Wednesday, August 8, 2012

General George Crook - Indian Warfighter

Born 1828 and died 1890, General George Crook was considered the Army's greatest Indian fighter. It is by no coincidence that he maximized use of Indian Scouts, particularly members of the particular Indian Nation he was fighting.

General Crook earned his reputation as a relentless enemy of the Indians however personally he had a healthy respect for Indian culture and was in turn respected by the Indians.

Crook graduated from West Point in 1852 and spent the next several years in California and Oregon fighting Indians. It was here he first not only developed his expertise in irregular warfare but learned how to integrate scouts and local volunteers into his military campaign plans.

In 1861 the outbreak of the Civil War brought Crook back to the east where he participated in battles, most notably the Second Battle of Bull Run and Chickamauga. After the war, Crook was assigned back to the West and against Indian tribes again,....this time fighting the Paiute. Because of his successes, Crook was assigned to pacify the Arizona Territory where beginning in 1871 he fought Apache attempts to stay off designated reservations.

It is here in the Apache campaign that Crook's reputation soared, being relentless and successfully integrating Apache and White Scouts (notably Al Seiber and Tom Horn) into his hunts for Apaches renegades.  Crook became to be known by the Apache as "Gray Wolf" and for his honest treatment of the Apache during capture and negotiations.  Honest meaning honest like a horse because you knew what to expect from Crook.

 In 1875 General Crook was transferred to the Northern Plains first to protect and remove Gold miners who illegally entered the Black Hills to prospect and subsequently incurred Indian attacks by the Lakota (Sioux).

In 1876, he led one of several columns against Sitting Bull's Lakota and Cheyenne bands, however be forced to retreat at the Battle of Rosebud while Custer's 7th Cavalry unit was essentially wiped out.

In 1882 Crook again returned to Arizona to go after Chiricahua Apaches who had fled the reservation. This band was led by Geronimo, who conducted a very serious guerilla campaign against the white settlers.

In 1886, General Crook was replaced by General Nelson Miles, a man with little respect for the Apache or Indians for that matter. General Miles finally captured Geronimo and exiled him to an internment camp in Florida.

The campaign against Geronimo and the Chiricahua was Crook's last military campaign. He ended his career being an advocate for the Indian Nations and lobbying for fair treatment for his former enemies until he died in 1890.


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