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By Frances C. Carrington

(Available in the Fort Phil Kearny Bookstore)



THERE was nothing of a festive character to usher in the dawning of the New Year, 1867. The hours dragged slowly and painfully along. Ten days had passed since Phillips started upon his perilous mission and we still wondered as on Christmas Day whether he had safely fulfilled his pledge and whether our earnest prayers for reinforcements of troops were to be answered through his co-operation and his guidance to our relief. New Year's Day, however, was signalized by formal exercises through an order read before the assembled garrison, and the dedication of a well- defined Military Reservation, giving to the burial place of the victims of the massacre a memorial character. Brief but appropriate words were spoken of the departed ones, but they seemed only to increase the solemnity of the day. If we could have felt assured that reinforcements were already on the way to our relief, our sighs would have been translated into a "Te Deum"; but no supernal voice cleft the sky to announce such a longed-for message, and the Angel of Patience alone, in whispered tones, bade us "wait."


But one day there was a sudden, almost a tumultuous, hurrying out of quarters, with excitement and bustle as intense as if we were called to arms against an advancing foe. First, the Pilot Hill picket, and then the sentry before headquarters, and the lookout on the headquarters tower, announced the unmistakable appearance of troops, five miles distant. The bugle-call and the "long roll" were never more gladly echoed in hearts. Our spontaneous cry was, "Open wide the gates, and admit our deliverers." We hardly had patience to don protective outer-garments because of the glow of our quickened blood, and our common outbreak of joy was simply, "At last! At last! We are saved! We are saved! Phillips was saved, saved, for us!"


Can a more dramatic life episode be imagined ! The emotion of joy was too deep and all-absorbing for more than ejaculations of grateful delight, but tear- ful eyes and hand-shaking, with mutual welcome we were soon to accord our friends and deliverers. The band was on hand with its preparations for a share in that welcome and an escort was hastened from the gates to facilitate their arrival. As for myself, I felt that I could have hugged every half- frozen man as he entered, and I still feel that their story as it unfolded would have justified the impulse, if not the action.


And this is the story of John Phillips ' ride : Picking his way cautiously until day began to dawn, then hiding himself and horse in bushes or ravine in some solitary place until the succeeding night came on, he had plodded on night after night, with the greatest of all thoughts uppermost in his brain, "salvation for the perishing!" If not so crystallized in his "inner soul chambers," it was the  very spirit of the sublime truth, that " death means life; sorrow brings joy; and the Cross leads to the Crown!"

NOTE from Historian RC Wilson: Phillips ride to Fort Laramie from Fort Phil Kearny was 4 days, and he arrived in time to walk in during the Christmas Day Dance, but had already telegraphed news from Horse Shoe Station.  He had rode onto Fort Laramie from Horse Shoe Station at the bequest of Frances Grummond.

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