This is a general question for anyone who may have any input, but maybe more directed at you grahamew, given your obvious interest in Ledger drawings.
In DeCost Smith's book, "Red Indian Experiences,"in one of the chapters he discusses the case of the killing of MacDonald the mail carrier, telling the story of how Low Dog and an un-named companion came to his studio with a fringed jacket that he wished to sell.
According to Smith, the meeting was very tense, and although Low Dog never says a word, leaving all the talking to his companion, Smith immediately recognises him, for even though the wars are over ~ this took place in 1885 ~ the man still has a very bad reputation, but heres the thing, he also recognises the jacket as well, because of its very distinctive cut and style.
Now it would seem from what Smith has to say, that most people he knew were convinced that Low Dog had been the killer, and now here he was wishing to sell that self same coat, which in some ways seemed to clinch it, and so Smith went on to purchase the jacket.
But here's where things get tricky, for one of the illustrations that Smith uses in this chapter, is a drawing by Sitting Bull showing the killing of MacDonald by Sitting Bull himself. In the drawing, we can see where the bullet that he fires hits the man high up in the back, and then exits out front in the exact same spot where the kill wounds can be detected on the Jacket.
At one point, while talking about this drawing, Smith causally mentions that a leader ~ in this case Sitting Bull ~ often counts to his credit all the exploits of all his followers, he then goes on to say that Low Dog was a follower of Sitting Bull at the time.
So here's my question. I've never heard mention of leaders or chiefs doing this this before, although I have to say that in Sitting Bulls case, the drawings of his exploits are so plentiful, I've often wondered whether he could have possibly killed or counted coup on so many foes. So, has anyone ever come across this type of information.
To be fair to DeCost Smith, he was there, spoke a little of the language, knew many of the main men, some of them intimately, so I suppose in one sense, he should know if anyone did.
Post by kingsleybray on Feb 7, 2021 14:56:56 GMT -5
yes, shan, this concept was widespread on the plains: a war leader "counts to his credit all the exploits of his followers". The coup feathers in a warbonnet, and the scalplock fringes on a war shirt, related to all the exploits by a war leader and his followers.
Well, you live and learn, I didn't know that, it certainly helps explain all those warbonnets with long trails and such like. If, and when one sees someone wearing such an item, does this automatically mean that the man must be a war leader? Which ever way, I shall now go back and look at them with renewed interest.
Before the telegraph line was established, letters carried by civilian military personnel and later by civilian contractors were the only communications between the forts in Dakota Territory. These civilian riders were mostly Metis who knew the county well. They knew how to take care of themselves in inclement weather; also they spoke the various Indian languages. The northern route between Forts Totten, and Fort Stevenson was so dangerous that the mail carriers sometimes required a military escort. In the late 1860’s the northern Lakota and Nakota began to harass these forts as soon as they were built.
Charlie “Bobby” McDonald was one of these brave mail carriers. He carried the mail back and forth between Totten and Stevenson. Bawbee (Bobby) as he was known, was described as a light skinned Ojibwa or Cree Metis (mixed-blood of Indian and white parentage), unsociable, but a fearless mail carrier. He was married to Mary, the daughter of the famous scout and fur trader Pierre Bottineau. Bobby fathered three children by Mary. As Chief Guide of the Couriers, McDonald or MacDonald was paid one hundred dollars a month, being well compensated for his dangerous missions. He was young, energetic, and brave.
On May 15, 1868 Charlie’s luck ran out, the Hunkpapa, Lakota killed McDonald and a fellow rider. Their tragic deaths occurred on the north side Strawberry Lake (Lac des Fraises, Section 35, Township 150, Range 80, about seven miles south west of Ŝunkaoti or Dog Den Butte) in present day McLean County, North Dakota. Their bodies were never found. That is all of the basic facts. The tale that follows is full of conjecture. The real facts have not come to light.
The first question asked: ‘who was the man who was killed with McDonald?
The commander of Fort Stevenson Colonel Philippe Regis de Trobriand reported to General Terry at Fort Rice on May 30, 1868, the Hunkpapa, killed two mail carriers named MacDonald and Joe Hamlin. Later in his journal, de Trobriand says that he personally went out to look for the remains of the two mail carriers MacDonald and Joe Elmla. However it is possible that Joe Hamlin and Joe Elmla are one in the same man as many Metis had more than one name in accordance with Indian custom. Some forty years later the name Rolette appears in the Collections of the State Historical Society of North Dakota, (page 180), published in 1910 as the second man. The St. Anne’s Centennial book (page 463) gives a third name, Joe Amlot. Joe paid for some supplies with a government horse hobble some weeks prior to his death. Angelique Jerome (McGillis) and a LaRocque sold the ‘supplies’ in the Antelope Hills (Pierce County). Dana Wright saw the hobble, still in the possession of the family.
According to de Trobriands’ journal, two other mail couriers by the names of Brown, an Irishman, and Joe Martin, a Metis, were captured by Indians claiming to be Yanktonai under Chief Matowakan (Medicine Bear). Both couriers understood and could talk the Dakota Language. They were stripped of everything but their underwear and boots. Because it was raining one of their captors gave Martin an old coat to wear. This coat was pierced by two bullet holes in the front, and two tears in the back. The prisoners recognized the coat as the one owned by Joe Hamlin. Their captors apologized for killing MacDonald and Hamlin calling them ‘men from the Red River’. They killed them by mistake thinking them Whitemen. One stepped forward and said he killed one of the mail carriers; he was armed with MacDonald’s sixteen-shot Henry rifle. The leader (unnamed) was wearing MacDonald’s watch chain; others in the group were wearing other articles of clothing belonging to the two murdered mail carriers. As night was quickly approaching the leader told Brown and Martin to escape because he could no longer hold back his young men who wanted to kill them. Not needing to be told twice, the two half-naked mail carriers made their escape.
Why were the bodies of the mail carriers not found? Some in that time period suggested that McDonalds companion was a miner returning from the Montana gold fields. Charley murdered this unnamed miner for his gold. There was even a reported sighting of McDonald in Saint Paul, Minnesota, but he fled into the crowd upon hearing his name called.
The story now takes a new twist when we discover that Sitting Bull (Tatankaiyotake) when a young man drew his pictorial war record. Among the illustrations is the scene where he depicts killing a horseback rider west of Fort Totten. The mail carrier (?) is wearing a tall beaver top hat and buckskin jacket. Sitting Bull is shooting him in the back, in the left shoulder blade area. These exploit drawings are true facts; no Lakota man of the period would dare to credit himself with another’s deed. Is this rider McDonald? If so, then he was done-in by the most famous of all the Lakota leaders, the name Sitting Bull was later to be known world-wide.
Decost Smith an adventurer and collector of the time period, says that Sitting Bull did the deed. He also collected the buckskin jacket supposedly worn by McDonald and published a photograph of it in his book. Some of Mr. Smiths collected artifacts from the 1880’s are deposited in the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. The second question is: Where is the jacket today? Is it in another museum or a private collection?
The North Dakota Works Progress Administration (WPA) Papers supply more information: May 15, 1868 McDonald and Rolette, mail carriers, killed by the Sioux near Strawberry Lakes, McLean County. [Frank] Palmer received the bag of mail the night before and camped with McDonald. McDonald started back to Fort Stevenson and was killed.
The historian O.J.Libby records in his notebook the following: Charles ‘Bobby’ McDonald’s partner had Indian blood and ran to McDonalds rescue, hearing him call out, “They are cutting me to pieces, help me”. His companion started back, but the Sioux called out, “Go back or you will get the same”. McDonald called again “They are cutting me up alive”. McDonald’s hands and feet were put up on sticks and the Sioux had a dance before Fort Totten in sight of the soldiers. His companion brought the news to Pierre Bottineau at Onses. McDonald had saved up money and told Mary J. it was to be his last trip. He would settle on a farm and stop carrying mail. In his journal, de Tobriand mentions that he was not concerned with Mary being destitute, as her father was wealthy.
The 1870 census published in “The History of Fort Totten” on page 226 lists Mary McDonald, age 27, occupation cook, with Minnesota as her birthplace. Just below her Virginia McDonald, age 3, birthplace Minnesota. The other two children are not included.
The widow, “Big” Mary (named so because she was rather large, but well proportioned) McDonald later became the housekeeper for Ernest Brenner at ‘Brenner’s Crossing’ on the Sheyenne River. This crossing on the Ft. Totten to Fort Seward trail was located in the northwest quarter of Section 35, Township 150, Range 64, Eddy County. Warwick Memories (page 41) gives the names of Jemima and Christina as the other two children of Big Mary, stating that Christina was probably a daughter of Brenner. Dana Wright in his notes says that Brenner later lived with a Christina Charlebois. Mary was buried in the Pincott Cemetery (Ne1/4 Section 1 –T149 –R64W), Tiffany Township, Eddy County, in an unmarked grave.
Centennial Committee: St. Anne’s Centennial: 100 years of Faith 1885-1985,Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation, Belcourt, ND 1985
De Noyer, Charles: The History of Fort Totten, Collections of the State Historical Society of North Dakota,Volume III, Bismarck Tribune 1910(Orrin J. Libby, Editor)
De Trorbiand, Philippe: Military Life in Dakota: The Journal of Philippe Regis de Trobriand. Translated and edited from the French by Lucile M. Kane. St. Paul: Alvord memorial Commission 1951.
Historical Committee: Warwick Memories, Two Rivers Printing, Jamestown, ND, 2001
Libby, O. J. Papers: A85. Notebook Number 9. North Dakota Heritage Center, Bismarck.
Monson, Cherry: Personal communication with local historian. Warwick, ND. 2002.
Smith, Decost: Red Indian Experiences.George Allen & Unwin Ltd, London. 1949.
WPA Papers: Geographical Place Names. Works Progress Administration. Microfilm roll number 30557.
Wright, Dana Papers: A46, Box 7, North Dakota Heritage Center, Bismarck.
Here´s an additional account I´ve found in a 1868 newspaper:
Mail Carriers Murdered by Indians. A letter from Fort Totten, Dakota Territory, dated June 13, says: - On the 10th of June the mail arrived here from Fort Stevenson, escorted by fifteen soldiers. They confirm the news of the killing of Charles McDonald and Joseph Ambler, mail carriers of the Stevenson and Totten road, by Indians. McDonald was from Minnesota and leaves a wife and family in destitute circumstances at Stevenson. The other man was a Red River half-breed. George Brown and Joe Martin, mail carriers from Stevenson, came in with the last mail. The report that on the 27th of May – about a week after McDonald and Ambler were murdered – while carrying the mail about fifty miles this side of Stevenson, at Strawberry Lake, they were attacked and captured late in the evening by a party of thirty-two Indians under Sitting Bull, a Teton chief, noted for his hostility to the whites. Brown and Martin had two horses and a pack mule. These the Indians took from them, as well as their arms and clothing. Leaving them nothing on but their drawers. Martin, being a half-breed Sioux, the Indians talked freely with him. They told all they had done this summer, and what they intended doing. Sitting bull said there were three war parties about the size of his own on the plains this side of the Missouri river, and that they were going to harrass the military posts and watch the different roads all summer. The Indians had with them the clothes and arms taken from McDonald and Ambler, also their horses, mules, &c. While the Indians were engaged in dividing the spoils among themselves, Brown and martin slipped unobserved into a deep ravine, close by where they were sitting, and made their way swiftly to a lake, across which they swam, and then struck out on the prairie in the dark. They finally reached Fort Stevenson after two days suffering on the prairie. The Philadelphia Inquirer, Tuesday, June 30, 1868