Jeb Stuart and The Battle of Solomon Fork

Confederate cavalry commander Jeb Stuart had an extraordinary mastery of reconnaissance during the War Between the States. But before his Civil War days, Stuart spent a fair amount of time in Kansas, serving in the U.S. Army. Clint Johnson discusses Stuart’s Kansas connections in his book, In The Footsteps of J.E.B. Stuart.

In the summer of 1857, Jeb Stuart was involved in the U.S. government’s first true campaign against the Plains Indians- the Battle of Solomon Fork. This little-known clash with the Cheyenne Indians took place in northwest Kansas, near present day Morland, Kansas. The Cheyenne had raided a fort west of the area the year before, and the U.S. government had decided to retaliate for these attacks.

For this fight, the Cheyenne believed that they were resilient because a medicine man had given the warriors medicine which made them believe that they were bullet-proof. As a result, Col. Edwin Sumner had ordered the troops to draw their sabers, reasoning that the Indians would feel vulnerable to these “long knives”. This indeed caused the Cheyenne to panic and scatter.

Stuart and several other officers cornered a Cheyenne, who happened to be wielding an Allen Pepperbox Pistol- a .36 caliber, 6-shot pistol. As the story goes, the Indian threatened one of the officers, and therefore, Stuart slashed him with his saber. The Indian then shot Stuart from only a few feet away. The ball lodged in his chest, but not deep enough to kill him. Apparently, the gun had been loaded with a small or old powder charge.

The ball remained in Stuart’s chest, as he later described it as “being so far inside that it cannot be felt”. Some say that it was this battle that Jeb Stuart’s trademark audaciousness in combat would first be displayed.

Allen and Thurber Pepperbox Gun

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