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Out of the Past
History Lessons 
1877
The Death of Crazy Horse 

Crazy Horse!

The name stirs the imagination and a sense that we should know who and what he was. Some of us may indeed know the legend surrounding the man, but not many know the flesh-and-blood, caring, thinking, feeling, human being that was Crazy Horse. He was of Oglala and Mniconju stock, born near Bear Butte, in the Black Hills of what is now South Dakota, in the Winter the Oglala Took One Hundred Horses from the Snakes (according to the winter count of the Bad Face band of the Oglalas), or 1840. Encyclopedia of North American Indians 

Crazy Horse's father, who was also named Crazy Horse (c. 1811) but took the name Worm after passing the name to his son, was Oglala Lakota and his mother, Rattling Blanket Woman (c. 1815), was Miniconjou Lakota. Crazy Horse's name at birth was either Light Hair or Curly Hair, depending on the historical source. As was the custom of the Lakota, his name changed over the years. When he was about 10 years old, Worm changed the boy's name to His Horse On Sight (also translated as Horse Stands In Sight, His Horse Looking or His Horse Partly Showing) after his son's role in the capture of wild horses in the Sandhills of Nebraska. Worm passed on the name Crazy Horse after his son bravely fought with the Arapahos when he was about 18 years old. Wikipedia

Quickly he was recognized for his cunning, as well as bravery and skill in battle. Often Crazy Horse led decoys in battles, like in the Fetterman Massacre and Platte Bridge battles. There were many other Sioux warriors and leaders besides Crazy Horse who helped (often in giving up their lives) the effort of their people to keep their homeland... Sitting Bull (the medicine man who once cut out 100 pieces of his own skin in order to get a vision), Young Man Afraid of His Horse, Spotted Tail, Worm (Crazy Horse's father's name in later life), Red Cloud, Touch the Clouds, Little Big Man, American Horse, Conquering Bear, He Dog, and Dull Knife. Colonial & Postcolonial Literary Dialogues

Crazy Horse joined Sitting Bull in a effort to defend the Black Hills and resist being put on a reservation. Relations between the Indians and the U.S. government deteriorated to the point where war was inevitable and the famous Indian fighter Lt. General George Crook was brought in to take charge of the U.S. forces. After fighting a fierce battle one day, Crazy Horse and his troops rode over to the Little Bighorn to join Sitting Bull’s large encampment. A few days later, their camp was attacked by General George A. Custer. Crazy Horse and a chief of the Hunkpapa Sioux named Gall led their warriors in a pincer attack and wiped out Custer’s divided calvary in one of the most infamous battles of that century. Frontier Trails of the Old West

Other military forces pursued the Indians, eventually driving Sitting Bull into Canada. Crazy Horse and his followers attempted to hold out in remote areas of the Yellowstone country, but soldiers hunted them relentlessly. On May 6, 1877, he gave himself up and spent the summer near Fort Robinson, awaiting the assignment to a reservation that had been promised him for surrendering. The events affecting Crazy Horse during that long summer were imbued with elements of classical tragedy. Deceptions, betrayals, and false rumors engulfed him. He was disliked by some of the older Indian leaders, and because of his popularity among the young warriors, rumors spread that he was planning an outbreak. The Reader's Companion to American History 

What happened between May 15, 1877, when, anticipating a visit to the president in Washington, Crazy Horse was sworn in as a noncommissioned officer in the U.S. military, and September 5, 1877, when he was bayoneted in the back by a military guard, is the stuff of rumor and legend. The Death of Crazy Horse

From The Sidney Telegraph Sept 8, 1877
"Crazy Horse Corraled" 
The old sinner is in for it. The following telegraph from Camp Robinson, under date of Sept. 5th, says: "Crazy Horse who was arrested at Spotted Tail Agency last night, arrived here this evening. While being disarmed in the guardhouse he drew a knife and attempted to make his escape, cutting Big Little Man in the arm severely. Crazy Horse himself was stabbed in the side and dangerously wounded." dickshovel.com

"Another white man's trick! Let me go! Let me die fighting!" cried Crazy Horse. He stopped and tried to free himself and draw his knife, but both arms were held fast by Little Big Man and the officer. While he struggled thus, a soldier thrust him through with his bayonet from behind. The wound was mortal, and he died in the course of that night, his old father singing the death song over him and afterward carrying away the body, which they said must not be further polluted by the touch of a white man. They hid it somewhere in the Bad Lands, his resting place to this day. Indians.org

Since his violent and controversial death, Crazy Horse, or Tashunka Witko, has become almost a mythical figure of the Great Plains Indian wars. The Reader's Companion to American History 


Crazy Horse
Crazy Horse

A Lakota Life


back to Out of the Past

Fort Robinson and the American West, 1874-1899 by Thomas R. Buecker. 
University of Oklahoma Press, 2003. 

Located on the high plains of Nebraska just south of the Black Hills, Fort Robinson was the setting for some of the most dramatic and tragic events of the Indian Wars, including the Cheyenne Outbreak, the death of Crazy Horse and the massacre at Wounded Knee.

The fort was located on the north side of the White River across from the Red Cloud Agency and "some distance away from the Indians but near enough to provide rapid assistance if the need arose," writes the author of this detailed and clearly written history, Thomas Buecker.

"Then as now, the area is typical of the high Plains, consisting largely of rolling hills, occasionally bisected by small, meandering streams and rivers."

Established as "Camp Robinson" in 1874 to protect the Red Cloud Agency, the outpost's soldiers also guarded trails to the Black Hills and the surrounding region. Designated a "fort" in 1878, Robinson became the most important military post in the region and was host to the first African American soldiers of the Ninth Cavalry -- the "buffalo soldiers" -- who kept watch on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

Virtually abandoned during World War I, Fort Robinson was a major remount depot, pack mule and K-9 Corps training center during World War II and served as a prisoner of war camp during World War II before being abandoned.

"Much of the old fort survives today, not as a military post, but as a state park, a museum, and a national historic landmark," Tate explains. "Despite all the changes that came to the army and its world, Fort Robinson remained along the White River below the silent buttes, an outpost in the American West."


Lieutenant Levi Robinson, namesake of Fort Robinson, was killed in February 1874 by Indians from the Red Cloud Agency while on a wood gathering detail near Fort Laramie.









 

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