Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Scalped Man

Cabinet card of Robert McGee, who was scalped by Sioux chief Little Turtle.

Available here.

The following description is from the blog, Old Picture of the Day:

Robert was the son of emigrants. In 1864, Robert and his family decided to migrate west, as was the custom of many emigrants of the day, to seek a better life. The family joined a wagon train heading to Leavenworth, Kansas. Somewhere on the trail, Robert's parents died, and he was left an orphan. Others on the wagon train cared for Robert on the trail. Once they reached Leavenworth, Robert, a mere child, was left to fend for himself. At the time, the government was in desperate need of men for the army to protect the overland trail to Santa Fe. Robert applied to join the army, but he was not accepted, because he was too young. Desperate for work, Robert took a job with a freight company to take supplies to Fort Union in New Mexico. In July of 1864 the freight company had a wagon train leave Fort Leavenworth bound for Fort Union, and Robert was one of the teamsters working on this wagon train. Because of the dangers on the trail, the wagon train had a US army escort. The wagon train traveled on the Lonesome Trail. Along the way, the group had several minor skirmishes with Indians, but because of the army escort, there were no significant problems.
On July 18, the wagon train arrived in the vicinity of Fort Larned. The teamsters let their guard down, and became careless. They assumed that because of their proximity to the fort, their would be no problems, and they ended up camping about a mile from their army escort. At about 5 in the afternoon, the camp was attacked by 150 Sioux under the command of the chief Little Turtle. The men were caught completely off guard, and the group was slaughtered.
Robert was the sole survivor of the slaughter, and he remembered the details of the ordeal. Robert had been dragged by some of the Indians to Chief Little Turtle. The chief first knocked him down with a lance, and then shot him with a revolver. The chief then shot him through with two arrows, to pin him to the ground, and then scalped him. As each of the Indians passed him, they beat and stabbed him, and then he was left for dead.
The army at the nearby post heard that there were Sioux in the area, so they sent out a patrol to check things out. The patrol reached the scene of the slaughter about 2 hours after it occurred. They were shocked to see the carnage, and even more shocked to see that Robert was still alive. He was taken to Fort Larned, where the post surgeon treated his injuries. Amazingly, Robert recovered from his wounds. He lived, even though he no longer had a scalp. It is hard for me to even understand how a person could live out there life in such a fashion, but Robert did, as evidenced by the picture above, which was taken some 25 years after the event. Unfortunately, I was not able to determine other events of Robert's life after the ordeal, other than he survived.

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