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 have been.

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 slowly.

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 back.

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 Indians charged. 

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.

After the 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
ready?" And 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.''

* Contrary Society

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