An Englishman recently stopped at my inn with his hunting party. He had a variety of very expensive rifles and shotguns. The one that most caught my eye was a very light 13 gauge single barrel shotgun. It was doubtless a bird gun, perhaps the fanciest firearm I have ever looked upon. The balance and workmanship were as fine as any that have ever crossed my hands.
I am a simple man but I can appreciate beauty when I see it. The scroll work was exquisite and the fit and finish finer than any I had held. The balance was superb. The light weight made the shotgun fit for only a light load and bird shot. Should the game ever be interested shooting back I expect the user would be at a severe disadvantage.
The party stayed only one night. They paid well for their food and board with more than a little coin sent towards drinks in my tavern. While I was not overly impressed with the Englishman those he had hired to guide him were another matter entirely.
His butler had served with the Highlanders in the Crimea, another had served in India and three of the American guides were veterans of the Civil War. They were also rather contemptuous of the natives they might encounter as they headed farther west. Their party numbered just twenty men and four wagons with almost thirty good horses. They did not understand how inviting those horses would be to any Lakota or Cheyenne war party they might encounter. While five of the men had seen some real fighting none had ever dealt with anything like the Lakota or their Cheyenne allies. The Civil War veterans were all veterans of the war in the east. A war of lines of battle and artillery would not have prepared them for the style of warfare preferred by the Lakota.
The fools seemed to think that all Indians were the same and their experience with the Dakota they had encountered had prepared them. They could not be more wrong. The Dakota had been exposed to the white man and forced to become dependent upon him. The Lakota and other plains tribes I had dealt with were fighting men par excellence.
The English fool was hoping to encounter a few hostiles. He wanted to experience the thrill of fighting. As they were planning to travel as far west as the Missouri and then on to the Rockies I expect a belly full of fighting to be in his future. I would not place much coin on their survival.
The guides all insisted that the Indians had been pacified. I expect their hair will decorate a lodge pole with a few months. Those fine horses, rifles and shotguns will likely have new owners as well. The very idea of a man heading onto the plains with servants instead of men who knew the land seemed odd. The idea of hiring American guides who had never been west of the Minnesota river was foolhardy if not outright suicidal.