The Battle of the Little Big Horn
Digital History ID 706
A Cheyenne participant offers a firsthand account of the Battle of the Little Big Horn, where Lieutenant George Armstrong Custer was killed along with about 264 of his men.
We traveled far, and one day we met a big camp of Sioux at Charcoal Butte. We camped with the Sioux, and had a good time, plenty grass, plenty game, good water. Crazy Horse was head chief of the camp. Sitting Bull was camped a little ways below, on the Little Missouri River.
Crazy Horse said to me, “I'm glad you are come. We are going to fight the white man again.”
The camp was already full of wounded men, women, and children.
I said to Crazy Horse, “All right. I am ready to fight. I have fought already. My people have been killed, my horses stolen; I am satisfied to fight”....
About May, when the grass was tall and the horses strong, we broke camp, and started across the country to the mouth of the Tongue River. Then Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse and all went up the Rosebud. There we had a big fight with General Crook, and whipped him. Many soldiers were killed--few Indians. It was a great fight, much smoke and dust.
From there we all went over the divide, and camped in the valley of Little Horn. Everybody thought, “Now we are out of the white man's country. He can live there, we will live here.” After a few days, one morning when I was in camp north of Sitting Bull, a Sioux messenger rode up and said, “Let everybody paint up, cook, and great ready for a big dance.”
Cheyennes then went to work to cook, cut up tobacco, and get ready. We all thought to dance all day. We were very glad to think we were far away from the white man.
I went to water my horses at the creek, and washed them off with cool water, then took a swim myself. I came back to the camp afoot. When I got near my lodge, I looked up the Little Horn towards Sitting Bull's camp. I saw a great dust rising. It looked like a whirlwind. Soon Sioux horsemen came rushing into camp shouting, “Soldiers come! Plenty white soldiers”....
I got on my horse, and rode out into my camp. I called out to the people all running about: “I am Two Moons, your chief. Don't run away. Stay here and fight. You must stay and fight the white soldiers. I shall stay even if I am to be killed”....
While I was sitting on my horse I saw flags come up over the hill to the east. Then the soldiers rose all at once, all on horses.... They formed into three bunches with a little ways between. Then a bugle sounded, and they all got off horses, and some soldiers led the horses back over the hill.
Then the Sioux rode up the ridge on all sides, riding very fast. The Cheyennes went up the left way. Then the shooting was quick, quick. Pop-pop-pop very fast. Some of the soldiers were down on their knees, some standing. Officers all in front. The smoke was like a great cloud, and everywhere the Sioux went the dust rose like smoke. We circled all round him--swirling like water round a stone. We shoot, we ride fast, we shoot again. Soldiers drop, and horses fall on them. Soldiers in line drop, but one man rides up and down the line--all the time shouting. He rode a sorrel horse with white face and white fore-legs. I don't know who he was. He was a brave man.
Indians kept swirling round and round, and the soldiers killed only a few. Many soldiers fell. At last all horses killed but five. Once in a while some man would break out and run toward the river, but he would fall. At last about a hundred men and five horsemen stood on the hill all bunched together. All along the bugler kept blowing his commands. He was very brave too. Then a chief was killed. I hear it was Long Hair [George Armstrong Custer], I don't know; and then the five horsemen and the bunch of men, maybe so forty, started toward the river. The man on the sorrel horse led them, shouting all the time. He wore a buckskin shirt, and had long black hair and mustache. he fought hard with a big knife. His men were all covered with white dust. I couldn't tell whether they were officers or not. One man all alone ran far down toward the river, then round up over the hill. I thought he was going to escape, but a Sioux fired and hit him in the head....
All the soldiers were now killed, and the bodies were stripped. After that no one could tell which were officers. The bodies were left where they fell. We had no dance that night. We were sorrowful.
Next day four Sioux chiefs and two Cheyennes and I, Two Moons, went upon the battlefield to count the dead. One man carried a little bundle of sticks. When we came to dead men, we took a little stick and gave it to another man, so we counted the dead. There were 388. There were thirty-nine Sioux and seven Cheyennes killed, and about a hundred wounded.
Some white soldiers were cut with knives, to make sure they were dead; and the war women had mangled some. Most were left just where they fell.
Source: McClure''s Magazine (September, 1898).
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