Battle of Battle Creek
(At Battle Creek, Idaho. Now called Winder.)
Prelude to Battle
December air was stitched with frosted thread.
Two miners whistling with an artist's skill
Too late saw shadows--moccasined their tread--
With tomahawks ... Shrieks split the air until
Death silenced. Those who went to bring them in
Heard bowstrings twang, and soon their scalps adorned
The crafty warriors' belts. The javelin
Of pain sharp-pierced the hearts of all who mourned.
"Futile are our peace labors," settlers said,
"We need the giant strength of government."
Fort Douglas bristled at their plea which read:
"The Bannock braves are ruthless ... We are spent."
Tow hundred soldiers led by Colonel Connor
Swift-journeyed to uphold the white man's honor.
Surprised at dawn, as copper skies grew clear,
The Indian camp, but dreaming of a battle,
Awoke when guns barked loud their death and fear,
And all were slaughtered like so many cattle.
The braves and squaws and little children too,
Even the babes in cradle boards lay dying--
Soldiers with bayonets had thrust them through,
With "Nits make lice!" the frenzy in their crying.
Upon the sculptured purity of snow
Death bold-engraved his signature in life-blood--
Weep for the innocent--No more the bow--
Strings twanged ... Dead, mounting stopped the rising strife-flood.
The cold sun, seeing on each swarthy face
The stubborn yielding, lent his pale embrace.
The fallen warriors chanted-slow a prayer
Lamenting power of the guns' hot breath.
Their weird and mournful wailings froze in air,
Then ceased and silence named the victor, death--
Three hundred still bronze faces haunt the years,
The warriors' countenances stoic-proud;
On cheeks of babes remain the frozen tears;
The miracle of grass dims not their shroud.
Though near a century has sped since then,
Those moaning wailings rise--now loud, now low--
From that "ravine of death" and linger, when
In silence of the night, winds breathe and blow
Their lamentations over grain-gold prairies
Declaring that the Red Man's spirit tarries.