The Captured Dead
The dark of the night pressed in around the warriors, save the light of the fire carving a shelter out of the liquid darkness that surrounded and threatened to drown them. Each was dressed in brightly colored shirts of red, yellow or blue buckskin. Medicine shirts the shaman Isatai had given them. They huddled around the fire looking glum. They couldn’t even look at each other. All they could do was stare into the flames. It was early June, it must have been warm, but they all huddled in close to the fire trying to gain its warmth. The white man had driven them to this, into the night.
“Why are you not dancing, celebrating?” Isatai asked. “What you have done today is a very brave thing.”
“We did a terrible thing, the wasichu will kill us all,” said one warrior.
“It will bring the soldiers,” said another.
“They will outnumber us, and their bullets are faster than our arrows.”
“The wasichu believe they can take this country, but they have grabbed a rattlesnake and like grabbing a snake soon it will unwind and strike at them and shake off their grasp.”
“How will this happen?”
“Have you no faith?” Isatai asked, “did not the medicine shirts I’ve given you protect you from the wasichu bullets today?”
“They were farmers, gatherers not warriors.”
“The soldiers are many. Like the buffalo were, now are the soldiers.”
“Did I not predict the drought? Did I not ascend to heaven to visit the Great Spirit and look down on the wasichu’s god? The Great Spirit gave me the power to defeat the wasichu. And yet you do not believe?” The warriors all sat, unbelieving. “I will show you. Look into the flames and you will see.” Isatai started chanting, drums pounding, the rhythm gathered and met the beat of their hearts, and that sound matched their thoughts. It was one sound they could hear, then they felt a deep pounding of hooves vibrating through their bodies. As they stared into the fire they saw the face of a great buffalo, its mane, flame. It grew in their eyes, engulfing them in its spirit, the vision raced through their hearts like an engine. They believed. “What we have done today will bring the soldiers,” Isatai said, “the dead will come to protect us.”
The wagon train wandered aimlessly like a ghost ship over the prairie which stretched out in front of it like the sea, the earth as uneven as the waves, the prairie as unknowable as the depths of the sea, the wagon train rumbled over the hard brown ground. The horses followed the trail etched into the hard earth by countless other wagon trains almost imperceptible to man’s eyes. Most couldn‘t see it until they were shown the signs. The horses pulled their loads of wagons and supplies inevitably forward, without destination. Its destiny to never arrive. The Indian scout didn’t see any of the settlers through his spy glass, he handed it to the General on the horse next to him. Sherman looked through the spyglass, surveying the horizon. He didn’t see anything other than what was there, desert. More scrub than brush, he thought as he surveyed the horizon.
“Nothing there,” he said, handing the spyglass back to the scout.
Sherman’s grizzled countenance looked like he was perpetually in pain, his beard seemed more a moss that covered the crags of his face. He pulled at the top button of his blouse, unbuttoning it. Summer was coming and it was getting hot, and wearing the dark blue blouse only made it seem hotter. Puffs of dust billowed out of everything with just a touch, the leather of his saddle creaked as he unconsciously adjusted himself. He was more used to life in the saddle, and the trail, of campaigns, too many and bloody. What he’d seen in his years in the war between the states, what he had done to win the war, some vilified him as a criminal, others a hero. The war had carried him to the edge of madness and back. He imagined it had pushed some of his enemies over that barrier too. His mind had become hardened by the horrors of war, but the Union still existed and that’s all that counted. Now he had another job to do, another war. Not a declared war in the way the War Between the States was, but a war nonetheless. End the Indian problem, get them on reservations or kill them as renegades. He was here to finish the job and finish it he would. The scout with him was wearing a blue blouse, stripped of all insignias. The Indian scouts liked wearing the blouse, it made them feel like they were soldiers. Some even wanted to be sworn in, so he swore them in. It didn’t matter a bit, it was an illusion Sherman could live with and the Indians thought they were soldiers. The Indian wore the blouse open to the waist, as a savage will. Underneath, a necklace and some trinkets, he had two feathers braided in his unkempt hair. Sherman looked at the scout contemptuously. He didn’t trust them, after all they betrayed their own people and were helping hunt the renegades down.
“Sir, it must not have happened long ago, the wagons are still grouped closely together, the horses haven’t pulled them all over tarnation.” Sherman signaled his adjutant, who gave the command, “forward!” The company moved towards the ghostly wagon train in unison behind Sherman like a snake moving across the desert.
The soldiers approached the wagon train cautiously, expecting an ambush. The wagon train a mere lure to pull them in and in the course of trying to figure out what had happened, out of nowhere the warriors would appear. Coming within eyesight of the wagon train it looked abandoned. They could see arrows everywhere, in the canopies of the wagons, in the wooden planking, and in the flanks of horses. As the soldiers came alongside the wagons they could see the buckboards were awash in blood.
“God almighty, lookit all that blood. How could they survive that?”
“Quiet in the ranks!” Sherman barked. “Where are the dead? They usually leave them where they fall. Colonel Mackenzie, take a squad of men and back track, see if you can find where the savages attacked.”
“Yes, Sir!” Mackenzie saluted smartly and motioned to a few men and they galloped off in the direction the wagon train had come from. Sherman motioned to the scout.
“Look in those wagons, see what’s left behind.” The scout jumped off his horse and looked into the back of the nearest wagon. When he turned back to Sherman he was somber, “they’re in there.”
“The people, they’re dead.” Sherman motioned to another man.
“Check all the wagons!” Soldiers galloped to the wagons looking in, then a few jumped off their mounts, looked ashen and fell to the ground retching. A sergeant went to a lieutenant and whispered something to him. Sherman watched all this from atop his horse waiting for the lieutenant to make his report. The lieutenant approached Sherman, he was grim faced.
“They’re all there, sir, they’re all dead. They crammed all the bodies into the wagons, sir. They twisted their legs, and bent over torsos to make them fit.”
“Your men have never seen the dead?” Sherman asked.
“It’s worse sir.”
“They mutilated them. They chopped off their privates and stuffed them into their mouths. Some are disemboweled with their intestines draped over them. I think one has the top of his head chopped off and his brains scooped out.”
“I’ll never understand the Indian mind,” Sherman said. “When did this happen?”
“By the ripeness of the bodies, sir, some time yesterday.”
Sherman’s adjutant, Colonel Mackenzie, whom Sherman had dispatched to back track the wagon train returned pulling his horse up short of the general.
“Sir, it wasn’t that far back the attack occurred, all we found were some arrows in the ground and pools of congealed blood.”
“That’s all right Mackenzie we found them, look in the wagons.” Then almost absently, to no one, Sherman muttered, “I wonder what made them do this?”
“They wanted us to find them,” the scout said.
Sherman rode at the head of the column as they headed back across the desert floor towards their encampment. The orange sun was hanging low in the sky. In the distant haze Sherman saw dust being kicked up like something big was behind it, he squinted, but couldn’t see through the haze any better.
“Give me that spyglass,” he said holding out his hand, knowing without even having to think about it that the order would be obeyed. The scout handed Sherman the spyglass, he opened it and looked in the direction of the haze. All he could see was a wall of dust. He peered into the gloom, suddenly it parted. He could see the brown bulk of buffalo behind the dust, bobbing up and down like a living locomotive. There shouldn‘t be a herd that big this far south he thought to himself. But he could almost hear the pounding thunder of hooves, and the thrumming vibration in his chest. He saw the mane of the lead animal, he couldn’t be sure, he looked again, he thought the mane was aflame, but it couldn’t be. Still it looked like the herd was heading straight towards them. He thought the buffalo was looking him right in the eye, that it would run right through him. “We better find camp before that herd runs us down.”
“Herd?” The scout asked, “herd of what?”
“That buffalo herd.” Sherman said pointing out to the plain.
“Sir, there isn’t a herd of buffalo anywhere near here.” When he looked out at the plain again he saw nothing. What he had seen or thought he saw seemed to have evaporated into the haze of the horizon. The wall of dust had disappeared leaving only the fading sun.
Among a grove of pitched tents, Sherman’s stood larger than the others. It doubled as his field command center and would be considered by his men luxurious with a cot, desk, and a couple of canvas field chairs. Sherman sat outside the tent in one of the chairs. The night on the plain was a dark blanket of liquid black that was only cut through by the camp fire’s light. He stretched out his legs towards the fire, a tin of coffee in one hand, cigar in the other. He mulled over what he’d seen on the desert earlier in the evening. It couldn’t have been a herd of buffalo. He thought his eyes must’ve been playing tricks on him, a reflection of the setting sun in the lens of the spyglass, perhaps. Or worse yet, his mind was playing tricks on him again. Maybe the slaughter of the settlers had affected him more than he thought, and it had unsettled his mind…. Sherman had ordered the scout to report to him.
“Are the Comanche that committed that atrocity upon those homesteaders near here?”
“I don’t know.”
“What I saw on the desert or what I thought I saw…”
“What did you see?”
“A herd of buffalo.”
“The white man has killed the buffalo, there are no more herds near here.” Sherman growled at the scout, “I know there are no herds near here. I made sure as many of the buffalo are gone as it can get. Have you seen the photograph of the stacked skulls of buffalo, a pyramid of bone on the brown prairie ground? Done on my orders. Kill off the buffalo and you kill off the Indian’s way of life, kill off them.”
“It is said by the shamans of our people that at dusk the horizon is where the visible world meets the invisible.”
“What’s a shaman?”
“What you call a medicine man.”
Sherman stared at the Indian, “I don’t understand why you help us track down your own people.”
“The renegades are not our people they’re of a different tribe.”
“You’re all Indians.”
“Do you not get along with members of other nations? Did you not fight amongst your own people?”
“I have hunted down a fair amount of my own people some were even friends, but it was a war. I don’t think your savage mind can comprehend the difference between war and betrayal.”
“I am not as educated such as you.”
“I do know that warring states at war know a lot about each other, their habits, their customs. Do you know what those renegades may be up to?”
“It’s hard to know what they will do.”
“Do you know if they‘re planning an attack?
“I cannot tell the future.”
“Do you know where those Indians are?”
“It’s a full moon tonight.” Sherman stared at him unknowingly. “If they’re planning an attack they’ll be dancing tonight.”
“I want to reconnoiter them, can we get close to them?”
Sherman threw his cigar to the ground with a determined look of intensity on his face. “Let’s go take a look.”
Sherman and the Indian scout lay flat on a ledge overlooking the renegade Indian encampment, hoping the darkness would conceal their position. That they would look like part of the rock. They could see the glow of the campfire. It didn’t throw off much illumination to the surrounding area, it was nothing more than a yellow triangle in the sea of darkness. Embers from the fire occasionally popping and shooting up into the night before dying out. Sherman and the scout silently watched the shadow figures as they moved in and out of the light.
“What are they doing?” Sherman asked.
“It looks like they’re getting ready to do the ghost dance, it‘s supposed to bring back the buffalo and….”
“I know what it’s supposed to do.” Sherman snapped tersely, “bring back the buffalo and get rid of the white man.”
“Shhh,” the scout said pointing down to the camp. Sherman saw the figures had stopped moving around the fire and now sat in a circle drumming. They could see their arms moving up and down in rhythmic unison. Soon they heard the sound and chanting. To Sherman there seemed to be a solemnity to it. Then an Indian dressed in ceremonial robes slipped out of a Tipi and began dancing.
The scout watched the dance intently. Then a look of horror overcame the scout.
“We must go now, General.”
“What for? It’s just a ghost dance?” Then Sherman saw the look of terror in the Indian’s eyes. He’d seen the look in the eyes of hundreds, maybe thousands of people who thought they were going to die. It was a look he‘d seen in his own eyes once. “All right then.” The two slowly and carefully crawled back off their vantage point, over sun hardened sand and rock grinding under their bellies as they noiselessly slithered off the overlook. When the two were safely away from the Indian camp the Indian asked.
“General you don’t know about the rest of the Ghost Dance?”
“Yeah, it’s supposed to get rid of the white man.”
“No, there’s more.”
“It’s suppos’ to bring back the dead.”
“Bring back the dead?” Sherman considered that for a moment and then was resolute.
“It’s to break your enemy’s heart.”
“The south didn‘t break me, no damned Indians are. Let them dance to whatever god they have. We’ll stop them before they can conjure their damned heathen ghosts and spirits. We’ll attack at dawn.”
“You believe in the power of the Ghost Dance General?”
“Hell, no!” Sherman spat out, “but they do and I’ll kill the belief right out of them.”
The next morning Sherman roused the company early, crossing the floor of the desert to meet the group of Comanches to engage them before they had a chance to attack. As they approached they could see the Indians riding out in front, behind them the brown haze he had seen the day before when he saw the herd of buffalo. Sherman stopped, pulled out his field glasses. He saw the heathens had painted on their horror war paint, but the haze wasn’t from their horses. There weren’t enough of them to kick up that much dust, and the haze was farther behind the Indians than it should’ve been even if it was from their horses. It was separate from them, but it was following them! He tried to peer into the haze. Maybe there was a herd of bison here, somehow. He could see movement inside the haze but there was no definition to it, just movement. Sherman made a decision. In one motion he unsheathed his sword, spurred his horse to a gallop and charged! He rode past the Indians and into the haze. Inside there seemed to be a whole regiment of warriors dressed in their paint and war clothes, screaming their war cries. Sherman galloped straight at the braves, slashing with his sword knocking them off their horses. As Sherman fought he noticed something was wrong with these Indians, they didn’t look right, their color was off, even the color of their horses was off, and they were faded, drab. They smelled of rot and decay, the smell of the dead. Sherman shrugged it off, a battlefield always had the smell of death, and bodies rotting in the sun with drying gore kicked up in the dust by the horses’ hooves. The horses breathed vaporous blasts of visible breath. He came close to one and felt its breath through his blouse. It froze his skin. There was something repellent about it, of the grave. The Indians weren’t acting right either. When they were knocked off their horses, shot, or wounded with a slash of a sword, they fell and then got back up and continued the fight. Sherman didn’t see any blood, but maybe it was the heat of battle and later he would see the gore when he surveyed the sanguinary scene. There was one other thing that ran a shiver down Sherman’s spine, he recognized the Indians. Indians he had killed in other battles…but that couldn’t be so. Sherman looked up at the surrounding ridge, there on their horses were Indians in full war regalia. He recognized the medicine man and his warriors calmly watching the battle, just watching.
Suddenly the realization of horror passed through his mind, his body shook, the scouts words of the Ghost Dance ringing in his ears, ’it couldn’t be.’
Sherman barked out to his bugler, “Sound retreat! Now!” Sherman commanded. The bugler sounded retreat, Sherman pulled on the reins to turn the horse, it reared, whinnying and almost threw him. The horse bolted and Sherman thundered off the field of battle.
Shaken, Sherman sat in his tent drinking whiskey when Mackenzie came in.
“General, you shouldn’t let those heathens get to you. Why did you call a retreat?”
“Didn’t you see them Mackenzie?”
“Yes sir, we saw the Indians. As we approached the contingent of warriors, just as we were about to engage them, you spurred your horse, and drew your sword. The Indians moved aside as you charged passed them, then you sounded the retreat and left the field.”
“That’s all that happened?”
“That’s all that happened.”
“No.” He said to himself, his mind flooding with questions and answers that he feared, the world pressing down on him. His face frozen in shock as he unconsciously took a step backward away from Mackenzie. Sherman then regained his composure enough to dress down the man, “I never did anything that cowardly! If you repeat an accusation like that again I’ll bring you up on charges of insubordination.”
“Mackenzie, can I ask you something?” Mackenzie stood at attention, eyes straight ahead, “Are those Indians acting right to you?”
“Those Indians aren’t behaving right. Why are they forming a skirmish line? Usually they ambush, coming out of nowhere and in groups that attack different parts of our line.”
“Maybe they aren’t as savage as we think and they’ve realized it’s a more civilized way to engage your enemy.” Sherman considered for a moment.
“In this terrain? No, ambush is a better tactic. They know this land, know the hidden valleys, ravines, plenty of places to hide. They could attack us seemingly appearing out of nowhere, and disappear again. No…” Then as if hit with a sudden realization of his fears, “no, they’re doing it to draw us out…why?” Sherman’s voice and thoughts trailed off. Then he snapped, “get that scout in here!”
A few minutes later the scout appeared at Sherman’s tent. “Come in,” Sherman said, as he paced the small space of the tent, his movements agitated as he nervously spoke.
“Do some Indians paint themselves to look dead?”
“I have never heard of such a thing.”
“You told me the Ghost Dance can bring back the dead. How?”
“How am I to know? I am not a shaman”
“I’ve been seeing things. The herd of buffalo and today Indian warriors I could’ve sworn were dead, but the dead can’t fight.”
“The shaman has many powers we do not understand.”
“Do you expect me to believe that superstitious claptrap that you told me that medicine man is bringing back the dead?”
“I am not a spiritual man, I do not know the spirit world, the shaman does. We have great respect for them.” Sherman glared at him.
“I am not a spiritual man either. But this country is our destiny, the Indian needs to be on a reservation, or be wiped away. They’re supposed to be gone but they aren’t. I’ll make sure they’re gone, I’ll make sure they’re all gone.
“Why do you hate the Indian so much?”
“We’ve come to this country to pacify it and the Indians are in the way. The Indian needs to be on a reservation so the white man can farm the land and make it useful.”
“I hear talk your men say your name is after a great Indian leader Tecumseh.”
“Yes, Tecumseh was a great leader my father admired him. He thought naming me after him would imbue those qualities in me.”
“Are you a great leader killing all the people?” Sherman was speechless at the impertinence of the scout. “You wasichu don‘t see the dead, we see the dead of our past. You don’t remember your blood is of the sea, your bone is of the earth, the land does not belong to you; you belong to the land. We‘re connected to the land, even the world you cannot see or refuse to see. Your people consider it madness, maybe the shaman opened your eyes to see the dead.”
Sherman and the detachment approached the Indian war party. The warriors were dressed in their medicine shirts of blue, red, and yellow and painted for war. Sherman didn’t see the brown haze behind the Indian party and felt more at ease. They continued their cautious approach. Suddenly the haze seemed to manifest behind the Indians, highlighting their silhouettes against the cloud. Sherman looked up and down his line of men none of whom seemed to have taken notice of the haze, but he kept his composure. He didn’t call for a charge, he kept calm even though his nerves were like an electric pulse running through him. Suddenly, the Indians in a singularly fluid movement prodded their horses into a gallop. In his own seamless movement Sherman drew his sword from the scabbard, raised it above his head, and simultaneously he and his troops spurred their horses into a charge. As they closed, the Indians started firing their rifles, bullets whizzed past. Sherman’s men returned fire, then the forces clashed and Sherman and his men were in the midst of the Indian war party. There was fighting all around him, but no one came close to him. It was as if he were in a bubble, the fighting raged around him, he passed through the battle, the combatants moved aside like the waters parting for the Israelites. He moved through the Indian war party, but they drew away from him. As he neared the rear he saw the haze, he could see movement, and he was drawn to it. As he got closer, the movement seemed more concrete and then became clear. There was a second skirmish line, but they weren’t Indians they were soldiers in confederate gray. Their uniforms were in tatters, ripped from what looked like bayonet slashes. Holes in the uniforms, the edges of which smoldered as if a hot round had just penetrated the fabric, some of the wounds oozed a blackened gore. The Confederates came towards him, arms outstretched like they were going to pull him off his mount. Suddenly, the horse reared so much that he almost fell off, then he was surrounded by four of his men, the blue blouses reassuring from what was just beyond them. With their help he reined in his usually unflappable horse and led him out of the fray.
Mackenzie escorted Sherman back to his tent. The usually stoic Sherman looked scared down to his soul. Mackenzie maneuvered Sherman through the camp so as few men as possible saw him in this state.
“Thank you Colonel for coming to my assistance in the mass of the enemy.”
“I was surrounded.”
“Surrounded? The Indians had moved off the field and then we saw your horse rearing like something had spooked it. I sent in a guard to calm the horse. It didn’t look like…” Mackenzie hesitated, not sure how Sherman would receive his report.
“Didn’t look like what?” Sherman asked gruffly.
“If you don’t mind me saying, sir…it just looked like your horse was spooked. If you had fallen you would have been susceptible to attack.”
“You didn’t see the men…dressed in…”
“Confederate gray, some of them looked like rounds had passed through their clothing.” Sherman saw the uncomprehending look on his adjutant’s face.
“Didn’t you see them? They looked like they weren’t alive, they were dead! We were fighting the dead!”
“The dead sir?”
“You didn’t see those apparitions?”
“We just saw the Indians and none had anything on resembling confederate gray.”
“Am I going mad? What’s happening here Mackenzie?” Sherman’s voice bordered on the hysterical.
“Other than trying to round up the renegades…”
“It was the curse of my mother’s people, I always feared it. I fought it all my life, but now it may be coming to pass.”
“Mackenzie, our profession courts death, madness is always just over the next rise, the next hillock…” Sherman’s voice dropped off, “I’m out in that landscape wavering between madness and sanity. Be careful Mackenzie you don’t cross over that rise and find yourself in the arid desert of madness … I fear it is this desert for me.”
“I’ll call the medic sir.”
The medic gave Sherman some morphine to settle his nerves and help him sleep, but his fevered dreams broke through the drug. He saw a city at a distance, it was illuminated by the glow of the fire. Flames danced in the night above the city. He could feel the heat from his vantage point. Refugees streamed out of the city like blood from a wound, their clothes singed and burned. Ash fell like a dark snow in the wake of their step, the flames of Atlanta burned in their eyes with their hatred of him. Not far behind them trailed Indians, their eyes charred black with still burning embers visible through cracks and fractures.
Sherman woke bolt upright in his cot, drenched in sweat. He looked around to get his bearings to remember where he was and reassure himself the dream had only been a dream. He swung his legs over the side of the cot, his head in his hands trying to clear the memories, the captured dead of his memories straight out of his mind. The dead of Atlanta still haunting him. He knew they were all dead and they’d stay dead, but they wouldn’t stay dead in his mind. Maybe he really was going insane. Sherman looked up noticing Mackenzie had been sitting vigil over him.
“How long have you been here Mackenzie?”
“All night sir. The doctor thought it a good idea for somebody to stay with you in case you needed something.”
“I know what’s going to happen tomorrow if we go into battle.”
“At the Point they always said a good strategist always knows what’s going to happen.”
“No, if we, I, go into battle tomorrow the dead of Atlanta will be there to avenge their deaths on me.”
“You can’t believe that. The war is over, and the dead…”
“Are dead? To the south I was the most hateful person ever to walk the earth. If the devil himself appeared they would have embraced him over me.”
“Sir, if you‘re afraid…”
“Mackenzie, I’m beyond fear. It borders on the edges of madness, and that is the truth. The war drove me to the edge of madness. Did you know that?““Yes, sir, I’ve heard that.”
Now, that Indian medicine man leading the renegades somehow used the Ghost Dance to bring back the dead to fight us. My dead.”
“Sir, we have to go out and confront those renegades to either capture them and return them to the reservation, or dispatch them. It would be an honor if you’d let me lead the command against them.”
“No, Colonel, I know my duty and my orders, wherever they may lead me.” Reveille broke the morning air.
As Sherman took the field of battle the dusky smell of smoldering, burnt wood and flame filled the air. His horse snorted. Could he smell it too? Sherman could have sworn he saw the glow of fire on the horizon. Sherman saw the haze straight away, larger than it had ever been before, and he could see motion in it from a distance. Like a great mass was concealed within, roiling, writhing. Beyond it, following the haze, a small contingent of Indians, one who stood out from the rest, Sherman took to be the medicine man attired in a blue medicine shirt. Sherman pulled his sword from the scabbard.
“Take that Indian in the blue medicine shirt alive if possible and the rest will follow.” With that Sherman spurred his horse into a canter. The troop pulled their guns and followed suit. As they approached the haze Sherman could see into it, he could make out individuals within the mass. The dead of Atlanta of every breed, women in hoop skirts, soldiers, negroes their clothes covered with soot, some smoldering. Sherman could see their full necrotic state, burns covered their flesh, skulls indented by falling timbers, skin peeled and hanging from the bone. As he entered the throng, a path opened in front of the regiment until they were in deep and the dead closed behind them. They were surrounded. The dead started grabbing and pulling at his soldiers as they passed, yet they were insensate of those hands and their intentions. But Sherman could feel their pull and was afraid of what would happen if they succeeded in pulling him from his mount. They’d rend him, tear him apart as a bit of cloth. The hands grabbed at him, all he could see were the hands, white, black, red. He felt them on his boots, pulling. More came and he felt the hands on his legs, pulling, each getting a better grip on him. He could feel their cold sepulchral hands upon him. Then the hands were pulling at his blouse, his arms, chest. The dead were merciless. Sherman slashed them with his sword, but the blade passed through as if cutting only through vapor. The hands were on his shoulders, restricting his arms, then over his head and face, he felt one last pull and fell to the ground with the ghostly hands and faces pressing in on him. Then, unconsciousness.
Sherman came to on his cot in his tent, the medic was holding smelling salts under his nostrils.
“What happened?” Sherman asked. As he tried to rise the medic gently pushed him back into the cot.
“You suffered a seizure of some sort.” Looking towards the open end of his tent, Colonel Mackenzie brought the medicine man in, in chains. He was smaller than Sherman had thought he was, long black hair, the bone necklace at his throat and still wearing the blue medicine shirt. He looked calm.
“We captured all the renegades, sir.”
“Very good Mackenzie, what‘s your report?” Sherman asked weakly.
“We surrounded the savages and they surrendered without firing a shot. This one is the medicine man who’s been stirring them all up, promising them he could rid them of white men. He is called Isatai.”
“You really believe you could remove us from this country?”
“I am not like other men.”
“My scouts have informed me you believe your shirts can render you impervious to our bullets?”
“None of our people have been touched by your bullets.”
“How about bringing the dead back?”
“I have done no such thing. You brought them.”
“How did I bring them?”
“I have captured the dead from your soul, those whose deaths have been impressed upon your soul that you have refused to face. I made it so you could face them.”
“But still you’re in chains and you and your people will be taken to the reservation. If you ever leave it again, you will be killed.”
“You can put us on your reservation, prison, or even kill us, your children may try to steal our religion. Our spirits will always be free. One day we will again roam this country as free as our spirits. There will be more battles of my kind and you will lose until the invisible world is made visible to you. You do not understand the nature of the battles. You have no belief.”
“No. Your day has passed. The Indian will be locked away on reservations or you will perish.”
“It is you that is wrong, for the captured dead of your souls will haunt you forever.”