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1864 October 1: Letter from Colonel Dill in Dakota Territory

October 3, 2014

The following letter from Colonel Daniel J. Dill of the 30th Wisconsin Infantry appeared in the October 1, 1864, issue of The Prescott Journal.  The 30th Wisconsin Infantry had many men from northwest Wisconsin.

Letter from Col. Dill.

HEADQUARTERS FORT RICE, D. T., }
August 15, 1864. }

FRIEND LUTE :—I thought a few lines from the 30th Wisconsin, to give you, and the readers of the JOURNAL, an idea where they are, might be of interest to some who have friends in the regiment.

The regiment, as has been its lot since its organization is scattered over Dakota Territory, in four different places, with one company at Fort Ridgely, Minn.

The Headquarters of the regiment, with Co’s A, C, F and H, are at this post.  Major Clowney [John Clowney] with Co’s D, E and K, is about one hundred and forty or fifty miles east of this, near James River, not far from what is called Jumping Lake.  Capt. D. C. Fulton, with Co. D, is at Fort Sully, about 200 miles south of this post.  The post built last fall, by Lt. Col. Bartlett, with Co’s D and F.  Capt. N. B. Greer, with Co. I, is at Fort Union, D. T., six miles above the mouth of the Yellow Stone [sic] River, near the line of Idaho.  Capt. A. B. Swain, with Co. G, was left at Fort Ridgley to garrison that post.

I first arrived at this place July 7th, in company with Brig. Gen’l ALF SULLY [Alfred Sully] and Staff, and my Staff, with a guard of thirty men under Lieut. Howes, on the steamer Island City, which was detached from the fleet for the purpose of examining the bank and country around for a proper point for the Fort.  On discovering this place we at once selected it and stuck up our pole.  I think it is the best point for a Fort that I have seen from Sioux City up.  We returned to the fleet in the evening.  The next morning the fleet got in motion for their destination, the first time they knew what it was.  The boats all arrived in the evening except those which did not get to the landing until the next morning, July 9th.  We had quite a tedious trip up the river from St. Louis, having been on the boats the most of the time from the 25th day of April.  Co. F joined the command at Fort Sully, also, Lieut. Col. Bartlett.

We at once went into camp, and the boats commenced unloading the supplies, when three of the largest boats were put to ferrying over Gen’l Sully’s command, known as the North-western Indian Expedition, composed of cavalry and artillery, about four thousand strong.  Part of the expedition was sent by Gen’l Sibly [sic: Henry Hastings Sibley] from Minnesota across the country ;  the other portion (the larger one) the Gen’l brought up from Sioux City and Fort Randall, all meeting at Swan Lake, a point about one hundred miles below this, where the fleet had arrived some two days before.—At that point the Gen’l joined the fleet and left the expedition under command of Col. Thomas, of the 8th Minnesota, after supplying it with rations and forage.

The expedition after being formed, and was fitted out with supplies and left on the 19th of July moving up the Cannon Ball River, keeping out of the range of the impassable hills and streams emtying [sic] into the Missouri, directing their course to a point on the Yellow Stone [sic] River known as Brazeaus [sic: Brazeau’s] House.  On the third day after the expedition had left, the steamer Effie Dean came down the river, having two traders on board from Fort Bethal [sic: Berthold], who reported that the Indians were encamped, about one thousand lodges strong on the head of Knife River, or between that and Little Missouri river.  I at once sent a messenger after the Gen’l, telling him where they were reported to be.  The messenger overtook him the next day, about 75 miles out, when he at once changed his course towards where they were reported to be.  If he had continued on his course he would have left them to his right about 60 miles.  On the 28th of July he came on them with the most of his force and had quite a spirited fight with them, lasting about six hours.  He states in his dispatch to me that they killed 150 Indians and distroyed [sic] their camp and supplies.  The Gen’l says they appeared so confident of whipping him that they did not commence to take down their tepees until he was right on them.  They retreated into a mountainous country with large ravines, where it was impossible to pursue them.  He left them and returned to his route where he expected to move on to Yellow Stone [sic].  He thought he would get there in ten days from date of writing, which would have been yesterday.—Five boats went up from this place to Fort Union with supplies for that post and the expedition.  It was a question whether they could get up.  I heard from them yesterday by men who came down the Yellow Stone [sic] in flat boats from near Virginia City.  They passed them about 15 miles below Brazeaus [sic] House trying to get over a bar which it was doubtful whether they could pass.  The men report that the Yellow Stone [sic] can be navigated to the mouth of the Big Horn if they can get over that one bar.

Miners report that the country is overrun about Virginia [City] ;  that the emigration is immense, and a great many will necessarily suffer the coming winter.  I think they had better went into the service than ran away from it, as many thousands did.  There is another class in the mines, they tell me, that is not to be pitied—secessionists ;  that it became too hot for them to remain in the States.  A large number of that class went up on the boats this spring.  One boat that part of Co. I was on was loaded with that kind of customers.  Lieut. Buckman, who was in command, had considerable trouble to prevent a collision between them and the soldiers.  One of the fleet of boats sent up with supplies to Fort Union, snagged and sunk.  She was a total loss except the most of her machinery.  One of the four which I had bringing supplies from Fort Sully, snagged the last trip down and came very near sinking.  She was able to keep afloat and went on down.  We have got all the supplies up for this post and Fort Union, and also the supplies for the post at Devil’s Lake, which was to be established this season, but has been abandoned for the present, and the supplies will be stored here this winter.  Our amount of supplies in quite large ;  no danger of suffering for a year to come at least.

We are getting along very well with our Fort ;  have nearly all the outside buildings up, seventeen in number.  Inside of them barraks [sic] for the men and quarters for officers will be built.  There will be 30 buildings in all when put up.  They run in length from 64 to 160 feet.  The Fort is 400 by 500 feet.  Our St. Croix men are the very men to build any kind of buildings.  Trempeleau and Washara county men are equally as good.  Gen. Sully says they are the best body of men he ever saw, as a regiment, and for working or building they excel.

The health of the command is good.  The morning report shows about thirty men sick ;  ten or twelve of them in the hospital ;  the rest slight cases of bowel complaints.  The weather is excessively hot through the day and cool at night.

Capt. Fiske arrived at this post this morning with his emigrant train for Idaho [Territory, now Montana].  There are about 200 teams.

Very Respectfully &c.,
.                      .DAN’L J. DILL.

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