If you are looking for some dapper upper class officer, well that's not Benjamin. Not that he couldn't look good enough if clad in an army dress uniform with freshly shaven face but there is no need for that out on the western frontier in a backwater outpost in Montana. Benjamin is in his late thirties but most would guess him for older. Military life is not an easy one and his career of campaigning both in the Civil War and now with the US Cavalry has aged him more than even he would care to admit. To judge him by first glimpse though would be a big mistake.
On campaign, Benjamin is at ease in the saddle, having done this very thing for so many years now. His horse was one he purchased, as many officers were wont to do. It is a six year old big solid bay gelding named Joe. Sadly he has lost mounts in action more than once, being in the cavalry is hazardous for horses too. He is simply armed, carrying an 1860 Colt Single Action revolver in a military holster. Though officially sabers are supposed to be part of a cavalryman's arsenal, like almost every regiment west of the Mississippi, these are stored away for occasional use in parades or ceremonies only. A more useful piece of equipment often hangs around his neck, a binoculars.
Traits & Characteristics
Benjamin carries himself with a quiet confidence, in action he can remain focused and outwardly calm, in an argument he can state his case with an almost reserved demeanor. But underneath all that, there is an almost palpable simmering anger at times. He has long ago formed his opinions, shaped his personal philosophy, and at this point has no desire to amend them, or even less, put up with ideas or people who are contrary to his beliefs, his ethics, his standards.
He admits it sometimes aloud even, that the tools of his trade are violence and force. He will do what he feels is necessary. He might not always approve of how the army operates or his superiors, but he has a fierce loyalty to his troopers and is consistently concerned about their welfare. That does not mitigate his belief though in the importance of discipline. "The army is neither a democracy nor a mob," is one of his personal quotes. If it concerns duty, it is best not to cross him.
Part of the job of an independent military command such as he now exercises is dealing with civilians. He has mixed feelings about civilians. Too often he finds them, especially the men, foolish and stubborn. They bring on many of the problems on the frontier with their behavior or lack of. However it is his job to protect them and in particular their families. There he feels much more sympathetic to the women and children.
A soldier since he enlisted in the Civil War, he is a career officer, the army is his life.
He currently is serving in the 2nd Cavalry in Montana territory.
+ Experienced officer, combat veteran both in the Civil War and in fighting against the Plains Indians.
+ Excellent horseman.
+ An ability to remain cool and collected even in times of great stress.
Aliases / Nicknames
He goes where the Army assigns him. Does not own a residence of his own.
Kith & Kin
Parents deceased, married sister back East, they write - rarely.
A bachelor, he would tell you he is already married - to the service.
Benjamin was born into a middle class family, he was the second of three children but the first, also a boy, died while still an infant of a sudden illness. Benjamin was seven by the time his little sister arrived. His parents were upstanding members of the town of Athens, Ohio. His father, Owen, was a college professor of history at Ohio University. He was brought up in a loving but strict household, that discipline stayed with Benjamin for the rest of his life. However his father's love of history, books, and the scholastic world did not carry over to the son. An indifferent student, the boy was much more drawn to a life of constant activity and search for adventure. He never did get into serious trouble but he was definitely into much boyhood and adolescent mischief.
Benjamin left home at the age of 17, eager to become his own man and with the blessing of his father though to the sorrow of his mother. The next decade was a time of much wandering and indifferent at best personal success. He tried a lot of jobs from dock hand on a river port to deckhand on a riverboat. Travel on the river was exciting and different though the work hard and the captain quite the tyrant. Whether he would have stuck it out for a long term career though proved to be out of his hands as disaster struck. The riverboat caught fire and on that fateful night he learned to swim the hard way when the riverboat sank, taking many lives with it. After that harrowing experience he decided to stay away from water and drifted into the uplands of Tennessee. There he took varied jobs on horse farms starting out simply mucking barns but gradually learning a lot about the animals. He found out he liked the big animals, a part of him preferred dealing with horses to humans alright. This equine experience would hold him in good stead when the war broke out in 1861.
Like his father before him, Benjamin was staunchly against the institution of slavery, in fact his father used to say he almost named the boy Spartacus who had led the greatest slave rebellion in Rome's long history. He also felt a loyalty to his home state and headed north as things spiraled out of control into war. Caught up in the frenzied early patriotism, Benjamin enlisted in the Union army - the cavalry to be specific. He has never looked back since, the army suits him.
Benjamin joined the 3rd Cavalry in May, 1861 but by August of the same year it's designation was changed to what it would remain from there on, the 6th Cavalry. By 1862 this young regiment was earning it's spurs with continual campaigning while assigned to the Army of the Potomac. Benjamin advanced quickly from private to sergeant for showing both "aptitude and fortitude" or so said the report of his company commander. He and the unit participated in constant skirmishes. Benjamin learned that he could overcome his fear and function on the chaos of a battlefield while many about him could not.
In 1863 the 6th Cavalry would get their first real full scale battle, Brandy Station, where they would lose several officers and one sixth of their strength to casualties. Benjamin killed his first man there, pistoling a rebel horseman who was in the act of aiming a sawed off shotgun at him. It might have bothered him more if he had not lost men he knew from his own unit. It was kill or be killed. You get him before he gets you, another lesson he would never forget.
It was during the Gettysburg campaign, that 6th Cavalry became celebrated for it's gallant rearguard action fighting to hold off two of the South's finest cavalry brigades at Fairfield. To this day, Benjamin believes this to be the fiercest fight he had ever been in. Every officer in the regiment but three became casualties and losses were heavy among the troopers too. Benjamin was lightly wounded but ignored the wound while rallying stragglers during the final withdrawal. This time he reckoned he killed perhaps four or five of the rebels but though he killed them he admired them for their boldness and courage. Unlike some, Aurelian never could build up a hate for the Confederates, they too were soldiers just doing their duty. However they were fighting for an unjust cause, of that he remained certain.
Given the heavy officer losses and his own performance, Benjamin was promoted to lieutenant and soon after then to captain. The Sixth continued to perform well the remainder of the war, being in on the final crushing defeats of the army of Robert E. Lee just outside of Appomatox. Aurelian was thankful when the war ended soon after. But unlike so many he did not muster out but decided to stay in the army.
Post war saw the 6th, greatly reduced in numbers due to budget cuts, sent on out west of the Mississippi where it helped enforce the Reconstruction in Texas. Because they did not need as many officers those were pruned too and Benjamin considered himself lucky to be retained though he was reduced in rank to lieutenant. He understood it was all about seniority, it was how the army operated. So be it.
Of course one of the other reasons the army and thus the cavalry were out west were the Indians. Indian problems were endemic and the army found itself overstretched in the vastness of the ground they were expected to cover. Regiments were broken up into smaller detachments and these were deployed all over to try and help the growing population and enforce Indian Agency decrees. Naturally Benjamin went where he was sent.
Just prior to being sent to Montana, he had the satisfaction of being promoted back up to captain and currently is in command of an understrength company of troopers. While he is a veteran and a few of his NCOs are also long serving, most of his men are recruits. He took the revelation calmly enough, you learn to work with what you got.
Crabbe explained what he believed would be the situation and it sounded reasonable enough. As for his guarantee, well that remained to be seen. But Benjamin would not be happy with a wild goose chase, not happy at all. The man then asked the scouts on their views.
"You lead the way, we’ll scout ahead Captain, if there’s to be any trouble, we’ll sniff it out first. Times are not the most pleasant with the Indians, but, not all of them are out, yet. And Mister Crabbe, we’ll be sure to let you know if we see this “Granddaddy Longlegs” you’re goin’ on about," answered MacIntosh.
"We brought Mr. Crabbe out here because of what he knows so we'd be fools not to follow his advice...least for now. Sounds like we got a long ride ahead of us but so be it," Benjamin conceded.
"Alright, we head east then. Mr. MacIntosh, you and your man take the lead. For now it sounds like we are just trying to find the Two Kettles band."
"Oh and I get nervous about ridgelines and high ground, make it a point to check those out lest there be hostiles waiting to spring an ambush on the opposite side," he requested.
"And last but not least, we do not fire the first shot. See any trouble, get back fast. I want to be the one who makes the decision to engage or not."
Benjamin smirked, "Yes, Mr. Crabbe, it seems you impressed these two as much as you did me."
Introductions over, it was time to get down to business.
"Alright then, you said something about the Tongue River, following that. And a Two Kettles village. So is it your recommendation we head that way?"
An offshoot of the Lakota Sioux the Two Kettles were themselves divided into a few bands, as far as Plains Indians go, they were less hostile to the whites than most. But these were troubled times and no telling how they might react to the sight of a cavalry column.
Once everyone was assembled and mounted, the patrol headed on out from the fort. Riding at the front were Captain Barlow, their reluctant volunteer Crabbe, and the pair of scouts, MacIntosh and Ke-Ni-Tay, followed by thirty-two troopers, about half of Barlow's understrength company. Trailing were six pack mules carrying useful supplies. Hopefully a large enough command to get the job done but yet small enough to not alarm any Indians they might come upon as being an attempted attack. Such decisions were always tricky but a part of the job.
Barlow felt he might as well get the introductions out of the way, "Mr. Crabbe, these two gentlemen are civilian scouts Mr. MacIntosh and Ke Ni-Tay. And this fellow is Lorenzo Crabbe, who has been dragooned into finding this so-called Grandfather. It is my hope we can all work together amiably enough however I am the one responsible for this expedition and all final decisions will be mine to make. That doesn't mean I won't appreciate any input you provide."
"Never heard of him either. But our informant claims that's what he's called," Bejamin shrugged.
The Indian then spoke, his English was certainly more than passable. Barlow thought that was a good thing just in case MacIntosh should happen to go down or even get killed, they would still be able to communicate with the Indian.
"Yes, we feel he is a very bad man too. So we are going to see if we can find him then," he added.
“A hunt Captain? A hunt for what, or is it who. Local Indians out?” the veteran scout asked. “Not that it matters much I guess, just like to be prepared for what I’m about to be involved in.”
"It is who. We have just found out information on a certain gun runner and whiskey supplier to the Indians who may well still be operating in the area. We have an informant who I'm bringing along with us. If for no other reason than to identify our culprit," Barlow answered.
"The Indians apparently call this individual Grandfather but for now I've got very little on him and his operations. And of course what I do have is relying on the informant who I will readily admit is not exactly the sort I would ever trust. But it's an opening, and Col. MacKenzie rightly feels we need to at least try and run this operation down. There is going to be a lot of trouble this summer, everyone knows it. The Indians don't need more guns than they have already," he continued.
"All right Captain” Lorenzo held up the palms of his hands in surrender, “No need to tie me to a nag, them army saddles are painful enough without that added inconvenience.”
“Oh well, least the saddle won't be as hard as that Army hard-tack we'll be eating for a week, know what I’m saying fellers?” he chuckled knowingly to the two non-commissioned men.
The sergeant smirked but decided not to retort as the officer might not appreciate him engaging their prisoner in any give and take.
Benjamin gave the man a look too, "Well, if you do not wish to eat on our mission, that is fine with me, I won't force you. We will be leaving as soon as I can assemble a detachment."
He then turned to the soldier on duty in the gaol, "I was going to suggest you see to it the prisoner eats a breakfast yet before we leave but it seems army food is not suitable for his refined palate."
At that point Barlow turned to leave, "Til later, Mr. Crabbe."
Needless to say, their sudden volunteer was taken aback by the announcement.
"You heard me," and Benjamin was not about to repeat himself.
"No! Sarge, you leave them ankle chains on, I ain’t going on no God damned trip up the Tongue!” Crabbe yelped.
He might as well been talking to the moon, the NCO ignored him and kept about his business.
“Guide?! You don’t need me to find those men, your Scouts’ll show you the way! You’ve got Army Scouts haven’t you? Charley Reynolds? Fred Girard? ‘Mad John’ MacIntosh?”
"What way? You said yourself the man is elusive and is continually on the move. Besides, you know what this Grandfather looks like. Look at it this way, there just might be some sort of reward for this? And if so, you just might get a share of said reward. Think of it as a business venture," Benjamin explained.
And if an appeal to his greed didn't work then there was always this.
"Now - quit your whining and buck up like a man. We will supply you with a horse and if you won't sit on him willingly, I will have you tied onto the animal. Just so we're clear," he glared.
Benjamin was leaving the fort's headquarters, he had just finished up a discussion with the fort commandant and his superior, Col. MacKenzie. Of course the intelligence he had garnered from Mr. Crabbe had needed to be passed on to the other officer. As he had hoped, MacKenzie saw the necessity of moving rapidly to act on this news so they quickly conferred on the details. Barlow was then ordered to take a strong patrol out and see if they could locate this gun runner. The colonel also approved of him taking the civilian scouts along too.
As he stepped out, there were what had to be these very scouts.
"Captain," the white man greeted him by his rank, they had yet to meet. But nothing like the present to rectify that detail.
"Yes, and you must be Mr. MacIntosh, good to see you are quite prompt," Benjamin held out his hand to shake, these weren't soldiers so no saluting but nothing wrong with a traditional introduction.
"I am Captain Benjamin Barlow, nice to meet you. I've heard good things about you ...and your companion from the colonel. I'm gonna need that expertise. We are going on a little hunt you see," he gave what passed for a smile, he wasn't much for smiling.
“Oh, he doesn’t have what you’d call a regular route, I mean this feller ain’t selling soapflakes. He can’t turn up and sell the same goods at the same place week after week, or month after month even. See, most the tribes he sells to are on the move themselves, if you get my drift. He doesn’t even have a regular base of supply, though it’s always somewhere with a railroad station, that how they ship the ‘goods’ from back East.”
Yeah, that was what Benjamin figured too but it had to be asked. This time he had no reason to believe the man was lying.
"Right," he nodded and let the man continue.
“Ow, these irons are sure chaffing my pins something awful, Cap! You know it’s hard to give a clear account of things with a nasty distraction like that annoying a body.” Crabbe pointed out, shifting his feet as if in pain.
"I am considering having them removed right now, keep talking - it will no doubt influence my decision one way or the other," Benjamin replied.
"Now, where was I? Oh yeah, so the way to find this feller is the same way the redskins do, and that’s strictly word of mouth. I’d start by finding the Two Kettles, they’ll be upriver on the Tongue by now, I’d reckon. They’ll know where C is, no mistake. I wouldn’t tell them that you’re after him though: the injuns love him, for obvious reasons. Looks Down called him ‘Grandfather’. Why, it’s about the only thing all those warring vermin do agree on! Even Lakota and Crow alike’ll smoke the peace pipe for an hour or so around that fellow’s trading wagon.”
"Well, the Crow wouldn't help him, they're on our side when it comes to fighting the Sioux, Cheyenne, Arapahos," Barlow declared, "Custer and Crook both use Crow scouts all the time. They're glad to fight their old enemies for us."
In fact Barlow wished this outpost had itself a few Crows to help when it came to scouting and such. All he knew was that the fort had a white scout and that man was accompanied by what the troopers claimed was an Apache? That jasper was a long way from his stomping grounds.
Then the man started telling him what to say once they contacted some Indians. While he didn't care to be told what he should do by this fellow, he did give a possible useful name - woman at that too.
The prisoner looked thoughtful for a second “You know Cap, I’m going to be really interested to hear how you fellers get on running ol’ Grandfather down!”
Benjamin suddenly smiled, a rare enough occurance for him especially on duty.
"Good to know, Mr. Crabbe, because you are going along with us to find this Grandfather. I appreciate you volunteering," he announced calmly but forcefully.
"Sergeant, unshackle our guide here," he ordered and the veteran NCO promptly complied.
Rifles for gold nuggets, interesting. Barlow knew the Indians were never the sort to do any mining or even prospecting so they might have gotten the gold from some whites. The Black Hills supposedly was filled with gold which was one of the reasons the government was now changing their mind and deciding to move the various tribes off what had supposed to have been Indian land after one of the treaties had been signed. Even though a representative of said government, Barlow knew when it came to profit, the government didn't give a damn about any treaty. They could change the conditions and make the Indians sign another one and move elsewhere. Needless to say the Indians felt differently and, honestly, Benjamin sympathized with them. It wasn't right but the way most people looked at it was the natives were impeding the march of civilization. Even if the government wanted to keep this latest treaty, thousands of new settlers were already moving into the Black Hills territory, the Army couldn't stop that flood if they wanted to.
Thus the impending major campaign being planned for this summer, once and for all the Army was going to force the hostiles to the proper reservations or destroy them. Proud and warlike themselves, tribes like the Sioux and Cheyenne were going to fight hard, all the military men were sure of it.
And part of the problem was the Indians were getting more and more better armed than the troops themselves. One way or the other they were acquiring not just these Sharps carbines the man identified but the fast firing magazine rifles like Henrys and Winchesters. Back in Washington the War Department had looked into purchasing repeating rifles but concluded the troops would use up ammo too rapidly and that cost money. So they decided the cavalry would continue to make due with their single shot carbines, the Sharps.
"Alright, Mr. Crabbe with two B's, now we are getting somewhere," Barlow remarked when the man paused.
"Any chance you can give me something on the possible location of this... C ....fellow? Obviously he isn't operating out of any town. But you might just know his approximate whereabouts or one of the routes he uses regular?"
A gun runner's very success depended on him keeping on the move, staying ahead of the authorities plus trying to find the ever elusive Indians who would be his customers. But if they could narrow it down, then Barlow would have a better chance of running them down.
Sagas of the WIld West is a roleplaying game set in a fictionalized version of the town of Kalispell in Montana territory. Our stories begin in 1875 and are set against the backdrop of actual historical events.Sagas was inspired by the classic television and movie westerns. Our focus is on writing, storytelling and character development.
Connect With Us On
If you would like to join the Sagas' Discord server or are already a member, click the image to open the Discord web application.