From The Ashland Times Gazette 1930
By William G. McKee
From 40 yards away four redskins fired point blank at him. Bullets whistled by his face and directly back of him a trooper was shot down, but he escaped unscathed.
Part of a dime novel? Not at all. This was just one of a series of thrilling experiences of Henry Fulk, who 57 years ago enlisted in the United States cavalry to fight against the Indians, and who now can look back on a life adventure that young men of today can find only within the covers of a book, and rather lurid book at that.
Fulk who rode on a scouting expedition with Buffalo Bill, will be 78 years of age on Nov. 9, 1930. He lives alone on his farm of 160 acres seven miles west of Ashland in Weller Township, Richland County. The farm has been rented to one of his son, for Fulk has retired. I did my work when I came back from the army, he explains.
The old cavalryman, who rode thousands of miles on horseback while in the fifth cavalry, is a horseman still. When he travels its on horseback, astride his dapper saddle horse, whom he calls “Nick.” A year ago, he was thrown from a horse, but undaunted, he kept on riding.
Last spring, a horse fell twice with him and so he got a younger, surer footed horse, “Nick” is his only means of transportation except walking, and you can’t expect an old cavalryman to walk, other than when he goes somewhere with one of “the boys” and then he rides in their automobile.
NEWS TRAVELS SLOWLY
Fulk was in Wyoming when General George A. Custer was massacred in June 1876. News traveled slowly, for the message telling of the massacre had to be carried on horseback for 300 miles. Once receiving word of the massacre, the troops of which Fulk was a part set in search of the Indians. That summer Fulk rode 1,800 on horseback, much of the time existing on horse, mule and pony meat.
Fulk’s company ran into one of the Indian bands that had fought Custer. They killed several of the band, burned the camp and obtained a number of ponies. The cavalry lost several troopers in the engagement. The Indian band, which carried a guidon taken from Custer’s fallen troop, was trailed to the Yellowstone, where they split into small parties and scattered, reaching British territory and safety.
Another time the company of which Fulk was member, numbered 150, was penned in the Colorado valley by the Ute’s. They remained besieged for six days and six nights. Thirteen of the cavalrymen were killed and 43 wounded the first day of the engagement.
It was here that four Indians fired at Fulk from 40 yards away, not a bullet hitting him, although he declares he heard them whistling by his face. Back of him a man was shot. Another time in the same engagement, a man standing alongside Fulk was shot in the heart.
GET THROUGH LINES
Three couriers managed to get through the Indians’ lines the first night of the siege. They rode 150 miles to a railroad and telegraphed to department headquarters at Omaha Neb. A wire was dispatched to Fort Russell at Cheyenne and troops started to the rescue. They rode 180 miles on the railroad and marched 150 miles to relieve their comrades. This engagement, bringing Fulk his closest calls, was in Sept. 1870 just three months before his discharge.
It took a man to survive in those days and it took good horses, Fulk said. We lost 800 horses on one trip and lost 300 in one day. Mine took me through because I took care of him. I rode one horse for four years and must have ridden him 4.ooo miles. An Indian shot him when we were penned up. He was shot once while I was leading him. The Indian was on a bluff, shooting down at me. I shot at him and he ran.
For the six days the troopers were penned in the Colorado valley, there was no warm food for them. They ate hard tack and raw bacon, because they were not permitted to build fires. Camp was pitched 75 yards from water and details obtained a supply nightly. The uncivilized Indians it appeared were not sufficiently civilized to have figured out the smart plan, used in later warfare, of poisoning the water supply.
Four hundred head of horses were lost during the six days and nights, Fulk said. Some strayed, some were shot and others were driven away. Major Thornburg, commanding officer, was killed in the engagement.
RAINES 22 DAYS
It was a great life Fulk declared with gusto. On one expedition it rained 22 days in succession and we never had a dry blanket. We were not allowed to carry any canvas with us and we made our beds by rolling into a blanket on the ground. It took a man with a strong constitution.
After his enlistment in Cincinnati on Dec. 27,1874, when he was 21 years of age he attained the rank of corporal, but he didn’t hold it long. “I didn’t want it”, he declares and you believe him. When you get stripes on you have to set an example and I didn’t want that.
Discharged from the army in 1879. Fulk returned to his home section and set about the serious business of getting along in civilian life.
On an 80-acre farm adjoining his present farm. Fulk raised his family of seven boys and four girls. The farmhouse had six rooms. Weren’t you crowed with all that family in six-room house? He was asked. At night it was all filled up, he said, but at daylight everybody was out working. I had to work and when my boys got big enough I made them work.
His rest it is obvious was well earned. I didn’t have a dollar when I set out to buy my farm, he declared. When my wife died 14 years ago, I owned 240 acres and was out of debt. It was hard work and for a while I didn’t make enough to pay the taxes.
The government is compensating him now for those five years he put in at $13 dollars a month. The pension he receives helps keep him nicely.
No one would Henry for a missionary. He is as picturesque as his past, as colorful as his favorite expletive “By Judas Pike!”
CHILDREN NEAR HIM
Five of his 11 children live within two miles of him. All but two live in this section of Ohio. Two of his sons were veterans of the World war. Carl, who lives on the Olivesburg road, west of Ashland, saw service in France. Lee a dentist in Byesville was in the army although he did not get to France.
Other children are Guy, the oldest, who lives at Paradise Hill, directly west of here: Sidney, who resides on a farm south of his father’s; Jay, who lives north of Ashland; Mrs. Seth Gongwer, who resides west of Ashland; Mrs. Mary Wharton, a resident of Washington; Mrs. Eva Young, who lives in Wellington; Mrs. Eunice Shopbell, who lives east of Ashland, and Cliff and Scott, whose farms adjoin that of their fathers.
The old Indian fighter is “Granddad” to 51 children.