Thursday, July 1, 2010

Army Scouts - Custer's Scouts at the Little Big Horn

Last week was the 134th Anniversary of Custer’s Last Stand. I thought I would write about some of the Army Scouts, both Anglo and Indian, that supported Custer’s campaign

The Battle of the Little Bighorn, known as Custer's Last Stand and by Native Americans as the Battle of Greasy Grass Creek, was an armed engagement between combined forces of Lakota and Northern Cheyenne against the 7th Cavalry Regiment of the United States Army. It occurred on June 25 and June 26, 1876, near the Little Bighorn River in eastern Montana Territory, near what is now Crow Agency, Montana. As most people know it was an overwhelming defeat for Custer, however it marked the end of the Native American Plains Nations, primarily the Sioux and Cheyenne ’s freedom of movement and life as they knew it.

Custer, as well as all other Army Commander’s employed Army Scouts, both Native Americans and Anglos to help scout, guide the columns, interpret and generally provide their expertise to facilitate movement and planning. Although Custer had an Army Officer as Chief of Scouts, effective control of the Scouts was under Mitch Bouyer and there was another Anglo with the Scouts named Lonesome Charlie Reynolds. Custer’s 7th Cavalry was reported to have 35 Native American Scouts from the Crow, Arikara (aka Ree) and Dakota tribes. Most notably among these Scouts were White Mans Runs Him, Hairy Moccasin, Goes Ahead and Curley.

Another well known Indian Scout was a mixed blood Hunkpapa Sioux - Arikara named Bloody Knife (shown to the left). After Custer split his command, Bloody Knife as well as two Crow Scouts, Half Yellow Face and White Swan, went with Major Reno. Bloody Knife was reportedly killed while on Horseback standing next to Major Reno.

What these Scouts are famous for was locating the giant concentration of Sioux and Cheyenne in the encampment on the Little Big Horn River, and telling Custer that because of the size encampment and number of horses (indicating warriors), Custer should not attack the camp. Custer decided to attack the camp without waiting for the approaching supporting columns of General Alfred Terry and Col John Gibbon’s 7th Infantry and 2nd Cavalry, General George Crook’s column of 3rd Cavalry and some 2nd Cavalry companies as well as elements of the 4th and 9th Infantry. When informed of this decision, the Crow Scouts knew they faced their death that morning. They changed from their mixed Anglo-Indian garb to Native American dress, not in order to pass as Indians, but to go to the afterlife as Warriors and not Army Scouts.

Indispensable to Army operations, Army Scouts continued to serve through the Indian Wars and well into the future.

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