Pioneering News: 1876

Major General George Armstrong Custer of 2nd Regular Army Cavalry Regiment, 5th Regular Army Cavalry Regiment, Aide-de-Camp U.S. Volunteers Infantry Regiment, and General Staff U.S. Volunteers Infantry Regiment, in uniform. John C. H. Grabill Collection. Library of Congress

~ July 22, 1876 • The Black Hills Pioneer ~

Full Account of the Battle Between Crook and the Sioux—A Graphic Description.

We clip the following from the letter of J.F. Finerty, the Chicago Times correspondent, who was in the recent battle with the Sioux:

“Pursuant to order, this entire command, excepting 100 men, left with Maj. Furey to defend our wagon train, broke camp on Goose Creek Wyoming at sundown, June 16, and accompanied by the Snake and Crow Indians, marched over forty miles that day, and halted for the night in Montana Territory. Our objective point, so far as we can learn from headquarters, was a strong Indian village, situated in a canyon, through which Rosebud creek runs due north. We hoped to take the Sioux by surprise, but the Crow Indians were inaccurate as to distance, which left Gen. Crook in ignorance as to the exact location of the hostile camp. The Indian scouts failed to reconnoiter according to orders on the night of June 16th, and could only be induced to go forward next morning, losing much time in exercising their war ponies. Finally, Gruard, our ablest guide, got them beyond the bluffs in our front, and we followed them for more than four miles further on, halting on Rosebud creek, in a valley commanded on every side by high, steep bluffs, covered by large boulders. Each man had a single blanket, 100 rounds of ammunition, and four days rations.

“Everything superfluous was left behind, so as to lighten the horses. Two companies of the ninth infantry mounted on mules, accompanied the cavalry. Our whole force, including the Indians, was in the neighborhood of 1,200 men. We had been halted about one hour, our horses unsaddled and grazing, when at 8:30 this morning the report of firearms was distinctly hear from behind the northern bluffs in the direction of the canyon. Soon afterward the Snake and Crow scouts came running over the hill to inform Crook that Sitting Bull, with his whole force of available Sioux, was advancing in quick time to attack us right in camp. Two companies of the 2nd cavalry and the same number of infantry were ordered to deploy as skirmishers and support the Indian pickets. Hardly had they reached the crest when volley after volley from the Sioux announced that the flight had commenced in earnest. From our camp we could see the enemy swarming in crowds upon the higher range of bluffs in every direction on a line of at least two miles. They were all mounted and fired with wonderful rapidity. Maj. Randall, our chief of scouts, aided by Lieut. Bourke, rallied our friendly Indians and led them to attack the center of the Sioux. The latter received them with successive volleys, and after a gallant fight Randall’s redskins were compelled to keep within shelter of the lower range of hills, the number of Sioux opposed to them being overwhelming.

“Observing this state of affairs, Col. Randall ordered the first battalion of the 3rd cavalry, consisting of A, E, I and M. companies, under Col. Mills, to advance, mounted, and charge the central bluffs, do as to drive back the enemy in that direction. This order was executed with a brilliancy and celerity equaled, under a sweeping hostile fire, which made a volcano of the plateau between the lower bluffs above our camp and the higher ones occupied by Sitting Bull. The battalion charged at a full gallop with fierce ringing cheers, halted for a moment to pour in a withering volley, and then galloped swiftly up the ascent to the crest of the ridge. Despite their great number and splendid position the Sioux center broke and ran like a pack of wolves taking shelter on other bluffs, 1,200 yards behind, for this battle-ground is a succession of ridges for miles and miles. The battalion then dismounted and deployed as skirmishers along the position they had carried. While this was being done on the center and right, the second battalion of the 3rd cavalry, consisting of companies B, D, F, and L, under Col. Henry, was ordered to attack Sitting Bull’s right, which they did, driving it back even with the Sioux center and left. The third battalion of the same regiment, companies C and M, under Col. Van Vliet, was ordered to occupy the northern bluffs in our rear, so as to checkmate any attack from that point. The fight now became general, and continued until past noon almost without interruption, the Sioux proving themselves the best fighting Indians that ever fired a shot. Beaten on one ridge they retired behind another, so that we were compelled keep following them up, exposing our line all the time. Firing from their ponies, their shots generally a little too high until late in the action—a fortunate thing for us.

“At a quarter past 12 o’clock Mills’ battalion, excepting I company, detached after the first charge to support the left, was ordered to vacate its position on the right center and make eastward first and then north, down Rosebud creek, through the canyon, at the end of which, seven miles distant, was situated the Sioux village. To enter the canyon the left of the hostile line had to be forced, and Mills ordered company E of the 3rd, under Captain Alex. Sutorius, to charge up the bluff and carry the position, which was speedily accomplished. The Indians, however excellent as skirmishers, have not yet learned the art of standing a cavalry charge.

“Mills then moved down the canyon rapidly toward the village, according to orders. His place on the bluffs above the camp was supplied with only a few infantry, as the 2nd cavalry was detailed to sustain his movement. Crook now determined to charge along the whole line, and for that purpose ordered Henry’s battalion to fall back and get their horses, left some distance in the rear. Fortunately Sitting Bill mistook this preparatory movement for a retreat. Henry retired across an exposed hollow, and the Sioux fought desperately right into his command. L company, of the 3rd, Capt. Vroom, was rear guard, and some men did not hear the order. They were immediately surrounded, and almost in a second fifteen of our brave fellows lay dead and wounded on the bluff. F, I, B and D companies of the 5th instantly counter-charged, and the wounded, except one man, were rescued by Capt. Andrews and Lieut. Reynolds’ command. At that moment the brave Henry, a most accomplished officer, who was an acting brigadier during the civil war, was shot in the face, the ball entering above the right cheek-bone and coming out at the left. He was mounted, as nearly all officers were, and was a prominent mark. His would is dangerous if not fatal.

“Sitting Bull now discovered the advance of Mills and Noyes on the village. At least 50 warriors and 100 of their ponies lay dead along the ridges. The number of wounded embarrassed the Indian chief. He mad most of the killed and all of the injured strapped to horses and carried off. The Sioux then broke and ran in a northwesterly direction, but despite all their efforts the Snakes and Crows took thirteen scalps. Information reached Crook that the Indian village was deserted, and he immediately sent Capt. Nickerson, of the staff, to countermarch. This was done very reluctantly. The command faced southward once more. Sitting Bull fought to cover the retreat of his women and children, which was rapidly accomplished. He also hoped to beat Crook in open fight, but the command slept on the field of battle. Our ammunition was failing, our rations nearly out. The Indians could not then be surprised, so it was decided to rely on our base of supplies and recuperate.

“Gen. Crook is now satisfied that the Sioux can and will fight. They are better armed than his own soldiers. Of the latter it must be said that braver men never faced an enemy. They would charge the Sioux to the gates of hell had they been allowed.”

Crook’s Fight with the Sioux.

From the Washington Chronicle.

It is reasonable to suppose that the great Indian fighter would not have telegraphed the reinforcements had the result of his engagement been satisfactory or favorable to the troops. This is certainly a discreditable comment to the War Department.

We are inclined to think that a serious blunder has been made in the management of the various commands, in that the Fort Fetterman division has progressed too rapidly for the other two portions of the expedition, and having a less distance to travel, has reached the scene of conflict before its assistants were within easy reach. As a consequence, the Indians have been afforded an opportunity to engage either of the three battalions, knowing that no reinforcements could be obtained in time to avoid defeat, if attacked by a superior number of the foe. How this mistake had been created, is not difficult to imagine, when we remember that Crook gave the Apaches such a severe thrashing, with a less force that he now has; but his judgment erred when he estimated the fighting qualities of the Sioux by those of the Apaches.

The Indian War.

Full details of the butchery of Gen. Custer and his forces, and of the disastrous fight of Gen. Reno in the same engagement, reached us by stage and pony express last Thursday, and were given to the public in a voluminous extra on the evening of that day. The extras were eagerly taken from the hands of the vouders, and we had frequent calls for them all day yesterday. There is but one sentiment on the Indian question here—the hostile Sioux should be exterminated, and white men engaged in trading ammunition to them should be hung wherever found. Let the Government call out a Black Hills brigade and put it in the field, and the efficacy of carrying out this policy would soon be made apparent.

Some incidental items were unavoidably crowded out of the Extra, and we will give them in a condensed form.

The martial spirit of the country is aroused, and the demand for active aggressive measures on an extended scale is made in all parts of the country.

Sioux City has tendered the government a full regiment of volunteers, armed and equipped.

An Indian had come into Standing Rock Agency, from the hostile camp, who reports that nine bands, in numbers more than he could count, engaged Custer and lost more men than he, the Uncapapas alone losing 160 killed and 86 wounded. They were but a small portion of those engaged. Among the killed were Crazy Horse and Black Moon, one of the principal hostile chiefs. The latter is first, Crazy Horse second and Sitting Bull third in rank and influence. The body of a great chief was found, and for a time was supposed to be that of Sitting Bull, but men who know him pronounce against confirming the Indian story.

The statement that the Gros Ventres and Mandans had joined Sitting Bull proves untrue, though they seriously contemplated that course.

James Gordon Bennett gives $10,000 towards a Custer monument fund, Ciara Louise Kellogg $1,000, and subscriptions were coming in from all quarters.

The Indians on the Upper Missouri are becoming very uneasy, and many are leaving the reservations. A general outbreak at the agencies is expected.


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