couple discovers whether they can
agree with each other and can be
happy--if not, they part, and look for
other partners. If we were to live
together and disagree, we should be as
foolish as the whites. No indiscretion
can banish a woman from her
parental lodge. It makes no difference
how many children she may bring
home; she is always welcome. The
kettle is over the fire to feed them.-BLACK ELK,
OGLALA SIOUX, 1863-1950
To the East Where Father Sun rises Bringing to us a new day A new meaning of life, A light in which to see The path before us. To the South Where the warm air comes to us Bringing heat and warmth, The seasons of spring And summer. To the West Where Father Sun goes To bring to us darkness, So as we may see the universe And search for the questions Of our life. To the North Where the cold winds come from Bringing to us the seasons Of fall and winter.
Oh Great Spirit Hear my words For to you I offer My heart and soul You made me What I am And I am Indian America's Prisoners of War. I pray for my people of the past Whose blood covers this our Mother Earth I pray now as an Indian Blood of my Ancestors. Great Spirit Grandfather, Look down upon Your people, For we are humble Before you. We seek your guidance, So that we your people May walk forever In a proud manner Before you.
Great Spirit Grandfather, You gave your people The breath of life, So that we may live With dignity and pride, To always know And understand That life was meant for us Your most humble Traditional people, And all that Was Created And given The breath of life. Great Spirit Grandfather, Let my heart Soul and mind Be always strong with Wisdom, knowledge And Understanding. Great Spirit Grandfather Hear my words For wisdom So that I may open My eyes and See all that Is good around me. Great Spirit Grandfather Hear my words For wisdom So that I may open my ears And hear all that is good Around me. For I am humble Before you. I seek the strength To continue on this path That I travel on before you In a most Sacred manner. Great Spirit Grandfather Hear my words For they are words That come from the Heart, soul and mind, And are filled with Wisdom, knowledge and Understanding. Great Spirit Grandfather My words are for you To know and understand That in a most Sacred manner I honor and respect I seek the strength To forever continue Upon this Sacred path.
Great Spirit Grandfather Upon the four winds Are my words for strength For they come from the Heart, soul and mind Words I send to you In a Sacred manner. Great Spirit Grandfather Let all The wisdom, knowledge and understanding Be my strength To continue on this path That I travel on before you As a Traditional Native American Indian, Now and forever
Yesterday and tomorrow exist eternally upon this continent.
We natives are guardians of this sacred place.
Peter Blue Cloud, Mohawk
Artist: Howard Terpning
Silence and isolation are the rule of life for the expectant mother. She wanders
prayerful in the stillness of great woods, and to her poetic mind the imminent
birth of her child prefigures the advent of a hero. And when the day of days in
her life dawns--the day in which there is to be a new life, the miracle of whose
making has been entrusted to her--she seeks no human aid. She has been
trained and prepared in body and mind for this.
Childbirth is best met alone, where no curious embarrass her, where all nature says to her spirit: "It's love! It's love! The fulfilling of life!" She feels the endearing warmth of it and hears its soft breathing. It is still a part of herself, and no look of a lover could be sweeter than its deep, trusting gaze.
-OHIYESA (CHARLES EASTMAN),
SANTEE SIOUX, 1858-1939
I know not if the mighty one will hear as I pray;
I know not if the gifts I ask will all granted be;
I know not if the word of old we truly can hear;
I know not what will come to pass in our future days;
I hope that only good will come, my children, to you.
~ Woman's Song from The Hako, a ritual drama of the Pawnee.
Sometimes we boys would sit motionless and watch the swallows, the tiny ants, or perhaps some small animal at its work and ponder its industry and ingenuity....Everything was possessed of personality, only differing from us in form...Interest, wonder, admiration grew, and the fact was appreciated that life was more than mere human manifestation; it was expressed in a multitude of forms...
Life was vivid and pulsing; nothing was casual and commonplace. The Indian lived - lived in every sense of the word - from his first to his last breath.
think for me.
One summer evening in 1853, six young Cheyenne Dog Soldiers lay in the grass outside a Pawnee camp along the Red Shield (or Republican) River. As the scouts were about to pull out and return to the main party, one of them stopped and made a suggestion: 'Let us wrap ourselves in blankets and go into the village one at a time. We can bump against them and count coup. However, the other scouts refused, reminding the reckless brave that they were there to locate the village so the main party could attack them.
That impetuous warrior, Tall Bull, had by 1864 become acknowledged leader of the Dog Soldiers, the fiercest of the Cheyenne warrior societies. More than 100 lodges, or about 500 people, followed him and the other chiefs over eastern Colorado and western Kansas and Nebraska.
Late that year the Sand Creek Massacre setoff a war with the whites, the so-called Cheyenne-Arapaho War of 1864-65. Tall Bull, seeing the war's futility, led his people north, away from the white men to the Powder River country. But within a year, homesickness had driven them back to the Republican and Smoky Hill River area.
In the spring of 1866, Tall Bull and his followers returned to a strange land. The buffalo were drifting out of the prime lands along the Smoky Hill, moving away from the advancing farms and railroads. Suffering depredations at the hands of white settlers and seeing the buffalo disappearing, the Dog Soldiers began a war once again. Through the winter and into the spring of 1867 they raided the central stage route, determined to drive the wagons and stations off the buffalo range. In response, Maj. Gen. Winfield S. Hancock took 1,400 soldiers to Fort Larned, Kan., in April to have a council with the Dog Soldiers.
Tall Bull and many other Dog Soldiers responded to the invitation from their agent, Edward Wynkoop. They moved their village of 500 lodges 35 miles southwest of the fort but stopped there and made camp. Sand Creek was still fresh in their memories. Only the chiefs rode into Larned to talk with the soldiers.
Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer, who was present at the talks, described Tall Bull as a fine, warlike-looking chieftain. While many of the chiefs who came to the council wore captured military clothing, Tall Bull came dressed in his finest, shunning the white man's clothes. He was described as having 20 to 30 silver dollars flattened out to the size of saucers, fastened 'flatwise' on a thong about a yard and a half long, one end of which was attached to the crown of his head and the other end floated out behind him as he rode. His moccasins were embroidered with small beads and he was enveloped in a dark blanket.
That Tall Bull was a major chief by that time was obvious. After Hancock's speech and display of artillery might, it was Tall Bull who rose and spoke for the group. Lieutenant Albert Barnitz of the 7th Cavalry noticed that one of their principal chiefs, 'Tall Bull', while making a speech… or rather while the interpreter was translating… stood tapping the ground with his foot, in a very defiant manner.
Tall Bull was not defiant. Nor was he conciliatory. Professing his desire for a just peace, he stressed the need for the soldiers and whites to quit making war on the Indians. Custer's recollection of the speech indicates that Hancock and his soldiers had not come to listen but to dictate to the Indians. His [Tall Bull's] speech contained nothing important, recalled Custer.
Tall Bull's final statement indicates that what Barnitz took for defiance was probably impatience mixed with a little contempt: I shall have no more to say to you there [in his village, to which Hancock was determined to go] than here. I have said all I want to say. He had recently visited the Powder River country, where Sioux leader Red Cloud wanted to chase out the white man. Reports from the north indicated he was doing just that. The Cheyennes could do the same on the Smoky Hill. At least twice during that time, Tall Bull maintained the peace by stopping the Dog Soldiers from attacking the troops as they approached their village and also by restraining the great warrior Roman Nose from killing Hancock during a council.
Displaying even more maturity and responsibility, Tall Bull led his people away from the village, abandoning all possessions rather than risking a fight so close to the women and children. Hancock, enraged at their defiance, burned the village. The war that followed this foolish action was over quickly. Hancock was withdrawn from the Plains. A council was arranged in the fall of 1867 at a place on the Medicine Lodge River in south-central Kansas. All the tribes were invited-and most of the Indians on reservations attended.
Camping three days' journey west of the council on the Cimarron River, the Dog Soldiers under Tall Bull waited for six days. When they finally arrived at noon on September 28, it was in a manner that left no doubt they were not a conquered people. Arriving on horseback, the Dog Soldiers formed a platoon front about 150 yards from the commissioners, as they had seen the cavalry do many times. At the sound of a bugle, they charged into camp firing weapons in the air and brandishing bows with arrows nocked. Skidding to a halt within yards of the commission, they slid to the ground, then laughed and began shaking hands.
During the talks that followed, Tall Bull, one of the major negotiators, emphasized again that the Cheyennes wanted peace but also said that if war was what the whites wanted, he would accept that. Negotiations stalled. The Cheyennes refused to give up the hunting grounds north of the Arkansas River. The peace commission had already written out a treaty that required just that. As the council began to look like a failure, Senator John B. Henderson of Missouri, the chief negotiator, provided a verbal understanding that the Cheyenne chiefs could hunt between the Arkansas and the Republican as long as there were buffalo there. With that understanding, the chiefs signed the treaty. As Barnitz said in a letter to his wife, the Indians were signing away their rights … as they have no idea what they are giving up.
In the spring of 1868, Tall Bull violated the Medicine Lodge Creek Treaty by taking his warriors north of the Arkansas to hunt and raid. It was he who chose the warriors to raid the Kaws at Council Grove in eastern Kansas that year. To escape the soldiers who responded to those raids, Tall Bull led his band of about 300 warriors and their families to the headwaters of the Republican. In August 1868 they were camped along the Arikaree fork of the Republican-hunting buffalo and preparing for winter. More Cheyennes and several groups of Sioux and Arapahos joined them there until they numbered close to 700 warriors.
Colonel Sandy Forsyth led a group of 50 scouts in pursuit of the raiders. On September 16, 1868, they camped on the Arikaree-not knowing that the whole of the tribe he was chasing and a lot more were camped 20 miles away on the same stream. Hunters rushed into the Cheyenne camp that evening and told of the white scouts. Tall Bull roused the camp, calling on his allies to prepare for war.
Tall Bull's actual conduct in the battle that followed-the Battle of Beecher Island-is unknown. He is not mentioned by the Cheyenne survivors as one of the warriors who led the charges or directed the battle, but his presence throughout is acknowledged. He advised Roman Nose not to go into the battle with his medicine broken but urged him to hurry his purifications. He was there after the morning failures with the group seeking Roman Nose to lead the next charge. He was there at the end, after Roman Nose had fallen, to pick up the pieces of this great mass of warriors who had fought and failed.
Most of the Indian survivors went north, but Tall Bull gathered a mixed company of Dog Soldiers, Sioux and Arapaho lodges and attacked western Kansas and Nebraska again. Although he was never beaten in battle, the cold that winter drove the Dog Soldiers to the reservation-the Southern Cheyenne villages around Fort Cobb.
During a move in the spring from Fort Cobb to Fort Supply, an argument broke out between Tall Bull and Chief Little Robe. Tall Bull wanted the young men to join him, when the ponies got fat, in raiding and hunting north of the Arkansas. Chief Little Robe could see nothing good in that and ordered Tall Bull off the reservation. Tall Bull left angry, with about 165 lodges of Dog Soldiers, stating he would live free or die.
Traveling north through eastern Colorado Territory, Tall Bull led his people to the Republican again-trying to find the bands that had not gone south for the winter. While Tall Bull's people camped near Beaver Creek, the 5th Cavalry, under Major Eugene Carr, attacked them. A long, tiring fight ensued over many miles and with many skirmishes. The village lost many provisions and lodges. In retaliation, Tall Bull led his warriors to the Smoky Hill, where they killed, looted, burned and kidnapped. When he had sated his anger and his need for provisions, he retreated once again into the rough and isolated country between the Republican and the Plattedetermined to take his people north once again, as he had in 1865, to five free with their northern relatives.
At White Butte, as the Cheyennes called Summit Springs, Tall Bull rested his village. We will stop here for two days, he told his followers, then we will push across the south Platte and go up to the Rock where we starved the Pawnees. Believing that they had outrun the pursuing soldiers, and sure that the Platte was too high to cross, they settled into camp. But on the afternoon of July 11, 1869, Carr's Pawnee scouts found the village. Without being detected, the troops came within 1,200 yards of the sleepy village and attacked. Without a chance to organize or to defend themselves or their families, the Cheyennes ran, grabbing horses where they could, trying to get out of the way of the big American horses and the screaming Pawnees. Two Crows, a Cheyenne Dog Soldier, recognized a horse as it came toward him. It was Tall Bull's war pony, a gentle and welltrained animal. He ran alongside it, grabbed its mane, then swung onto it. On its back, he escaped from the village.
Tall Bull, in the meantime, grabbed another pony, an orange-colored steed with a silver mane and tail. He lifted his wife and child onto its back with him, then ran it into a narrow, steep ravine. About 20 others ran there with him. When he had secured his wife and child deep in the ravine, he rode back to the opening, dismounted and stabbed his horse behind the foreleg, causing the animal to drop to the ground, dead. The Pawnee scouts under Frank and Luther North surrounded the ravine. As the North brothers rode up, an Indian raised his head over the rim and fired at them. Frank quickly dismounted and handed his brother his reins. He told his brother, Ride away and he will put his head up again.
Luther did as he was told, while Frank aimed his rifle at the spot where the head had disappeared. Within a few seconds, the Indian's head popped up again. North killed him with one shot. A few minutes following, a woman and child left the ravine, signaling Frank North not to shoot. She approached him begging for mercy in sign language. North sent her to the rear with the child. North organized his scouts to attack and overrun the ravine. Within minutes the battle was over. Everyone between those steep banks was dead.
After the battle, an interpreter discovered that the woman who had come out of the ravine was one of Tall Bull's widows. She said that North had killed Tall Bull with that one shot. Others, though, also claimed to have killed him. A Lieutenant Masons claim is unsubstantiated. William Buffalo Bill Cody's claim is based on an episode that happened after the main battle, when skirmishers returned to harass the troops in the village.
Cody reported that there was an Indian on a very nice horse riding just out of rifle range. Cody dropped into a gully and slithered out to where he could be sure to hit the man and not the horse, for the horse was his quest. With a single shot from cover, Cody downed the man. The horse, in a panic, ran into the village and was captured. Later that day, as the captured Indians saw Cody leading the horse, a woman set up a howl. Through an interpreter she claimed to be Tall Bull's wife and recognized the horse as his.
Although it is easy to confuse things in memory and during a battle, these two reports, North's and Cody's, seem to be so contradictory that only one can be the truth. In reality, both are probably true. Early in the fight, Two Crows had taken one of Tall Bull's war ponies. It is most likely that Cody killed Two Crows or someone who had taken the horse from him and not Tall Bull.
At the end of the Battle of Summit Springs, Tall Bull was dead. Roman Nose was a year dead. So was Black Kettle. All the leaders of the Southern Cheyennes and the fiercest of all the warrior societies were gone. So, too, was the power of the Southern Cheyennes-forever
need to be loved and to love. Love is
something you and I must have. We
must have it because our spirit feeds
upon it. We must have it because
without it we become weak and faint.
Without love our self-esteem weakens.
Without it our courage fails. Without
love we can no longer look out confi-
dently at the world. We turn inward
and begin to feed upon our own per-
sonalities, and little by little we destroy
ourselves. With it we are creative. With
it we march tirelessly. With it, and
with it alone, we are able to sacrifice
-CHIEF DAN GEORGE,
COAST SALISH, 1899-1981
― Black Elk, Oglala Sioux
Quote from Black Elk Speaks, by John G. Neihardt, 1932
The wide Nation of the Lakota, as these Sioux called themselves, was a league of seven council fires.
The four divisions of the Santees lived in Minnesota; the two divisions of the Yanktons lived between them and the Missouri River; the one large division of the Tetons lived in their Dakota country, west of the Missouri River.
The Santees, the Yanktons and the Tetons spoke their own dialects. They differed in appearance from one another. They were separated into tribes and bands.
Even as late as 1904 they numbered twenty-five thousand people in the United States. By mind, muscle and morals they have been rated as leaders of the Western red men. They roamed hither-thither, and depended upon the buffalo for food. They waged stout war.
The Tetons were the strongest, and formed half of the Dakota nation. It was chiefly they who fought the United States soldiers for so long. The war opened in 1855, over the killing of a crippled cow by a Min-icon-jou, at Fort Laramie of Wyoming, on the Oregon Trail of the emigrants.
The Brulés, or Burnt Thighs; the Og-la-las, or Scatter-one's-own; the Hunk-pa-pas, or Those-who-camp-by-themselves; the Min-i-con-jous, or Those-who-plant-beside-the-str
Red Cloud at first was chief of the Bad Faces band of Oglala Sioux. They were a small fighting band, but he was a noted brave. His count showed more coups, or strike-the-enemy feats, than the count of any other warrior of the Oglalas. Before he retired from war, his coups numbered eighty.
He was born in 1822. His Sioux name was Makh-pia-sha, meaning Red Cloud. In the beginning it probably referred to a cloud at sunrise or subset; later it referred to his army of warriors whose red blankets covered the hills.
When he was forty years old, there was much excitement among the white men to the west of the Sioux range. From the mines of Idaho the gold-seekers had crossed to the eastern base of the Rocky Mountains in western Montana. Mining camps such as Helena, Bozeman and Virginia City sprang up.
The Oregon Trail of the emigrants already passed through the Sioux country, and the Sioux had agreed to let it alone. Now the United States asked permission to make a new road, which from Fort Laramie of southern Wyoming would leave the Oregon Trail, and branch off northwest, through the Powder River and the Big Horn country of Wyoming, and on west across Montana, as a short-cut to the gold-fields.
This part of Wyoming really was Crow Indian country; but the Sioux had driven the Crows out, and with the Northern Cheyennes were using the region for a hunting ground. The white man's trails to the south had frightened the buffalo and reduced the herds; the Powder River valleys were the only ranges left to the Sioux, where they might hunt and always find plenty of meat.
Some of the Sioux chiefs did sign a treaty for the new road. The only Oglalas who signed were sub-chiefs. Red Cloud did not sign. The United States went ahead, anyway. Troops were sent forward, to begin the work of building the road. Red Cloud, with his Oglalas and some Cheyennes, surrounded them and captured them; held them prisoners for two weeks, until his young men threatened to kill them. Then he released them, with a warning.
"I shall stand in the trail," he said. Those were the words of Pontiac, to Major Rogers, one hundred years before.
United States officials were ordered to Fort Laramie, to talk with the angry Red Cloud. He declined to meet them.
But already a number of white gold-seekers had entered by this Bozeman Trail, as it was known. In June, of the next year, 1866, the United States tried again to get Red Cloud's name on the paper. A council was called at Fort Laramie.
During the last year, another fort had been located. It was Fort Reno—the first outpost of the new trail, at the Powder River, one hundred and sixty-seven miles along from Laramie.
Red Cloud, and his lieutenant, They-fear-even-his-horses, came in to talk with the United States, at Fort Laramie. A great throng of Indians was present, for Fort Laramie was a busy post.
Nothing could be done with the Red Cloud band. The United States was willing to promise that nobody should be allowed to leave the new road, or to disturb any game. Red Cloud only shook his head. He well knew that the white travelers would not obey the law. They would hunt and camp, as thy chose.
"Wah-nee-chee!" he said. "No good! Why do you come here and ask for what you have already taken? A fort has been built, and the road is being used. I say again, we will not sell our hunting grounds for a road."
But the United States had decided. The Government had been assured by the treaty makers that all the Sioux would finally yield. There was last fall's treaty, as a starter. The Sioux from every band had signed. Besides, the Government could not give up the right to open roads. A railroad had the power to take right-of-way through towns and lands; and a Government wagon road should have the same license.
So certain was the Government that the road would be opened, that even while the council with the Red Cloud Oglalas was in session, there arrived at Fort Laramie Colonel Henry B. Carrington of the Eighteenth Infantry, with seven hundred soldiers.
Red Cloud saw the camp.
"Where are those soldiers going?"
"They are sent to open the new road and build forts."
"The Americans seek to steal our land whether we say yes or no!" angrily uttered Red Cloud. "They will have to fight."
He and They-fear-even-his-horses (whom the white men called "Young-man-afraid-of-his-horse
"Red Cloud means war," warned the Indians who remained. "The Great Father makes us presents, to buy the road; but the white soldiers come to steal it first. In two moons the white war chief will not have a hoof left."
An express sent after Red Cloud, to ask him to return, was whipped with bows and ordered to get out and tell the white chiefs that Red Cloud would not talk about the road.
Colonel Carrington marched on, into the forbidden land. The officers' wives were with them. Traders along the line insisted that the Indians were determined to fight; but some of the emigrant outfits bound over the trail to the mines were scornful of danger. One emigrant captain laughed, when the women were timid.
"You'll never see an Injun unless he comes in to beg for sugar and tobacco," he said. "I've been on the plains too long to be scared by such trash."
This was at Fort Reno. That very morning, in broad daylight Red Cloud's band ran off all the post sutler's horses and mules while the soldiers looked on. Eighty men pursued, and captured only one Indian pony loaded with goods obtained at Fort Laramie.
Colonel Carrington left a detachment here at the Powder River, to build a better Fort Reno. He marched on.
Meanwhile Red Cloud had been growing stronger. Sioux warriors were hastening to join him. Spotted Tail of the Brulés had declined to accept the treaty for opening the road—he waited for Red Cloud; but he was wisely staying at home. However, his Brute young men were riding away in large numbers, and he told the white people at Fort Laramie that if they "went far on the trail they had better go prepared to look out for their hair."
Red Cloud was watching the march of the soldiers. He did not attack; but when he saw them pushing on, and finally making camp to locate another fort, fifty miles northwest of Reno, on Piney Fork of Lodge-pole Creek, in the Big Horn Mountains of northern Wyoming, he again sent a message, by a party of soldiers whom he met and turned back.
"The white chief must take his soldiers out of this country. Let him decide for peace or war. If he wants peace, he can go back to Powder River. The fort there can stay. But no forts shall be built farther on the road, and no soldiers shall march over the road which has never been given to the white people."
Red Cloud wanted an answer at once. He also asked that the white chief come to him with an interpreter, and settle matters in a council. But the messenger was held at the fort for a short time, and Red Cloud moved his warriors to a new place.
Colonel Carrington invited the Sioux to come to the camp; and went ahead building his fort. Some bands of Northern Cheyennes appeared for a talk. They said that Red Cloud had urged them to join the Sioux in keeping the white men out of the hunting grounds, and that he knew what the soldiers had been doing every hour since they left Fort Laramie.
The Cheyennes seemed a little fearful of the Sioux; but said that if they were given provisions, they would stay away from the white trail.
When the Cheyennes returned to the Sioux, Red Cloud asked them what the white chief had said. "Is he going back to the Powder River?"
"No," answered Black Horse, of the Cheyennes. "The white chief will not go back, and his soldiers will go on."
"What presents did he give you?"
"All we wanted to eat. He wishes the Sioux and the Cheyennes and all the other Indians to go to Fort Laramie, and sign the treaty, and get more presents. I think that we had better take the white man's hand and presents, rather than fight him and lose everything."
"No!" replied Red Cloud. "The white man lies and steals. My lodges were many; now they are few. The white man wants all. He must fight, and the Indian will die where his fathers died."
With that, the Sioux unstrung their bows and whipped the Cheyennes on the face and back, crying, "Coup!" as if they were striking the enemy.
So Black Horse sent word that the Sioux intended war.
The fort was named Fort Phil Kearney. It was built of timber cut in the pine woods seven miles distant, and was surrounded by a palisade or high fence of thick pickets set upright.
Saw mills were placed in the woods, and the wood-camps were protected by block-houses. Almost one hundred wagons were used, to haul the logs and boards.
One hundred miles onward, another fort was started: Fort C. F. Smith.
The Crows informed Colonel Carrington that Red Cloud had tried to enlist even them—that all the Sioux were uniting to drive out the white men from this region, and that in the fall there would be a "big fight" at the two forts.
White Mouth and Rotten Tail said that they were half a day in riding through the Sioux village; there were fifteen hundred lodges. In truth, Chief Red Cloud had over two thousand warriors, with whom to stand in the path.
And there he stood. Nobody might doubt that. His raiders watched every mile of the trail back to Powder River, and not an emigrant train got through. He himself, with two thousand warriors, guarded Fort Kearney, where the white chief lived.
Nobody might venture from it to hunt game. The wood wagons might move only when many together and well aimed. Not a load of hay could be brought in without strong escort. After a time no mail could be sent on to Fort Smith.
Colonel Carrington had five companies of infantry and one company of the Second Cavalry. The infantry was mostly recruits. Their guns were old style muzzle loaders; but the band had the new Spencer breech-loaders.
He asked for better guns and more ammunition. The Government was not certain that the Sioux could do much against soldiers of a country which had just been trained by a four years' war, and Carrington was left to prove it.
Chief Red Cloud had his first chance to prove the opposite on December 6. He had been amusing his warriors by letting them gallop past the fort and shout challenges to the soldiers to come out and fight; then when the cannon shot at them, they dodged the shells—but did not always succeed.
The big guns that shot twice surprised them.
On the morning of December 6 Red Cloud struck in earnest, and had planned to strike hard. He had a line of signal flags seven miles long, by which to direct his army. Then he sent a company to attack a wood train.
The attack on the wood train brought the troops out of the fort. One detachment of thirty-five cavalry and a few mounted infantry was commanded by Captain William J. Fetterman. He was very anxious to fight Indians; in fact, the officers all had set their hearts upon "taking Red Cloud's scalp."
Captain Fetterman rescued the wagon train, by chasing the Sioux away; but in about five miles Red Cloud faced his men about and closed. It was an ambuscade. The troopers of the cavalry were stampeded, and the captain found himself, with two other officers and a dozen men, surrounded by yelling warriors.
Colonel Carrington arrived just in time to save him; but young Lieutenant H. S. Bingham of the Second Cavalry was killed, and so was Sergeant Bowers.
When Captain Fetterman had returned to the fort he had changed his mind regarding the prowess of the Sioux, whom he had thought to be only robbers.
"I have learned a lesson," he remarked. "This Indian war has become a hand-to-hand fight, and requires great caution. I'll take no more risks like that of today!"
Red Cloud was not satisfied. His warriors had not done exactly as he had told them to do, He bided his time.
On the morning of December 21 he was again ready. His men were stationed, waiting for a wood train to appear. It appeared, starting out to chop timber in the pine woods, and haul the logs to the fort.
It was an unusually strong train—a number of heavy wagons, and ninety armed men.
Red Cloud let it get about four miles along, and ordered it attacked. He had spies upon a ridge of hills, to watch the fort.
When the attack was heard at the fort, soldiers dashed out. The Red Cloud warriors allowed the wagon train to think that it had whipped them. He withdrew, across the ridge.
The leader of the soldiers was Captain Fetterman, again. He had asked for the command. With him was Captain Fred H. Brown, who expected to go back to Fort Laramie, and wished, first, to get a scalp. He and Captain Fetterman were rivals for scalps and had almost forgotten the affair of December 6. They were gallant soldiers, but reckless.
Altogether the detachment numbered seventy-nine officers and men, and two scouts named Wheatley and Fisher.
Captain Fetterman was distinctly ordered by Colonel Carrington to do nothing but rescue the wagon train. He must not cross the ridge in pursuit of the Sioux.
Captain Fetterman did not move directly for the place of the wagon train. He made a circuit, to cut off the attacking Sioux, at their rear, or between the wagon train and the ridge to the north of it.
He had taken no surgeon, so Dr. Hines was hurried after him. The doctor came back in another hurry. He reported that the wagon train was on its way to the timber, without the captain; and that the captain had disappeared, over the ridge! Many Indians were in sight, and the doctor had been obliged to stop short.
Now, on a sudden, there was a burst of distant gun-fire. In twelve minutes a second detachment of soldiers was on the run, from the fort for the battle; wagons and ambulances and more men followed; and soon only one hundred and nineteen men remained.
The firing was very heavy, in volleys—then in fire-at-will; then it died down—quit. Not a sound could be heard, as the women and men in Fort Kearney strained their ears and eyes.
Presently a courier from the second detachment galloped headlong in. He said that the valley beyond the ridge was swarming with Sioux; they yelled and dared the soldiers to come down to the road there. But of the Captain Fetterman command, no trace could be sighted.
The soldiers and the reinforcements stayed out all the afternoon. They returned at dark; but of the eighty-one others, none came back. All of them, the entire eighty-one, had fallen to the army of Red Cloud.
Nobody was alive to tell the story of the fight. The signs on the field were plain, though; and of course the Red Cloud warriors knew well what had occurred.
Captain Fetterman had crossed the ridge, to chase the Sioux. Two thousand Red Cloud men were waiting for him. They permitted him to advance to the forbidden road. The white soldiers fought until their ammunition was almost spent. Then the Red Cloud men rushed. Only six of the white soldiers were shot; the rest were killed by hand.
The plan of Red Cloud and his chiefs had been laid to get all the troops out of the fort, together; kill them and seize the fort.
But the warriors had not waited long enough. Their victory was too quick, and they lost too many men, themselves, in the one fight: seventy, of killed and wounded, they said; sixty-five of killed, alone, said the red blotches on the field.
Still, Red Cloud had closed the road with the bodies of the soldiers. He had made his word good.
The garrison in Fort Kearney gave up all thought of glory by capturing Red Cloud; and this winter there was no more fighting. How many warriors Red Cloud had, to "cover the hills with their scarlet blankets," nobody knew; but the count ran from three thousand to five thousand.
The spring came, and the summer came, and the road had not been opened. In more than a year, not a single wagon had passed upon it, through the hunting grounds of the Sioux.
Another white chief had been sent to take command of Fort Phil Kearney. He was Brigadier General H. W. Wessels. All this summer the soldiers were having to fight for wood and water. The contractor in charge of the teams hauling lumber complained that he must have more protection or he would be unable to do the work.
Captain James Powell of the Twenty-seventh Infantry was ordered out to protect the lumber camps. He took Lieutenant John C. Jenness and fifty-one men. The wood choppers had two camps, about a mile apart. The captain detailed twenty-five of his men to guard the one camp, and escort the wagon trains to the fort; with the twenty-six others he made a fort of wagon boxes, at the second camp.
He arranged fourteen of the wagon boxes on the ground, in a circle. Some of the boxes had been lined with boiler iron. Two wagons were left on wheels, so that the rifles might be aimed from underneath. The boxes were pierced low down with a row of loop-holes. The spaces between the ends of the boxes were filled with ox-chains, slabs and brush. He had plenty of ammunition and plenty of new breech-loading rifles.
The little fort was located in an open basin, surrounded by gentle hills. He directed the men of the other camp to come in at the first sign of trouble.
The Sioux were at hand. Red Cloud had been merely waiting for the soldiers to march out and make it worth his while to descend. He was resolved to destroy Fort Kearney this year, before the snows.
It seemed to him that again he had the soldiers where he wanted them. Word of the flimsy little corral spread a laugh among his two thousand warriors. The squaws and old men were summoned from the allied Sioux and outlaw Cheyenne village, to come and see and be ready with their knives.
On the morning of August 2 he so suddenly attacked the unfortified wood camp that he cut it off completely. Two hundred of his men captured the mule herd; five hundred of them attacked the wagon train there, burned the wagons and drove the soldiers and teamsters and choppers who were outside the corral, in flight to Fort Kearney. Scalps were taken.
Now it was the turn of the puny corral, and the rest of the soldiers.
He could see only the low circle of wagon-boxes. They were covered with blankets; underneath the blankets there were soldiers—few and frightened.
The hill slopes around were thronged with his people, gathered to watch and to plunder. He felt like a great chief indeed, And at wave of his hand eight hundred of his cavalry dashed in a thundering, crackling surge of death straight at the silent circle.
On they sped, and on, and on, and were just about to dash against the circle and sweep over, when suddenly such a roar, and sheet of flame, struck them in the face that they staggered and melted. Now—while the guns were empty! But the guns were not yet empty—they belched without pause. Veering right and left around a bloody lane the warriors, crouching low, tore for safety from the frightful blast.
Red Cloud could not understand. His own men were well armed, with rifles and with muskets captured from the soldiers during the past year or supplied at the trading post. It seemed to him that there were more soldiers under those blankets than he had reckoned. But he knew that his men were brave; his people were watching from the hills; he had no mind for defeat.
In the corral Captain Powell had told his twenty-six soldiers and four civilians to fight for their lives. The poor shots were ordered to load guns and pass them as fast as possible to the crack shots.
Red Cloud rallied his whole force, of more than two thousand. He dismounted eight hundred and sent them forward to crawl along the ground, as sharp-shooters; they ringed the corral with bullets and arrows.
He himself led twelve hundred, afoot, for a charge. His young nephew was his chief aide—to win the right to be head chief after Red Cloud's death.
But although they tried, in charge after charge, for three hours, they could not enter the little fort. Sometimes they got within ten yards—the soldiers threw augers at them, and they threw the augers back—and back they reeled, themselves. The guns of the little fort never quit!
Red Cloud still could not understand. He called a council. In the opinion of his chiefs and braves, the white soldiers were armed with guns that shot of themselves and did not need reloading.
The squaws on the hills were wailing; his men were discouraged; many had fallen. So finally he ordered that the bodies be saved, and the fight ended. His braves again crawled forward, behind shields, with ropes; tied the ropes to the bodies, in spite of the bullets, and running, snaked the bodies away behind them.
"Some bad god fought against us," complained the Red' Cloud people. "The white soldiers had a great medicine. We were burned-by fire."
And all the Indians of the plains, heard about the mystery, when the breech-loading rifles rowed down the Sioux and the Cheyennes, spoke of the bad god fight that defeated Chief Red Cloud.
The Sioux reported that they had lost eleven hundred and thirty-five warriors. Red Cloud's nephew was sorely wounded in the charge. Captain Fetterman's loss was Lieutenant Jenness and two men killed, two men wounded. He said that when the reinforcements, with the cannon, arrived from Fort Kearney, while the Sioux were removing their dead, he was in despair. Another charge or two and he would have been wiped out.
But the road remained closed. Red Cloud remained in the path. This fall the Government decided that, after all, it had no right to open the road. In April of the next year, 1868, another treaty was signed with the Sioux and the Cheyennes, by which the United States gave up any claim to the Powder River and Big Horn country, and the Indians promised to let the Union Pacific Railroad alone.
Red Cloud did not sign. "The white men are liars," he insisted; and he waited until the three forts, Smith and Kearney and Reno, were abandoned. Then, in November, after his warriors had burned them, and all the soldiers were gone out of the country, he put his name to the treaty.
Thus he won out. He had said that he would close the road, and he had done it.
Through the following years he remained quiet. He had had his fill of fighting. His name was great. He was head chief of the Red Cloud agency, later called Pine Ridge. Spotted Tail of the Brulés controlled the other agency, later called Rosebud.
Red Cloud always closely watched the whites. He was at peace, but suspicious. When the Black Hills were finally demanded by the United States, he sent out men to count the buffalo. The number in sight was too small. Some day, soon, the Indians would have no meat on their hunting grounds. Therefore Red Cloud decided that the red men must begin to live by aid of the white man; and he favored the reservations—even the sale of the Black Hills so that his people would be made rich enough to settle down.
He was looked up to as a warrior and a councillor, but the United States did not trust him; and after a time, put Spotted Tail over him, in charge of the two agencies. This made bad feeling, and Red Cloud and Spotted Tail did not speak to each other. However, his own people, who rose under Sitting Bull, urged him to join with them, in vain.
Red Cloud lived to be a very old man. He became almost blind, and partly paralyzed. He stuck to his one wife. They were together for many years.
He died in December, 1909, in a two-story house built for him by the Government on the Pine Ridge agency in South Dakota. He was aged, eighty-seven. Five years before he had given his chief-ship over to his son, young Red Cloud, who carried the name. It is a name that will never be forgotten