On the morning of March twenty‐sixth the relief expedition from Fort Ridgely was laboriously seeking to make its way through nearly impassable drifts of snow. Captain Bee had scarcely struck camp that morning when two white men from the Des Moines River‐probably Nelson and Frost from Springfield‐came in for supplies. They reported that the Indians, to the number of thirty lodges, were encamped at Coursalle's Grove about eight or nine miles to the north of Springfield. Coursalle, known as "Gaboo" among the borderers and settlers, was a half-blood Sisseton who was well known throughout the surrounding country as a trapper, trader, and intermediary between the whites and the Indians. With this information Captain Bee pushed forward with renewed energy, hoping to reach Coursalle's before the Indians should leave.

After encountering and overcoming nearly insurmountable obstacles of roads and weather Captain Bee finally reached the trader's post. The grove and its vicinity were thoroughly reconnoitered with no success other than the rounding up of Coursalle and his family. Coursalle grudgingly gave the information that Inkpaduta's band had in truth wiped out not only the settlements at the southern lakes, but also those at Springfield. From Springfield the Indians had gone to Heron Lake, twenty-five miles to the west, and were headed for the Yankton country on the Missouri. Further knowledge concerning their whereabouts Coursalle said he did not have.

Coursalle seemed so confident that the Indians were still at Heron Lake that Captain Bee decided to pursue and punish them before going to Springfield with his command. Having been told that only the dead were to be found at either Spirit Lake or Springfield, he concluded that little could be gained and perhaps everything lost if he should hasten to the scenes of the massacres and allow the perpetrators of the horrible deeds to escape without punishment. Hence "at retreat" that evening he called for no less than twenty volunteers to go on an expedition early the next morning for the purpose of punishing the Indians. The response from the men was unanimous, and when early morning came Captain Bee and Lieutenant Murry with the guides, Coursalle and La Framboise, together with all the men of the command, started out. It was expected that upon the approach of the soldiers the Indians would probably attempt flight. To prevent their succeeding in this, the teamsters were taken along to lead the mules, numbering thirteen in all, to be used as mounts in the pursuit of the fleeing Indians.

The road taken under the guidance of Coursalle led them in a direct line across the open prairie from the trading post to the lake. This open route was taken because it shortened the distance to fifteen miles between the two points. The approach to the lake proved easy, and by ten o'clock the lake had been reached and wholly surrounded by Captain Bee's men so that it would have been difficult for any one to have escaped unnoticed. The instructions were that when the camp and Indians were found a single shot should be fired as a signal for the ingathering of the troops. In about a half hour after the deploying of the men a shot was heard in the direction taken by La Framboise. He had found the place of their camp, but the Indians themselves had gone. The camp gave every evidence of the destruction of the settlements "with all its traces of plunder and rapine; books, scissors, articles of female apparel, furs, and traps, were scattered on the ground." The guides, after examining the ashes of the camp fire and other signs, pronounced the camp to be about three or four days old. If such were the truth, it was plain that further pursuit would be useless.

There was, however, one more hope which was eagerly seized by Captain Bee. Coursalle suggested that possibly the band had moved to another lake about four miles to the northwestward. This lake being much larger and its borders more heavily timbered the Indians might have gone on to it for better concealment. Such a possibility appealed to Captain Bee, who was not long in detailing Lieutenant Mrry with ten men and Coursalle as guide to make a dash to that point by means of mule mounts. If signs there should prove as old as at the first lake the members of the party were instructed to lose no time in returning, since further pursuit would be useless. The dash was made as planned; and signs in abundance were found, but Coursalle pronounced them to be at least twenty four hours old. Such being the case Lieutenant Murry returned to the main command.

It has been charged that Coursalle lacked good faith in that he purposely declared the signs many hours older than they were in order to assure the escape of the Inkapaduta band. Captain Bee, however, stated in a public letter that "Gaboo was in front of my men" and "his whole demeanor convinced me that he had come out to fight", for his life had been threatened by the band. It was also further charged that Mrs. Coursalle was observed wearing Mrs. Church's shawl; but this was discredited by several competent observers. The fact remains, however, that Captain Bee's men approached much nearer the band than they knew—which gives color to the view that Coursalle either practiced deception or was not wise in wood and camp lore.

How near the troops came to the Indian band is disclosed in the testimony of both Mrs. Sharp and Mrs. Marble who were with the Indians as captives. They both state that at three o'clock in the afternoon Lieutenant Murry's men reached the same place that the Indians had left at about nine in the morning. Furthermore, the Indians were even then within reach, being encamped on a low stretch of ground bordering a small stream just over a slight rise of ground west of the lake. They were so located that while the Indian lookout was able from the treetops to see for miles around, the camp itself could not easily be seen.

Mrs. Sharp relates that as soon as the lookout reported the approach of the soldiers of Lieutenant Murry, "the squaws at once extinguished the fires by pouring on water, that the smoke might not be seen; tore down the tents; packed their plunder; and .... one Indian was detailed to stand guard over us, and to kill us if there was an attack. The rest of the warriors prepared for battle . . . . The excitement manifested by the Indians was for a little while intense; and although less manifested ours was fully as great, as we were well aware that the Indians meant all they said when they told us we were to be shot, in case of an attack. We therefore knew that an attack would be certain death to us, whatever the results might be in other respects. After an hour and a half of this exciting suspense .... a sudden change came to us. The soldiers, it seems, just here decided to turn back."

Upon Lieutenant Murry's return, it was decided to give up the pursuit. This decision was based in part upon the report made by Lieutenant Murry and Coursalle and also on the fact that the supplies were nearly exhausted. From this point Captain Bee's command went to Springfield. Here Smith and Henderson were found in the Wheeler cabin where they had been left two days previously. They were in good spirits despite their desolation. They had been visited by Mr. Shiegley who was in search of his boy. These men related to Captain Bee the story of events so far as they knew it, telling of the flight of their companions in the direction of Granger's. Captain Bee at once sent a man in search of the fugitives who were to be invited to return. They were to be assured that the Indians were gone and that a guard of soldiers would be stationed at Springfield for their protection. The messenger, however, failed to overtake the refugees and in a few days returned. Meanwhile, Captain Bee sent a detail of twenty men under Lieutenant Murry to Spirit Lake to bury the dead. Murry went no farther than the Marble cabin where he found and buried Marble's body and then returned to Springfield.

In a final adjustment of matters, Captain Bee left a detail of twenty‐eight non‐commissioned officers and privates at Springfield under Lieutenant Murry. This detail, while only temporary, remained until April twentieth when it was relieved by a second detail which, under Lieutenant John McNab, remained until late in the fall of 1857. Captain Bee reported at Fort Ridgely on April eighth, after an absence of about three weeks.

Dickinson County Iowa Genealogy - The IAGenWeb Project