A History of the Sioux War, and a Life of Gen. George A. Custer, with a Full Account of his Last Battle/Chapter 11

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The disarming and dismounting of the Sioux Agency Indians being deemed necessary as a precautionary measure, to prevent the hostile Indians from receiving constant supplies of arms, ammunition, and ponies from their friends at the agencies, General Sheridan directed Generals Crook and Terry to act simultaneously in accomplishing that object. The friendly and unfriendly Indians at the agencies were so intermixed, that it seemed impossible to discriminate between them.

After refitting at the Black Hills, Gen. Crook proceeded to the Red Cloud Agency, and found the Indians there in a dissatisfied mood and probably about to start to join the hostile bands. They had moved out some 25 miles from the agency, and refused to return although informed that no more rations would be given them till they did so.

At daylight, Oct. 22d, Col. Mackenzie, the post commander, with eight companies of the 4th and 5th Cavalry, surrounded the Indian camp containing 300 lodges, and captured Red Cloud and his whole band, men, squaws and ponies without firing a shot, and marched them into the agency dismounted and disarmed. The Indians at Spotted Tail Agency were also disarmed and dismounted.

Gen. Crook had an interview with Spotted Tail, and being satisfied that he was the only important Sioux leader who had remained friendly, he deposed Red Cloud, and declared Spotted Tail, his rival, the "Sachem of the whole Sioux Nation, by the grace of the Great Father the President. As the representative of the latter, Gen. Crook invested him with the powers of a grand chief, and in token thereof presented him his commission as such, written upon a parchment scroll tied with richly colored ribbons. Spotted Tail's heart was very glad."

"The line of the hostile and the peaceably disposed," wrote Gen. Crook at this time, "is now plainly drawn, and we shall have our enemies only in the front in the future. I feel that this is the first gleam of daylight we have had in this business."

Meantime Gen. Terry, with the 7th Cavalry and local garrisons, was disarming and dismounting the Indians at the Standing Rock and Cheyenne River Agencies. The following is a copy of his report to Gen. Sheridan, written at Standing Rock, Oct. 25th:—

"Colonel Sturgis left Lincoln on the 20th, Major Reno on the 21st, and each arrived here on the afternoon of the 22d. Sturgis immediately commenced dismounting and disarming the Indians at Two Bears' camp, on the left bank of the river, and Lieut. Col. Carlin, with his own and Reno's forces, dismounted and disarmed them at both camps on this side. Owing partially to the fact that before I arrived at Lincoln news was sent the Indians here, it is said, by Mrs. Galpin, that we were coming, and our purpose stated; but principally, I believe, that some time since, owing to the failure of the grass here, the animals were sent to distant grazing places many miles away, comparatively only a few horses were found. I, therefore, the next morning, called the chiefs together, and demanded the surrender of their horses and arms, telling them that unless they complied their rations would be stopped, and also telling them that whatever might be realized from the sale of the property taken would be invested in stock for them. They have quietly submitted, and have sent out to bring in their animals. Some have already arrived, and we have now in our possession 700. More are arriving rapidly, and I expect to double that number. I have kept the whole force here until now for the effect its presence produces.

"I shall start Sturgis to-morrow morning for Cheyenne, leaving Reno until Carlin completes the work here. Only a few arms have yet been found or surrendered, but I think our results are satisfactory. Not a shot was fired on either side of the river. Of course no surprise can now be expected at Cheyenne. The desired effect will be attained there by the same means as those employed here."

The late Sioux Commissioners, who made a treaty for the Black Hills in Sept. 1876, gave their pledge that all friendly Indians would be protected in their persons and property. Bishop Whipple comments on the dismounting of the Indians as follows:—

"In violation of these pledges 2,000 ponies were taken from Cheyenne and Standing Rock Agencies. No inventory was kept of individual property. Of 1,100 ponies taken at Standing Rock, only 874 left Bismark for Saint Paul. No provision was made to feed them on the way. The grass had burned on the prairie and there was several inches of snow on the ground. The small streams were frozen, and no water was to be had until they reached the James River. There was no grass, and no hay could be purchased until they reached the Cheyenne River, more than ten days' travel, and then nothing until they reached Fort Abercrombie. No wonder that there were only 1,200 ponies out of 2,000 that left Abercrombie, and that of these only 500 reached St. Paul. The wretched, dying brutes were made the subject of jest as the war horses of the Dakota. Many died on the way, many were stolen, and the remnant were sold in St. Paul. It was worse than the ordinary seizure of property without color of law. It was not merely robbery of our friends. It was cruel. The Indians are compelled to camp from 10 to 40 miles away from the agency to find fuel. They have to cross this distance in the coldest weather to obtain their rations, and without ponies they must cross on foot, and some of them may perish."

Gen. Crook issued at Red Cloud Agency his General Orders, No. 8—in part as follows:—

Headquarters Department of the Platte, in the Field, Camp Robinson, Neb., Oct. 24th, 1876.

"The time having arrived when the troops composing the Big Horn and Yellowstone Expedition are about to separate, the Brigadier-General commanding addresses himself to the officers and men of the command, to say:—

"In the campaign now closed he has been obliged to call upon you for much hard service and many sacrifices of personal comfort. At times you have been out of reach of your base of supplies; in most inclement weather you have marched without food and slept without shelter. In your engagements you have evinced a high order of discipline and courage, in your marches wonderful powers of endurance, and in your deprivations and hardships, patience and fortitude.

"Indian warfare is, of all warfare, the most trying, the most dangerous, and the most thankless; not recognized by the high authority of the United States Congress as war, it still possesses for you the disadvantages of civilized warfare with all the horrible accompaniments that barbarians can invent and savages can execute. In it, you are required to serve without the incentive to promotion or recognition; in truth, without favor or hope of reward.

"The people of our sparsely settled frontier, in whose defence this war is waged, have but little influence with the powerful communities in the East; their representatives have little voice in our national councils, while your savage foes are not only the wards of the nation, supported in idleness, but objects of sympathy with a large number of people otherwise well informed and discerning. You may, therefore, congratulate yourselves that in the performance of your military duty you have been on the side of the weak against the strong, and that the few people there are on the frontier will remember your efforts with gratitude."
Gen. Crook's losses during the campaign extending from May 27th to Oct. 24th, were 12 killed, 32 wounded (most of whom subsequently returned to duty), one death by accident and one by disease.