The Battle on the Greasy Grass, 1876

  • Colin G. Calloway
Part of the The Bedford Series in History and Culture book series (BSHC)

Abstract

Few conflicts in American history are more famous than the Battle of the Little Big Horn, or the Greasy Grass as the Sioux called it. Few moments in American history are as clearly etched in the popular imagination as the last stand of Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer and his Seventh Cavalry. The image of Custer and his gallant band surrounded by hordes of Indian warriors has served as a symbol of Indian-white conflict, of “civilization” battling “savagery,” of America’s frontier identity. Yet the enduring image of the last stand — promoted and perpetuated by generations of writers, artists, and movie makers — is one created by people who were not there. This chapter reproduces several views of the battle by people who lived through it and told their stories in later life: an Arikara scout for the Seventh Cavalry; a Cheyenne warrior; a Sioux council chief; a Sioux who was fourteen years old at the time; and a Sioux woman who recalled the battle from the viewpoint of the village the soldiers attacked.

Keywords

Dust Sandstone Smoke Hunt Defend 

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Notes

  1. 1.
    James C. Olson, Red Cloud and the Sioux Problem (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1965), 218.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    James Welch, Killing Custer: The Battle of the Little Big Horn and the Fate of the Plains Indians (New York: Penguin, 1995), 175, 294.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Robert M. Utley, The Lance and the Shield: The Life and Times of Sitting Bull (New York: Henry Holt and Co., 1993), 161.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    In recent years, scholars have paid increasing attention to Indian accounts of the battle. See, for example, Jerome A. Greene, ed., Lakota and Cheyenne: Indian Views of the Great Sioux War, 1876–1877 (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1994).Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    For example, John S. Gray, Custer’s Last Campaign: Mitch Boyer and the Little Big Horn Reconstructed (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1991).Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Raymond J. DeMallie, “‘These Have No Ears’: Narrative and the Ethnohistorical Method,” Ethnohistory 40 (1993), 515–38. The fact that the soldiers in the vision lacked ears refers to their unwillingness to heed Sioux warnings, rather than to mutilation of their bodies.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Frank B. Linderman, Pretty-shield: Medicine Woman of the Crows (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1972), 235.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Colin G. Calloway, “Army Allies or Tribal Survival?: The ‘Other’ Indians in the 1876 Campaign,” in Charles E. Rankin, ed. Legacy: New Perspectives on the Little Battle of Bighorn (Helena: Montana Historical Society, 1996).Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    O. G. Libby, ed., “The Arikara Narrative of the Campaign Against the Hostile Dakotas, June 1876,” Collections of the North Dakota State Historical Society 6 (1920), 11–12, 84. The names of the Arikara scouts are given on 49–51; biographies of some of the scouts are on 177–209. See also David Humphreys Miller, Custer’s Fall: The Indian Side of the Story (London: Corgi Books, 1953), 27–28.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    John Stands in Timber and Margot Liberty, Cheyenne Memories (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1972), 205.Google Scholar
  11. Wooden Leg’s statements relating to whiskey and suicide are in Thomas B. Marquis, Wooden Leg: A Warrior Who Fought Custer (Minneapolis: The Midwest Co., 1931), 231–32, 246. Another Northern Cheyenne, Soldier Wolf, also said the soldiers acted drunk or panic-striken. Greene, ed., Lakota and Cheyenne, 51.Google Scholar
  12. 11.
    Garrick Mallary, “Picture-Writing of the American Indians,” 10th Annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology, 1888–89 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Govt. Printing Office, 1893), 565.Google Scholar
  13. 12.
    Evan M. Maurer, et al. Visions of the People: A Pictorial History of Plains Indian Life (Minneapolis: Minneapolis Institute of Arts, 1992), 200–01; Mallery, “Picture-Writing of the American Indians,” 563–66.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Colonel W. A. Graham, The Custer Myth: A Source Book of Custeriana (New York: Bonanza Books, 1953), 81–87.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Stanley Vestal, New Sources of Indian History (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1934), 181.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© BEDFORD BOOKS of St. Martin’s Press 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Colin G. Calloway
    • 1
  1. 1.Dartmouth CollegeUSA

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