Equestrian history, especially Polish, Eurasian and American horsemanship and its history - from Bronze Age to AD 1939. Historical equestrian art, my own artwork & reconstructions, and some traditional art media and digital artwork-related topics.
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Thursday, December 22, 2016
Fetterman Fight - Cheyenne Account 2
returning to the battle known as Fetterman Fight - and the Cheyenne account of this day, unfortunately and sadly I could not publish this on the day of the struggle.
Cheyenne account reported by G.B. Grinnell & G. Bent:
After a little time
a single shot was heard. Later it was
said that when the young men who had been sent to the
fort had charged the post they had killed a
sentry. This was the
shot. A long period of silence followed, during which they
waited and listened; then a number of shots were heard, but the
firing lasted for a few minutes only. It was afterward said that
some troops came out from the fort as if to attack the decoy
Indians and then turned back and went into
the fort and that
someone who was with the soldiers made motions to the young
Indians to go away, that the soldiers were going to eat. This
was the Indian understanding of the signs, whatever they may
The Sioux signed
back to them that to-day they would get a full stomach of
fighting. The soldiers re-entered the post and the young Indians
remained in sight riding about.
After a time a
number of bugle-calls were heard and soon after a troop of
cavalry marched out of the post toward these young men, and after
them a company of infantry. At a bugle-call the cavalry
charged and fired at the Indians who, of course, ran away. This was
the distant shooting heard.
It was some time
before the watchers heard any more shooting. The cavalry after
firing had stopped, and would follow no longer, and the Indians were
obliged to return and attack again, be shot at, and followed a
little farther. In this way the infantry kept well closed up with
the cavalry, which was perhaps the reason the cavalry followed
After the third and
fourth volleys the shooting came closer, and before long some
of the Indians came riding down the ridge and a little later
another man, Big Nose, the Cheyenne, mounted on a black horse,
was seen riding back and forth across the ridge before the soldiers,
seeming to fight them and they were shooting at him as hard as
they could. It looked as if Big Nose was trying to fight and hold
back the soldiers in order to help someone ahead of him to get away.
From the place where the Indians were waiting Big Nose
seemed almost against the soldiers. The great body of Indians
bidden along the ridge kept themselves well concealed. Not a
move was made nor a sound heard.
After Big Nose,
followed slowly by the soldiers, had come down off the steep ridge
the troops stopped, and Big Nose charged back and seemed to go in among the soldiers so that he was lost to sight. He went into
the troop from the right and came out on the left, wheeled
his horse, rode into them again and came out, and turned as if to go
The troops kept
following, coming down the old Bozeman Road which runs down
the crest of the ridge. The Sioux on foot were hidden in the
grass on the flat beyond the end of the ridge, perhaps one and a
half miles distant from the place where the troops came to it at
its upper end. The mounted Sioux were
hidden behind two
rocky ridges on the east side of this ridge, while the Cheyennes
were on the west side of it. It had been announced that a
certain Cheyenne, Little Horse, who was a Contrary*, should
give his people the word to charge, and when the proper time came
this word was to be passed on from one to another until all were
notified and then all should spring up and charge.
The cavalry, who had
been following the ridge down nearly to the flat by the
stream, were now pretty close to the Sioux footmen, and the
infantry were well within the Indians' lines. When the decoys had
forded the stream beyond the end of the ridge and the
cavalry had nearly come to it the decoys separated
into two parties,
riding away from each other, and then, turning, came back and
crossed each other. This was very likely a signal, and the
Little Horse, following the law of the
Contraries, held his contrary lance in his left hand. The Cheyennes
watched him, and when they saw him pass his left
hand behind his neck
and grasp the contrary lance with his right hand they knew that
he was about to charge, and all sprang up.
When the charge was
made the sound of many hoofs made a noise like thunder
and the soldiers began to fall back. On the ridge near the place
where it leaves the hill are many large loose flat stones. The
infantry took a position behind these. The cavalry moved back up
the hill and stopped.
On the infantry
hidden among the rocks a a Sioux came charging down the old road and the infantry stood up in sight as if about to leave the
shelter. They did not do so, but let the Sioux pass through them and
after he had passed fired at and killed him.
Soon after this
another man came down the road on foot and began to shoot at the
infantry and -what they rose up to shoot at him the other
Indians shot at them. This young man was killed.
White Elk— at that
time named Wandering Buffalo Bull—was with those
fighting the infantry. Soon after the second Sioux was killed the
try was given to charge and the Sioux and Cheyennes charged
and got to the infantry about the same time, and for a little
while Indiana and soldiers were mixed up together in hand-to-hand
fighting. Just before and in this charge a Sioux was killed and
another wounded by arrows shot by their own people. The one
killed was struck in the forehead just over the root of the nose,
and the arrow-point pierced his brain. The arrow was shot from
the other side of the ridge and had passed
through or over the
crowd of troops.
The cavalry, who had
followed the decoying party of Indians down nearly to the
level of the river bottom, when they saw the Sioux charging them
from the northeast turned and retreated up to the top of a high
hill toward the end of the ridge. There they halted and waited
in line until the infantry were all killed
at the rocks about a
hundred yards north of the line of cavalry.
Then the cavalry
began to fall back, but slowly and in order. Some were even on
foot leading the horses.
infantrymen had been killed the Indians rushed up toward the cavalry,
but the ground was slippery with ice and snow and in many places
the hill was too steep for them to charge up it. Still many
people crept up toward the place, and Little Horse is reported to
have approached behind the rocks within forty feet of the
soldiers, and fought there, yet he was not hurt in the fight. While
this was going on White Elk was a little behind, where he could
see the Indians shooting at the cavalry with arrows, and the
arrows flew so thickly above the troops that to him they seemed like
a lot of grasshoppers flying across each other.
On the hill an
officer was killed and when he fell the troops seemed to give up and to
begin to fight their way up the ridge. The weather now grew
very cold, so that blood running from wounds soon froze. After
the soldiers had reached the end of the ridge they began to let go
their horses and the Indians, eager to capture the horses, began to
lessen their shooting.
Up to this time Big
Nose had not been hurt. Someone called out: "There are
two good horses left there." Big Nose enlarged up toward the
horses, struck them with his whip, thus taking possession of them,
and then rode back and turned again, hut here his horse
stopped, exhausted. He could not get it to move,
and here Big Nose
was shot off his horse. This was the only wound he had and his
horse was untouched.
White Elk went to
where his friend lay. He spoke to White Elk and said: "Lift
my head up the hill and place me where I can breathe the fresh
air." This was all he said. He breathed for a day or two after
this. Big Nose was killed on the ridge in the first sag northwest
of the monument, near some large rocks west of the crest of the
ridge. His horse stopped as he was crossing the ridge and began
to back toward the soldiers, who were west of where the
monument is. While White Elk was helping Big Nose the soldiers
were shooting at them constantly.
The cavalry kept
moving back to some great rocks, perhaps four hundred yards
from where the infantry had been killed. On the other fade of
the rocks there was a fiat with no cover behind which the Indians
could approach, and they could not get near to the soldiers. The
Indians kept calling to one another to keep hidden, but to
continue to creep up. They did so, and every now and then an Indian would show himself and seem to be about to charge, and
when the soldiers rose to their feet to shoot all the Indians
would shoot. In this way they killed some of the soldiers. They kept
calling to each other: "Be ready. Are you
others would call back: "We are ready." They were preparing for
the charge — a hand-to-hand fight.
When at last the
order was given to charge they rushed in among the soldiers
and a number of Sioux were killed among the soldiers. Here they
killed every one.
After all were dead a dog was seen running
away, barking, and someone called out: "All are dead
but the dog; let him carry the news to the fort," but someone else
cried out: " No, do not let even a dog get away " and a young man shot
at it with his arrow and killed it. The last of the cavalry was killed just where the monument now stands.
Charles M Russell's drawing
The fight began when
the sun was quite high in the heavens and ended about
noon. Little Horse led the Cheyennes in the charge which had
been ordered. All watched him and when he went forward they
followed. Only two Cheyennes were killed.
The Sioux were laid
out side by side and made two long rows, perhaps fifty or sixty men. The number of Indians was very great. Of Arapahoes
and Cheyennes there were a good many hundred, and there
were three times as many Sioux. White Elk believes that in the
Fetterman fight there were more men than in the Custer Fight.
Most of the Indians were armed with bows. The few who had
guns had old smooth-bore flintlocks. Only six of the
eighty-one white men bore gunshot wounds, and of these Colonel Fetterman and
Captain Brown are supposed to have killed themselves
with their own revolvers.''