands on the frontiers of New Mexico and Texas, where the terror of raiding Comanche braves makes the white hunters shy of risking their scalps. Colonel Dodge’s descriptions of the physical characteristics of the plains and their dividing ranges are admirably graphic and of great practical value. He treats the subject not only scientifically, but in its practical aspects, and he writes chiefly for the benefit of future explorers and settlers. He has personally experienced the dinners that are likely to beset travelling parties, and has carefully studied the precautious that ought to be adopted. As the railways have been laid down and the buffaloes have been driven back, the perils from Indian war parties enter less and less into the adventurer’s calculations. But through a great part of the year the climate is fearfully inclement: you may be suddenly surprised by a snowfall or by an icy storm sweeping down from the frozen snow – fields of the Northern plains; and you may travel for a long day’s march without coming upon any sort of shelter. It must be remembered that the level of these so-called plains is often something like 8.000 feet above the sea; that in reality they may be called ranges of flattened mountains, with precipices frequented by the mountain sheep. In the heat of the summer, there is always the danger of Conflagrations and a brand thrown carelessly into the parched grass may encircle the encampment in a ring of fire. But perhaps the chief obstacle to safe and easy locomotion is in the great rivers that drain the country.
In winter, when, they are not locked up in ice, they come down in flood, so as to absolutely impassable; but in their drier months there are still more treacherous. A broad channel is filled with a shallow stream that perpetually changing its course with the shifting of the bars and the sandbanks. The ferry that is established opposite a military post cannot be relied upon for two days in succession. The boat must be warped along by men on foot or horseback, and you may step at any moment from the firm gravel onto a quicksand, which sucks you down irresistibly. Even for organized bands the only means of safety lies in roping themselves together like Swiss mountaineers on the glaciers, and we may imagine how often the solitary trappers of former times may have come to a miserable end in these water – courses when their deaths were set down to the account of the Indians. Another of the most characteristic dangers of the prairies is now, like the Indians, becoming a thing of the past; but Colonel Dodge has to relate more than one hairbreadth escape from a headlong rush of maddened buffaloes. On one occasion he and his party had found out comfortable quarters for their night camp in a narrow canon or gully. Happily, he was restless, and watchful, when he heard a distant sound like rushing water. It drew nearer and grew more distinct, and he could distinguish the trampling of innumerable hoofs beating on the hard-baked ground of the prairie. He had just time to give the alarm. The party sprang to their feet, made prompt dispositions, and opened fire on the head of the advancing column. It pared to right and left, but each section continued its mad career, plunging headlong down the banks of the canon, the foremost being crushed by those who fell on them from behind. The men were saved by the skin of their teeth but had they chanced to have slept a shade more soundly no one of them would ever have wakened.