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100 Voices: Sioux, Cheyenne, Arapahoe, Crow, Arikara and American Eye-witness accounts of the Battle of the Little Bighorn

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Source materials for "Conversations With Crazy Horse" by Bruce Brown

This is a FREE EXCERPT from
Bruce Brown's 100 Voices...

David Humphreys Miller's
Notes On His Sources
A Sioux chronicler's commentary of the Battle of the Little Bighorn

From Custer's Fall by David Humphreys Miller.

Note

David Humphrey Miller's 1940 portrait of Sioux youth Blue ArmSOURCES

I HAVE BEEN over the battlefield many times with various Indians who were veterans o f the battle. Among these oldtimers were One Bull, White Cow Bull, High Eagle, and Dewey Beard [Iron Hail], all Sioux; and Turkey Legs, Limpy, Bobtail Horse, Young Two Moon, and Young Little Wolf, all Cheyennes.

Sunup

The story of the killing of Deeds by Sergeant Curtis and his detail was told to me by Drags-the-Rope in 1939, when the old warrior was eighty-one years old. Additional data concerning the death of Four Horns's aged wife was given me by One Bull, Kills Alive, White Bird, and other old-time Hunkpapas.

The story of the Crow scouts throughout this book is derived from interviews with the following members of the Crow tribe in south-central Montana:

Informant Relation to participant
Bad Man
(aged 105 in 1939 when interviewed)...
Cousin of Hairy Moccasin
Bull-Over-the-Hill... Son of White-Man-Runs-Him
Bird Horse... Cousin of White Swan
White Bear... Kinsman of Curley
Little Nest... Brother-in-law of Mitch Bouyer
Pretty Shield... Widow of Goes Ahead
Plain Bull... Scout with Crook in 1876
Mountain Sheep... Scout with Crook in 1876
Yellow Brow... Scout with Gibbon in 1876

The Crows called themselves Upsaroka or Absaroka, after a fork-tailed bird similar to a magpie. Early mountain men translated the tribal name as Crow People and so they have been known ever since. Two main tribal divisions existed: River Crows and Mountain Crows. All the above informants belonged to the latter group, who lived mostly in the Big Horn Mountains.

The story of the Arikara scouts came largely from Jerome Good Elk of Fort Berthold, North Dakota. He was a member of Varnum's Arikara detachment at Little Big Horn. Additional data was found in O. G. Libby's The Arikara Narrative of the Campaign Against the Hostile Dakotas, published by the North Dakota Historical Commission. Like their kinsmen the Pawnees, the Arikaras were mortal enemies of the Sioux and Cheyennes, who called them Corn Indians because of their habit of living in semi-permanent earth-mound villages and following agricultural pursuits. They were particularly despised by the Sioux who considered farming an especially degrading occupation. A small tribe like the Crows, the Arikaras were among the first Indian groups to provide scouts for the United States Army operations in the upper Missouri River region.

David Humphrey Miller's portrait of Sioux warrior Iron Hail (Dewey Beard)Midday

The material on Mark Kellogg appeared in AP -- the Story of News, by Oliver Gramling. The Arikara reaction to Man Who Makes The Paper Talk was provided by Jerome Good Elk, one of the Arikara scouts.

Custer, who fancied himself as something of a correspondent, wrote an article for the magazine Galaxy at the base camp two miles below the mouth of the Tongue.

The question of the actual time of the fight has long been a source of considerable disparity between white and Indian accounts of the Battle of the Little Big Horn. Nearly all Indian informants agreed that the heavy fighting against Custer's command ended shortly after noon, although they had no exact method of determining the hour. Survivors from Reno's and Benteen's commands insisted it was somewhat after 4 P.M. according to their watches. Happily, it seems both sides were correct. The fact that the soldiers' watches indicated it was after 9 P.M. at sundown proves that the Seventh Cavalry was still operating on Chicago time, although they were then nearly three modern time belts away from the Windy City.

The story of Little Wolf's cautious maneuvering was told to me by his son, Young Little Wolf, an old man when I interviewed him in 1946. Many details were substantiated by Two Birds, another ancient member of the old Little Wolf band.

According to Old Eagle (also known as Amos Clown), who told me about the death and burial of Old She-Bear, only a chief or chief's relative was left in a lodge when he died. Any ordinary dead person was dressed in his or her finest, then removed through the side of the lodge, never through the entrance. Sometimes if a dead chief already lay in a tepee, other warriors might be placed on scaffolds within the same lodge, as later happened at Little Big Horn. People in mourning had a choice: they could go into prolonged mourning, or they could get it over with in a hurry by gashing their heads and legs and whacking off their hair (among Sioux and Crows) or unbraiding it and rubbing dirt and ashes into it (among the Cheyennes). Prolonged mourning usually involved "keeping the spirit" of the dead for several months or a year, then "letting the spirit go" at a formal ceremony. During this time the mourners could not hunt, go to war, or share in social activities, but they dressed in their plainest clothing and stayed as much as possible out of the public eye. They often kept a "spirit bundle" or a cottonwood "spirit post" dressed in the clothing of the deceased with a face painted on it. A child's spirit bundle was more often kept than that of an adult, and usually bits of the youngster's hair, purified with sweet grass and shed buffalo wool, was the basis of the bundle. The spirit post of a child was generally much smaller than that of an adult.

David Humphrey Miller's 1940 portrait of Sioux warrior Old Eagle, also known as Amos ClownOld Eagle told me the story of Old She-Bear and Two Bears seeing their reflections in badger blood. Few warriors had the courage to use this hair-raising method of looking into the future. Old Eagle assured me that he had been most careful to look in another direction while this was going on.

Buffalo Calf Road Woman was not the only woman fighting in the Rosebud battle. Plain Bull, Mountain Sheep, Pretty Shield, and other Crows told me that one hundred fifty members of their tribe fought under Chief Plenty Coups on the side of the Gray Fox, and that one was a woman and another was a hermaphrodite. (Among all Plains tribes, hermaphrodites were thought of as a source of good luck around a camp or, occasionally, in a war party.) The Crow girl warrior was The Other Magpie, whose brother had been killed by the Sioux. Courageous as well as pretty, she wore a woodpecker skin on her head, painted her forehead yellow, and rode a black horse. The hermaphrodite, Finds-Them-and-Kills-Them, normally wore woman's dress, but changed to warrior's clothing before riding into battle. During the fighting, Bull Snake, a Crow warrior, was badly wounded and shot from his horse. Finds-Them-and-Kills-Them and The Other Magpie dashed in and managed with a coupstick to bring down the Sioux warrior who was threatening Bull Snake's life. Singing a shrill war song, Finds-Them-and-Kills-Them killed the Sioux. The Other Magpie took his scalp, which she cut up into many pieces. Later, the pieces were passed out among women of the tribe to be tied to willow poles and waved during the scalp dance.

According to Jerome Good Elk, Lieutenant Varnum's detachment of scouts included four Sioux married to Arikara women, who had come out from Fort Abraham Lincoln to guide the expedition and interpret should the need arise. They played a negligible part in the battle, and nothing is known of their individual exploits at Little Big Horn. They were White Cloud, Buffalo Ancestor, Red Bear (not to be confused with the Arikara scout of that name), and Caroo. [Note: see The Twisted Saga Of The Unsung 7th Cavalry Scouts for more info.]

The story of Monahseetah and Custer's son, Yellow Bird, was told to me by several Cheyenne informants including Black Wolf, Little Chief, Rising Sun, and Dives Backward of the Northern Cheyennes; and Eagle Nest and Yellow Eyes, both Southern Cheyennes. Additional data concerning the Washita campaign and Brave Bear's peace conference was given me by Hunting Horse, Kiowa Indian scout who served Custer. (Hunting Horse died in 1956, aged 107.) In his My Life on the Plains, Or Personal Experiences with Indians, published in 1874, Custer recalled the pipe ceremony with the Southern Cheyennes as "an amusing experience." He added that when he bound himself in smoking the pipe never again to take up arms against the Cheyennes, he was certain "the Cheyennes would never have surrendered to him had they any idea how I really felt."

Afternoon: Reno

David Humphreys Miller's portrait of Cheyenne youth Little ChiefThe fishing incident was related to me by Dives Backward and Little Chief. White Shield's account appears in George Bird Grinnell's Fighting Cheyennes. It is interesting to note that in Cheyenne the word for fish line is no-nun-o, meaning a trap or device for catching something. It also means rainbow, for in the poetic Cheyenne mind the appearance of a rainbow at the end of a storm meant the rainbow had trapped the thunder and rain.

Cheyennes were the only Plains Indians who normally ate fish, due, perhaps, to the fact that they had once lived in permanent riverside villages. Each tribe had certain food taboos. No Indian would eat mice, rats, moles, muskrats, owls, or frogs. The Crows would not eat snakes or dogs, although dogs were sometimes eaten ceremonially by the Sioux. Most tribes would not eat turtles.

There is some evidence that several Sioux women out digging turnips were killed by the Arikara scouts. Gall, a Hunkpapa, later said that his two wives and three children were slain by the Arikaras during their attempt to capture the hostile pony herd; but Red Horse, a Minneconjou chief, claimed to have been out with the women and reported no casualties among them. In the light of various misstatements made by Gall, this part of his story may well be in error. George Herendeen, white scout with Reno, was quoted in a Bismarck communique published July 8, 1876, in the New York Herald, as saying, "Our men did not kill any squaws, but the Ree [Arikara] Indian scouts did. The bodies of six squaws were found in the little ravine...... None of my Indian informants ever mentioned any casualties among the women at Little Big Horn and it is doubtful whether any were killed. [Note: Miller is apparenly unaware of the Little Wolf Ledger Book and the eye-witness account of Peter Thompson.]

Usher L. Burdick's short biography of Rain-in-the-Face states that the warrior had not been harshly treated during his confinement at Fort Abraham Lincoln, that he and the Custer family became good friends, that he was visited almost daily by the General and Mrs. Custer. In later years, Rain-in-the-Face was said to make frequent inquiries about the health of Mrs. Custer and "whether or not she had a new chief." Although he may have taken a solicitous interest in Mrs. Custer long after the battle, there is every indication that, in 1876, he was intensely bitter about what he felt was an entirely unjust punishment.

This council was described to me by One Bull, Kills Alive, and several other Hunkpapas. Kill Eagle, who was anxious to convey to the whites the impression that he and his band had been kept unwilling prisoners in the hostile camp, later denied having even seen Sitting Bull the day of the battle. His account was the first one gotten from any Indian who had been in the village at Little Big Horn and was included in a story datelined Bismarck, D.T., September 23, 1876, which appeared the next day in the New York Herald.

Like Kill Eagle, a number of Indians were undecided about joining Sitting Bull. Less uncertain was Black Bull, a Blackfeet Sioux medicine man and a sworn enemy of Sitting Bull since the day when at a council meeting he had made light of the whites' attempts to take Indian lands and had facetiously suggested that the Sioux get a big scale and sell earth to the white men by the pound. While the tribes were streaming out of the agencies to join Sitting Bull, Black Bull remained in Dakota Territory to help protect the lives and property of his white friends who lived along the Cannonball Trail leading west to the Little Big Horn. A ranch belonging to the Tuttle family, parents of a newly born son, lay directly in the path of the restless hostiles. In desperation the Tuttles turned to Black Bull whom the hostiles thought to be "bad medicine" and shunned like the plague. Unable to be everywhere at once, Black Bull acted fast. In spite of his firm belief that having his picture taken would deprive him of his soul, the medicine man galloped into Bismarck, had his tintype taken, and hastened back to give the Tuttles his tiny photograph to hang in their cabin window. From that time on, the hostiles, seeing Black Bull's likeness staring at them, hurried on their way without further delay.

David Humphrey Miller's 1940 portrait of Sioux warrior Drags The RopeDrags-the-Rope reached camp after Brown Back's arrival, having made a wide circle along the divide as far as the headwaters of Tullock's Creek, then cross-country to Medicine Tail Coulee, which he followed down to the ford and across into the village. He told me that, since he could report having seen only three white soldiers, no one in the Ogalala camp seemed at all worried until the alarm went up a few minutes later. He joined Crazy Horse at that time, fighting near the Ogalala leader through most of the battle.

Sitting Bull's attempt to arrange a parley with the soldiers through his nephew was related to me by One Bull himself. Other informants substantiate the little-known fact that the warriors were to fight back only if the soldiers forced them into it. In 1941 Feather Earring told me, "If Long Hair had wanted to come up and talk with us, we had all agreed ahead of time we would have surrendered and gone back to our agencies with him."

The mother-in-law taboo was the most stringent of several behavior customs designed to prevent possible friction within the family. Men, the warriors particularly, were forbidden to look at or speak to their in-laws save for sisters-in-law, with whom the Indian males had a unique relationship. Regarding her as a potential wife, a man often made semi-obscene jokes with his sister-in-law, might even raise her dress and expose her in public. She was encouraged to retaliate in kind. Conversation with other in-laws was strictly prohibited and messages had to be relayed through a third person or, if none was around, an inanimate object. Sioux babies were delivered by the prospective mother's mother-in-law but no direct communication could pass between the two women. Brothers and sisters seldom spoke directly to, each other after reaching puberty. In all aspects of tribal life, Indians believed that close living demanded a lack of overfamiliarity.

Lieutenant McIntosh's father was said to have been a storekeeper in Washington State at the time of his son's death. Red Bear's story was passed on to me by Jerome Good Elk. Much of it also appears in the Arikara Narrative.

Black Elk always said he was thirteen years old that summer of 1876. However, he was slight and sickly, and Plains Indians usually reckoned age by development and accomplishment rather than years. Accomplishment alone would have rated him much older than thirteen, for he had already had an important vision and had performed feats of valor prior to that time.

Isaiah Dorman was among the few Negroes known to the Sioux. The Crows had long had a mulatto squaw man, Jim Beckwourth, living among them, but he was unknown to the hostiles.

David Humphreys Miller's 1937 portrait of White Cow Bull, probably the man who killed George Custer 61 years before.Afternoon: Custer

For whatever it is worth, Custer once made the following immodest estimate of himself: "I am not impetuous or impulsive. I resent that. Everything that I have ever done has been the result of the study that I have made of imaginary military situations that might arise. When I become engaged in a campaign or battle and a great emergency arises, everything that I ever heard or studied focuses in my mind as if the situation were under a magnifying glass and my decision was the instantaneous result. My mind works instantaneously but always as the result of everything I have ever studied being brought to bear on the situation."

Roan Bear eloped with another man's wife the year after the Custer fight, then sent the cuckolded husband a pipe by a respectable old man. The husband sent back word to Roan Bear that he wanted to eat a woolly dog, thus expressing his contempt for his faithless wife and amiably settling the matter. Had the husband been a chief, according to Black Wolf, he would have been compelled to overlook the offense altogether.

The fight at the ford was described to me by White Cow Bull and Bobtail Horse, both of whom lived to be quite old. Custer's fall at mid-river was witnessed simultaneously by White Cow Bull and the three Crow scouts, although White Cow Bull did not know Custer's identity at the time. The account of the Crows was passed on to me by Pretty Shield, widow of Goes Ahead, with whom I had my first interview in 1940 when she was almost eighty-two years of age. Publicized earlier, Pretty Shield's accurate account could make little dent in the Custer myth until corroborated here by the hostiles' side of the story.

Yellow Nose and his mother were both captured by the Cheyennes in 1858. The story was told to me by Dives Backward, whose father (of the same name) had been a member of the war party making the capture. No stigma was attached to captives, and female prisoners were often taken as wives by their captors. The mother of Yellow Nose was not content in her new situation, however, and, leaving her son behind, finally escaped.

The various companies or troops engaged in the battle are referred to in some accounts according to the names of their commanding officers. C Company was Tom Custer's command; F Company, George Yates'; I Company, Myles Keogh's; and L Company, Calhoun's. E Company, Smith's command, was the famous gray-horse troop which gallops ghostlike through nearly all Indian accounts of the fight. These large handsome band horses were easier for the hostiles to follow through an action than the more nondescript bays and sorrels of other troops. "Company," incidentally, was the official designation of the unit until 1883 when the terms "troop" and "squadron" replaced "company" and "battalion." The word "troop," however, had been in common use for some years prior to that time, even before 1876. Officers generally rode horses the same color as the mounts of their men. Trumpeters rode grays. Adjutant Cooke's mount was almost white.

Brilliant planning played little part in Indian warfare. Staff level operations, or any type of high strategy, brought no honors. All any Indian leader could do was to set the pace for his followers.

David Humphrey Miller's 1940 portrait of Sioux youth Blue ArmIn spite of oppressive heat, no Cheyennes fought naked at Little Big Horn, although a dozen or more Sioux were stripped down to the breechclout. Among all Plains tribes the breechclout was a symbol of manhood. Even more important to Indian males was the "G string," a slender cord tied around the waist and never removed after puberty. (It could be adjusted to fit an expanding waistline.) Buckskin leggings had a "fork" cut in the side, a flap from the calf to the ankle, the use of which is unknown. War shirts were decorated with colored porcupine quillwork or beaded strips and were usually heavily fringed. In accord with an age-old custom of dressing in one's finest clothing when faced with possible death, no warrior rode into the fight until he felt he looked his best. Some of them believed much advance preparation was necessary, but this did not affect their fighting courage once they were in the battle. About fifteen Cheyennes wore eagle-feather war bonnets, of which ten had long trails, while some forty Sioux wore similar feathered headgear. In every war bonnet worn, each feather represented a brave deed performed in battle. (Crown bonnets consisted of about thirty such feathers, but trail bonnets, which might have as many as a hundred, never had fewer than seventy.) Unless all feathers were earned by the wearer, other warriors might snatch the bonnet off his head. Several Sioux and one Cheyenne wore headdresses made from the mane and horns of buffalo bulls. One Sioux had a bearskin headdress, and Sun Bear, a Cheyenne, wore a war bonnet with a single buffalo horn projecting from its center.

Pine's experience with his father was related to me by Pine himself in 1940.

Part of this Cheyenne's immunity to lead can be explained by the fact that nearly 20 per cent of the regiment's total strength was made up of recruits, divided among the troops. These green soldiers were new to any sort of warfare, let alone the specialized training that went into Indian fighting. They, as well as more seasoned troopers, did not even get target practice before leaving Fort Abraham Lincoln!

Left Hand's mistake was described to me by Sherman Sage, one of the Arapaho's warrior companions.

David Humphreys Miller's 1939 portrait of Oglala Sioux medicine man Black ElkThe story of Walking Blanket Woman [or Moving Robe Woman] was told to me by Black Elk. Also known as Mary Crawler, she died in 1936. The mass suicide of C Company was described to me by Black Wolf, Pine, Limpy, Bobtail Horse, Rising Sun, Red Fox, and Dives Backward -- all Northern Cheyennes. Wooden Leg, also a Cheyenne, described the same incident to his friend, Dr. Thomas B. Marquis. [Note: Wooden Leg also speaks of another group suicide at the very end of the battle, and other Indian combatants speak of still more suicides among the American soldiers, including He Dog and Turning Hawk.]

Aged thirty-eight, Chief Lame White Man was therefore close to the forty-year mark at which warriors among the Sioux and Cheyennes were compelled by custom to retire. Other tribes, such as the Crow, had no such age limit, and Washakie, chief of the Wind River Shoshonis, once went on the warpath at the age of seventy-five. Any man who had a son in the battle was not expected to fight, but each family in the village was required to furnish at least one warrior in the common defense.

The suicide of the escaping officer led some Sioux and Cheyennes into believing later that he might have been Long Hair Custer. The story of Custer's suicide, however, seems to have sprung from other sources.

"Brother-friends" were invariably closer than blood brothers, who often stayed somewhat aloof from each other because of age differences. The brother-friend relationship called for unlimited loyalty and was the normal pattern of Indian friendship.

"Counting coup" or striking the enemy was the basis of all Plains Indian warfare. It was far more important for a warrior thus to prove his courage than to kill the enemy outright. For the last there was no reward unless he also struck him. Weapons used in counting coup were lances, war clubs, bows, quirts, or gun barrels. Sometimes a warrior carried a special coupstick for the purpose. Bent at one end somewhat like a shepherd's crook, it carried no sharpened point or blade. If he had no weapons, a man might strike his enemy with the flat of his hand. Fists were seldom used. Among the Cheyennes, as many as three warriors might strike the same enemy and earn battle honors. The first warrior usually shouted, "A h haih! I am first!" so there could be no argument about his having been first to touch the enemy. The Sioux and the Arapahoes allowed four coups on one enemy. Coup claims were carefully ironed out during kill-talks after a fight.

David Humphreys Miller's portrait of George Red BearThe word "coup," meaning blow in French, was applied to the Indian custom of striking an enemy by early FrenchCanadian trappers. A warrior who had counted a first coup was entitled to paint his face black with buffalo blood mixed with cottonwood buds or rye-grass ashes. Black was the color of victory. Signifying the end of hostilities, it meant that revenge was accomplished on the enemy and that the war spirit now lay dead like burned-out coals. One who had counted a second coup might unbraid his hair and wear it loose for a while, but he could not paint his face black. A warrior who had killed an enemy after striking him could wear an erect eagle feather in his hair. One who had struck the enemy without killing him wore the feather in a horizontal position but with equal honor. A wounded warrior often painted his "honor" feathers bright red or notched them according to the number of wounds received.

At one time the Sioux took enemy heads. Prior to the arrival of whites on the Plains, they and the Cheyennes had learned the more refined art of scalping from Indians farther east who had been taught how to do it by the British during the French and Indian Wars. Scalps, however, were mere trophies and did not represent battle honors. Normally they were kept only a short time, until the scalp dance had been held to celebrate a victory or successful raid. It was customary for warriors upon their return from battle to give scalps to their womenfolk, who would sew them to small willow hoops which they tied to long poles. After drying them properly in the sun, the women would wave them proudly during the scalp dance. Sometimes bits of enemy hairs were saved to fasten onto war shirts or to braid into a person's own locks to make them seem longer.

Sitting Bull's warning to his warriors against looting was told to me by his nephew, White Bull [or Lazy White Bull], who nevertheless took two pairs of soldiers' breeches which he later gave to his father, Makes Room.

Woman-Who-Walks-With-The-Stars actually did better at Little Big Horn than her husband, Crow Dog, who succeeded only in capturing three badly shot-up cavalry horses. Her story was told to me in 1941 by Hollow Horn Eagle and Brave Bird, both Bighorn survivors.

Mitch Bouyer may also have been killed down by the river toward the end of the battle. [Note: actually, according to Pretty Shield, Bouyer was killed at the river at the very beginning of the battle, not the end.] Sherman Sage, Arapaho warrior in the fight, told me in 1939 that a man in a calfskin vest and a soldier with a bugle and a carbine escaped from the ridge and got down to the river, reaching the west bank before the Sioux and Cheyennes found them. Bouyer, it was said, begged the Indians to kill him, which they eventually did. His body was thrown into the river along with that of the bugler. The story rings true, for the Arikara scouts knew Bouyer as Man-with-a-Calfskin-Vest rather than as Two Bodies, and it is probable he was wearing such a garment the day of the fight.

David Humphreys Miller's portrait of Dan Bull PlumeMy Indian informants have agreed unanimously that no man of Custer's command escaped them. Nevertheless, stories of Custer survivors have been legion. As recently as the early 1950's, grizzled old characters have' been brought out of obscurity to tell hair-raising tales of escape-even on television. Such claims have been supported by extremely thin evidence, if any. However, it is true that the bodies of at least six members of Custer's command were never recovered. They were Lieutenants Sturgis, Porter, and Harrington, Dr. Lord, and two enlisted men. Captain Benteen described, in a letter to his wife dated July 4, 1876, the finding of Porter's and Sturgis's clothes in the deserted village, implying that these men were taken captive and tortured to death. Scout Herendeen's statement, made on July 7, 1876, reads: "The heads of four white soldiers were found in the Sioux camp that had been severed from their trunks, but the bodies could not be found on the battlefield or in the village." All Indian accounts deny categorically taking prisoners or inflicting torture on living enemies at Little Big Horn. The Sioux recall that one trooper on a runaway horse galloped quite a distance through the village before he was brought down, but he was one of Reno's command. If any of Custer's men got away, the Indians never admitted it, and no authentic "survivors" ever returned to the white man's world.

In August of 1876, General (then Captain) E. S. Godfrey discovered the carcass of a Seventh Cavalry horse at the mouth of the Rosebud River, some miles from Little Big Horn. Shot in the head, the animal had apparently been killed for meat. Its saddle leather had been cut away, possibly to be used in fashioning a crude raft. A carbine had been found near the carcass, indicating a white man had ridden the animal, for no Indian would have abandoned such a valuable weapon. No trace of the rider was ever found. Willis Rowland told me in 1940 that, some years after the battle, he and another Cheyenne had found human bones fifteen miles east of the battlefield. He concluded they were those of a trooper who had been clubbed and stripped and left for dead by the Sioux but had regained consciousness and wandered away into the badlands to die of exposure. In 1926, a week before the fiftieth anniversary of the Custer fight, a Crow Indian named High Medicine Rock came across a man's skeleton a mile and a half southeast of the battlefield. Buttons, bits of rotted cloth, and an old Seventh Cavalry carbine saddle boot identified the bones as those of a stray trooper, while a Sioux arrowhead imbedded in the neck vertebrae showed how one of Custer's soldiers had met his end.

Sundown

The story of Sitting Bull asking his people to mourn for the dead soldiers was told to me by One Bull, the chief's younger nephew. White Bull was more the vigorous man of action, while One Bull, no less courageous, seemed to have deeper insight into matters pertaining to tribal government. Both nephews later became chiefs in their own right-One Bull of the Hunkpapas, White Bull of the Minneconjous.

Among other charges later leveled against him, Reno was accused of having slapped a civilian teamster, of having been drunk during the afternoon and night of the siege, and of proposing that all able-bodied survivors make a run for safety, leaving the wounded behind on Reno Hill. None of these charges was substantiated during the Reno Court of Inquiry in 1879. (See "The Legend," p. 196.)

Had Reno chosen to leave the bluff and take his command back the way they had come, no Indian would have stood in his way, according to all Indian informants who fought around Reno Hill. By that time, the warriors felt they had won a sufficient victory to convince the soldiers of their foolishness in attacking the village and most of them felt the survivors should be allowed to warn other troops out of the area.

In later years White Bull became convinced that he had killed Long Hair. He told me in 1939 that he was the warrior who had slain the soldier-chief and that I was the first white man to whom he had confessed. Although the facts of his story were well known to other Sioux, many of whom substantiated his claim, I felt compelled at the time to follow the wishes of his son, James, who feared that publication of the story might result in harm coming to the old man.

Within Army circles and in the press, the horse Comanche enjoyed lasting fame until his death in 1891. Widely known as "the only living thing found on the battlefield of the Little Big Horn," the claybank gelding was actually one of several badly wounded animals discovered by First Lieutenant Henry Nolan of the Seventh Cavalry, acting quartermaster on General Terry's staff. Nolan was a member of an advance party led by First Lieutenant Bradley, who was scouting the Custer battlefield three days after the fight and discovered the dead bodies of Custer's command. Unable to move under his own power, Comanche was taken down-river to the steamer Far West and was returned to Fort Abraham Lincoln where he finally recovered from his wounds. Never ridden again, draped in black and with boots set backward in the stirrups of his saddle, the little horse was an important part of all regimental ceremonies. After his death at Fort Riley, Kansas, Comanche's body was mounted and exhibited at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago, in 1893. It is now in a glass case in the rotunda of the natural science building on the campus of Kansas University...


Custer's Fall: The Indian Side of the Story by David Humphreys Miller, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, NE 1957 p 215 - 252

NOTE:

Regarding people who might have possibly killed George Custer at the Battle of the Little Bighorn, David Humphreys Miller wrote in Custer's Fall, "During early kill-talks soon after the Custer battle, various warriors claimed credit for having killed Long Hair. One of them was Red Horse, a Minneconjou. Another was Flat Hip, a Hunkpapa. Another of the same tribe, Little Knife, announced that young Brown Back, brother of the slain boy Deeds, had shot the soldier-chief. The two sons of Inkpaduta (Scarlet Top), chief of the Santees, also asserted they had been in on the kill. Among the Santees, however, the claim of Walks-Under-the-Ground [or Noisy Walking], parading around on Custer's horse, carried more weight. Fast Eagle, an Ogalala, said that he and another warrior had pinioned Custer's arms at the end of the fight while the girl warrior, Walking Blanket Woman (later known as Mary Crawler [or Moving Robe Woman]), stabbed Long Hair in the back. Since Custer's body bore no visible stab wounds, few Indians believed her victim had been the soldier-chief. However, she was afterward permitted to take a man's part in all war dances." See Who Killed Custer -- The Eye-Witness Answer for more info.

* * *

David Humphreys Miller's 1937 portrait of Swims Under The WaterAlthough not born into the Teton Sioux, David Humphreys Miller was adopted late in life by both Iron Hail and One Bull, and like the other Sioux, Cheyenne and Crow chroniclers in 100 Voices (Ohiyesa, John Stands In Timber, William Bordeaux, Pretty Shield, Bird Horse, George Bird Grinnell), he had unique access to important particpants in the Battle of the Little Bighorn, some of whom left no other record, such as White Cow Bull and Drags The Rope.

Miller frequenlty made pastel sketches of the Sioux survivors of the Battle of the Little Bighorn whom he interviewed. Some of Miller's portraits are exceptionally fine evocations of the historic personalities in their own right, such as his portraits of Lazy White Bull and Old Eagle and Black Elk late in life.

Click here for information of David Humphreys Miller's sources among the Sioux, Cheyenne, Crow, Arikara and Apapaho.


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