Wild Horses-Game Plentiful-Wild Cattle Congregate on Our Route-a Battle With Them-Losses on Both Sides-One Man Thrown Ten Feet in the Air-Wonderful Tenacity of Life in the Wild Bulls-Coolness and Bravery of Corporal Frost-a Song on the Bull Fight
From Ash Creek we marched seventeen miles north-west and encamped without wood or water, except a little fine brush. Wild horses were first seen here.
Starting at sunrise on the morning of the 9th, we traveled to San Pedro Creek, a distance of ten miles, where we nooned. We then crossed over and marched six miles down the stream, where we encamped.
The grass here looked as though it was of no more strength than dry straw, but the wild cattle and horses fattened on it, and it proved to be the best feed we had found for some time.
The bottom land in that region seemed pretty good, but we saw but little timber. Bear, deer and antelope, as well as wild cattle, were tolerably plentiful, especially the latter.
Continuing our journey down the San Pedro, we encamped on the night of the 11th in a canyon. A kind of cane grass grew in this region, from four to six feet high, being very profuse and luxuriant in the bottom near the stream. The soldiers, who went out in advance of the command, passed along the bluffs on each side of the stream and came upon hundreds of wild cattle, which, startled at their approach, rushed down into the bottom for shelter. The animals, congregated on the line of our route, on hearing the rumblings of our approaching wagons, were startled, and some ran off in a fright. Others, however, to gratify their curiosity, perhaps, marched towards us, as if bent upon finding out who dared to intrude upon their quiet retreat. Their terribly beautiful forms and majestic appearance were quite impressive.
Contrary to the orders of the Colonel, as previously noticed, every man had his musket loaded, and a battle followed. In the open ground, where the cattle could see us from a distance, they would run away, but when near us, whether wounded or not, they were the assaulting party. Hence, the roar of musketry was heard from one end of the line to the other. One small lead mule in a team was thrown on the horns of a bull over its mate on the near side, and the near mule, now on the off side and next to the bull, was gored until he had to be left with entrails hanging a foot below his body. One or two pack-mules were also killed. The end-gates of one or two wagons were stove in, and the sick, who were riding in them, were of course frightened. Some of the men climbed upon the wheels of the wagons and poured a deadly fire into the enemy’s ranks. Some threw themselves down and allowed the beasts to run over them; others fired and dodged behind mezquit brush to re-load their guns, while the beasts kept them dodging to keep out of the way. Others, still, climbed up in small trees, there being now and then one available.
Brother Amos Cox was thrown about ten feet into the air, while a gore from three to four inches in length and about two or three in depth was cut in the inside of his thigh near its junction with the body. Sanderson sewed up the wound. Cox was an invalid for a long time, but finally recovered, so far, at least, that the Surgeon reported him able for duty; but he complained bitterly that injustice was done him, and I do not think his complaint was without cause. I saw him in Pottawatomie County, Iowa, a year afterwards, and he still felt the effects of his injury.
Albert Smith, quartermaster sergeant of company B., was run over by a wounded bull, and, I understand, had three of his ribs partially severed from the back bone. He suffered severely for several weeks, but declined going on sick report to avoid Dr. Sanderson’s cure-all, calomel and arsenic.
Major Clowd, our paymaster, had one of his pack mules killed. Dr. William Spencer, assistant surgeon’s steward, shot six balls into one bull, and was pursued by him, rising and falling at intervals, until the last and fatal shot, which took effect near the curl of the pate, was fired. The wounds were as follows: Two bullets through the lights, two through the heart and two in the pate. The Doctor carried the heart two or three days, exhibiting it to all who desired to see it, and relating the particulars of his remarkable adventure. The author saw the heart and heard the painfully interesting narrative of his informant’s hair-breath escape from death or severe injury. Of course, either of the shots would eventually have proved fatal, but this incident showed how severely the animals might be wounded and still live long enough to fight and kill or injure human beings.
Colonel Cooke, in his writings, refers to this circumstance, and acknowledges to having seen the heart.
Another incident the commander relates thus: “I was very near Corporal Frost, when an immense coal-black bull came charging upon us, a hundred yards distant. Frost aimed his musket, a flint-lock, very deliberately, and only fired when the beast was within six paces; it fell headlong almost at our feet.”
To show the cool deliberation of Corporal Frost, eye-witnesses add the following: The Corporal was on foot, while, of course, the Colonel and staff were mounted. On the first appearance of the bull, the Colonel, with his usual firm manner of speech, ordered the Corporal to load his gun, supposing, of course, that he had observed the previous order of prohibition. To this command he paid no attention. Thinking him either stupefied or, again quoting Davey Crockett, `dumbfounded,” with much warmth and a foul epithet he, next ordered him to run, but this mandate was as little needed as the other. Doubtless Cooke thought one man’s “ignorance with some stubbornness” was about to receive a terrible retribution, but when he saw the monster lifeless at his feet, through the well-directed aim of the brave and fearless Corporal, how changed must have been his feelings! The Corporal, who might have fled and concealed himself from danger, stood firm at the risk of his own life to protect his brave though austere commander, not even resenting or seeming to notice the abrupt manner in which he was ordered to run, thus showing not only a brave but generous and forgiving heart. Colonel Cooke gave Corporal Frost the credit of being “one of the bravest men he ever saw.”
Lieutenant Stoneman, quartermaster of subsistance, in an attempt to fire a fifteen-shooter rifle at one of these bulls, by some accident, burst his gun and seriously injured the thumb of his right hand. One bull was shot and fell near where one of the butchers, Robert Harris, stood, who ran to cut the bullock’s throat, when, quick as thought, the animal bounded to his feet, caught the butcher’s cap on his horn and ran off, the butcher shouting, “Stop you thief; I’ll have some beef,” and pursued him about seventy-five yards when the animal again fell and the fatal knife quickly ended all disputes.
The number of bulls killed is not known, but it is probably not less than twenty. Henry Standage and Sanford Porter, who fell behind on account of trying to catch some salmon trout, which, it was said, abounded in the river, on entering our trail, saw nine lying in one place. After stopping and roasting what choice cuts they wanted, they followed on and overtook the command. Probably twice as many or more were fatally wounded; thus making the number about sixty. This is considered a very low estimate; one writer says eighty-one were killed outright.
The following song was composed on this event:
The Bull Fight on the San Pedro
BY LFVI W. HANCOCK.
Under command of Colonel Cooke,
When passing down San Pedro’s brook,
Where cane-grass, growing rank and high,
Was waving as the breeze pass’d by:
There, as we gain’d ascending ground,
Out from the grass, with fearful bound,
A wild, ferocious bull appear’d,
And challeng’d fight, with horns uprear’d.
“Stop, stop!” said one, “just see that brute!”
“Hold!” was responded, “let me shoot.”
He flashed, but failed to fire the gun-
Both stood their ground, and would not run.
The man exclaimed, “I want some meat,
I think that bull will do to eat;”
And saying thus, again he shot
And fell’d the creature on the spot:
It soon arose to run away,
And then the guns began to play;
All hands at work-amid the roar,
The bull was dropp’d to rise no more.
But lo! it did not end the fight-
A furious herd rushed into sight,
And then the bulls and men around,
Seemed all resolved to stand their ground.
In nature’s pasture, all unfenc’d,
A dreadful battle was commenc’d;
We knew we must ourselves defend,
And each, to others, aid extend.
The bulls with madden’d fury raged-
The men a skillful warfare waged;
Tho’ some, from danger, had to flee
And hide or clamber up a tree.
A bull at one man made a pass,
Who hid himself amid the grass,
And breathless lay until the brute
Pass’d him and took another shoot.
The bulls rushed on like unicorns,
And gored the mules with piercing horns,
As if the battle ground to gain,
When men and mules should all be slain.
With brutal strength and iron will,
Poised on his horns with master skill,
A bull, one mule o’er mule did throw,
Then made the latter’s entrails flow.
One bull was shot and when he fell,
A butcher ran his blood to spill,
The bull threw up his horns and caught
The butcher’s cap, upon the spot.
“Give up my cap!” exclaimed the man,
And chased the bull, as on he ran:
The butcher beat, and with his knife
Cut the bull’s throat and closed his life.
O. Cox, from one bull’s horns was thrown
Ten feet in air: when he came down,
A gaping flesh-wound met his eye-
The vicious beast had gored his thigh.
The Colonel and his staff were there,
Mounted, and witnessing the war:
A bull, one hundred yards away,
Eyed Colonel Cooke as easy prey.
But Corp’ral Frost stood bravely by,
And watch’d the bull with steady eye;
The brute approach’d near and more near,
But Frost betray’d no sign of fear.
The Colonel ordered him to run-
Unmov’d he stood with loaded gun;
The bull came up with daring tread,
When near his feet, Frost shot him dead.
Whatever cause, we did not know,
But something prompted them to go;
When all at once in frantic fright,
The bulls ran bellowing out of sight.
And when the fearful fight was o’er,
And sound of muskets heard no more,
At least a score of bulls were found,
And two mules dead upon the ground.