A Cold Day in Hell: The Spring Creek Encounters, the Cedar Creek Fight With Sitting Bull's Sioux, and the Dull Knife Battle, November 25, 1876

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9780553299762: A Cold Day in Hell: The Spring Creek Encounters, the Cedar Creek Fight With Sitting Bull's Sioux, and the Dull Knife Battle, November 25, 1876
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After a terrible summer of blood and fire, scout Seamus Donegan finally has reason to rejoice: his wife, Samantha, has given birth to his first son. But the time to celebrate new life is short . . . for the old business of death continues. Phil Sheridan has gathered his officers at Fort Laramie for a war council to prepare the winter campaign. His objective: capture Crazy Horse, the elusive Sioux warrior chief whose exploits have put the U.S. cavalry to shame. Sending his scouts ahead—men such as Seamus Donegan and the legendary Yellowstone Kelly—Sheridan will march his armies north into the valley of the Red Fork of the Crazy Woman Creek . . . and into a battle that will prove as brutal and bitter as the killing winter winds.

Praise for Terry C. Johnston

“Johnston is an authentic American treasure.”—Loren D. Estleman, author of Edsel
 
“Terry C. Johnston has emerged as the great frontier historical novelist of his generation.”—Paul Andrew Hutton, author of Phil Sheridan and His Army

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About the Author:

Terry C. Johnston is recognized as a master of the American historical novel. His grand adventures of the American West combine the grace and beauty of a natural storyteller with complete dedication to historical accuracy and authenticity. Johnston was born the first day of 1947 on the plains of Kansas, and lived all his life in the American West. His first novel, Carry the Wind, won the Medicine Pipe Bearer Award from the Western Writers of America, and his subsequent books have appeared on bestseller lists throughout the country. After writing more than 30 novels, he died in March 2001 in Millings, Montana.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Prologue
6 October, 1876
 
 
“So when does Sheridan say he wants you riding off for Camp Robinson to keep an eye on Red Cloud’s camp?” asked Seamus Donegan, his gray eyes reflecting the pulsing gleam of that dim-red glow of his pipe bowl as he drew smoke through the stem, those eyes then flicking another anxious look at the building fondly called Old Bedlam by those stationed here at Fort Laramie.
 
“He’s give me till the morning,” Frank Grouard answered. Then cleared his throat before he continued in that way of a person about to address a grave matter. “Seems worrying is a man’s part in all of this birthing business, Irishman. ’Specially when it’s his first.”
 
The tall man with the thick crop of beard only nodded, sipping from his clay mug of whiskey, frosty streamers rising from his nostrils in the hoary cold of that night. The anxious father-to-be and the half-breed scout had stepped outside the sutler’s saloon to catch a breath of the cold, dry autumn air. “Aye. But it makes it no easier: I wish there were something I could do other’n this bleeming wait and this god-blame-med worrying”
 
Close by, a woman’s rising scream raised the hackles on the back of Frank’s own neck. He watched that eerie sound cause Donegan to sputter, drawing down on that last swallow, his gray eyes registering grave concern as he gazed with concentration and smoky intensity on the building right next door.
 
Pushing some of his long brown hair back over his shoulder, Seamus murmured, “Maybe there’s something I could be doing—”
 
“Come inside with me, Irishman,” Grouard suggested, gently tugging at Donegan’s elbow. “That’s what you can do. She’s got all the help in the world right now.”
 
“Dear Mither of God,” Seamus whispered as he turned toward the doorway with Grouard, gazing one last time over his shoulder at Old Bedlam where his wife lay—giving birth to their first born.
 
“C’mon,” Grouard urged again. “They’re all mothers with her, every last one of ’em. Ain’t nothing to it—women’s been giving birth this same way ever since the start of time.”
 
His bloodshot eyes found the half-breed’s as they turned the corner of the mud-walled building and stepped into the half circle of greasy yellow light splashing from the open doorway at that moment held open by John Bourke.
 
“Looks like I showed up at just the right moment,” the thirty-year-old Lieutenant called out, bowing graciously low at the waist and motioning the two civilian scouts inside. “We just got word over at Townsend’s that your wife is about to deliver.” He saluted some soldiers as the men shuffled past him into the warm, bright, lamplit interior of Sutler Collins’s watering hole. “From the look on your face, I figure you could use another drink. Can I buy you one, Seamus?” He pounded the Irishman on the back as the three snaked through the tables toward the bar in the low-roofed saloon that sat beside the sutler’s trading room.
 
“I oughtta be doing something other’n drinking,” Donegan grumped as Bourke motioned the barkeep to bring them all a mug of apple beer.
 
“Can’t say as any of us ever get good at this, Irishman,” announced Andrew Burt as he moved toward the trio at the bar. “Lord knows I’ve had enough of this waiting myself. But Elizabeth’s there with your woman, and there’s three others besides, Seamus. Things’ll be fine now. Only a matter of nature taking its own sweet time.”
 
“See there, Irishman,” Frank replied as cheerfully as he could, not knowing a damned thing about this birthing matter. “The good cap’n here speaks from experience. No need to worry. Time like this, what a woman needs is other women to help out what was always meant to be a natural thing anyway.”
 
“Grouard’s right,” Bourke said. “Just look at you, man—those hands of yours, the way they’re shaking. That lip of yours, how it’s trembling. Why, if you poked your nose in there, you’d do nothing but flux things up real good!”
 
“Wouldn’t he now?” Grouard cheered, grabbing the Irishman by the nape of the neck and shaking him affectionately. “Seamus is a good man to have along on a scout, or creeping past a Lakota camp—but he’d be a goddamned bull in the parlor around a birthin’ woman!”
 
As they all laughed, Captain Burt said, “Why don’t you three come join Captain Wessels and me yonder at our table?” He motioned to the far corner where Henry W. Wessels of the Third Cavalry waved them over. “Seamus can keep his eye on the door, where Elizabeth will be sure to send word once Seamus has become a father.”
 
“A f-father,” Donegan repeated as the others ushered him stumble-footed toward the far table where Wessels, Lieutenant Walter S. Schuyler, and two other officers sat sipping at their whiskey or savoring their apple beer, a shipment come up from Cheyenne just that afternoon.
 
John Bourke settled into one of the ladder-back chairs, worn down to a warm, yellowed pine, then declared, “Frank—I want to hear about your race with Captain Jack.”
 
“Yes!” cried Schuyler, like Bourke, an aide-de-camp to General George C. Crook. He hoisted his glass of pale whiskey into the air. “I’ve heard tell bits and pieces of the tale—but not a chunk of it from the horse’s mouth.”
 
Bourke tugged Donegan down onto a half-log bench beside him and turned to tell Grouard, “Start back to when the general gave you the dispatches you were to carry to the nearest telegraph.”
 
Frank set his mug of beer down, savoring the sweet tang of it at the back of his tongue as he swiped foam from his mustache and gathered his thoughts. “Seems now like it was forever ago.”
 
“I know what you mean,” Donegan agreed with a glance at the door.
 
Bourke put his arm around the Irishman’s shoulder, saying, “We haven’t been back here but a few days now, Seamus. G’won, Frank—while our father-to-be is waiting for his grand news—tell us the story of your race with Crawford from the Black Hills.”
 
“You want me to start back when I rode off from the command?” Grouard asked.
 
“Yes. Back to when the general gave you his dispatches he wanted put on the wire to Sheridan,” Burt added.
 
Clearing his throat, Grouard stared at the low ceiling a moment to recapture the chronology of that contest of wills and stamina he had waged against young Jack Crawford. “I was with Colonel Mills when that run for it started.”
 
“In Whitewood City, right?” Wessels asked.
 
“Right. Gone there with Lieutenant Bubb of Commissary for supplies while the general brung up the rest to the Belle Fourche. Folks in Whitewood treated us good when we got there that night way after dark. With dawn Mills would start out to buy up near every bite those hungry soldiers could eat. Before I went off to find a place to sleep, I told Crawford for him to be on hand come daylight—so he could go with Bubb to help out loading supplies and hauling it all back to Crook’s men. ‘You’re to stay with the command,’ I told him. ‘What’re you off to do?’ Jack asked me. ‘I’ve got the general’s telegrams to get through,’ I says.”
 
“Did you know he was buffaloing you then?” Donegan asked, then turned anxiously on his bench as a pair of soldiers bolted into the saloon and hurried to the bar.
 
“No,” Frank answered. “But I had my suspicions: just the way he was acting—trying to go off on his own two times when we was in Whitewood Canyon. But, damn, if Colonel Mills wouldn’t let him slip away from us! Then after we got down to Crook City, Captain Jack said he was going off to sleep at a friend’s camp. Made sense to me—I didn’t suspect a thing. Crawford’s been around the Hills for a long time, so I thought nothing more of it when he told me that he’d be back come the break of day.”
 
“But you didn’t see him in Whitewood that morning, did you?” Bourke inquired.
 
With a shrug Grouard replied, “At the time it didn’t make no never-mind if I didn’t see him. Wasn’t looking for him, I s’pose. All I done was splash some water on my face afore I headed out to find some breakfast. Only one thing on my mind back then: getting to Deadwood with the general’s dispatches.” He patted the front of his shirt.
 
“Were you carrying news for any of them correspondents?” Schuyler asked.
 
“Three of ’em.”
 
Bourke said, “Bet them three each paid you good to get their stories on the wire before any of the rest, right?”
 
With a sly grin the swarthy half-breed answered, “Let’s just say those fellas agreed to make a hard ride well worth my while.”
 
Laughter rose all around that table, then Burt said, “So, I suppose you’re buying tonight, eh, Frank?”
 
As the rest laughed again, Wessels asked, “I know that road as good as any man outside of Teddy Egan. So tell me: where’d you finally find out Crawford was gone on ahead?”
 
“Down at Deadwood, it was,” Grouard answered. “I had them reporters’ money to trade in my broke-down army horse and get me a good mount when I reached a livery at Deadwood. So when I went in the stable, what you s’pose I saw?”
 
Andy Burt replied, “I heard tell you spotted Crawford’s mule tied up there!”
 
“Damn right I did,” Frank said with a scowl. “Asked the stable man where it come from, who brung it there.”
 
“He tell you?” Bourke asked.
 
“Not at first. Looked right suspicious about it—like he’d been warned to lie through his teeth, most-like. Finally he owned up to that mule coming in about five that morning. So I asked him where the man was come riding that mule into town.”
 
“But he’d left already, hadn’t he?” Bourke asked.
 
Frank nodded. “On a goddamned horse the livery man sold him. Making tracks for Custer City without so much as a minute’s wait.”
 
“That was the first idea you had Crawford was carrying dispatches for Davenport?” Donegan asked as he set his mug down on the table.
 
“By that time I was getting real angry, so the livery man owned up to that too. Jack been bragging high and low how he got his five hunnert dollars to get Davenport’s story on the wire ahead of Crook’s official report.”
 
Bourke said, “And here you had just galloped off from Crook thinking you had all the dispatches from every reporter with the column.”
 
“Including that snake-oil drummer Davenport,” Grouard replied. “What that son of a bitch had done to make out like everything was on the up and up, he give me a copy of what he already sneaked over to Crawford—when he give Captain Jack orders to get his story to the telegraph twelve hours before Crook’s official report.”
 
“That son of a bitch wanted an exclusive,” Bourke growled. “Damn his copper-backed hide! Davenport’s made it plain all summer long that he’s had a big bone to pick with the general—but to go behind Crook’s back the way he did like this!”
 
“Army business, that’s what Crawford was fooling with!” Burt exclaimed angrily.
 
Grouard held up his hands for silence, quieting the rest. “In the end, Davenport got his due, fellas.”

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