MILITARY ORDER OF THE LOYAL LEGION OF THE UNITED STATES

War Papers


MAJOR GENERAL GEORGE CROOK
By
Charles King, Captain, 5th U.S. Cavalry
Wisconsin Commandery, Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States
Read April 2, 1890


Transcribed by Thomas J. Ebert
tome_93611@yahoo.com
(May 2007)

In the class that entered the National Military Academy in 1848, no state, probably, was more largely represented than that of Ohio. The last battle of the Mexican war had been fought not a year before. The South was still wildly enthusiastic over the heroism and daring of the little armies that under Scott and Taylor had whipped their way through such preponderance of foes. The North, sullen and apathetic, had never approved the war at all, and as a rule looked down upon and condemned a profession that in the South was lauded to the skies. There was no surer road to popular esteem in the opinion of the one section than to seek the education of a soldier. There was no speedier path to perdition in the judgment of the other. There were districts in the Northern states where cadetships went a-begging, even when it was known that the fortunate possessor was paid for his services instead of having to pay for his education.

But Ohio had borne her part in the war. A private soldier from her 1st Regiment was one of the little band that, entering from the Buckeye state, succeeded finally in passing all the examinations and winning commissions in the regular service. Forty-three young soldiers were graduated in 1852 at the end of the four years' course, and, of this number, six members, or nearly one-seventh of the entire array, were appointed from congressional districts in Ohio. There would have been more than one-seventh but for the mishap which led to the turning back of one of the entries of the year '48. Dropping behind his classmates for the time being, and emerging with the class of 1853, somewhere near the foot, the representative of Perry county lagged behind his former comrades until the war of the rebellion, then strode rapidly past them all --- past everybody from every other state, and possibly might have come out at the very "top of the heap" but for the fact that were some other Buckeye men in the way. I do not wonder at the so-called "Ohio idea." I am proud of the record of the sons of the grand old central state. There is no need to remind a companion of the Loyal Legion of the three men who successfully rose through the grade of Lieutenant-General to that of General-in-Chief. There is no denying to Ohio that it was she who nourished, reared and first tendered to the service of the nation, three boys whose names have since become immortal --- Grant, Sherman, Sheridan.

Ohio congressman in those days must have had the gift of foresight. It may not in many cases have seemed so to the instructors of the military academy. It is a singular fact that only two or three of the Ohio boys were then distinguished in scholarship or considered so promising as soldiers as to win high chevrons in the battalion of cadets, and yet, there and thereafter was developed a staying quality that none could gainsay. Fourteen boys hailing from Ohio were graduated in those two years, '52 and "53. In the latter year, she captured first, third, and sixth places in the class. In '52, ninth was the highest her sons could win for her. But look ten, twelve years later, and note the stars or eagles on the shoulders of every man that of the fourteen remained alive and in service. What state in two consecutive years furnished a squad of young West Pointers whose records for gallant, devoted and often brilliant services, will match Ohio's claim for '52-'53? Where are the names, that, thus grouped, will overshadow these: Stanley, Charles R. Woods, McCook, Kautz, Crook, W. S. Smith, Vincent, Sill, McPherson, Sheridan?

Stanley and McCook, Kautz, Vincent and Otis are still here with us --- soldiers to the backbone, every one --- still serving the nation that taught and reared them for her defense. Sill we mourned long years ago, killed in gallant effort to the retrieve the disaster of the first day's onset at Stone River. McPherson --- ah! who has forgotten the pall that fell, not only over the 17th Corps and Sherman's battling hosts, but over the loyal North from sea to sea, when he was slain within sight of the spires of Atlanta? On Sheridan's honored grave we laid our tribute but few brief months ago, and the laurels there are yet green. And to-night we meet once more with bowed heads, and hands that tremble as they clasp, for another of that galaxy of glorious names is stricken from mortal rolls, and the man, least heralded perhaps of any who attained his rank, best loved beyond all question by those who knew him, has joined his classmates beyond the river.

In the strangeness of their new surroundings, like a brace of young bears with all their troubles before them, two of these Ohio boys had taken to each other from the start. The little, short-legged fellow with the snapping black eyes and fiery temper found a balance wheel, so to speak, in the shy, reticent, studious young granger from so near his home. They were assigned to different companies at first, but eventually roomed together in the gloomy old barracks; shouldered their muskets and served out their time as cadet-privates without either of them ever winning a stitch of chevron; had a hard parting when the pugnacious little Perry county fellow had to fall back to the class of '53, and yet, oddly enough, turned up together again in the same command a year or so afterward in that post-graduation school of heroes, the Tippecanoe Regiment, the old 4th Infantry. Three of the class of 1843 were captains in the regiment about that time, for the Mexican war had made promotions rapid, --- C. C. Augur, Henry M. Judah, and a quaint, silent fellow, down all by himself at old Fort Humboldt, in Upper California, --- the captain whom they called Sam Grant, but who concluded to resign and went to farming near St. Louis and afterwards to tanning and to clerking in a store at Galena, and who was so little thought of when the war broke out, and he wrote a modest letter to that infallible functionary --- the Adjutant General of the Army --- that no notice whatever was taken of it, and the letter was tossed contemptuously aside and never turned up again; but the writer did, three years afterwards, as General-in-Chief of the armies in the field. Glorious old Davy Russell, too, was a captain in the 4th at that time and fell, fighting hard, in command of his division under his former subalterns of the 4th Foot, at the battle of Opequan. There was another Russell in the 4th, Edmund, but the Indians killed him, and so, too, did they dispose of Lieut. Slaughter. Lively times the youngsters had with those wild tribes of Oregon just then, and the Perry county boy doubtless thought his quodam room-mate in big luck when the latter stepped into his first lieutenancy in less than four years from the date of his diploma. A year afterwards he envied him when the newly promoted 1st lieutenant was sent in command of a little force to whip the Pitt River Indians into subjection, and was not consoled, even by the fact that the aborigines put an arrow through the young commander. It was the latter's first fight and first wound. It was the beginning of a series of skirmishes, combats and battles that, summed up on the twenty-first of February last at the convention of the National Guard of this State, enabled the speaker to say that the message of congratulations and encouragement, just read to the assembled officers, came from the hand of the man who had been through more pitched-battles and sharp fights than any other general living that day in the wide world. It was signed simply, George Crook.

Up to the spring of '61 and the outbreak of the war of the Rebellion, the 4th Infantry was scattered in little detachments through the mountains and forests of northern California and the wilds of Oregon and Washington Territory, and Lieuts. Crook and Sheridan were constantly occupied win keeping the peace among a lot of turbulent tribes; escorting surveying parties through the Pacific territories; picking up a vast amount of information about the Indians of the western water-shed and becoming proficient in the Chinook dialect. Both had to give and take many a hard knock. They were only a year apart at date of original commission, yet Crook got his first lieutenancy five years before Sheridan, and both stepped into their double bars on the same day, May 14th '61. Crook in the old regiment, Sheridan in the new 13th, to which that other Ohio boy, who had quit soldiering and was doing a modest banking business when they came through San Francisco, had just been gazetted as Colonel --- W. T. Sherman. And now they all suddenly turned up in the East, Sherman organizing a brigade across the Long Bridge in front of Washington; Crook drilling a regiment in his native State, and presently appearing as colonel of the 36th Ohio Infantry; while Sheridan, to his bitter disappointment, fails in his effort to get the mate to it and goes with Halleck on quartermaster duty until in May, '62, Michigan gives him a bigger regiment than Ohio had refused. He is in the saddle at its head in his captain's coat and wins with it, in the very first fight, the stars of a brigadier before his colonel's uniform has reached him. From that time on the hindermost at the start forges to the front. His old room-mate is having no luck at all. The 36th is sent promptly to the field, but is to one in which no distinction can be had. From September, '61, to May, '62, it was camped around Summerville, far up the Kanawha valley. Then, at last, it is marched into the heart of Virginia, and, barely a hundred miles on a bee line from the depot of Lee's final surrender at Appomattox, has its first tussle with the enemy at Lewisburgh, and there, as a matter of course, Crook is wounded again. Siegel relieves Fremont in Western Virginia, and Crook is in the saddle in time to come down from the Kanawha, take his part in the dismal campaign of second Bull Run as a brigade commander, and go into South Mountain and Antietam with a star on his shoulder, and to come out with a brevet for gallant and meritorious conduct. Again he is sent to that military Botany Bay of West Virginia, where there is little to do and nothing to gain, and there he stays while Sheridan is winning fame in the Army of the Cumberland and his commission as major-general. Naturally Crook, too, longs to get out of Virginia and into that Western army; but not until June '63 does he succeed, and then he is assigned the command of the 2d Cavalry Division; rides at its head on the Tullahoma campaign and at Chickamauga, and then, thanks to his orders, is kept on bushwhacking and similar inconspicuous duties, skirmishing all the time, until, with the fortune of war, he is drifted back to the Kanawha again; given command of the Department after the raid to Lynchburg, and, at the head of the 8th Corps, he reports for duty to his old room-rate and chum in the campaign that at last wins victory and triumph in the valley of the Shenandoah, and sets the joy bells ringing all over the North. The story of Crook's distinguished part in the victories of Winchester and Fisher's Hill has never yet been written, though the brevets of brigadier and major general in the regular service were the rewards accorded at that time, and the full rank of major-general of volunteers came to him two days after his corps had been swept from under him in Gordon's magnificent rush that ghastly morning at Cedar Creek. Here it was his luck to serve as a living buffer between the impact of the rebel charge and the main line of the army to his right and rear. He had his double stars and the command of the department when the campaign closed. But luck was never with Crook. All he ever won in his life he earned by hard, patient and tireless service. Thinking always of his men and his duty and never of himself, he rides into Cumberland, Maryland, one night, never asking for guards or escorts, and is whisked off to Dixie by an enterprising band of young Virginians before the rising of another sun. In a month he is exchanged and again in saddle with Sheridan; this time commanding an improvised division of cavalry made up of detachments in the Army of the Potomac, and, with Sheridan, he holds the left at Dinwiddie, and covers the western flank, while Merritt is charging the breastworks and Sheridan hurling the 5th Corps on the eastern flank at the Five Forks. He rides in the pursuit and fight at Jetersville, Sailor's Creek and Farmville, and witnesses the surrender at Appomattox. He commands, for the time, the District of Wilmington, but the war is over; he, with thousands of others, is mustered out of the volunteer service, and now, under existing laws, finds himself only a captain of regular infantry, though wearing a major-general's stars. In July, however, he is made lieutenant-colonel of the 23d Infantry, and returned once more to his old stamping-ground --- the Pacific coast. Despite hard fighting and faithful service, he has had little luck as compared with the rest of the Ohio men. Grant, now general-in-chief; Sherman, lieutenant-general; Sheridan, major-general; Stanley, Woods and Kautz, full colonels of infantry; so, too, Hazen, an Ohio man of another class; so, doubtless, would have been Smith and Vincent had not the one broken down in health and resigned, and the other gone into the adjutant-general's department. McCook and Crook, corps commanders both, though sometimes luckless ones, were accorded only the silver leaves. But now begins the latter's career in a field where he has won a name that stands unrivaled.

In 1867 the most inaccessible region within the borders of the United States was the territory of Idaho, and thither Lieutenant-Colonel Crook was sent to protect the scattered settlers from the depredations of the Snake Indians. He had, perhaps, half a dozen companies of infantry and cavalry. But Crook's methods of dealing with that tribe differed so radically from those of any previous district commander that in the course of the year '67, utterly worn out and disheartened, the survivors begged for peace. This new "Hyas-tyee" had come out with his soldiers in the dead of winter, instead of sending them forth and then criticising their campaign from the comfortable shelter of a fort or garrison. He took the field in January, and never was seen again within the limits of a post until the last of the Snakes were whipped into subjection. Then the Bannocks and Piutes concluded to try a little pillaging, and the Division Commander at San Francisco thought he could do no better than to let Lieutenant-Colonel Crook settle with them. The result and the process were the same as in the case of the Snakes. Crook won the command of the Department of the Columbia, although there were colonels who would have been glad to get it. This he retained until the fall of 1870, to the complete satisfaction of settlers and citizens, and the entire subjugation of the Indians in his bailiwick.

Meantime, however, there was the very mischief to pay down in Arizona. Fabulous stories of the mining resources of this hitherto unexplored territory had tempted thither hundreds of adventurous spirits, little towns were springing up everywhere among the mountains north of the Gila desert, and this gave to the Apaches a longed-for opportunity. No Indian in America can match the Apache in cunning, in planning ambuscades and in sinewy strength and endurance. Few four-footed creatures can scale mountains as he can, and, in such an intricate maze of canyons, cliffs, and deserts, no troops on earth, campaigning on the principles of civilized warfare, could, by any possibility, reach or punish him. For four years, the territory was the scene of massacre, pillage, rapine and disaster. No road was safe, no settlement secure. Stage after stage was "jumped" and burned, sometimes with its hapless passengers chained to the wheels. The whole Apache nation seemed up in arms, yet no expedition could catch them, so quickly could they scatter and disappear. Command after command was sent in pursuit only to be tricked into days of suffering in the desert, or ambuscade in the mountains. In vain the Government allowed three different generals to experiment with them. In vain the Quakers tried their methods, and the Peace Society their prayers. The situation grew so desperate that at last the President could stand it no longer. Grant knew the generals of his army and was beginning to know the Apaches. There was just one war-leader who had shown a capacity for this most hazardous, trying and generally thankless service, and the Executive felt that the time had come when not rank but ability must determine the command. Over the heads of forty colonels he ordered a lieutenant-colonel thither, placed him on duty, as the law then permitted, on his brevet rank of major-general, and committed the future destinies of the Department of Arizona to the hands of George Crook.

It was the summer of '71 that this mandate surprised all the army, except that part of it serving in the Columbia. September found the new commander looking over the ground, and October brought out a new order. A cavalry regiment that had been scouting in the territory for several years was relieved, and the 5th Regiment was ordered from the line of the Union Pacific to report for duty in Arizona. Early in '72 the regiment reached its new station, and then began a campaign such as it had never heard or dreamed of. "Stow away your sabers, your sashes, plumes and even your uniforms; you won't need them," were the orders. They found the department commander and his staff in rough hunting suits, and garbed themselves accordingly. Already the general had issued his ultimatum to the chiefs of the hostile bands; "Come in at once, be gathered, counted and kept on the reservation, or else stay out and be swept from the face of the earth." If the Apaches had known him as did the Piutes, there would have been no derisive laughter. The Indians of Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Nevada, Northern California could have told them something that would have been worth their while to hear. This "Hyas-tyee," this Chief Crook, never broke a promise in his life. If he said he would protect an Indian, that Indian was safe; if he threatened, then it was time to sing the death-song. I well remember the story of the sensation in the 5th Cavalry when the troop leaders gathered, as they supposed, to receive final instructions before starting out on the campaign, and were quietly told that they would "get them as we went along." This was marvelous. The new department commander was going to let the department run itself for awhile, while he ran after the Indians. From October, '72, until April, '73, this marvel of a general was in the heart of the Arizona mountains with his troopers at his back; darting from range to range, marching night and day; striking right, left, front and rear; breaking up rendezvous, burning rancherias, scaling the highest peaks, charging into the blackest caves, tracking the fleeing foe, creeping among them in darkness, dashing in upon bands that had never known a conqueror, and never quitting his relentless pursuit until he had, indeed, swept the Apaches from the face of the earth, or herded them, humbled and subdued, upon their reservation. How the Pacific coast rang with his praises! How the exiles and settlers in Arizona blessed the day that brought him to the rescue! '73 was the year of their redemption. In twenty-three sharp encounters the soldiers of the new chief had pounced upon and thrashed their deadly foe. In '74 he kept his active young officers ever in the mountains, hounding any bands that broke away. For them and for their men there was little rest and no exemption from danger, nor could they ask it with such example as his; but there was peace and security for the people.

Meantime, in the lava-beds and lake regions of Southern Oregon, which had so recently been under Crook's command, the cat being away the mice began to play, and the Modocs had risen and bid defiance for months to the troops sent after them; capping the climax of their deviltry by the murder of General Canby and the peace commissioners under a flag of truce. There was no question who should fill the vacancy. The Pacific coast clamored that the star should now settle on the shoulder of the only man who had conquered the Indians from the Columbia to the Gila, and from lieutenant colonel to brigadier. George Crook was jumped over the heads of every colonel in the service. It was not his fault, but it made him some enemies. Then in '75 there loomed up a war that promised to outrival any Indian outbreak in our history. Arizona was safe. The once intractable Apaches were whipped into absolute subjection. The great confederation of the Dakotas was now in open revolt against the government. Sitting Bull had rallied thousands of war-chiefs and braves to his standard; Crook was sent to try his hand against the warriors of the plains, and thither we of the 5th Cavalry followed him. It was a desperate struggle that ensued. As in Arizona, many a gallant comrade went down in the fray, and privation and suffering of every kind had to be undergone. But, just as before, there was our indomitable leader, in the worn old canvas hunting rig, sharing with the poorest private the perils and vicissitudes that fell to the lot of all. We were pitied against a myriad of mounted foemen, perfectly armed, equipped and schooled for prairie warfare. No troops, hampered with wagon-trains, could catch such a light cavalry as these. Wagons, tents, forage, were left behind, and for weeks and months in pitiless, pelting storms, all over the wilds of Wyoming, Montana and Dakota we followed our foe. Horses dropped, starved and exhausted, rations gave out, and for days we lived upon our famished steeds. There was rest for neither man or beast. Neither was there for the Indians. Wherever they went Crook followed, even in the dead of winter when the mercury froze in the bulb. He wore out many a horse and man, but he utterly broke the power and spirit of the Sioux. Never since that Centennial year have they appeared on the war-path except as our allies. The battle summer taught them a respect for "Grey Fox" that grew speedily into almost superstitious reverence. What he promised, be it weal or woe, was sure to come. What he said was law. In '77, so far as the lines of his own department permitted, he had brought the Cheyennes to terms; but was accorded no share in the campaign against his old friends, the Nez Perces, when Chief Joseph made his wonderful march across country, fighting Howard, Gibbon, and finally yielding to Miles when almost to the boundary. In '73 our General nipped a Bannock outbreak in the bud, but was compelled to stand aloof when the Southern Cheyennes took the war-path in the domain of another commander. In '79 came the Ute revolt and massacre in Colorado, and though troops from his department were mainly the ones to fight and to suffer, their general could not be with them to direct, for the Utes were also in the command of that other brigadier. The Indian Bureau, too, was handling matters after methods of its own, and Crook was not consulted.

Early in the 80's the Chiricahua Apaches once more took the war-path in Arizona. A reign of terror ensued, and eventually Crook was again set for. Things were very different now. When he left the territory in '75 and the Apaches were relegated to the care of the Indian Bureau they were totally humbled and disarmed, but, at the instance of the Interior Department, the Chiricahuas were especially excepted from his command. Now this bold and defiant tribe had secured breach-loading arms in abundance; they were close to the Mexican border and could skip to and fro through the lofty ranges where cavalry could not follow them. It took more of the general's personal work and hard campaigning to bring them to terms, but they were again led back to their reservations, captive; again, despite the covert opposition of the Bureau there followed an era of peace in Arizona until in '85 a small portion of the band made a dash for the Sierras, murdering as they went. Again Crook took the field; again he succeeded in bringing homewards the entire band, although Geronimo and some twenty followers made a successful break for liberty when near their reservation --- instigated thereto by a white traitor. Again with his loyal Chiricahua scouts he had tracked Geronimo to the fastnesses of the Sierra Madre, in Mexico, and had arranged the terms of surrender when, hampered by all manner of intrigue, interference, and by conflicting orders, convinced that his policy was the only one that could succeed, yet sturdily refusing to offer any promise or agreement that would not be sacredly observed, he begged to be relieved of his thankless task.

Subsequent events only justified his course. The very powers that failed to support him at the time and had only about thirty hostile Indians to contend with, were compelled, after futile effort by other means, to again employ his Chiricahua scouts and to tacitly accede to terms that never yet have been made public or explained even to the satisfaction of the War Department. There is an unwritten history of about all that so called surrender of Geronimo which will come as a shock to many a thoughtful citizen when it finally appears.

Such was the terror which the name Chiricahua had inspired that the people of Arizona clamored for their removal from their midst. How this was accomplished is another matter which will yet furnish an interesting page in history. Not only were the renegades of the band summarily hustled off to imprisonment on the Florida coast, but, with singular impartiality, three times their number of faithful scouts, but for whose services Geronimo could never have been caught, were exiled and incarcerated with them. The punishment visited upon the out-law was meted out, God only knows why, on the loyal members of the tribe who brought about the capture. For years they have pined and died, mountain Indians transported to the low, moist, malarial climate of Southern Alabama. They were eight hundred strong, men, women, and children, when brought from Florida to Mount Vernon barracks --- there only five hundred now, and George Crook's last days were saddened by the sight of their wrongs and sufferings, and spent in earnest effort to secure them future justice.

In '88 the retirement of General Terry left a vacancy in the highest grade in the army. There is little question in my mind that before this time the authorities in Washington had begun to see the truth as to Arizona affairs. Strenuous efforts were made by politicians, high in rank and influence, in behalf of other candidates, but with a stroke of his pen the President made partial atonement for the injustice that had been done him, and Crook became a major-general. This placed him in command of the greatest of three military divisions of the country, and for the last two years, very nearly, he has been our near neighbor. Less than two years he lived to enjoy his honors, and now within a fortnight, in the midst of earnest effort to relieve the sufferings of his old scouts and allies, in the joy and eagerness with which he was entering upon a new task, one that doubtless would have been the crowning work of is earnest, honest, simple life, he is cut down by sudden stroke. The two Ohio boys who lived their young days and dreamed their soldier dreams together in the old barracks at the Point, who fought the Indians of the Columbia as subalterns in the same regiment, who wore the double stars together in battle after battle in the Shenandoah, who took the field in person against the savage warriors of the frontier, and who successively commanded the great Division of the Missouri, were successively stricken by the same intractable malady. Within two years of one another Sheridan and Crook met their fate by identically the same blow.

It has been no difficult matter to give this mere outline sketch of the services and career of General Crook. It is in the estimate of his personal worth and character that the pen falters in the realization of the duty before it and its utter unfitness for the task. On the rolls of our Commandery to-day are men who knew him at every stage from boyhood to the grave. One of our member donned the cadet gray as his classmate at the Point; another learned to know and honor him while yet he wore the modest bar of a subaltern before the war. Others who followed him in the Army of the Cumberland; others who fought beside him in the Shenandoah; others still who shared with him the hardships of those interminable campaigns by which the hordes of hostile Indians were finally whipped into subjection, and the great West opened to the settlers. In all his years of faithful service the army never knew a man who in every grade from lowest to highest was more thoroughly the friend and comrade of his troops than Crook. Of iron frame, of almost superhuman endurance, shunning no exposure, dreading neither peril nor privation, he taught his followers a Spartan simplicity of dress and diet that enabled them to give their best energies to the work in hand, and to spend months in the mountains or on the trail, no matter what the weather or where their rations. He could ride from dawn to dawn without apparent fatigue, and dismount only because his horse or his followers could go no further. While they slept he would take his rifle and hunt for game. Temperate to the verge of abstinence, he shunned even tea, coffee and tobacco. "They spoiled the nerve, he said, and would touch nothing that could impair his wonderful prowess as a shot. Simple as a frontiersman in his dress, he was most at ease in the worn old shooting suit; and in sixteen years of association with him in the field --- from the Gila to the Yellowstone, in the garrisons of his various departments, as his guest at his happy fireside; in frequent visits at his headquarters --- never did I see him in the uniform of his rank until he lay garbed for the grave, his martial bier heaped with flowers from hosts of loving hands, his guard of honor grouped about him, the sash and stars of a major-general upon his shoulder, and the insignia of our noble Order on his pulseless heart.

And this simplicity of life was but the outward sign of a soul, simple and truthful, spotless as the unbroken snow. The planets could no more swerve from their course than could George Crook deviate one hairbreadth from the truth. Assailed so often by unscrupulous agents, misrepresented by men envious of his fame, maligned by inferiors made of stuff too poor to bear without whimpering the stern trials which he exacted of none more than himself, he would have fared far better in the columns of the press could he but stopped to use the weapons so ruthlessly aimed against him. If the sense of wrong and injustice sometimes weighed heavily upon him, it never wrung from his lips an unjust word, neither gave he ever "any unproportioned thought his act." His country's need, his fidelity to duty, made him for the time the red man's foe; but the Indian was never Crook's worst enemy. Among the hostile tribes his name was spoken first with awe, but eventually with reverence. Once conquered, the wild warriors found that in all the land they had no such friend as he, for his simplest promise meant fulfillment to the uttermost farthing, and they learned to lean upon his word as upon a rock.

And so, too, where not many years ago the misguided journals of our cities leveled their sarcasm and abuse. His life was spent upon the frontier, far from the sanctums whither his detractors crawled and were made welcome. Little by little, as the incontrovertible facts have come to light, this hostile fire has ceased, and communities in which he was daily held up to ridicule have eagerly listened to his straightforward statement of the Indian question and have made ample amends for the injustice they had been led to do to him. His last years were full of hope and gladness. The light was breaking. The dawn of a better day had come. His lifelong toil at last had borne rich harvest of national honor and esteem. The once belittled campaigns in which he led had been pronounced unparalleled in history. The highest authorities of the land had sought his advice and observed his counsel. His health, which for a season had been impaired, now seemed much improved that his letters were full of buoyancy. He had every reason to believe that a few years at least of peaceful enjoyment of his hard won honors were in store for him, when almost without warning the destroyer came.

It has been my lot to stand at the graves of our greatest soldiers, to join in volleys over the shrouded forms of Scott and Buford, to hear the bugle wail its farewell over the clay of Grant and Sheridan, to see the plumed heads bow low in soldier mourning and great cities draped in tribute to the mighty dead; but when the leader and comrade of those stern days of frontier service lay in the last sleep, not a fortnight ago, little children came sobbing to place their violets in the cold hand whose caress had even been so ready, and strong men --- veterans of many a savage fight --- turned tear-blinded away. From young and old alike that sweet and simple nature, all honor and chivalry and gentleness, brave and tender, loving and daring, had won the hearts of those who knew him.

Companions, when in honor you sheathed your swords after the great surrender, and turned homeward to enjoy the peace your valor had won, he re-entered upon his lifelong task. From the Missouri to the mountains the Indian was lord in all; the settler, the miner, the explorer took his life in his hand when he ventured into the great Northwest, or dared the passes of the Arizona ranges. To-day, ribbed with glistening bands of steel, covered with countless herds of browsing cattle, gleaming with the reflected sunshine from the spire of church or dome of school-house, dotted with smiling villages or thriving little cities, spreading to the very horizon a sea of ripening grain, rippling in the prairie breeze like the mirrored surface of our great lakes, pouring into the lap of the nation the wealth of a dozen states, there lies a land which but a quarter century ago stretched undeveloped, almost unknown. Its once savage guardians have long since retired to their reservations; the dust and din of battle, the blare of trumpets, the fierce yell of charging braves, all have died away. Peace, security, prosperity to tens of thousands of our citizens have been won by the struggle of those pioneers of our civilization --- the little army of regulars whose lives were spent, aye, ofttimes sacrificed by hundred on the once wild frontier, and in all America no name can ever be more intimately connected with the westward way of our glowing star of Empire --- no name be held in higher reverence among the red men, or in deeper gratitude among the whites, than that of George Crook.

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Wisconsin Commandery, Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States

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Source:
King, C. 1891. MAJOR GENERAL GEORGE CROOK, War Papers Read before the Commandery of the State of Wisconsin, Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States. Burdick and Allen, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Volume 1, pp. 251-269.

Copyright © 2007 Thomas J. Ebert


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