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Copyright © 2021 by C.J. Petit

All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof

may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever

without the express written permission of the publisher

except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.

Printed in the United States of America

First Printing, 2021


July 19, 1881

4 Miles North of Fort Buford

Dakota Territory


Private Jake Elliott was riding in the middle of the right column as they escorted Chief Sitting Bull to the fort. When they arrived, he would surrender himself and his 168 followers, including his entire family. His company had been sent by Major Brotherton to meet the Sioux when they received word that he was leaving Canada to surrender.

Jake walked his chocolate brown gelding alongside the dispirited warriors. He never had to engage any of the Plains tribes since he enlisted and as he looked at the remnants of Sitting Bull’s once powerful fighting force, he felt saddened. He also had an underlying sense of shame. He didn’t know why, but it was there.

He’d grown up in Montana Territory about five hundred miles west of Fort Buford on his father’s ranch. One of the first ranch hands his father hired had been a trapper named Injun Joe Tamarind. He had to give up his way of life as the demand and the supply of beaver pelts dwindled. Jake learned his tracking skills and how to speak the Lakota and other tribes’ languages from Joe. It was why the major had selected his company to escort Sitting Bull to the fort.

Jake understood that it was the way of the world and that the Plains Indians had been defeated by a more numerous and more powerful tribe with much better weapons. But that didn’t make him feel any better.


Two hours later, after a ceremony in the command building where Sitting Bull and his chiefs formalized the surrender, the fort settled back into routine. Jake hadn’t been one of the few soldiers to attend the event, so he’d just taken the time to care for his horse before he returned to the barracks.

He had just folded his heavy blouse and was laying it in his foot locker when Corporal Templeton strode into the barracks and marched towards him. The corporal had been promoted just six months ago and thoroughly enjoyed his new authority. He hadn’t been well liked when he was a private, either. The other troopers saw him as little more than an apple polisher trying to earn that next stripe.

Jake hadn’t even paid attention to the newly christened NCO as he hadn’t done anything wrong and expected him to pass behind him. But when he stopped just three feet away, Jake knew that he was the about to become the focus of the corporal’s unwelcome attention.

“Elliott, the major wants to see you in his office. Now!”

Jake was sure that Corporal Templeton expected him to pop to attention and say, “Yes, sir!” but wasn’t about to give him the satisfaction.

He replied, “Alright,” then unfolded his blouse and slid his left arm through the sleeve.

The corporal glared at him before doing a sloppy about face and marching out of the barracks.

Jake snickered as he buttoned his blouse then picked up his hat and slowly walked to the open door. As he exited the barracks and pulled on his blue cavalry topper, he wondered why the major would want to see him. He suspected that he was going to be asked to go along with the troopers who would escort Sitting Bull and his band to the reservation. He was the only soldier on the fort who could speak the Lakota language and had acted as the translator when his company had met the chief. It turned out that he hadn’t been needed as the chief could speak English better than some of his fellow cavalrymen.

He took a winding path to the command building across the busy parade grounds.

Once he entered, he removed his hat and approached the orderly’s desk.

“Corporal Templeton said the major wanted to see me, Teddy.”

Private Ted Wilkerson nodded as he said, “Go on in, Jake.”

Jake glanced at Teddy’s face. He undoubtably knew why the major had summoned him and whatever it was seemed to bother his orderly.

Jake approached the commanding officer’s open door and tapped on the door jamb. Jake was sure that Major Brotherton had heard him talking to Teddy, but the major continued reading a paper lying on his desk until he heard Jake’s light rapping.

Major Brotherton said, “Come in and close the door behind you, Jake.”

Jake was startled that he had used his Christian name which also added to his anxiety. He entered, closed the door then stepped before the desk, came to attention and saluted.

Major Brotherton returned his salute, then said, “Have a seat, Jake.”

“Thank you, sir.”

Jake lowered himself to one of the two chairs before the desk and sat rigidly upright with his hat on his lap as he waited to hear the reason for the major’s unexpected summons.

Major Brotherton glanced at the paper before him before he looked at Jake and said, “Jake, you’re one of the best soldiers in my command. In another two years, you would probably earn your next stripe. Your record is exemplary and your knowledge of the Sioux and your skills as a tracker made you even more valuable.”

The praise might have made him proud if he didn’t suspect that it was just the sugar before the bitter medicine. He wasn’t wrong.


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