Grand Duke Alexei Alexandrovich of Russia - Tour of The United States - Trip To The Hunting Grounds

Trip To The Hunting Grounds

Preparations for the hunt were extensive and had been carried out under the command of General Joel Palmer. Two companies of infantry in wagons, two companies of cavalry, the cavalry's regimental band, outriders, night herders, couriers, cooks had been mobilized for the event.

The Grand Duke in the company of General Philip Sheridan, General Edward Ord, and Lt. Colonel (Brevet Major General) George Armstrong Custer, the latter having been selected to be Grand Marshall of the hunt, arrived at Fort McPherson on 13 January 1872, by a special train provided by the Pennsylvania Railroad Company. They were greeted by an enthusiastic crowd, headed by William Frederick Cody (known as Buffalo Bill). After speeches, the Duke's party set out for the hunting grounds.

The Duke and General Sheridan rode in an open carriage, drawn by four horses. William Frederick Cody escorted the party with five ambulances, a light wagon for luggage, three wagons of "champagne and royal spirits" and fifteen to twenty extra saddle horses. A relay of horses was set up at Medicine Creek, about half way to the camp, where the party stopped for lunch. The journey then continued to they called "Camp Alexis" on the Red Willow Creek. The 2d Cavalry band was in place and in tune; "Hail to the Chief" was played when the Grand Duke arrived. The entire trip covered about 50 miles and took approximately eight hours.

The camp consisted of two hospital tents (used as dining tent), ten wall tents and tents for servants and soldiers. Three wall tents were floored and the Grand Duke's was carpeted with oriental rugs. Box stoves and Sibley stoves were provided for the tents.

Cody had discussed the hunt with Spotted Tail, chief of the Brulé Lakota, who had agreed to meet the "great chief from across the water who was coming there to visit him." About 600 warriors of different Sioux tribes, led by Spotted Tail, War Bonnet, Black Hat, Red Leaf, Whistler and Pawnee Killer, assembled to greet the grand duke at the hunting camp. They had been provided with ten thousand rations of flour, sugar, coffee, and 1,000 pounds of tobacco for their trouble - twenty-five wagon loads in all.

At the start of the party, Spotted Tail, dressed in a suit, which didn’t fit him, with an army belt upside down and an extremely awkward look was introduced to the Grand Duke. Then the Indian chief extended his hand, and greeted the Grand Duke with the customary "How."

For the amusement of Alexei the Indians staged exercises of horsemanship, lance-throwing and bow-shooting. Then there was a sham fight, showing the Indian mode of warfare, closing up with a grand war dance. It was noticed that Grand Duke Alexei paid considerable attention to a good-looking Indian maiden. Concerned that his mother, Empress Maria Alexandrovna, might receive reports of his flirtations, he wrote her from St. Louis: "Regarding my success with American ladies about which so much is written in the newspapers, I can openly say, that this is complete nonsense. They looked on me from the beginning as they would look on a wild animal, as on a crocodile or other unusual beast." .

However, a dispute broke out when General Custer, probably having drunk too much champagne, made crude overtures to Spotted Tail's pretty 16-year-old daughter. Alexei was able to calm down the fight with gifts of red and green blankets, ivory-handled hunting knives and a large bag of silver dollars. A formal council took place in Sheridan's tent and a peace pipe was passed around. Spotted Tail seized the chance to press his demand for the right to hunt freely south of the Platte River and for more than one store in which to trade.

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