The summer of 1845 found Sullen Face a prisoner at Fort Snelling. Government having been informed of the murder of Watson by two Dahcotah Indians, orders were received at Fort Snelling that two companies should proceed to the Sisseton country, and take the murderers, that they might be tried by the laws of the United States.
Now for excitement, the charm of garrison life. Officers are of course always ready to “go where glory waits” them, but who ever heard of one being ready to go when the order came?
Alas! for the young officer who has a wife to leave; it will be weeks before he meets again her gentle smile!
Still more—alas for him who has no wife at all! for he has not a shirt with buttons on it, and most of what he has are in the wash. He will have to borrow of Selden; but here’s the difficulty, Selden is going too, and is worse off than himself. But no matter! what with pins and twine and trusting to chance, they will get along.
Then the married men are inquiring for tin reflectors, for hard bread, though healthy, is never tempting. India rubber cloaks are in requisition too.
Those who are going, claim the doctor in case of accidents. Those who stay, their wives at least, want him for fear of measles; while the disciple of Esculapius, though he knows there will be better cooking if he remain at home, is certain there will be food for fun if he go. It is soon decided—the doctor goes.
Then the privates share in the pleasure of the day. How should a soldier be employed but in active service? besides, what a capital chance to desert! One, who is tired of calling “All’s well” through the long night, with only the rocks and trees to hear him, hopes that it will be his happy fate to find out there is danger near, and to give the alarm, Another vows, that if trouble wont come, why he will bring it by quarrelling with the first rascally Indian he meets. All is ready. Rations are put up for the men;—hams, buffalo tongues, pies and cake for the officers. The battalion marches out to the sound of the drum and fife;—they are soon down the hill—they enter their boats; hand-kerchiefs are waved from the fort, caps are raised and flourished over the water;—they are almost out of sight—they are gone.
When the troops reached their destination, Sullen Face and Forked Horn were not there, but the chief gave them three of his warriors, (who were with the party of Sullen Face at the time of the murder,) promising that when the two murderers returned they would come to Fort Snelling, and give themselves up.
There was nothing then to prevent the immediate return of our troops. Their tramp had been a delightful one, and so far success had crowned their expedition. They were in the highest spirits. But a little incident occurred on their return, that was rather calculated to show the transitoriness of earthly joys. One dark night, when those who were awake were thinking, and those who slept were dreaming of their welcome home, there was evidently a disturbance. The sleepers roused themselves; guns were discharged. What could it be?