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[The National Tombstone Epitaph, May, 1990]


In the fall of 1865, a group of military officers and staff left Fort Snelling at St. Paul, Minnesota on an inspection tour. According to Samuel J. Brown, who was Inspector of Scouts and Acting Military Agent, "the distinguished party (was escorted) to the buffalo country about Buzzards Roost, a high peak on the western slope of the Coteau des Prairie, about 40 miles nearly southwest from the fort and overlooking the James River flats." At this point in the journey, a large herd of buffalo was sighted. "A prig of an officer, a lieutenant or captain on the general's staff. . .named Scott. . .borrowed the most valuable and swiftest horse at the fort." Proclaiming that he "was going to teach the Indians how best to slay the buffalo," the officer "armed himself with a brace of Colt revolvers, (after) telling the Indians that the long gun was no good." At a signal from the officer leading the hunt, all of the Indians in attendance "began yelling and whooping in a manner that would have put the Israelites at Jericho to the blush" with the result that the "priggish" officer "got excited and dropped one of his pistols, and with the other accidently shot his horse through the head and felled it to the ground."

During this same hunt, an unusual incident befell Mr. Brown himself as he undertook to slay a buffalo, although he was by his own admission "never an expert buffalo hunter". One of his friends, for example, had killed 16 buffalo in as many minutes with a Henry repeater, while Brown noted that "4 is the most I ever killed and had a full hour to do it in."

In this particular instance, however, Brown "noticed in the midst of the scampering herd a big buffalo bull, a very shaggy fellow and one of the ugliest looking brutes I had ever seen." Mounted on a swift horse and armed with a Henry repeater, he "rushed toward the big fellow and drove it from the herd and followed it for about 3 miles, peppering it as I went along, wounding it in several places, and shooting off my last cartridge." At the instant Brown fired his last round something a bit startling happened. Almost "as if it knew I was out of ammunition and could do it no further harm," the huge animal "turned upon me and gave chase." Going at a full gallop, Brown "passed the animal and circled around with the buffalo in hot pursuit, not more than 20 feet away." Under the whip his horse soon opened the distance of a quarter of a mile between itself, its rider and the pursuing bull. Curious as to whether the buffalo was truly chasing him, Brown "hid behind a hillock, where I could be seen only from the top of the knoll." In a few moments, the buffalo "came jogging along up the knoll and ascended to the top. . .stood for some minutes, looking around in every direction. . .At the instant it caught sight of me the big fellow bounded down and took after me as before." One again Brown whipped up his horse "and started for camp, 2 miles away, and soon left the buffalo far behind." Although at a slow pace, the buffalo continued to come after Brown! About a mile from camp he once again stopped in a dry run where he was "partially hidden from view by the tall grass and deep washout." One again the bull came to the top of a knoll, looked in all directions, spotted Brown and "again gave chase, galloping slowly and then walking, as if it meant to catch me 'if it took all summer.'" Admitting to being "somewhat nervous" because of the possibility his horse might "step into a wolf hole or gopher knoll or stumble and throw me off", Brown "put the whip to old Dobbin and dashed off." To his consternation, the buffalo now "started on a run" with the result that Brown "made a 'bee-line' for camp, into which I went tearing with the infuriated animal close at my heels." The day was saved, however, by a companion "who had just got in from the chase and had not yet dismounted. . . (who) rode out and shot the buffalo within a hundred yards of the ambulance and baggage wagons."

It is probably fair to assume that Mr. Brown substantially curtailed his solitary hunting for at least the rest of that expedition!

Copyright Robert Munkres 1981-2009 All Rights Reserved