"An exposure to
the full force and fury of a violent "plains Norther" would
be certain death to any indigenous animal. Buffalo and antelope fly
before it, and seek protection in the deepest and most wooded cañons.
Near Julesburg, I once saw the snow dotted with the bodies of a great
number of snow-birds frozen to death in a storm of a few days before.
Men suffer more than animals. Lacking the instinct of the latter, which
enables them to presage the coming storm, men new to plains life, misled
by the mildness of the ordinary winter weather, expose themselves possibly
in light clothing on the plains, are caught in a storm, and perish miserably
in a few hours."
gentleman, competent and in a position to form a correct estimate, once
told me that at least 100 buffalo-hunters had perished from cold in
the country, within 100 miles of the Arkansas River, in two years. During
the winter of 1872-3 I was in command at Fort Dodge, Kansas. At least
seventy capital amputations were preformed by the post surgeon on citizens
who were buffalo-hunters or railroad employés, whilst a much
greater number of frozen men were sent East for treatment. I think it
safe to say that over 200 men in that vicinity lost hands or feet, or
parts of them . . ."
cold itself is not intolerable. The danger is from the sharp wind, which
drives the cold like icy daggers through the body. Great suffering can
always be avoided, if it be possible to get out of the wind . . ."
army frequently suffers greatly from these storms . . . At other times
some military necessity . . . requires the movement of troops in mid-winter.
The amount of suffering in all such cases can hardly be exaggerated
. . ."
the winter of 1865-6 a considerable command was caught on the Cimarron,
and barely escaped total destruction. An officer who was with it describes
the sufferings as most fearful. Many men were more or less frosted,
and about 600 animals frozen or starved to death."
Fort Dodge, during this same blizzard [1871-1872], thousands of buffalo
sought shelter around the walls of the post and on the lee side of buildings.
At regular intervals artillery pieces were fired in an effort to keep
the buffalo from crowding against and pushing down all the fort’s
buildings and corrals.
hunters caught away from adequate shelter by this storm found themselves
in serious trouble. The thermometer fell to twenty below zero °F and
the wind was howling at sixty miles an hour. A hunter named Happy Jack
and his outfit were camped near Five Mile Hollow when the blizzard struck.
"Every man in the outfit froze to death that night; and there was
also a big Newfoundland dog froze to death lying on the bed."