It was dark.
A harsh January winter was working at the soldiers’ toes and fingers, turning them blue and numb with frostbite as the men waited for their orders. The moon was barely a sliver in the black sky, providing as much light as it did warmth.
They had traveled for days through the largely unsettled west from their settlement at Fort Douglas to the Shoshone village they were set to attack. A small group had set out first and the rest had followed a few days after, led by calculated Col. Connor himself. They were split in this fashion in an attempt to prevent the elusive Shoshone from learning of the attack early and scattering themselves, foiling the entire expedition. But the first regiment had stumbled upon three natives as they got close to town earlier that evening, and many soldiers were unsure of what they’d find of the Shoshone village.
The soldiers waited to attack. Word had spread that the advance was to begin at 1:00, but the night advanced past that hour and the soldiers continued to shiver, huddled for warmth around small fires that were hard to maintain on the wintry earth. They placed their now-frozen canteens of whiskey near the flames in an attempt to liquify the contents, hoping for a sip to numb themselves inside as well as out.
At 3:00, the soldiers began to form ranks, an effort which required some time in the deep and tightly packed snow as the men continued to shiver and shake in the arctic cold. Many were rapidly losing strength from fatigue. But the men were eager to fight, ready to claim the land the natives had been nurturing for so many years, seeking retaliation for American lives lost at the hands of these indigenous people during an ongoing and bloody turf war that the natives never asked for.
Col. Connor paced up and down the lines, finalizing his strategy for attack upon the unwitting natives. At last, they were ready to set off. As the very first signs of early morning began to set in, the first troops set out for the quietly sleeping Shoshone village.