FORT KEOGH, FORT CUSTER
ONE HUNDRED YEARS WITH THE SECOND CAVALRY
By Joseph I. Lambert, Major, Second Cavalry
Copyright 1939 Commanding Officer, Second Cavalry, Fort Riley, Kansas
Capper Printing Company, Inc.
After the end of the Nez Perce campaign, the battalion of the Second Cavalry consisting of Companies F, G, and H, with Colonel Miles, was detached as an escort to the peace commission which was treating with Sitting Bull. It reported to General Terry at Fort Benton, Montana, and then marched to Wild Horse Lake, where the commission conferred with the Canadian officials regarding the fugitive Indians. Late in October these companies returned to Fort Ellis after being in the field eight months and marching 2,500 miles.
As a result of the Indian depredations in 1876, and the recommendations of General Sheridan, who commanded the Division of the Missouri, two new posts were built in 1877 in the area where much of the recent fighting had been taking place. Fort Keogh was built on the Yellowstone River at the mouth of the Tongue, and Fort Custer was built on the Big Horn River at the mouth of the Little Big Horn. The remainder of the Second Cavalry was ordered in September to change station from the Department of the Platte, where it had been since 1866, to the Department of Dakota, and to take station at these two new posts. Regimental Headquarters, Band, and Companies C, D, K, and M went to Fort Custer, Montana, and Companies A, B, E, and I to Fort Keogh, Montana. After arriving there, the companies immediately took the field on scouting expeditions until December.
In addition to watching the country to the north for a possible return of Sitting Bull from Canada and driving renegades back to the reservations, the regiment was confronted in 1878 with an uprising and flight of Bannock Indians from Idaho similar to that of the Nez Perces the previous year. To prevent the Bannocks from escaping into Montana, Companies H and L were sent to the pass in the mountains through which Chief Joseph escaped into the state in 1877 and there, near the town of Bannock, Montana, constructed Camp Mulkey. Upon receiving a report in August that the Bannocks were coming east, Company K left Fort Ellis and following the Madison River, struck the hostiles near Henry’s Lake, Idaho, August 27, capturing 56 ponies.
During the autumn of 1878, Little Wolf’s band of Cheyennes escaped from Fort Reno, Indian Territory, and moved north to their old home in Montana. On February 22, 1879, Lieutenant W. P. Clark, Second Cavalry, was ordered into the field to capture these Indians, taking with him Companies E and I, Second Cavalry, a detachment of mounted infantry, a squad of artillery manning a Hotchkiss gun, and some scouts. After a long and difficult search, the force came upon the hostiles at Box Elder Creek, Montana, March 25. Through great tact in dealing with the savages, Lieutenant Clark persuaded them to surrender without a fight, bringing them back to Fort Keogh, April 1. During this expedition the weather was especially severe, sometimes registering as low as 33 degrees below zero. While on their way from Powder River Telegraph Station to Fort Keogh on April 5, 1879, a sergeant of the signal corps and a private from Company E, Second Cavalry, were attacked by a band of Indians, the sergeant being wounded and the private killed. Sergeant Thomas B. Glover and ten men of Company B, Second Cavalry, with three scouts were sent in pursuit of the Indians at once. The detachment picked up the trail and by the 9th had passed through three of the former camps of the fugitives, finding portions of soldier’s clothing and equipment. The next day the savages were overtaken and compelled to surrender. They were a part of Little Wolf’s band who had escaped from Lieutenant Clark on March 25. Sergeant Glover was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for the capture of this party.