Posts Tagged ‘Plains Indians’
In the end, it may not have mattered for Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer. On June 16, 1876, 30 miles southeast of, and eight days before the Battle of the Little Bighorn, Brigadier General George Crook and his column crossed over the Tongue River, a river that Crazy Horse warned Crook not to cross. They were en route to Rosebud Creek where he suspected that Sitting Bull and his village were encamped. At Rosebud Creek, Crook and his men encountered and fought to a stalemate Crazy Horse and his Sioux/Cheyenne confederacy. Afterwards, instead of marching northward to join Custer at the Little Bighorn, Crook’s troops retired to their Goose Creek encampment. Could Crook and his troops have made the difference at the Battle of the Little Bighorn? Could they have turned the corner of that battle and won the day for Custer and his men? And just what were these battles, which were part of the larger Sioux Wars, all about, anyway?
In 1868, the U.S. government signed a treaty (Sioux Treaty of 1868) which acknowledged that the Indians owned approximately 125,000 square miles of land from the Black Hills in western South Dakota down to northeastern Wyoming and southeastern Montana. These lands were the historic buffalo hunting grounds of the Sioux, Cheyenne, and other Plains Indians. In the treaty, the government promised protection against any encroachment by the white settlers of the United States. But after gold was found in the Black Hills by an expedition led by Custer in 1874 miners began flooding the region with no regard to the treaty. The government decided to renegotiate the treaty, but the Sioux and Cheyenne would have none of it. The Sioux had heard these promises before. When they refused to renegotiate, the U.S. Army was given orders to force them onto an even smaller reservation.
Fast forward to June 17, 1876. Crook was given orders to engage the Indians at Rosebud Creek, and then move north to join the convergent forces of General Alfred Terry (with Lt. Colonel George Armstrong Custer), and Colonel John Gibbon to force the Indians onto a reservation. Crook believed wrongly that Sitting Bull’s village was camped out on the Rosebud, and he had orders to engage and destroy it. If he had come three days earlier, he would have encountered the village where they had engaged in a Sun Dance, and where it was reported that Sitting Bull had a vision of “soldiers falling into his camp like grasshoppers from the sky.” Instead, they encountered Crazy Horse and a smaller, but still large band of Sioux and Cheyenne. The battle lasted for six hours. When the fighting was over, it was at best a Pyrrhic victory for Crook and his men; they retained the ground on which they fought, but they had to retreat back to their encampment at Goose Creek near present-day Sheridan, Wyoming to tend to their wounded and give rest to a battle-worn column. Crook claimed victory but military historians now view the battle as a victory for Crazy Horse and his men, and a prelude to the triumph at Little Bighorn a week later. Could Crook and his men have tipped the scales at Little Bighorn had they not retreated to Goose Creek after the battle on Rosebud Creek? Of the three federal forces, Crook’s was the largest with over 1,000 men. But would it have made a difference?
You can explore this question and more in eLibrary. Research topics such as the Great Sioux Wars, including Battle of the Rosebud and Battle of the Little Bighorn, and the United States Westward expansion, which contributed to the disputes in the Plains and the Black Hills. There are ProQuest Research Topics on Battle of the Rosebud, Crazy Horse, and General George Crook, as well as a host of other topics and resources associated with the battle listed below.
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Sometime in early June of 1876 members of the Lakota and Cheyenne tribe met at a Sun Dance at Rosebud Creek in Montana where Sitting Bull (Tatanka Iyotanka), a holy man and chief of the Lakota tribe (Teton Sioux), collapsed into a trance and had a vision. There he met White Buffalo Calf Woman, a guardian spirit of the Lakota, who told him that there would be a great battle fought against the white man and that he and his tribe would be victorious. Approximately three weeks later, on June 25th, and a week after the Battle of the Rosebud, the Lakota-Northern Cheyenne–Arapaho alliance decisively defeated Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer and the 7th Calvary at Little Bighorn, in what was probably the worst defeat by the U.S. Army by the Plains Indians.
The Battle of the Little Bighorn, or as the Lakota refer to it, the Battle of Greasy Grass, clearly stands in history as one of the great metaphors for lost causes, considering the numbers of Indian warriors the 7th Calvary ran into that day. The 7th, which encompassed 12 companies with a total of just over 600 men, engaged an estimated 3,000 warriors. To this day, the engagement continues to beg the question of why Custer, with overwhelming odds against him, was set on attacking the huge Plains Indians alliance. What were his motives? Was it shear arrogance and over-confidence? Was it a strategic error? What would cause Custer to go into battle that would eventually not only take his own life, but that of two of his brothers, a brother-in-law, and a nephew?
You can explore these questions and more by searching eLibrary’s resources below, beginning with the history of conflict between the U.S. government and Plains Indians, the background that set the battle in motion, the numerous broken treaties, and the resistance of the Plains Indians being moved onto increasingly smaller reservations.
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