Captured by the Arapaho,
Walter Glazier was born near Albany
in upstate New York. He joined the Union Army at the outbreak of
the Civil War and was captured by Confederate troops in October
1863. Over the next year, Glazier was moved from prison to prison
throughout the South until he was able to make an escape in November
of 1864. His freedom was short-lived, however, as he was soon recaptured.
Following the war, Glazier wrote a book recounting his experiences
that became a bestseller. His experiences during the war not only
brought him financial independence but imbued him with a wanderlust
that inspired a plan to travel America from coast to coast on horseback.
In early May 1875, Glazier mounted his horse in Boston and headed
west. His journey ended on November 26 when he waded in the waters
of the Pacific near San Francisco. The time in between was filled
with adventure that resulted in another book published in 1896.
We join Glazier's story as he leaves the town
of Cheyenne, Wyoming in the company of two horse herders. Glazier
describes his fellow travelers as "rough men and plain of
speech, but apparently reliable and trustworthy." They are
escorting a group of mustangs to Salt Lake City for sale. As the
travelers clear a rise in an area known as "Skull Rocks" about
thirty miles west of Cheyenne, trouble appears on the horizon:
". . . over a slight elevation appeared
a body of Indians - thirteen in number. This caused us no surprise
at first, as Indians are often seen on the Plains. We soon discovered,
however, that they were on no friendly errand, and were pronounced
by the herders to be a raiding party of Arrapahoes [sic]. They
were decked in their war paint, and as soon as they saw us raised
My companions, fearing that they were in the
presence of an enemy who would doubtless endeavor to relieve them
of their mustangs and ponies, made friendly signals. The signals,
however, were ignored by the Indians, who continued to advance
and gradually formed a circle around us. This is the common Indian
mode of attack. The circle is contracted while a fire is kept up
upon the centre where the victims are effectually imprisoned -
the Indians by rendering themselves a constantly shifting target
are thus comparatively safe from the fire of the centre.
Riding around rapidly and firing at us, I and
my two companions returned the fire over the backs of the mustangs
and ponies which were used as a breastwork. The circle gradually
became smaller in diameter, when a shot from the gun of one of
the herders killed an Indian. A rush was now made upon us, our
arms wrested from us, and ourselves speedily bound together with
thongs. The mustangs and ponies were promptly seized, and we were
prisoners. Further resistance was useless. We were helpless in
the hands of twelve powerful Indians. We were soon ordered to mount,
and the entire party, less one Indian, killed, started off in a
The site of the attack
We rode at a trot until about ten o'clock at
night, when a halt was ordered by the leader - a chief called ‘Lone
Wolf’ - and all dismounted; a fire was kindled and some antelope
meat partially roasted, a portion of which was given to us. We
were all squatted around a big fire, the Indians being engaged
in earnest conversation. One of the herders understood enough of
their language to explain that the discussion referred to their
captives - that the friends of the Indian who was shot at Skull
Rocks, and who were in the majority, were in favor of putting us
all to death for having killed one of their number. Lone Wolf,
however, interposed, saying it would be enough to take the life
of the one who had killed their brother.
The supper over, four of the Arrapahoes approached
us and seized the herder who had fired the fatal shot. They forced
him towards a stout stake which they had previously driven into
the ground about fifty yards from the fire. The whole party of
Indians then, without ceremony or talk with their victim, commenced
dancing around and torturing him in the most fiendish manner. They
had heated their arrowheads in the fire and held them in contact
with his naked flesh, while others, at a few feet from their victim,
cast at him their sharp-pointed knives which, penetrating his body,
remained embedded in the flesh until he nearly died from agony.
One of their number then advanced and shot him in the head, and
this ended his sufferings.
In the meantime, the other herder and I were
seated on the ground bound together and unable to offer any assistance
to our tortured companion. Several of the Indians now approached
us, and dragging me to the stake, bound me to it and commenced
a series of dances accompanied by much gesticulation and taunting
which they doubtless intended as a sort of introduction to tortures
which were to follow. Lone Wolf who at this time was some distance
from the camp-fire, rushed forward and dispersed them.
One of the Indians removed the scalp from the
head of the dead man and fastened it to his waist; after which
they all squatted around the fire again, engaged for the most part
in shouting and speechmaking. I had never before witnessed a case
of torture by Indians and trust I may never see another.
The horses of the Indians had been tethered
by long ropes to stakes. A guard of two Indians was placed in charge
of us, and we were made to lie down, still bound together, with
an Indian on each side of us to prevent our escape. The other Indians
disposed themselves around the fire and slept. . .
. . .At the first streak of dawn, the Indians
in a body leaped to their feet. The herder and I were each given
a mustang which we mounted under the close scrutiny of our guards
and the entire party started northward at a brisk trot."
The Indians and their captives rode for three
days, resting at night. We rejoin Glazier's story as dawn breaks
on the fourth day and the prisoners, their hands bound, see a chance
An Arapaho chief, 1870
"I now worked at the cord on my wrist and found
I could unfasten it. While making the attempt one of the Indians
moved in his sleep, and we ceased our efforts for the moment and
all was quiet again. The opportunity arrived, at length, the knot
was loosened, and the noose slipped over our hands which gave us
our liberty. We knew where the arms lay, and each of us quickly
and quietly secured a navy revolver without disturbing our guards.
We then, together, struck the two sleeping guards a strong blow
on the head with the butt of the revolvers. The one struck by the
herder was nearly killed, while my man was only stunned. We now
made for the ponies, leaped into the saddles, and, before the other
Indians had shaken off their slumber, had struck out with all our
might in the direction from which we had come.
Not many minutes elapsed before a pursuit commenced
in right earnest, the Indians shouting and yelling as they urged
their ponies forward; but this had the effect only of spurring
us to still greater speed. I turned in my saddle and sent a bullet
among them. Another and another followed, and one Indian was dismounted,
but the darkness prevented our seeing if the other shots had told.
The Arrapahoes returned the fire, but luckily without any worse
result than increasing the pace of our flying ponies.
Away we tore at the top of our speed and soon
entered a canyon. Only two or three Indians could now be seen in
pursuit, and my companion saying it would be safer for both if
we took different directions, at once dashed off through a ravine
to the right. One Indian was observed following, but I sent a bullet
into his horse, and this put a stop to further pursuit. I now dropped
into a gulch where I remained hidden until daylight. Finding the
coast clear in the morning, I emerged and set out walking in a
southwesterly direction which brought me to a cattle ranch, the
owner of which, after hearing my story, supplied me with food and
a fresh mustang. Again turning my face to the westward I pursued
my course over the Rockies."
This eyewitness account appears in: Glazier,
William, Ocean to Ocean on Horseback (1896); Davis, William C.
(ed) The American Frontier (1992).
How To Cite This Article:
"Captured by the Arapaho, 1875" EyeWitness to History, www.eyewitnesstohistory.com