Stories of American Heroes - Brought to you from the "Home of Heroes" - Pueblo, Colorado
MOH Recipient C.L. Thomas shares his Story
(The following story is an account of the exploit as told by Mr. Thomas in a newspaper article in 1904. The text comes from a copy that his daughter, Nellie Goss, types from the original newspaper article.)
"Even at this late day, I think it was a great ride. In fact I have never heard of anyone who has equaled it, as it was made on one horse without a halt to feed and only one stop to let the horse drink. General Miles made somewhat of a ride sometime back but he had a relay of fresh horses and stopped to refresh himself.
"By the fall of 1865 my regiment, the 11th Ohio cavalry, was with General Conner on his Powder River Indian expedition in Wyoming. On September 11, Captain Humpfervill returned to Conner's camp on Tongue River from a scout he had been sent on, with about 300 men to go to Colonel Cole's command. Cole's command should have joined Conner's on the Yellowstone River Sept. 1.
"Humpfervill reported that Cole was somewhere on Powder River surrounded by Indians and that with his (Humpfervill's small force, it was impossible to reach him.
"On the morning of Sept. 12 General Conner called for someone to volunteer to go as a scout and find Cole or perish in the attempt.
"I rode out of Conner's camp at 8 o'clock (a.m.) on the best horse I have ever seen. Powder River is 90 miles east of Tongue River at this point, but I had to deviate a great deal from the direct line to avoid being seen by Indians.
"I reached and crossed Powder River just at daybreak. Here I stopped long enough to let my horse drink, found Cole's trail and rode the trail for 15 miles, past two of his camps, then found the camp where Cole had shot 700 head of his horses and burned his camp equipage and wagons.
"About this time, I began to exchange shots with Indians and it was a running fight for the balance of the day. I only stopped long enough to cut a pony loose from an Indian who had got in front of one of my bullets and I led this horse with me for a remount in case my horse should be shot or give out. He was becoming pretty tired by this time.
"My next stop for a moment was to pick up and mount on my Indian horse one of Cole's dismounted men who, unable to overtake the rear guard, had hid by the side of the trail expecting to be found and killed by the Indians at any moment, for he could not walk any further. This comrade was John E. Hutson, Co. L, 2nd Missouri, whose present address is Caldwell, Kansas.
"I reached Colonel Cole's camp about 6 o'clock in the evening. After delivering my message, I asked him why he had shot so many of his horses in one of his camps. He asked, 'How did you know I shot them?' I told him I had seen them that morning. He then asked the adjutant how far it was to that camp. The adjutant said 96 miles.
"As I crossed Powder River 15 miles below, the distance traveled was about 201 miles in 36 hours. Congress gave me a Medal of Honor for that ride and it is on record in the war department.
C.L. Thomas, R.R. 1, Dwight, Kan.
"P.S. - My horse had lock jaw the next morning and I shot him and finished my trip on the Indian's horse. C.L.T."
Article Contributed by Ron Tillotson
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