1865 · Fort Laramie, Dakota Territory
Excerpts from Butler's letter express his loneliness and stoic bravado with regard to the Sioux and Cheyenne:
"I think you have forgotten me entirely but I will write you this letter. . .. I commence my Indian story. We have had a good many fights with them and have escaped so far, yet I do not know when they will run down upon me. If they do, I will give them some Spencer balls before they take my scalp. . .. It has been so long since I saw a white woman, do not know how they look and won't know how to act when once more among them. I think I will be back next summer if nothing happens to me. . .. I haven't seen you for so long, I do not know how you do look. It has been pretty near three years since I have seen you. . .. When this you see, remember me and I will you. Direct your letter to Ft. Laramie in care of Lieut. S. B. White of Company G, the 11 Regiment O.V.C..".
With the outbreak of the American Civil War, regular army units were transferred from western posts to fight in the east, and volunteer state regiments took their place defending the western trails. This letter is from a trooper assigned to the 11th Ohio Volunteer Cavalry Regiment, which deployed to the Dakota and Idaho Territories to protect telegraph lines and the Oregon, Overland, and Bozeman Trails from attacks by the Sioux and Cheyenne. Its companies were stationed at Fort Laramie and dispersed among other camps along the Sweetwater and North Platte Rivers. During its service, the 11th was constantly engaged in battles and skirmishes including South Pass, Sweet Water Bridge, Mud Springs Station, Rush Creek, Deer Creek Station, Camp Marshall, Deer Creek, St. Mary's Station, Sage Creek Station, Rock Creek, Platte Bridge (Ft. Caspar), Powder River, and Tongue River. (For more information, see "Cavalry Units: 11th Ohio Volunteer Cavalry" online at the Center for Archival Collections: Northwest Ohio in the Civil War.)
Butler would, indeed, have been able to "give them some Spencer balls." Spencer repeating carbines were early American lever-action firearms adopted by the Union cavalry. They were accurate, reliable under combat conditions, and could fire more than 20 rounds per minute.
Letters from the Dakota Territory in the 1860s are scarce, and those from the famous 11th Ohio Cavalry that mention fighting with the Cheyenne or Sioux even more so. At the time of this listing, nothing similar is for sale in the trade. Rare Book Hub shows no auction results for similar items. OCLC shows the Denver Public Library holds the papers of Colonel William O. Collings, the commander of the regiment, otherwise no similar items are in institutional collections. (Inventory #: 009617)