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Looking Glass

Looking Glass


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During The Nez Percé War, Looking Glass was one of the war chiefs who helped to lead and protect the Nez Percé during their long, withering flight to freedom across the Canadian border in 1877.Early daysLooking Glass, known to his people as Allalimya Takanin, was born about 1832, in what is now western Montana. Respected for his bravery and leadership, the younger Looking Glass confirmed those qualities when he helped his friends, the Mountain Crows, defeat a Sioux (Lakota) war party along the Yellowstone River in Montana, in 1874.Although he bitterly resented white encroachments on his ancestral lands, Looking Glass opposed going to war with the United States over its plans to force his people onto the small Lapwai Indian Reservation in Idaho. Looking Glass’s people became farmers and dairymen.ImplicatedGeneral Oliver Howard was at first convinced that Looking Glass would not be a factor in the conflict. Howard changed his perception when he began to receive unsubstantiated reports that Looking Glass's Nez Percé had left the reservation, were attacking white settlements and inciting other Nez Percé to join the militant non-treaty bands. At the end of June, Howard issued orders to arrest Chief Looking Glass, his band, any Indians living near his village between the forks of Clear Creek, and disable their effectiveness as possible combatants.When General Howard ordered Captain Stephen Whipple to arrest Looking Glass, it proved to be a costly mistake, exacerbating the conflict with the non-treaty Nez Percé, and producing disastrous consequences for the army — as well as for the chief and his people. At Mount Idaho, the captain left with two Gatling guns, each drawn by three horses with a gun crew of four men to operate them.Captain Whipple and his men traveled all night, intending to surprise and attack the village at dawn while the people were defenseless in sleep, a routine army tactic used against Indians — especially against small, isolated camps. Halting at the crest of a hill less than one-quarter mile west of the village, the troops announced their presence.In the early hours of a July 1877 morning, the people of Looking Glass’ village were going about their usual morning activities. The warrior rode across Clear Creek and met Captain Whipple, Captain William Winters, Lieutenant Sevier Rains, and a volunteer interpreter, who were all mounted.The enlisted cavalrymen had dismounted and spread out, leaving their horses on a flat of the hill to their rear. After the warrior delivered Looking Glass's first message, he was ordered to return and bring back the chief. However, Whipple, through the interpreter, demanded to see the chief and rode across the creek to his lodge.First attackAs Whipple and the interpreter approached the lodge, a shot rang out from the cavalry’s position; the bullet raced toward the village, and ripped into the flesh of a villager. Once the surviving Indians had evacuated the camp, the soldiers ransacked, stealing whatever they wanted, and tried to burn the dwellings.Despite their delayed arrival, the attack did in fact come as a total surprise, and received little return fire as the victims fled. Whipple's brutal attack was devastating for Looking Glass's people. The attack on the peaceful band killed only a few of his people, but destroyed the village.Furious at the treachery of the unwarranted attack, and the loss of his village and its contents, Chief Looking Glass decided to lead his People to join White Bird, Joseph, and the other non-treaty Indians on a legendary flight to freedom that would last four months and cover 1,700 miles.When Looking Glass, a man respected for his military talent and leadership, joined the resistance, it added an unforeseen complication to the army's plans. His mere presence added legitimacy and hope of success, and drew more people to the cause with which the troops would have to contend.Having no prior war experience with the army to draw upon, the naive and peaceful treaty Nez Percé believed that if they could escape General Howard's forces, they would be safe from further reprisals, — they did not understand that they were now at war with the entire U.S. Army.Legendary flightThe Nez Percé chiefs met in council. Despite administrative chief Joseph's opposition, Looking Glass, a respected battlefield commander, convinced the majority of the chiefs that their only option was to flee and join their allies, the Mountain Crow to the East. With women, children, sick, wounded, elderly, and a herd of about 3,000 horses, the Nez Percé made their way through the most difficult parts of the route, hand carrying the feeble around and through fallen trees, rocks, and brambles.The Nez Percé passed over the mountains into Montana, where they found their way blocked by a hastily constructed battlement, Fort Missoula, built to ensnare them. They meant no harm to the people of the area; and indeed, they knew most of the volunteers from previous excursions through the area to hunt buffalo.Captain Rawns' orders were clear. The Nez Percé simply skirted the fortifications and continued on their way.Looking Glass persuaded them to stop and rest at Big Hole, where he believed they would be free from attack. Women, children, and babies were massacred, being shot or bludgeoned to death with rifle butts.With all the Indians apparently dead or dying, the soldiers turned their attention to looting the teepees and trying to set them on fire, but the dwellings were wet with the morning dew and would not burn. The Nez Percés' unwavering advance forced the soldiers from the camp and into the trees, where they began to mount their defense. The soldiers were besieged in their defensive positions, surrounded by Indian snipers.Attempts by Colonel Gibbon to break the siege were unsuccessful. In the fading light of the evening, General Howard and his cavalry arrived, forcing the Nez Percé to break off the fight and fall back.General Howard and Colonel Gibbon prepared their report and listed 89 Nez Percé dead. The remainder in the army's count were women and children — a statistic left out of the report. Following the battle of Big Hole, Looking Glass lost much of his prestige as a war chief and military leader for his costly mistake, and was replaced by war chief Hototo (Lean Elk) and the administrative chief, Joseph.As the Nez Percé continued their retreat, they took their wounded and their dead. When General Howard allowed his Bannock scouts to dig up the Nez Percé dead to mutilate and scalp the bodies, he earned the eternal damnation of the Nez Percé.The Nez Percé had managed to elude General Howard's force despite great odds. General Howard's forces were a day behind; the Nez Percé were in unfamiliar territory and unsure of the way to Mountain Crow lands. A daring night raid on the pursuing army's horses bought some time, and a captured prospector served as their guide.A warrior rode ahead, hoping to enlist the help of the Crow or, at least, obtain their permission to enter their lands. Upon the warriors' return, the chiefs decided that their only hope was to cut north and make for Canada through the mountains, to live among the Sioux under Chief Sitting Bull , who had been there since the end of the Battle of the Little Big Horn campaign the year before.Fighting several skirmishes against the better-armed and more numerous soldiers, the Nez Percé crossed the Missouri River in northern Montana on September 23. With no bluecoats in sight and suffering from exposure, hunger, and exhaustion, they prepared for the final push into Canada.Final attackHowever, General Howard had already gotten word to General Nelson Miles and ordered him to intercept the Indians before they reached Canada. Nez Percé scouts spotted Miles' force moving up, but they did not have enough time to escape, so they concealed themselves in the rocks. The cavalry’s first charge was decimated by the warriors' rifle fire, and they were forced to retreat. The ensuing battle lasted five days.With freezing weather and no food or blankets, the Nez Percé warriors held off the U.S. Looking Glass had also refused to surrender at Bearpaw Mountain and set out on October 5, 1877, to join Sitting Bull's band in Canada — but a Cheyenne scout killed him.


*A crank-operated, 10-barreled .45 caliber rapid-fire machine gun capable of a very high rate of fire of up to 1,000 rounds per minute with an effective range of about 2,400 yards.


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