The great clash between the U.S Army and the Plains Indian tribes
Everyone who has been fascinated by the history of the American western frontier has much for which to thank Cyrus Townsend Brady, the author of this book. Brady was a prolific author of both fiction and non fiction and in both genres his abiding interest and knowledge of the history of his own country is a well demonstrated. This book, ‘Indian Fights and Fighters,’ captivated readers upon its publication and its success made the series of which it was part highly popular, although it was the fourth, not the first in his ‘American Fights and Fighters Series.’ Several more ‘Fights and Fighters’ books, based upon similar themes, followed. Brady relates—with some scholarship and with the help of maps, plans and illustrations—the principal engagements of the Plains Indian Wars in the period after the Civil War. The book draws on the first hand accounts of many of the people who were involved and is notable for bringing before the reader accounts by those who had not previously been published. Herein is a veritable cornucopia of western incident, campaigns, battles, fights and massacres, the full list of which is too numerous to catalogue here. They include the Fetterman Massacre, the Wagon Box Fight, Beecher’s Island, the Fight on Beaver Creek, the Washita, the Rosebud and many, many more. This book has become an invaluable, highly regarded and enduring classic of the History of the West. Available in softcover and hardcover with dustjacket for collectors.
About half after eight o’clock in the morning, the resting soldiers were called to attention by the sound of shots from the bluffs in front of them, over which their allies had disappeared. It was at first supposed that these friendly Indians had run across another herd of buffalo, but a few moments told the practised troopers that the firing was the beginning of a battle rather than that of a hunt. At the same time the Indian auxiliaries came galloping back to the main body at full speed, yelling:<br>
“Sioux, Sioux! Heap Sioux!”<br>
Without waiting for orders, the troopers saddled their horses and fell in. They got ready none too soon, for right on the heels of the fleeing Crows and Shoshones came the Sioux. In front of them to the right, the left, the low bluffs inclosing the plain, were ringed with Indians in full war-gear. As one observer described it to me, they looked like swarms of blackbirds, there were so many of them and in such rapid motion. They kept coming and coming into view, and as they dashed up to the brink of the hills upon their war ponies they opened a long-range fire upon the soldiers, which from the distance did little damage. There were at least a thousand of them in plain sight. How many others there might be, no one could tell. It was a safe guess that those in sight constituted but a small part of the force.<br>
It is said that there were at least six thousand warriors that day under the command of Crazy Horse, but that most of them were not engaged. Crazy Horse had planned an ambush for General Crook, and he had hoped to defeat him by luring the soldiers into it, or by separating the army into small detachments and overwhelming them in detail. His plans were well devised, and came very near being successful. That they did not succeed is probably due more to the acts of the Indians themselves than because of the wariness of the soldiers.<br>
Crook acted at once. Sending his staff officers to rally the Crows and Shoshones, he directed them to circle to the right and left, and make ready to fall on the flanks of the Indians. Mills, who had behaved so gallantly at the Tongue River, was ordered to charge the Indians straight up the valley to the bluff to the northward, the front. Two troops of Van Vliet’s squadron were rushed off to the southward, the rear, to seize a commanding position to prevent the Indians from circling around in that direction and getting in Crook’s rear. The infantry and part of the Second Cavalry were dismounted, and thrown forward as skirmishers around the foot of the bluffs. Royall took Henry’s battalion, with Van Vliet’s remaining troop, one of Mills’ troops which he detached while the battalion was on the gallop, and another of Noyes’ troops, and charged the Indians on the left.<br>
Mills’ charge was most gallantly delivered. The soldiers struggled through the bog, raced across the bottom land for about eight hundred yards, and scrambled up the bluffs in twenty minutes, finding themselves, when they reached the top, within fifty paces of the Sioux. There was no time to use carbines. Firing revolvers, the battalion rushed at the Indians. The savages fired ineffectively, gave way, and fled instantly to higher ground six hundred yards further on, where they opened fire. In their excitement they shot badly. Mills dismounted his battalion, deployed them as skirmishers, rushed the second ridge and cleared it, the Indians sullenly retiring before him, and again opened fire on the troops, to which the cavalrymen made effective reply. The Sioux galloped rapidly to and fro, yelling and firing from their horses, kicking up clouds of dust, but doing little harm.<br>
Royall, Henry, and Van Vliet had a similar success on the left, where the ground was much more open and unfavourable for defence, although the Indians were massed more heavily in that quarter than before Mills.<br>
Meanwhile the Crows and Shoshones had fallen upon the flanks of the Sioux, but not very effectively. Everyone in the field except a small reserve was now hotly engaged. The pressure on Mills became stronger, but he drove the Indians from him by another gallant attack. Thereafter he was reinforced by Noyes’ battalion. The front of his line was finally partially cleared by this last dash. The Indians who had been attacking him thereupon left him, and joined the others before Royall and Henry.<br>
Crook now withdrew Mills’ command from the battlefield, and Mills was ordered to take his three troops down the Dead Cañon of the Rosebud and attack the villages which it was believed the Indians were defending. Mills’ movements were supported by the five troops of the Second Cavalry under Noyes. Crook promised to follow up the movement, and support it with the remaining cavalry and infantry. We will follow this movement later.<br>
Mills’ place in the line was occupied by Tom Moore and his packers and some other auxiliaries from the camp, and a smart fire was kept up in that direction. On the left the firing was fast and furious. The Indians from the front cleared by Mills joined their associates on the left, and again and again attacked Royall, Henry, and Van Vliet, who had joined the other two, with the most determined courage. Charge and counter charge were made over that portion of the field. Now the troops gave way before the Indian advance, now the soldiers were rallied and hurled back the Indians, now the Indians retreated before some desperate counter-charge. So went the varying fortunes of the hour. The number of savages increased with every passing moment. To the eyes of the astonished soldiers they seemed to spring from the ground. If one fell in the line, a dozen were ready to take his place.