Just before Christmas, 1890, the Sioux Indians of
South Dakota went on the warpath.
These ferocious, cheek-dyed warriors had for years
been known for their prowess in battle against the
neighboring Winnebagos, Kiowas, Sac and Fox tribes.
Their pre-holiday enmity was not, however, directed
against neighboring Indian tribes, with whom they
were now living in comparative peace, but against the
white man who had driven the copper-colored man
farther and farther from his original haunts.
What precipitated the attack, usually regarded as
the last of the Indian battles against the white man,
is not known for sure. Custer's last stand at the
Little Big Horn had been 15 years before.
Some reports say that an Indian chief had been
slaughtered by soldiers at the Pine Creek reservation
to which the tribe had been assigned by the
government at Washington. Whatever the cause, the
Sioux began marshalling their warriors along the
south bank of the White River.
Word of their proposed attack reached the American
garrison at Rapid City and the word went out for
volunteers. Among the volunteers was at least one
from Allamakee county.
He was Jim Douglas, who had gone to Dakota in search
of employment, and who at the time of his
volunteering to fight the massing Indians, wass
working on a farm outside of Rapid City.
Now Living Here.
Jim, now 80 years old, lives alone in a two-story
frame house on West Main street, one block west of
the post office. When asked about his adventures with
the Indians, Jim will speak freely, but in the wisdom
of his eight decades he has learned that one of the
prime rules of being a good conversationalist is
being a good listener.
Despite his age, Jim speaks with a clarity of thought
and enthusiasm as if the battle had occurred only
Jim, who knows more about the lore of Allamakee
county in its earlier days than most folks do
nowadays, has relived those intense moments over many
times, as he has sought to establish a pension claim
with the federal government. In his remembering, he
has sought to recall someone who was there with him
and who could vouch for his participation in the
midwinter campaign of '90.
Because of the lack of red tape that war used in
those days when a man volunteered for army duty, no
official records are now apparently [in existence].
For this reason Jim has never received the pension to
which all Indian fighters are entitled.
Jim traveled with a cavalry unit during the two-month
long siege of the Indians' position. He drove an
ammunition wagon for the troops of "H"
company as they marched from Rapid Creek, to Iron
Springs, to Red Brush, to White River and to the site
where the battle was enjoined at Wounded Knee Bend.
A second body of government troops was drawing up
a pincers on the Indians fanned out in Buffalo Gap.
When the brief battle was over, 268 Indians were
counted dead, with not a single white man listed as
missing. This despite the fact that the Indians were
armed with American-made Winchester rifles.
Later Jim drove the Rapid City to Rockford stage
line and eventually came back to Allamakee county
where for years he was regarded as the best
bridge-builder and house-mover in these parts.