Warrior Women: Buffalo Calf Road Woman

Buffalo Calf Road Woman (c. 1850 – 1879)

  • Buffalo Calf Road Woman was born around 1850 into the Northern Cheyenne Tribe.
  • She was married to Black Coyote and had two children.
  • This Warrior Woman gained fame when she rescued her brother, Comes In Sight, at the Battle of the Rosebud in 1876.
  • Comes In Sight and his horse were injured and left on the battlefield when the Cheyenne retreated.  Buffalo Calf Road Woman rode out under fire, at full gallop, hauled up her brother, and managed to get him to safety.
  • Her remarkable act of bravery rallied the remaining Cheyenne toward a final victorious push against General George Cook’s soldiers.
  • In her honor, the Cheyenne call the Battle of the Rosebud, The Fight Where The Girl Saved Her Brother.
  • She also accompanied her husband in the Battle of the Little Bighorn (1876).  Legend claims she was the warrior who knocked Lt. Colonel George Armstrong Custer from his horse before he died.
  • Buffalo Calf Road Woman and Black Coyote were part of the Northern Cheyenne exodus from Indian Territory in 1878, led by Dull Knife and Little Wolf.
  • The family were captured on route and taken into custody.
  • The Warrior Woman died from diphtheria in Miles City the following year.

Sources:

Amazing Women In History, “Buffalo Calf Road Woman: http://www.amazingwomeninhistory.com/buffalo-calf-road-cheyenne-warrior-woman/

Wikipedia, “Buffalo Calf Road, Heroic Cheyenne Warrior Woman,” at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buffalo_Calf_Road_Woman

Indian Wars: Little Bighorn (1876)

The Battle of the Little Bighorn.

little-bighorn (Painting by Charles Marion Russell)

Date:             June 25 and 26, 1876.

Opponents:  Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer and the 7th U.S. Cavalry

                        v.

                        Crazy Horse and Chief Gall, leading a combined force of Northern Cheyenne, Lakota Sioux, and Arapaho.

Place:             Little Bighorn River, Montana.

Factors:       * Custer found gold in the Black Hills, on Indian land that was sacred to the Sioux, which soon triggered an influx of unwanted white prospectors.

                       * Chief Sitting Bull had a vision during the Sun Dance Ceremony.  He was “soldiers falling into his camp like grasshoppers from the sky” – which inspired an armed resistance to the U.S. army, pioneers, and miners swarming into the Dakotas.

                       * Custer came upon a massive combined village camped alongside the river.  He did not appreciate how large it actually was and decided to launch an immediate daylight attack because he knew that his men had been spotted by native scouts.

                       * The 7th Cavalry was split in three, the other two battalions being led by officers Reno and Benteen. Custer expected these two divisions to arrive any moment as backup.  They came under attack at the other ends of the village and failed to arrive in support of their leader.

                      * Custer made a brave Last Stand behind a wall of dead horses, but he and his men were routed and annihilated within an hour.  The soldiers were mutilated and scalped, then left to rot until the army arrived to bury them.  Custer’s body remained untouched, except some reports say his ear-drums were pierced so that he would learn to listen better in the next life.

                      * The Native Americans then went after Reno and Benteen but were repulsed long enough for General Terry to arrive with reinforcements.  The braves scattered in different directions so they would be difficult to track and hunt down.

Results:       * The U.S. cavalry lost 268 men (with 48 wounded), including Custer and his two brothers.

                      * First Nation casualties numbered 136 warriors and 10 non-combatants (with 160 wounded).

                      * The Battle of the Little Bighorn was a major victory for the Native Americans in the Great Sioux Wars of 1854-1890.

                      * But Custer’s Last Stand became a pivotal rallying point that eventually led to the end of native resistance at Wounded Knee.

                     * Chief Sitting Bull escaped to Canada the following year.

                     * Crazy Horse  was later captured and assassinated at Fort Robinson (Nevada) a few months later.

Sources:

Eyewitness to History, “Battle of the Little Bighorn, 1876” at http://www.eyewitnesstohistory.com/custer.htm.

National Park Service, “Battle of the Little Bighorn,” at https://www.nps.gov/libi/learn/historyculture/battle-of-the-little-bighorn.htm.

Sanja, Mike. Crazy Horse: The Life Behind the Legend. New Jersey: Castle Books, 2000.

Wikipedia, “Battle of the Little Bighorn” at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_the_Little_Bighorn.

Indian Wars: Washita River (1868)

Battle of Washita River

washita-river

Date:             November 27, 1868

Opponents:  Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer and the 7th U.S. Cavalry.

                        v.

                        Chief Black Kettle’s Southern Cheyenne, led by Chief Little Rock.

Place:             Washita River in Indian Territory (near Cheyenne, Oklahoma).

Factors:       * After signing the Medicine Lodge Treaty, the Southern Cheyenne (and Arapaho) were sent to a sparse reservation in Indian Territory.  Food was in short supply.

                       * In August 1868, the braves began raiding white settlements, killing at least 15 people.

                       * Peace talks between the U.S. Army and tribal chiefs at Fort Cobb broke down.

                       * Major Joel Elliott of the 7th Cavalry had tracked raiding Dog Soldiers back to their camp on the Washita River.  He returned to inform Custer, but the soldiers had also been spotted by the braves.  Because snow had fallen over a foot deep, Chief Black Kettle decided to wait before sending out runners to talk with the soldiers.  Meanwhile, Custer decided to attack the sleeping village at dawn.

                      * The Cheyenne had been camped on reservation land where they had been assured of safety.

                      * A white flag was flown in the village to indicate that this was a peaceful community.

Results:       * Custer lost 21 men, including Major Elliott who had ridden off without permission into an ambush.

                      * The Cheyenne casualties numbered 50 warriors, including their revered Chief Black Kettle.

                      * Custer withdrew without knowing the fate of Elliott’s band, which ruined his reputation among the ranks and caused a rift within the regiment.

                      * The 7th Cavalry used 53 women and children as human shields to protect their return to Camp Supply.

                     * This success cemented Custer’s reputation as a military leader and helped make him a popular figure in the newspapers.

Sources:

This Day In History, “Custer Massacres Cheyenne on Washita River” at http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/custer-massacres-cheyenne-on-washita-river

Wikipedia, “Battle of Washita River” at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Washita_River

General (or Colonel?) George Armstrong Custer

George Armstrong Custer (1839-1876)

george-custer

In researching George Armstrong Custer, I am struck by  the various titles that writers address him by.  He was a brave national hero to some – a bloodthirsty buffoon to others – and in mentioning  his deeds  they rank him accordingly.  If called General  Custer, one finds  complimentary accounts of his valor.  His detractors, however,  express their  anger or dismay by referring instead to Colonel Custer.  Yet both ranks are accurate.

Custer served in the Union Army during the American Civil War.  Although he graduated last in his cadet class at West Point, he proved himself on the battlefield and was made a Captain in 1864.  He was brevetted to Major General the following year and was present when General Lee surrendered to General Grant (1865).

Custer then went on to fight in the Indian Wars, even though he initially reverted back to a Captain.  But he soon found himself in charge of the 7th Cavalry Regiment as a Lieutenant Colonel, and unfortunately made his famous Last Stand at the Battle of the Little Bighorn in Montana Territory, 1876.

After his death his devoted wife Libbie (Elizabeth Bacon Custer) spent much of her widowhood turning his name into a legend.  His shocking defeat became the rallying point that finally culminated in the Wounded Knee Massacre, and an official end to the so-called Indian Problem. 

But is he General or Colonel Custer to you?