1807 Account of Native Attacks from Nathaniel Pryor.

The DAR held training recently for members on how to use Wikipedia. A shocking statistic is that only 17% of biographies on Wikipedia are about women. I’ve added 5 in the past few weeks, so the opportunity is there. I’ve used Wikipedia for a long time– not just to read, but also to write content. I sometimes correct content or add sources. Sometimes I get corrected and re-edited. That’s how it works. It’s a community of millions writing and editing articles.

Why all this about Wikipedia? I recently went in and did a clean up of the article about Nathaniel Pryor of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. A Wikipedia moderator had slapped a tag on it that the whole thing was unsourced. I reformatted it and added all the sources I’ve collected. I divided it into sections to make sense out of the segments of his life. I added the portrait of him with Sam Houston that the Oklahoma State Senate put out in a press release. There is still opportunity to “tune up” this article and add references. Maybe someone can reference a document or report of Pryor marrying into the Osages. It’s Wikipedia so go for it!

While pulling out references for Wikipedia I can across two newspaper articles about Nathaniel Pryor and the Mandan Chief.  These are contemporary accounts of events. A second account was published in a London newspaper a year later. I found them fascinating and I know other researchers will enjoy them too…

A letter from a gentleman at the Cantonment, near St Louis, dated October 17th 1807, to his friend in this place, says, the Mandan chief, who accompanied Captain Lewis on a visit to the city of Washington left this place on his return to his nation in April last, escorted by Ensign Prior of the United States Army, and a detachment of 15 men, together with interpreters, Hunters Etc. Mr Chateau with two trading boats and 50 men, accompany them. They proceeded without interruption or molestation about 1,600 miles, and within 100 miles of the Mandan Nation. When they were attacked by the Reccari Indians and defeated with the loss of four men killed, and eight or ten wounded. They return to this place on the 15th instant , and Mr. Prior gives the following account— 

“That they landed at a Riccari Village, and, when unsuspicious of danger, were attacked by a large party of Indians, supposed to be 700, most of them armed with guns, that they returned the fire three times before they retreated to their votes, and it is supposed, Killed 20 of the enemy, and that they were pursued six or eight miles down the river, the Indians keeping up a constant fire on them.

“It is said that the Riccaris are at war with the Mandan’s, and that it was their intention to kill the Mandan chief.

Mr. Prior ads, “That from the best information he could collect, there are about 300 Spanish soldiers with the Indians high up The  Missouri, and a great many more were expected, and that they had built Forts and were endeavoring to sour the minds of the Indians against the United States.”

Pittsburgh Weekly Gazette, 17 November 1807

By 1808 News of the Indian skirmishes had reached Europe.

A sanguinary war has lately broken out between two tribes of American Indians, who inhabited the banks of the Missouri, called the Riccaris and Mandans. A Mandan chief had come to Washington in the spring, to procure interpreters, Huntsman, etc for his nation, and had returned with an escort, consisting of Ensign Prior, of the United States Army and attachment of about 20 soldiers, besides which, there was a Mr Chateau, with two trading Boats & Company, containing upwards of 30 people. They proceeded without interruption from The Savage tribes, till they got 1,800 miles up the Missouri and within 150 or 200 miles of the Mandan Nation, where they were attacked by the Ricarri nation of Indians, defeated, and driven back, with a few killed and 8 or 10 wounded.

It appears that the intention of the requires was to kill the Mandan Chief. The number of Warriors who collected to attack this small coasting party was upwards of 700, were mostly armed with muskets, but the persons who were in the boats, returned the fire so briskly, that upwards of 20 of the Indians were killed, and the rest having set up their yell, and ran off, were pursued by the fellow soldiers seven or eight miles down the river.

Mr. Prior was informed that the Indians higher up the Missouri had amongst them about 300 Spanish troops, and we’re in daily expectation of more.

This officer details, in his letter, some interesting particulars relative to the Ricarris, from which it appears that they are the most barbarous and uncivilized race on the whole continent, as they have no customs that at all resemble those of human beings. They generally go naked, but the females in particular, as they have no ideas of decency or shame. They are mostly covered with vermin, which they kill between their teeth, they never wash their clothes, but suffer them to rot on their backs, never cut their nails, and eat without repugnance, out of the same dish with their dogs, but what renders them still more disgusting is, that they rub their bodies with the fat of the meat which they eat, and which they mostly consume raw.

These Savages are very vindictive, and they’re chief motive for going to war is the desire of glory or praise which is bestowed on the man which he was any daring exploit. previous to engaging in a war the different Chiefs attend their principal in his cabin, where after arranging their plans, (which are always those of surprise), they feast upon dogs flesh, and set off at break of day to attack their enemy. When defeated, they be well their loss with the deepest sorrow for great lengths of time, but, when victorious, their joy exceeds all bounds. They are very kind to their prisoners, which is not a characteristic with most of the other tribes. In the heat of an action, however, they massacre men, women, and children, indiscriminately.

Mr. Pryor learned that there I’ve been several skirmishes during the summer, between the Ricarris and the Mandan, but they had not come to a general battle.

The Observer, London, England, January 10th 1808.

All was good again at the end of 1808?

From the Louisville Gazette.
Mr Manuel has just arrived from St Louis, from the neighborhood of the Rocky Mountains, with a very valuable cargo of Furs, informs that the Indians of the Missouri are peaceably inclined. That the Riccari’s are sorry for their behavior to Lieutenant Pryor, went on his way to the Mandan Nation. We learned that a company is forming at New York, with a capital of $100,000, to erect a chain of factories up the Missouri and down the Columbia river is to the Pacific Ocean, and Export their furs to China from the mouth of the latter River.
The Maryland Gazette October 27th 1808