Forsyth Scouts
Battle of Beechers Island
17-24 September 1868

Compiled by Lee Zion  Copyright 1999 and 2008.

Beechers Island was named for Lieutenant Fredrick H. Beecher, Third US Infantry, US Army, who was killed during the battle related below.

The Forsyth Scouts were organized at Fort Harker (near Ellsworth, Kansas) and Fort Hays (near Hays, Kansas) in August 1868 to help counter Arapahoe, Cheyenne and Sioux raids on the Kansas Pacific railroad (whose railhead was near Fort Wallace, Kansas in August 1868), raids on the Solomon and Smoky Hill stage routes to Denver and raids on settlers in western Kansas and southwestern Nebraska.

Historical note: The chain of forts - Fort Riley (Manhattan), Fort Harker, Fort Hays and Fort Wallace - were established in the 1860s to protect the Solomon and Smoky Hill routes of the "Denver Road." Of these, Fort Riley is the only post still active.

Summary of Forsyth Scouts' service:

25-26 Aug. 1868,
Scouts recruited at Fort Harker. (30 scouts were from the Ellsworth area according to Gen. Forsyth's 1900 account. However, the Fort Harker Quartermaster's report of 26 Aug shows the names of 57 Scouts without any note for location recruited.)
26 Aug,
Scouts departed Fort Harker for Fort Hays arriving 28 Aug. (According to Gen. Forsyth's 1900 account the balance of the scouts were recruited at Fort Hays.)
30 Aug,
Departed Fort Hays for Fort Wallace with orders to scout the headwaters of the Solomon River while in route.
5 Sept,
Arrived Fort Wallace.
10 Sept,
Departed Fort Wallace with orders to counter raid on Kansas Pacific railhead near Sheridan, Kansas (about 13 miles east of Ft. Wallace.)
11-16 Sept,
Trailed Indian raiding party from Sheridan to vicinity of what is now Beecher Island, Colorado on the "Dry Fork of the Republican River." Reported as "Delaware Creek." (Now the Arikaree River.)
17-18 Sept,
Main battle of Beecher Island between the scouts and a force now estimated to be 750 Cheyenne and Sioux who were encamped on the Arikaree near Beecher Island. Four Scouts (Beecher, Mooers, Culver, W. Wilson) killed in action.
19-24 Sept,
Scouts under siege on the island waiting relief.
25 Sept,
Elements of the 10th US Cavalry (Colored) under Lt. Col. Carpenter arrive to relieve Col. Forsyth.
25-26 Sept,
A fifth Scout (L. Farley) dies of wounds and is buried on the battlefield with the other four Scouts.
27 Sept,
Forsyth Scouts depart for Fort Wallace escorted by 10th Cavalry.
29 Sept,
Scouts arrived back at Fort Wallace.
18 Nov,
A sixth Scout (O'Donnell) dies at Fort Wallace of wounds received 17-18 Sept.
About 31 Dec 1868,
The Forsyth Scouts were disbanded.

(General Phillip H. Sheridan's Organizing Order)

Headquarters Department of the Missouri
Fort Harker
August 24, 1868

Brevet Colonel George A. Forsyth,
A. A. Inspector-General
  Department of the Missouri

Colonel -
  The general commanding directs that you, without delay, employ fifty (50) first class hardy frontiersmen, to be used as scouts against the hostile Indians, to be commanded by yourself, with Lieutenant Beecher, Third Infantry, your subordinate. You can enter into such articles of agreement with these men as will compel obedience.

  I am sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
     J. Schuyler Crosby
     ADC & AA

The Forsyth Scouts

US Army regulars detailed to the Scouts:


Brevet Colonel George A. Forsyth, Major 9th US Cavalry Regiment, US Army, Commanding.
Lieutenant Fredrick H. Beecher, Third US Infantry Regiment, US Army.
Acting Assistant Surgeon J. H. Mooers, Medical Department, US Army. (J. H. Mooers was a civilian contract surgeon with a Hays City, Kansas practice. His name also appears as Moers, Moore and Moores)

The 57 civilians employed as Forsyth Scouts as reported to the War Department by Major Henry Inman, Army Quartermaster, Fort Harker, Kansas, August 26, 1868. Reported wages were $50.00 per month with most of the scouts receiving an additional $25.00 per month for furnishing their own horse and saddle.

[NOTE: Those scouts shown (name) have names that differ in spelling among the several rosters of the scouts published.]


Alderdice, Thomas
Armstrong, Walter
Bennett, Wallace
Boyle, Thomas
Burke, Martin
Clark, George B.
Culver, George W.
Curry, James
Davenport, Harry
Day, Barney
Donovan, John "Jack"
Dupont, Alfred
Eutsler, Andrew J. (Entsler, A. J.; Eutster, A. E.; Entler, A. J.)
Farley, Hudson
Farley, Lewis
Gantt, Richard
Green, George
Green, John E.
Haley, John
Harrington, Frank
Hurst, John
Johnson, Edward E.
Ketterer, J. H. (Kitver, J. H.)
Lane, Joseph
Lane, M. R.
Lyden, John
McCall, William. H. H. Scout First Sergeant
McGrath, H. T.
McLaughlin, Lewis A. (McLoughlin, Lewis; A.K.A Gilbert E. A.)
Mapes, M. R. (Mapes, W. R.)
Morton, Howard
Murphy, Thomas
Nichols, C. B.
Oakes, George
O'Donnell, Thomas
Peate, James J.
Piatt, C. C.
Piley, Allison J.
Ranahan, Thomas
Reilley, William (Reilly, William)
Schlesinger, Sigman
Simpson, Edward
Skinner, Calvin
Smith, Chalmers
Stewart, William
Stillwell, S. E. "Jack" (Stillwell, J. E.)
Stubbs, William
Thayer, Isaac
Trudeau, Pierre
Tucker, Henry H.
Tozier, Edward T.
Tozier, Richard R.
Vilott, Fletcher (Violett/Villot/Violete)
Whitney, Chauncey B.
Wilson, John
Wilson, William
Ziegler, Eli (Zigler/Zeigler)


Scout's individual equipment:
Spencer repeating rifle (.56 cal)
Colt's Army revolver (.44 cal)
140 rounds of rifle ammunition
30 rounds of revolver ammunition
Saddle and bridle
Lariat and picket-pin
Seven days' cooked rations
Butcher knife
Tin plate and cup


Troop equipment (carried by four pack mules):
Camp kettles
Picks and shovels (to dig for water)
4,000 rounds of rifle and revolver ammunition
Medical supplies
Extra rations of salt and coffee


The following Forsyth Scouts appear on the list above and were recruited near Fort Harker but reported for duty the day after Col. Forsyth departed for Fort Hays. They followed only to find Col. Forsyth had already departed Fort Hays for Fort Wallace. Due to a Fort Hays misunderstanding of their orders, these scouts reported to Fort Wallace 36 hours after Col. Forsyth departed on September 10th. They were detailed to Bvt. Lt. Col. L. H. Carpenter, 10th US Cavalry Regiment (Colored), September 21, 1868, and participated in the 10th Cavalry's relief of Col. Forsyth's Scouts at Beecher Island on September 25th.


Boyle, Thomas
Green, John E.
Johnson, Edward E.
Peate, James J.
Skinner, Calvin
Stubbs, William
Tozier, Edward T.
Tozier, Richard R.

(Scouts orders received Aug 29)

Fort Hays, Kansas
August 29, 1868

Brevet Colonel George A. Forsyth, Commanding Detachment of Scouts:

  I would suggest that you move across the headwaters of Solomon (river) to Beaver Creek, thence down that creek to Fort Wallace. On arrival at Wallace, report to me by telegraph at this place.

                 Yours truly,
                    P. H. SHERIDAN, Major-General

The Scouts departed Ft Hays Aug 30 and arrived at Ft Wallace the evening of Sept 5 without encountering any action en-route. They did find evidence of many recently abandoned Indian camps.

Additional Forsyth Scouts hired at Fort Wallace, Kansas on September 5-10, 1868, who participated in the Sept 17-19 battle:


Grover, Abner T. Chief Scout
Davis, T. K.

(Grover was also known as Sharp Grover and Jack Grover Sharp. Col. Forsyth's account refers to him as Sharp Grover.)

Two scouts reported sick to the post hospital and were left at Fort Wallace. They did not participate in the battle.


Ranahan, Thomas
Bennett, Wallace

Note: On the morning of September 10, word was received that Indians had attacked a freighter's train near Sheridan, Kansas (13 miles east of Ft Wallace), then the railhead of the Kansas Pacific railroad. Col. Forsyth took his command to investigate.

Determining that a force of about 25 Indians were responsible for the attack, Col. Forsyth trailed the war party into Colorado arriving at what is now Beecher Island the evening of September 16th. Col. Forsyth's Scouts camped in a meadow on the north bank of the river. By this point, Col. Forsyth suspected that considerably more Indians than the small party he started trailing were in the area.

On the morning of September 17, a force now estimated to be in the neighborhood of 750 Indians attacked the scouts shortly after dawn. Forsyth ordered his badly outnumbered scouts to take positions on an island in the middle of the what he thought was Delaware Creek (Arikaree River). The scouts dug in and defended the position against several attacks September 17 through 18.

(Letter sent to Fort Wallace the night of Sept 19th with Scouts Donovan and Piley.)

On Delaware Creek, Republican River
September 19, 1868

To: Colonel Bankhead or Commanding Officer, Fort Wallace:

  I sent you two messengers on the night of 17th instant, informing you of my critical condition. I tried to send two more last night, but they did not succeed in passing the Indian pickets, and returned. If the others have not arrived, then hasten at once to my assistance. I have eight badly wounded men to take in, and every animal I had was killed, save seven, which the Indians stampeded. Lieutenant Beecher is dead, Acting Surgeon Moores probably cannot live the night out. He was hit in the head Thursday and has spoken but one rational word since. I am wounded in two places-in the right thigh, and my left leg is broken below the knee. The Cheyennes alone number 450, or more. Mr. Grover says they have never fought so before. They were splendidly armed with Spencer and Henry rifles. We have killed at least thirty-five of them, and wounded many more, besides killing and wounding a quantity of their stock. They carried off most of their killed and wounded during the night, but three of their men fell into our hands. I am on a little island and still have plenty of ammunition. We are living on mule and horse meat, and are entirely out of rations. If it were not for so many wounded, I would come in and take the chance of whipping them if attacked. They are evidently sick of their bargain.
  I had two members of my company killed on the 17th, namely, William Wilson and George W. Chalmers (Culver). You had better start with not less than seventy-five men, and bring all the wagons and ambulances you can spare. Bring a six-pound howitzer with you. I can hold out for six days longer if absolutely necessary, but please lose no time.

            Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
                   GEORGE A. FORSYTH,
                   US Army, Commanding Co. Scouts

P.S. - My surgeon having been mortally wounded, none of my wounded men have had their wounds dressed yet, so please bring a surgeon with you.

Note: Scouts Donavan and Piley, who walked cross-county, arrived at Fort Wallace Sept. 22 an hour ahead of Scouts Trudeau and Stillwell who left Beecher Island two nights before them on Sept 17th and back tracked the scouts trail.

(Orders dispatched to Lt. Col. Carpenter from Ft. Wallace after Scouts Donavan and Piley arrived. Lt. Col. Carpenter's detail of 17 scouts and 70 troopers was then patrolling the Denver Road west from Ft. Wallace.)

Hd. Qtrs. Fort Wallace, Kansas
Sept. 22, 1868, 11 PM

Bvt. Lt. Col. L. H. Carpenter 10th US Cavalry on Scout

    The commanding officer directs you to proceed at once to a point on the Dry Fork of the Republican about seventy five or eighty miles north from this point, 30 or 40 miles west by a little south from the forks of the Republican, with all possible dispatch.
    Two scouts from Col. Forsyth's command arrived here this evening and bring word: That Col. Forsyth was attacked on the morning of Thursday last by an overpowering force of Indians (700) who killed all the animals. Broke Col. Forsyth's left leg with a rifle ball, severely wounded him in the groin, Wounded Doctor in the head and Wounded Lt. Beecher in several places, his back is supposed to be broken. Two men of the command were killed and eighteen or twenty wounded.
    The men bringing the word crawled on hands and knees two miles and then traveled only by night on account of the Indians which they saw daily.
    Forsyth was well entrenched in the dry bed of the Creek, with a well in the trench, but had only horse flesh to eat and only sixty rounds of ammunition.
    General Sheridan orders that the greatest dispatch be used and every means employed to save Forsyth at once. Col. Bradley with six companies is now supposed by General Sheridan to be at the forks of the Republican. Colonel Bankhead will leave here in an hour with one hundred men and two mountain howitzers.
    Bring all your scouts with you. Order Doctor Fitzgerald at once to this post to replace Doctor Turner who accompanies Col. Bankhead for the purpose of dressing the wounded of Forsyth's party.

                  I am, Colonel, Very Respectfully
                  Your Obedient Servant
                  Hugh Johnson
                  1st Lieut. 4th Infantry
                  Actg. Post Adjutant

Note: The first elements of Lt. Col. Carpenter's 10th Cav. relief force arrived at the battlefield the morning of Sept. 25.

Col. Bankhead's relief force from Ft. Wallace arrived Sept. 26.

Scouts killed in action, 17-19 September, and buried on the Beecher Island Battlefield, Colorado, on/before 25 September 1868:


(Regular Army)
Lieutenant Fred H. Beecher, 3rd U.S. Infantry
Surgeon J. H. Mooers, US Army Medical Department
(Civilian Scouts)
George W. Culver
William Wilson

Buried on the battlefield 26 Sept. 1868:
Louis Farley (died Sept. 25 of wounds received Sept. 17)

(Lt. Col. Carpenter's After Action Report.)

Ft. Wallace, Kansas October 2nd, 1868
1st Lt. Granville Lewis 5th Inf. Post Adjutant


    I have the honor to report that in pursuance to instructions received from headquarters Ft. Wallace, Kansas, on the 21st of September 1868, I left the Fort with 2 officers and 69 enlisted men, the available force in Company H 10th Cavalry and 17 Scouts and a number of wagons.
    The Command was supplied with 30 days rations and forage and my orders were to proceed west as far as Kiowa, scouting the country and keeping the Denver Road clear of Indians. Having reached Fitche's Meadows, 17 miles from Ft. Wallace, I camped finding good water and grass.
    On the 22nd, marched to Big Timbers and hearing that Indians had been seen lately to the north of that point, moved to the Lakes and scouted in the vicinity but discovered no signs. 23rd marched towards Cheyenne Wells on the Denver Road and when about five files west of Big Timbers received a dispatch from headquarters Fort Wallace, Kansas informing me that two scouts had arrived from Bvt. Col. Forsyth's Camp asking for assistance stating that he was surrounded by Indians. I was directed to proceed with all possible dispatch to his aid to a point on the "Dry Fork of the Republican" about 75 or 80 miles, North, Northwest from Wallace. Without delay, I started to the Northward, taking all of my wagons so as to be able to supply Col. Forsyth's party should I reach them, and progressed forward until a dark and rainy night prevented further progress. I then bivouacked, having made about 35 miles to the North, 10 degrees West. The next day about 2:00 PM, I arrived at the mouth of Whitstone Creek on the South Branch or Fork of the Republican, finding that it was a dry sandy stream, supposed that I had reached the right locality, and spent the entire afternoon scouting the country for several miles around. I here discovered the signs and trail of a very large force of Indians, who had encamped the previous night and for several days past in the bed of the Republican. Several dead warriors were buried in the hills close by on scaffoldings, on examination I found that they had been recently killed. One of those was a Cheyenne Chief, not far distant in the valley a buffalo skin lodge stood, covering the body of one of their medicine men, with his drum, shield and medicine stone.
    In the morning, a party of five men, sent out from Ft. Wallace to overtake Bvt. Col. Bankhead's expedition, very fortunately stumbled by accident into my camp. One of these proved to be one of Col. Forsyth's men, who had escaped from his camp. By his direction, I was able to push forward with about 30 men, leaving the wagons to follow slowly but also taking with me the ambulance and a surgeon, Dr. Fitzgerald. We passed over 20 miles to the Northward, as rapidly as possible, and about 10 o'clock AM reached Col. Forsyth's Command on the dry fork of the Republican, known generally as the "Bob Tailed Deer Creek" or Arikaree Fork.
    We found the men living in sand holes, scooped deep enough to keep each from hostile bullets, with 47 dead horses and mules laying around them in a semi-circle. In a large square excavation, Col. Forsyth and two badly wounded men had lain since the 17th, inhaling the foul stench, arising from the carcasses around and being covered continually by the loose sand. Lt. Beecher of the 3rd Infantry and A.A. Surgeon Moores were both dead and buried with 2 others close by. 17 of the men were wounded, some severely. I immediately selected a camp a few hundred yards distant and moved the wounded to a more desirable locality and placed them in tents. Dr. Fitzgerald exerted himself to the utmost in his efforts to relieve the suffering of the wounded as did every officer and soldier of the command.
    26 hours after my arrival the command of Bvt. Col. Bankhead, Capt. 5th Inf. appeared and shortly after 2 companies of the 2nd Cavalry under Bvt. Col. Brisbin. On the 27th, we moved 20 miles to the Republican.
    28th, marched 28 miles to the headwaters of Beaver Creek. 29th, marched 40 miles and returned to Ft. Wallace, the remainder of the command reaching the post on the following morning.
    Total distance marched, 204 miles.

                   I am, Sir,
                   Very Respectfully, Your Obedient Servant
                   L. H. Carpenter, Bvt. Lt. Col. USA
                   Commanding Company "H"


Scout Thomas O'Donnell died November 18, 1868 in the Fort Wallace Post Hospital from wounds received Sept. 17-19. He is buried in the Old Fort Wallace Cemetery close to the grave of Abner "Sharp" Grover who was killed in Pond City in early 1869.

Two companies of the 5th US Infantry, Fort Wallace, guided by Scout Abner Grover, returned to the battlefield in December 1868 to recover the remains of the Scouts buried in September. The remains of George W. Culver and Louis Farley were recovered. However, the detail found that the graves of Lt. Beecher, Surgeon Mooers and Scout William Wilson had been opened, apparently by Indians, and the remains were not found. Scouts Culver and Farley were re-interred in the Fort Wallace Cemetery. When Fort Wallace closed in 1882, The remains of George W. Culver and Louis Farley were moved to the Fort Leavenworth Post Cemetery.

While some scouts saw shorter service and others went on to serve with other units, the Forsyth Scouts were formally disbanded about December 31, 1868.

Captain (Bvt. Lt. Col.) Carpenter received the Medal of Honor for his relief effort and a follow on action Oct 15.

Medal of Honor

Orders and Citation: CARPENTER, LOUIS H. Captain, Company H, 10th U.S. Cavalry.
Place and date: At Indian campaigns, Kansas and Colorado, September-October 1868.
Entered service at: Philadelphia, Pa. Birth: Glassboro, N.J.
Date of issue 8 April 1898.
Citation: Was gallant and meritorious throughout the campaigns, especially in the combat of October 15 and in the forced march on September 23, 24 and 25 to the relief of Forsyth's Scouts, who were known to be in danger of annihilation by largely superior forces of Indians.

Sources: "The Beecher Island Annual", edited by Robert Lynam, published by The Beecher Island Battle Memorial Association, Wray, Colorado, 1930. "Thrilling Days in Army Life", by General George A. Forsyth, USA, published by Harper's, 1900.

For further individual Scout's information See: "Fifty Fearless Men", by Orvel A. Criqui, published by Walsworth Publishing, 1993, Lib. of Congress Card Number: 93-72482. (Excellent book of biographies of the individual scouts.)

An outstanding recently published history of the 1867-1869 period on the Kansas frontier is John H Monnett's 1992, "The Battle of Beecher Island and The Indian War of 1867-1869," published by the University Press of Colorado.

Read General George Custer's 1872 account of the battle.

Return to the Beecher Island page.