Young Hawk's account of the LBH battle given to Walter Camp (July 1912), published in Hammer's book, Custer in 76, my annotations in brackets:
I was the scout who ripped open the lone tepee when we came along [Ash/Reno Creek] marching toward [the] Little Bighorn [on] June 25. Bloody Knife was killed in the timber [position in the valley -- ed. and not where his current marker has been placed in the field, well outside the timber position]. Bobtail Bull was in my party [of Rees] when we retreated out of the bottom. [Note: This party of Rees should not be confused with the party who captured Sioux ponies and ran them up to the bluffs at the start of Reno's valley fight.] We followed on Reno's line [of] retreat but turned to [the] left [or north] and got across the river lower down than Reno. The Sioux [who were] on [the] east side of [the] river, a little below [ie. downriver] where Reno crossed [the river in retreat], headed us off. We saw Bobtail Bull chased into [the] river a little above us [ie. upriver]. We got into [the] brush on [the] east side of [the] river.
Little Brave [also known as Little Soldier] and Isaiah [Dorman were] killed where [it is] marked on [the] map between [the] timber and [the] river on [the] line of retreat. [The Crow scouts] White Swan and Half Yellow Face were with our party of Ree scouts [who were] in Reno's fight in the bottom, and I helped get Goose and White Swan up [and] out of [the] bottom after they were wounded. When White Swan was wounded, he was just outside the brush [ed. on the east side of the river where they crossed]. I dragged him in and saved him from the Sioux.
At camp at Pease bottom [after the battle], a Crow Indian [ed: possibly Curley] who wore a belt of buffalo hide taken from [the] chin of [ a] buffalo where [the] hair [is] longest told me that the Ree who wore the two rabbit ears (Black Fox) was the one whom "we picked up after the Custer fight. When we left [the] Little Bighorn, we saw a man going away off and we chased him and found out he was a Ree. I told the Ree that I had captured 5 head of horses and gave a black horse to Black Fox." This is the horse that Black Fox rode when he overtook the other Rees at [the] mouth of [the] Rosebud. When we arrived at the Rosebud [after the battle], I found Black Fox there and the black horse [was] identical with the description [given to] me [afterwards] by the Crow, which proves that Black Fox was with the Crows [perhaps with Curley] after leaving [the] Little Bighorn after [the] battle.
Camp: Did [the half breed scout William] Baker and Young Hawk go out [from Reno Hill] and meet [Lieut.] Bradley on [the] morning [of] June 27?
Young Hawk: No, [he] says [that] Forked Horn and [he,] Young Hawk did this.
Young Hawk says that at [the] Powder River [depot] Bill Jackson was sent out on some errand and came back with a great story about being chased by Sioux. He had wounded his horse slightly and had a scalp which he said he had taken from a Sioux. When we examined it closely, we found [that] he had stuck hair onto a piece of leather and this gave him away. Had it not been for this discovery, we would have believed his story.
Bob Jackson [the brother of Billy Jackson, was] punished at the Little Missouri for riding through camp and firing off his gun and showing what he would do to the Sioux. He had to stand with one foot on a barrel [and his other foot on the ground]. Young Hawk says Bob Jackson was in camp at [the] mouth of [the] Powder River after [the] battle of [the] Little Bighorn, but was not in the battle. [Note: This apparently clears up the mystery of whether or not Bob Jackson was present during the battle. Bob Jackson would later claim that he was present, but it would appear that he -- and his brother Billy -- may have fostered that notion to enhance his popularity and reputation in the following years.]
Last Edit: Sept 9, 2018 23:00:38 GMT -5 by moderator
"The more I see of movement here (Little Big Horn Battlefield), the more I have admiration for Custer, and I am satisfied his like will not be found very soon again.”
~ Gen. Nelson Miles, Commanding General of the Army ------
"With our cherished ones deliverance within our grasp we waited breathless two hours, for the order that never came."
Captain Thomas B. Weir, Oct. 22, 1876.
General of the Army (Medicine Man/Chief))
Young Hawk. In the morning they looked after the dead. Young Hawk saw one of the soldiers standing near the bank. He went close and the soldier told him to go into the river and get out the body of the dead soldier there. There were no bushes on the bank here; this was about the place where the soldiers retreated across two days earlier. He took off his clothes and went into the water nearly to his armpits. The dead soldier lay on the water, head down, and his back was out of the water; he had on trousers but no coat or shirt. It seemed to Young Hawk that the Dakotas on the other side had pulled this much of his clothes off and left him there. He and the soldier pulled the body up on the land and left it and went further up the bank.
Then Young Hawk met the rest of the scouts and they agreed to go where Bob-tailed Bull was chased by the Dakotas. They found the place where he went over the bank and there they saw four leafy branches of willow sticking up in the stream. The water was shallow here and they wondered to see the willow branches there.
Then they went up to a better crossing; the water was up to their hips when they crossed over. They came down on the right bank, seeing two dead soldiers stripped, all the way to the brush and there, in the edge of the brush, was the body of a sergeant (they called him 'Sarge'). The soldiers followed and placed the bodies straight. The scouts went into the bushes and found their coats where they had left them on the day of the fight and they put them on.
They went on but found no more dead soldiers and crossed back again at a watering place for horses. As they came up the bank they found a soldier standing there and he said: ''Here is one scout lying in the bushes“. They could not tell who the scout was because his face and head were pounded to pieces, but they think it was the body of Bloody Knife. Then they all got together and Gerard told them that the soldiers were going to cut poles for horse travois for carrying all the wounded.
Last Edit: Jun 25, 2013 20:14:18 GMT -5 by herosrest
If it walks like a duck, sounds like a duck, and looks like a duck ~ it is probably a goose.
Young Hawk's account of the battle from The Arikara Narrative, my interpretive comments in brackets: Part I
The army [the 7th Cav troopers] was on the little knoll at the foot of the [Crows Nest] hill [at Halt # 2]; they were met by Custer's party [coming down] from the high butte [known as the Crows Nest]. Considerable excitement among the scouts was to be seen. They wondered what Custer would say when he heard that the Dakotas knew of his approach. The scouts from the [Crows Nest] hill had told them of the six Dakotas [seen from the top of the Crows Nest]. When the scouts saw Custer coming down [from the Crows Nest] they began to group themselves according to tribes, Arikara, Crows, etc. The Arikara grouped themselves about the older men who spoke to the younger men as is the custom of the tribe. Stabbed spoke to the young men and Custer gave the instructions here to the scouts through Gerard. He said: "Boys, I want you to take the horses away from the Sioux camp." Then Stabbed told the Arikara scouts to obey Custer's instructions and to try and take away as many horses as possible. Custer continued: "Make up your minds to go straight to their camp and capture their horses. Boys, you are going to have a hard day; you must keep up your courage; you will get experience today." On the top of the ridge [ie. the divide] the bugle sounded for the unfurling of the [Regimental] flag (this is what Gerard told the scouts). This caused great excitement; all made ready, girths were tightened , [and] loads were made light. Another bugle sounded and Custer ordered the scouts forward.
They went down the dry coulee [of upper Ash/Reno Creek] and when [they had gone] about half way to the high ridge at the right [the white bluffs], Young Hawk saw a group of [Crow] scouts at the lower [or western] end of the [white bluffs] ridge peering over toward the [1st or easternmost] lone tepee [about 3 1/2 miles east of the LBH River]. The [Ree] scouts he was with slowed up as the others came toward them. Then behind them they heard a call from Gerard. He said to them: "The Chief says for you to run [ahead]." At this, Strikes Two gave the war-whoop and called back: "What are we doing?" and rode on. At this, we all whooped, and Strikes Two reached the [1st] lone tepee and struck it with his whip. Then Young Hawk came [up]. He got off on the north side of the tepee, took a knife from his belt, pierced the tent through and ran the knife down to the ground. Inside of the [1st] lone tepee he saw a scaffold, and upon it a dead body wrapped in a buffalo robe. At the same moment, he saw by him on horseback, Red Star. All of the [Ree] scouts rode around to the north side of the tent at full speed and turned into the dry coulee [of Ash/Reno Creek] just beyond the tepee.
A little further down, they overtook the white soldiers [of Reno's battalion] and all rode on mixed together. The best mounted scouts kept up with the hard riding soldiers [riding at a fast trot], others straggled behind. They crossed the [Little Big Horn River at the] mouth of a dry coulee [then went] through a prairie dog village, [then] turned sharp[ly] to the right, and Young Hawk saw [ie. looked back] across the Little Big Horn [River] on the west side, [and saw] Red Star, Goose, Boy Chief, and Red Bear. Young Hawk had a bunch of loose eagle feathers; he [paused here and] unbraided his hair and brought it [his hair] forward on his head and tied it in with the eagle feathers. He expected to be killed and scalped by the Dakotas. Turning sharp[ly] to the right [or north], the battle began at about the spot where the prairie dog village stands [near the Garryowen Loop of the River].
Young Hawk's account of the battle from The Arikara Narrative, my interpretive comments in brackets: Part II
The first fighting began as skirmishing in front of the [valley skirmish] line. Behind the ridge at the left he could see the Dakotas circling in and swarming about. The soldiers and the scouts dismounted [by the Garryowen Loop], [and] the horses were held in groups behind the line [before they were brought into the timber]. The soldiers formed in line toward the right [or north], [with] the scouts at the left [side facing] out toward the ridge, while far[ther out] to the left on a slant were scattered scouts. Bob-tailed Bull was farthest at the left and nearest the ridge. In front of the line rode the Dakotas skirmishing back and forth.
Young Hawk moved toward the right [side of the skirmish line] and took his position there. He saw the following scouts in order: Red Bear, Little Brave, Forked Horn, Red Foolish Bear, Goose, Big Belly [aka Half Yellow Face] (Crow), and Strikes Enemy [aka White Swan] (Crow). The last scout to the left was Bob-tailed Bull, far out beyond the others. Young Hawk stood between Goose and Big Belly. Behind them all, on the Little Big Horn, there appeared Bloody Knife. "He came right toward me and I looked up and noticed his dress. He had on the black handkerchief with blue stars on it given him by Custer. He wore a bear's claw with a clam shell on it." Bloody Knife spoke to Young Hawk, calling out: "What Custer has ordered about the Sioux horses is being done; the horses are being taken away." Then Bloody Knife passed on [in] back of the [skirmish] line and took his stand by Little Brave.
The battle got stronger and the [skirmish] line curved back toward the river [an apt description of M Troop's deployment facing the bluffs to the west]. Many of the soldiers were killed [there was actually only one reported casualty on the skirmish line at this time] and they began to fall back [to the timber position]. One Dakota charged the soldiers very closely and was shot about 16 feet from the [skirmish] line. He rode a sorrel horse with a bald face and his tail was tied with a piece of red cloth. When the Dakota fell, the horse kept on coming toward the soldiers, and Young Hawk took the horse. He said: "I yelled to Red Bear that I wanted to give him the horse I had captured, and for him to come [over] to where I was. Red Bear did not come to take the horse. A Crow Indian, Big Belly, came and said: "My brother, I want this horse; give him to me." Big Belly was Young Hawk's friend and his other name was Half-Yellow-Face. He took this Dakota horse, let his own horse go, as it was a very poor one, and jumped on the back of the Dakota horse.
All this time the Dakotas had been collecting [their numbers] back of the ridge nearest to Bob-tailed Bull. All at once, over the middle of the ridge, came riding a dense swarm of Dakotas in one mass straight toward Bob-tailed Bull. At the same moment, a white soldier standing nearest to Young Hawk turned to him and cried: "John, you go!" The Dakota attack doubled up the [skirmish] line from the left and pushed this line back toward the soldiers [in the timber]. They [then] retreated back across the river lower down [from Ford A] about 2 miles.
Young Hawk's account of the battle from The Arikara Narrative, my interpretive comments in brackets: Part III
They retreated across the flat and up the bluff on a long diagonal up the steep bank, which was hard climbing. The soldiers were the first to retreat across the river. Of the scouts, [the] two Crows were ahead, Half-Yellow-Face and Strikes Enemy [aka. White Swan], then followed Red Foolish Bear and Forked Horn, and then Goose and Young Hawk. When Young Hawk got back to the timber [on the west side of the river], before crossing the river, he heard Forked Horn call: "Let's get off and make a stand." He did this on account of Bob-tailed Bull, who was hard pushed by the pursuing Dakotas, and had fallen back nearly to the [retreat] ford used by the soldiers. Young Hawk thought this was a general signal [or order] for the scouts and jumped off his horse [in the belt of timber on the west side of the river] and Goose followed him, also, in making the stand [there]. They did not stop their horses, but leaped off as they were running and both shot at the Dakotas.
At the crossing where the soldiers forded the river [in their retreat from the valley] Bob-tailed Bull got over [to the east side] of the river. The charging Dakotas [pursuing him] turned sharply [away] as the scouts fired at them and [they then] rode back. Young Hawk intended to fire again but as he opened the breech of the gun he dropped his shell. The four scouts, Half-Yellow-Face, Strikes Enemy [aka. White Swan], Red Foolish Bear and Forked Horn [then] rode into the brush and over the river [crossing to the east side] still lower down less than 1/8 of a mile [from Reno's retreat ford]. Goose and Young Hawk followed them through the brush and [then] crossed the river where the water was deep and the brush grew very thick on the opposite bank, and the horses struggled hard before getting to land [on the east bank of the river]. They [then] took refuge in a thick grove of trees just across the river. The Dakotas were riding on all sides of them by this time. Here, [in this thick grove of trees on the east bank of the river,] Young Hawk found the other four scouts who had ridden ahead; he did not [previously] know they were there.
All of the scouts had their horses in this grove. The Dakotas saw them ride in and began firing at them through the trees as they crouched there on horseback. He and Goose stood facing each other; then he heard a sound like a sigh, and Goose groaned and called to him: "Cousin, I am wounded." Young Hawk said: "When I heard this, my heart did not tremble with fear, but I made up my mind I would die this day." Goose showed him his wound -- his right hand was badly shot. Then Young Hawk [dismounted and] took off the cartridge belt belonging to Goose and put it on himself, as he stood by the horse on the ground. He told Goose to get off his horse, and he helped him dismount. Then Young Hawk was seized with rage (madness). He took off his coat and army blouse and made ready to fight for his life. Just as Goose dismounted, his horse was shot down. Young Hawk put Goose against a tree and told him to hold his horse. Goose had a revolver in his belt. Just then, Young Hawk saw Half-Yellow-Face crawling toward him. He said, "My friend is being killed; he is just on the edge of the thicket." Young Hawk went with him, crawling on hands and feet to where the Crow scout lay on his back with his hands up. The two scouts took him by his arms and dragged him back to where Goose sat with his back against a tree. He was Strikes Enemy, or White Swan (Crow). He told them he was not afraid and that he was glad he was wounded.
Young Hawk's account of the battle from The Arikara Narrative, my interpretive comments in brackets: Part IV
Young Hawk said: The sight of the wounded men gave me queer feelings; I did not want to see them mutilated, so I decided to get killed myself at the edge of the timber. Before going out, I put my arms about my horse's neck, saying, "I love you." I then crawled out and stood up and saw all in front of me -- Sioux warriors -- kneeling, ready to shoot. I fired at them and received a volley but was not hit. I was determined to try again and get killed, so I crawled out to the edge of the timber in a new place, [then] jumped up and fired again and received a volley, but I dropped out of sight before I was hit. Then I saw near me a tree with driftwood [from the river] piled against it, making a very good protection, and behind it I found Forked Horn lying face down to avoid being shot. When Forked Horn saw that it was Young Hawk who had drawn the fire of the Dakotas the second time, he scolded him, saying: "Don't you do so again; it is no way to act. This is not the way to fight at all -- to show yourself as a mark."
The Dakotas [then] tried to burn the scouts out, but the grass was too green to burn. Young Hawk sat still for a time after being scolded by Forked Horn, and the Dakotas came closer, one on a gray horse came very close indeed. Young Hawk fired and missed him; then he jumped up and shot again, [this time] killing him. The horse had on a very handsome bridle with very beautiful trimming, and after the Dakota was shot and fell, the horse kept circling to the left, probably because he was tied by a lariat to the body of the Dakota. Young Hawk fired twice [more] at the horse and at last killed him. As the horse fell, Young Hawk gave the Arikara yell which is always given at the death of an enemy. Goose saw the horse fall, and he called [to] Young Hawk to get the fine bridle for him.
Young Hawk said: Some little time after this, the Sioux came closer again, and I saw one Sioux coming right toward me, and I drew a fine bead on him and dropped him; then I jumped up and gave the death call again. While this was going on, several Dakota women rode up and gave the women's yell urging on the warriors to kill all the Arikara. He heard them in many places about the bushes where he lay hiding; then they went away with the others. [Note: Despite greatly outnumbering the 5 trapped Arikara scouts, the Sioux warriors rode away and left them unmolested rather than charge into the timber to attack them; this typifies the fighting techniques of the Plains Indians and illustrates the common fallacy entertained by some battle students that Reno's battalion would have been soon overwhelmed by Indians infiltrating their position in the timber. A fuller understanding of Plains Indians behavior in battle, as exemplified in Young Hawk's account here, should put to rest such a fanciful notion.] Some time before noon [HQ watch time would actually be about 2:30 to 2:40 p.m.] he noticed that the Dakota attack was slackening, and he saw them [the Sioux], begin to ride off down stream, which made him think that Custer's attack had began at the lower ford. [Note: as so many other witnesses attest, Young Hawk's narrative confirms that Custer's fight began after Reno's battalion had left the valley and ascended onto the bluffs, and not before.] They could see many Dakotas crossing the river farther up[stream] and riding down [the valley] past them to the north [to confront Custer at Ford B].
Young Hawk's account of the battle from The Arikara Narrative, my interpretive comments in brackets: Part V
He said: "After the shooting had slackened [note: this would likely be several hours later], I stood up and looked around. On the ridge above me on the highest point I saw a United States flag [ie. a Company guidon]. Forked Horn then said to Young Hawk: "My grandson, you have shown yourself the bravest. The flag you have seen up there shows where the pack train is which we were to meet, and we must try now and reach it." Custer had instructed them what to do so as not to be mistaken for the Dakotas. So Young Hawk cut a stick and tied his white handkerchief on it. They tried to put [the Crow] Strikes Enemy [aka. White Swan] on a horse; his leg was pierced by a shot and his right hand [was badly shot] also. They were able to put him on his own horse, and Goose was mounted on the horse of Red Foolish Bear, who himself went on foot. Young Hawk rode ahead with the white flag.
They rode down the stream [northwards] half way [along] the length of the ridge, and as they climbed up the slope [toward the Weir Peaks] they saw the Dakotas riding back on the east side of the ridge [likely the Weir Peaks] toward the white camp [at Reno's corral]. The Custer fight was over and the Dakotas completely covered the hill where the soldiers had made their last stand and were swarming toward him [presumably on the recently evacuated Weir Peaks] and were beginning to fire. The rest of the party [of scouts] turned back down the hill [from the Weir Peaks to the flats by the river below]. Goose took Red Foolish Bear up with him [on his horse] and they rode back the entire length of the ridge and [then] up at the other end into the white camp [at Reno's corral]. Young Hawk remained behind and the Dakotas chased him along the ridge. He held to his white flag, waving it in front of him. The soldiers [likely Godfrey's K Troopers acting as Rear Guard in the retreat from the Weir Peaks] fired over him at the enemy and the Dakotas fired at him. A few rods from the camp his horse was shot down, but he scrambled to his feet still carrying his white flag and ran into the camp.
The first man he saw was his Chief of Scouts, Peaked Face (Varnum). The pack train was there and the survivors from the fight on the Little Big Horn. Then he met the officer in charge [likely Reno] and he was glad to see Young Hawk -- his face showed it. He signed to Young Hawk that the sergeant (Bob-tailed Bull) was killed and that his horse was in camp there. Young Hawk saw the spotted horse which belonged to Little Brave, and he caught it, for he [now] had no horse of his own, and he thought Little Brave must be dead. Meanwhile the Dakotas were coming up and riding around them. The other scouts who had left him now rode into the camp. Then the whole party retreated into a ravine near by.... Here the Dakotas attacked them and the shooting made a continuous roar on both sides; soldiers and horses were killed very fast.
Then the Dakotas worked around at the right and began firing into the ravine at one end. The soldiers threw up breastworks across the open end of the ravine, consisting of cracker boxes, bags of bacon, etc. Young Hawk was not one of the party that built these breastworks, but he took a cracker box and put it in front of himself as he lay on the ground. The Dakotas were on every side, firing into the ravine; they came very close, crouching in lines on all sides. The guns made such a noise that nothing else could be heard. The wounded men were dragged up to the breastworks as the safest place. This heavy firing went on without a break until it was dark [about 9 p.m.]. When it grew dark they began to take up the wounded and to place the dead at one side. They all stayed up until morning watching for the Dakotas, and just at dawn a few shots were fired at them.
Young Hawk's account of the battle from The Arikara Narrative, my interpretive comments in brackets: Part VI
Then the fight began again with heavy firing as before, and this went on until late in the afternoon [of June 26th]. All the scouts were together [at Reno's corral] on the side next to where the Dakotas came from [ie. on the north side] and nearest to the ridge. During the first afternoon an officer came to the scouts saying a message was to be carried after dark. Forked Horn said, "All right." The officer told Goose he could not go because he was wounded, and that each scout was to carry the same message. Later, he came [back] again and brought with him a sergeant, and told them that this man was to go with them, so that in case all the scouts were killed, he could tell what the conditions were in the camp [at Reno's corral]. Goose said he would go, too, although his hand was wounded; if they were killed, he wanted all to be killed [including himself]. The officer told the scouts they were to carry the message out to the President of the United States in order that all might know what had happened.
They were told that they could ride government horses since they were faster than their own. Each one was to ride hard and pay no attention to anyone else who might be shot by the Dakotas. If anyone fell wounded or shot, he was to pull out the paper with the message on it and leave it on the ground, so that when the soldiers came, they could learn what had happened and where the [Reno] camp was. Then Forked Horn said that the government horses were shod, and he wanted the [horse]shoes taken off so they could run better. When the messages were written for each of the scouts, the two Crow scouts stayed behind; one was wounded and the other stayed to care for him. The [Ree] scouts who had the messages to carry were Goose, Forked Horn, Red-Foolish-Bear, Young Hawk, and the white sergeant. When it was dark they followed the ravine out, but there the Dakotas fired on them and they all ran back. The officer [then] told them to stay until morning, and [then] start [out] again.
They stayed there all night and in the morning the Dakotas began firing again as hard as ever; the guns were going very rapidly (Young Hawk showed how the guns sounded by clapping his hands as fast as possible). Then he heard, in the midst of the firing, on the farther side of the ravine -- the south side -- not 50 yards away, and very close to the soldiers, a Dakota warrior call out and give the Dakota song for a charge. The words were: "Come on, white man, come on, if you are brave; we are ready for you." As soon as he was done singing, all the Dakotas seemed to disappear suddenly and the firing stopped. Then the soldiers and scouts all got up, and in every direction they saw the Dakotas retreating all on horseback toward their camp, over the [Sharpshooter] ridge [and] down to the dry coulee [ie. Medicine Tail Coulee]. He saw no wounded or dead being carried off. When they climbed the [Sharpshooter] ridge, they could see the Dakotas in groups retreating down toward the dry [Medicine Tail] coulee all on horseback. This was now about noon [or 1 p.m. HQ watch time]. The Dakotas got to their village and the tents went down in a hurry. They thought that the Dakotas might camp where they were before.
The Dakotas then moved toward the ford and reached the prairie dog village near the ford, [ and] only 5 tents were [ left] standing on their camping place. But the Dakotas passed the ford and went into the timber along the Little Big Horn above [or south of] the ford . Then smoke began to come up as from a camp. They could see the trees above which the smoke rose. As they watched, off past the old Dakota camp to the west was a ridge over 2 miles away, and here they saw a band or body of people moving over the ridge and down toward the Dakota camp. They thought it was a band of Dakotas returning to camp from hunting. Then the party approached the 5 Dakota tents and they rode about among them. The commanding officer [Major Reno] said to Young Hawk and Forked Horn: "They are the white men who are coming to help us. Saddle up and go to them." So these two scouts rode to meet them down the ridge to the west and across the Custer ford until they were quite near to the party. Then they saw that they were [not Dakotas but] whites, and they rode back again.
Young Hawk's account of the battle from The Arikara Narrative, my interpretive comments in brackets: Part VII
The [Gibbon] soldiers in the party were busy stripping off the buckskin shirts from the bodies of the dead Dakotas there [likely from the 5 remaining tepees left in the village] and taking their ear-rings. When the scouts got back [to Reno's corral], they told the officer, through the interpreter Gerard, that the party [they saw in the abandoned village] were white men. The officer, Varnum, said that these were the white men [from Gibbon's command that] they were expecting to come and help them. It was not right that Custer went ahead, he ought to have waited. The officer then said: "Now let us go and look for Custer's body." Then Forked Horn, Red-Foolish-Bear, Goose, Young Hawk, and Gerard, Varnum, and some soldiers (the Dakotas called one of these soldiers Jack Drum Beater, probably a white drummer) went down to look for Custer's body.
They went north along the ridge and followed Custer's trail across a a low soft place or coulee east of the hill called Custer's last stand. On the other side of the [Deep Coulee] ravine they began to find dead soldiers lying with a few dead horses. When they came to the flat-topped hill where Custer fell, the officer, through Gerard, told the scouts to go off east on the hill and watch for the Dakotas, lest they come back to attack them. Lying all over the [Last Stand] hill, Young Hawk saw dead horses of the Dakotas and of the whites, and also many bodies of the soldiers lying stripped. He also saw the circle breastwork made of dead horses on top of the [Last Stand] hill. Here Young Hawk took a piece of bearskin from the saddle of a buckskin [Indian] horse, and then shot the horse because he was very angry at the Dakotas for the death of Custer. He did not take the trappings from the horse because he could see from them that the horse was much beloved by its owner.
Varnum told them through the interpreter that when they found Custer's body, the bugle would call, and Gerard would go and tell the scouts that they had found his body. The scouts had not been long on the hill watching (a little more than half a mile away) when they heard the bugle sound the reveille and Gerard came to tell them that Custer's body had been found. When he told them this, they came back to camp; the sun was near the horizon and they were very hungry. The commanding officer said: "Let's go to the village and follow along up the river through where the Sioux camped." The soldiers at the camp had been placing the dead in rows in preparation for the burial. They crossed [the river] lower down than where they had first crossed, a good watering place, right below Custer's hill.
The body of Bloody Knife lay a little back from the brush near the ford. He saw evidence of fighting from the Custer hill clear to the river by the dead horses, [al]though he saw no bodies of soldiers. The 5 tepees in the deserted Dakota camp were thrown down and some of the bodies [had been] stripped by the [Gibbon] soldiers they had seen there [previously]. They went on to the Dakota camp and found the body of a dead Dakota lying on a tanned buffalo hide. Young Hawk recognized this warrior as one who had been a scout at Fort Lincoln -- Chat-ka. He had on a white shirt, the shoulders were painted green, and on his forehead, painted in red, was the sign of a secret society.
In the middle of the camp they found a drum, and on one side, lying on a blanket, were a row of dead Dakotas with their feet [facing] toward the drum. Young Hawk supposed that a tent had covered them, with the entrance to the tent at the side opposite where the dead bodies lay, that is, at the holy, or back side [likely the east side] of the tent. When alive, these braves would sit on the other side and drum. This drum was cut up and slashed. Farther on they found three more groups of dead Dakotas lying on canvas, buffalo hides or blankets at the back [or west] side of where the tent had stood, that is, opposite the opening. All the fine buckskin shirts they had worn, as well as [their] beads and ear-rings had been stripped off by the soldiers. These groups of bodies were two, three or four. In this camp they found evidence of great haste, bedding thrown away, bundles of dried meat dropped, etc. Young Hawk picked up a pouch of pemmican and put it on his horse.
Young Hawk's account of the battle from The Arikara Narrative, my interpretive comments in brackets: Part VIII
Then they rode on to where the first fight [ie. Reno's valley fight by the Garryowen Loop] began, and on the west side of the river they found the mule drivers camped. On the prairie dog village, at the end of the bushes, they found the negro Isaiah [Dorman] lying dead; He was a Dakota interpreter enlisted at Fort Lincoln. The Dakotas had left a kettle [likely a tin cup] full of his own blood by his head and the body was very much mutilated. Further on they found [the body of] one of the Arikara scouts; the body was stripped, [and] the head pounded to pieces, and a willow branch was thrust into his chest [with] the leafy part outside. they [then] went on to the mule camp and there they had supper, for it was nearly dark. While in camp, Young Hawk volunteered to go with Forked Horn to the deserted Dakota camp for dried meat. They went on horseback through the dark, and at the end of the camp he saw lying on the ground a long, dark bundle. He cut it open and found it to be meat, and he selected the widest pieces to take back with him.
At this camp they met a white man (one of those who had come with Gibbon's command) and he had taken from the Dakota camp a stick with a scalp on it. He asked the scouts if this were a Dakota scalp, and when they looked at it, they recognized from the gray hair that it was the scalp of Bloody Knife, since he was the only one with hair slightly gray. The white man said the scalp was hanging from a stick standing by the body of a dead Dakota in the deserted camp. The scouts told the white man to throw it away since it was an Arikara scalp, but he said: "No, if it is Bloody Knife's scalp I will keep it, for my father knew him, and I will show it to him." He said he was sorry that Bloody Knife was killed and that his father would be sorry to hear it, too. He had captured 25 Dakota ponies which he said he would give to the Arikara scouts. His father was a well-to-do man, well known in the West, whom the Arikara called Wooley-Back, and he was at one time commandant of a post on the Yellowstone. At this post, Bloody Knife once acted as guide and hunter for him, and he thought a good deal of him. Young Hawk selected for himself a black pony from the Dakota ponies the white man had captured.
Young Hawk's account of the battle from The Arikara Narrative, my interpretive comments in brackets: Part IX
In the morning they looked after the dead. Young Hawk saw one of the soldiers standing near the bank. He went [up] close [to him] and the soldier told him to go into the river and get out the body of the dead soldier there. There were no bushes on the bank here; this was about the place where the [Reno] soldiers retreated across [the river] two days earlier. He took off his clothes and went into the water nearly [up] to his armpits. The dead soldier lay on the water, head down, and his back was out of the water; he had on trousers, but no coat or shirt. It seemed to Young Hawk that the Dakotas on the other [west] side had pulled this much of his clothes off and left him there. He and the soldiers pulled the body up on the land and left it [there] and [then] went further up the bank.
Then Young Hawk met the rest of the scouts and they agreed to go where Bob-tail Bull was chased by the Dakotas. They found the place where he went over the bank, and there they saw four leafy branches of willow sticking up in the stream. The water was shallow here and they wondered to see the willow branches there. Then they went up to a better crossing [of the river], [and] the water was up to their hips when they crossed over [to the east side]. They came down on the right [or east] bank, seeing 2 dead soldiers stripped; [they went] all the way to the brush, and there, in the edge of the brush, was the body of a sergeant (they called him "Sarge"). [Note: this may have been Sgt. Edward Botzer of G Troop.] The soldiers followed and placed the bodies straight.
The scouts went into the bushes and found their coats where they had left them on the day of the fight, and they put them on. They went on, but found no more dead soldiers, and crossed back again [to the west side] at a watering place for the horses. As they came up the bank, they found a soldier standing there, and he said: "Here is one scout lying in the bushes." They could not tell who the scout was because his face and head were all pounded to pieces, but they think it was the body of Bloody Knife. [Note: It was likely the body of Little Brave or Bob-tail Bull at that location. Bloody Knife was killed in Reno's timber position about 3/4 mile away.]
Then they all got together and Gerard told them that the soldiers were going to cut poles for horse travois for carrying all the wounded. Goose said that they had better do it for him, too, for his hand was wounded. Red Foolish Bear began to fix [up] a travois for Goose, for riding jarred his wounded hand. The white soldiers collected the tent poles from the abandoned Dakota camp for the travois, and the scouts wondered how they would use them. Two of the poles were lashed to the sides of two mules, [with] one mule at each end of the poles, making mule litters. Over these poles suspended between the mules were lashed army blankets, and upon these blankets the wounded were laid. A soldier walked at the head of each mule. Young Hawk took care of Goose himself, dressing his wound and bringing him food and drink. Gerard told the scouts that they were to follow the Little Big Horn, and then the Big Horn river down to the mouth of the Yellowstone, or Elk River, and there would be a steamboat waiting for the wounded.
The march was very slow and [the] wounded suffered very much. Young Hawk led the pony which dragged the travois upon which Goose lay. At last they reached the Elk River and saw the steamboat waiting for them near the shore with soldiers on board. Young Hawk put Goose and his property near the [paddle] wheel, for the deck was covered. The Crow Scout, White Swan, was helped on board by his companions. The soldiers and scouts who were not wounded marched down the south side of the Yellowstone and camped there. The next day, they saw a soldier-camp across the river. Some of the Arikara scouts had brought mail to this camp as the [mail] boat had arrived already. Here, Goose saw Horns-In-Front, Young Hawk's father, and told him that his son was coming down the river. Horn-In-Front took Goose off the boat, [then] unwrapped his wounded hand and washed it for him. It was very badly swollen and Goose said he was getting no attention at all on the boat.
The Arikara scouts who had brought the mail heard that their comrades were coming down [the river] on the other side, so they crossed to the south bank and met them as they came along. Young Hawk jumped off his Dakota horse and placed the bridle in his father's hand, for the horse was the gift for his father. His father was very glad to see him alive and embraced him as he used to do when he was little. The soldiers and scouts all crossed the Yellowstone [to the north side] to camp. The soldiers from the battlefield were in great disorder; some were hatless, others wore dirty and bloody clothing.
YOUNG HAWK’S STORY OF THE FIGHT As told to Col A. B. Welch by Wild, an Arikara, at Fort Berthold, N.D. Sept. 14, 1921, my interpretive comments in brackets: Part I
Welch: This story was told to me by Wild, an Arikara, of education. They think Young Hawk told the best story of the fight and at a conference of the living scouts, Wild was instructed to tell the above story to me, just like Young Hawk had told it to them many times. Little Sioux and Enemy Heart were present and said it was told right. Young Hawk is buried with the scouts at old Fort Berthold.
Wild: "There were many of our people scouting for Custer that time. Bloody Knife was the chief of them. [Note: Bloody Knife is identified as the chief or leader of the Ree scouts at LBH, although other sources claim that Bobtail Bull filled that role.] There were Mandans, Arikara and Hidatsa (or Gros Ventres), altogether as scouts. Bloody Knife, Bob Tail Bull and Little Brave were killed there with his men and we never got their bodies. The pinto pony which Little Brave rode away on, came back a long time after that, alone. There was much wailing when the horse came back. We all think that Young Hawk, an Arikara, told the most truthful story of the fight and now I tell it to you. We do not like to hear that battle spoken of as a massacre. It was not. The Sioux were very savage, brave, fighting men. They had just cause to be where they were according to their treaties. The soldiers were a hard lot of men in those early times. They fought a battle. The best men won. These men were our enemies – the Sioux. But it was not a massacre. It was not murder. We admire the Sioux in the way they fought that day. Here is what Young Hawk said to us many times.”
Young Hawk’s Story
I was a scout under Bloody Knife, the Arikara. We went with Custer. I was only 19 years old then. I was young and full of bravery. It was all a wonderful thing for me to go. I did many things then which I would hesitate to do after I got more years upon my head. I was impetuous. I was filled with the joy of living. When I rode away from Fort Lincoln that day I was glad. The first time I enlisted it was with Lieut Guleg (Welch note – probably Lieut. Gurley) at Fort Lincoln place. Custer came that time with many horse soldiers and put them down on the flats by the river by the other fort. There was some talk about gold and Custer went to the Black Hills then. I went along. When I enlisted these Arikara did too: Strikes Two, Enemy Heart, Standing Soldier, Horns in Front, Red Bear, Little Sioux, Growling Bear, Rough Horn, Bears Eye, Wolf Stands in the Cold, Dry Bear or Lean Bear, Bull Neck, Pretty Wolf, Angry Bear, Black Rabbit, Fool Bear, Goose, Left Hand, Paint, Charging Buffalo Bull, See the Track, Bear Robe, String of Ear Rings, Crow Bear, Angry Bull, Carries the Mocassins, Bull in Water, Bears Ears, Pointed Hill, Two Bulls and Bears Belly. We found some gold there but the timber was bad so we came out on the Mussel Shell with Charley Reynolds and Bloody Knife, Rough Horn, Bears Ears and Red Horse. Some horse soldiers went with us and we got out of the country at Bears Butte and went back then to Fort Lincoln.
“ My father, Horns in Front, and myself and some others went with Custer again with Son of the Star, father of Sitting Bear. There were 23 new ones that went. Boy Chief and some Mandans went, too. Owl and Wagon came along. They were Arikara boys then. F.F.Gerard and Peter Beauchamp were there then at Fort Lincoln when we got there. We stayed in Bismarck several days and then got across to the fort. There were some Dakotah [or Sioux] Scouts, too, four or five, I think. We went up the Heart River the first day. Custer and his soldiers and the scouts. It had rained for this was in May 1876. In seven days we reached Young Man’s butte (Welch note – head of the Knife River). We crossed the Little Missouri at Soldier Hill place (Sentinel Butte). We went on many days and, at Powder river, Custer sent me, Forked Horn, One Feather and a Dakotah named Caroo to scout up the Powder river [on June 10, 1876] and some horse soldiers [6 companies under Reno's command] went, too. If we found the trail of the Sioux we were to go back with the news to Custer. When we got to the Tongue river we went up that and got into the mountains there. When we got to the Rosebud river, Forked Horn made me go in a different direction from the rest and I found an abandoned [Sioux] camp and buzzards flying over it. There was a Dakotah [Sioux] horse standing there and the banks [of the] water [along the Rosebud River] was trampled with many horse tracks. There had been about 350 people there and it was about two weeks or more old. The next day we found a place where there had been a battle and some people had been killed there. It was right on the tracks of the Sioux [lodge pole trail] from the camp we found the day before. Beauchamp [note: he likely means Mitch Boyer] said it was the Bozeman party. Forked Horn said that ‘if the Dakotah [Sioux] see us now we will not live long after that.’ From that place we went over to the Elk River (Yellowstone) and got to the camp of Long Hair [at the mouth of the Tongue River on June 19th].
The next [sic. he means a previous] camp was on the Powder River, June 11th, they say [Note: this would more likely be on June 10, the day Reno departed on his scout]. At this camp I saw Custer and Bloody Knife having a talk. Bloody Knife was sick and did not want to die in a lodge. He wanted to die fighting. So, he said, "We should find the Sioux and fight right away. Maybe I will not live long and I want to fight now." Custer said, “No, I am going to attack them in the morning time or at night. If I see you or any of the scouts running away I will kill you." Bloody Knife then said, "Yes, that is all right. If you see my back that way you can kill me. But, if I see you or any of your soldiers going that way (to the rear) I will kill you, too." I also saw the man with the dark face (Reno) take out his pistol to shoot High Bear. High Bear drew a knife, but someone stopped it.
We went then to the mouth of Tongue River (June 16th [sic. June 19th]) from there and there was a Sioux village there with several scaffolds with men on top dead. We soon thereafter reached the Rosebud river (June 21st). After that we found a Sun Dance circle of the Sioux (June 24th). I found three stones with red paint on them in a row. This meant victory for the Sioux. Along the Rosebud we scouts found many old Sioux camp places. Then we rode all night and Stabbed made medicine for the fight. The army came up [on June 25th to] the foot of the [Crows Nest] hill. Custer said we had not been seen, but we scouts knew better than that and knew that we were watched all the time from somewhere. Custer told us to go right after the Sioux horses and run them off. The soldiers [ie. unfurled and] let the [yellow Regimental] flag fly here and we all got ready to fight then. I saw some Dakotah [Sioux] scouts by a Sioux tipi and Lucky Man (Charley Reynolds) saw them, too. We rode at the tipi hard and Strikes Two hit it with his whip. I got off and slashed a hole in it and inside saw a dead man in a buffalo robe on a little scaffold.
YOUNG HAWK’S STORY OF THE FIGHT As told to Col A. B. Welch by Wild, an Arikara, at Fort Berthold, N.D. Sept. 14, 1921, my interpretive comments in brackets: Part II
Then I [and most of the scouts] rode to the Little Big Horn [ahead of Major Reno's battalion] and saw across on the west side of the Little Big Horn river. Boy Chief, Red Star, Red Bear and Goose and I could see many Dakotah [Sioux] to the left.
The [Reno] soldiers got off their horses and made a [skirmish] line and the Dakotah [Sioux] rode in front of it back and forth. I went off to the right [of the skirmish line] and got with Goose and Big Belly [aka. Half Yellow Face]. I could see Red Bear, Forked Horn, Goose, Fool Bear and two Crow Scouts [on the skirmish line]. Bob Tail Bull was out in front [of the skirmish line on the far left] and Bloody Knife was behind us. He [Bloody Knife] came to me and said, ‘We are getting the Sioux horses. Custer told us to do that thing.’ Lots of soldiers were being killed here. [Note: Young Hawk is mistaken on this. Only two soldiers were reportedly shot while on the skirmish line before the line fell back to the timber.] I took a Dakotah [Sioux] horse. The rider had been killed right in front of me. I gave the horse away then to a scout, Big Belly [Half Yellow Face]. Bob Tail Bull was away toward the left over by the hills and the Sioux were collecting there in great numbers and they finally rode in a swarm toward him. Our men and soldiers were swept back at the left [of the skirmish line] toward the river, and then they all went across [the Little Big Horn River] on running horses. The Sioux were very brave and came very close to us. The soldiers [then] went up a bluff on the east side [of the river]. I was the last one of the Scouts to go back across the river. I wanted to strike a Sioux, but I finally got over [the river] with Crooked Horn (Forked Horn) and we waited for Bob Tail Bull to come to us from farther down the river. We went [down the river] to where he crossed to help him. He came over after I did. Goose and myself and Bob Tail Bull shot at the Sioux as they came and they swerved away from us then.
We [then] got into some thick brush [on the east side of the river] and found four other scouts there. We all had our horses [in the brush] but the Sioux were all around us. Goose was wounded in the right hand then. I was young and brave and wanted to die then. I was mad then and took off my clothes to die like a good man. One of the Crow Scouts [White Swan] was shot in these trees. I crawled out of the timber and I fired many times at the Sioux, but they did not hit me. It was good to see the enemy die after I shot at them. I laughed and yelled then. Then I got to where Forked Horn was behind some brush and a Sioux on a grey horse came close and I shot him. The horse was tied to the body of the Sioux and I killed him, too, and in a few minutes I killed another one who rode at me. When they had been all around for a time they [finally] rode away toward the north [when Custer began his attack downriver] and [later] I looked around and saw the [troop guidon] flag flying on a hill and there were soldiers there. Forked Horn said, ‘My Grandson, we will try to get up there.’ I fired at some more Dakotah [Sioux] between us and the [troop guidon] flag and then tied a handkerchief on a stick and we started up there. We had two wounded men with us and when we got up close there the soldiers [on Reno Hill] fired at us and I fired back at them, too. But we got into them and they were digging ditches [on Reno Hill] to get into. Just as we got there the Sioux came back on the east side of the river and started to attack us again. (This was after Custer had been killed and they returned to attack Reno). Before I got into the soldier’s camp [on Reno Hill], the Sioux chased me and someone killed my horse. I don’t know whether it was the Dakotah [Sioux] or the soldiers who did it. I ran to the white men [on Reno Hill] then and the pack mules were there and an officer told me that Bob Tail Bull was killed. Then I caught the pinto pony [that] Little Brave rode. The other scouts were there [and] we went into a gully close by [Reno Hill] where we lost many soldiers and horses killed. The fight lasted there [on Reno Hill] until darkness came and we stayed awake all night then.
Then the next day we fought from [day]light to afternoon (June 25th [sic. June 26th]). I always stayed on the side where the Sioux came from and did good fighting all the time. Then Goose, Forked Horn, Fool Bear and myself were given soldier’s fast horses and sent off with messages. A white man [Lt. Varnum] went, too. We went after dark to take the messages. We were to get through somewhere and get the messages to the President of the United States [or General Terry], but we had to come back as there were too many Dakotah [Sioux] and none of us could get through them. In the morning (the 26th) [the] fight started again and the Indians were very close to us then but they all left us quick for some reason. About just after noon we saw them all going away on horses and they reached their camp and took all but five tipis down and went away up the river; [On June 27th] Forked Horn and myself were sent to see who they were. They were white soldiers and we went back. (This was Gibbon’s column arriving). Gerrard [sic. Gerard] told us that this new party were the white soldiers they had been looking for. Custer should have waited for these soldiers. There were too many Dakotah [Sioux].
Then we went up to find Custer’s body and see the things just as they were then. We scouts watched for the Sioux and, at last, the soldiers found him. There were many horses and dead men around there. Many Indian horses, too, [note: this is the only account I am aware of to indicate the presence of many Indian horses found on the battlefield] and the soldiers were stripped mostly. Then we went over [the river] to the Sioux village place and found Bloody Knife where he lay [note: apparently with his head intact]. There were five tipis left there [where the village once was]. We found four groups of dead Dakotah [Sioux] laying on robes, twelve or fourteen men in all. The white soldiers took their buckskin shirts and ornaments, and there was things thrown all around as the Dakotah [Sioux] got away quickly. We found the negro (Isaiah [Dorman]) dead by the prairie dog town (south[east] of where Reno went into action). His penis was cut and there was blood in a bowl by his head. Then we found Little Brave dead [by the river] and his head was all pounded up. We went back to the mules and had something to eat then. After dark Forked Horn and myself went back to the Sioux camp and get [sic. got] some dried meat. We found a white soldier there with a scalp on a stick [he had found], which we saw was that of Bloody Knife['s] as it was [partly] white haired. This man gave me a black horse then which was a Dakotah [Sioux] horse.
In the morning we looked for dead soldiers and found some in the water where they had crossed [with Reno] and also found an Arikara scout but could not tell who he was as he [ie. his head] was pounded so. I think it must be Bloody Knife. [Ed. Note: This was likely Bobtail Bull, who was killed near the river.] We found some more [dead] along the trail [in the valley]. Then we started for the end of the [Little] Big Horn [at its mouth] and I led a horse with Goose on a travois. When we got to the Elk [or Yellowstone] river there was a steamboat there (The ‘Far West,’ Captain Grant Marsh). When I saw my father I gave him my black Dakotah [Sioux] horse.
That is all. Now I will tell you what I think. Reno had no hat and had a handkerchief around his head like an Indian. I know there was much whiskey in his saddle bags. I think he was very drunk. He cried like a woman and I think he was not brave and did not want to die there. It was a good fight and lasted a long time. But I am old now. Let us have something to eat now. I have talked to my Dakotah [Sioux] friend, Mato Watakpe (Welch), and he is my cousin.
Notes by Welch: General Terry was called ‘Man Wearing Bear Robe.’ [Note: Welch is likely mistaken here. It was Gen. Nelson Miles who was given this name by the Indians for his willingness to fight in the winter.] Colonel Gibbon – ‘Chief with a Red Nose.’ Crows called Terry – ‘No Hip Bone.’ Young Hawk left the boat and with several other Ree scouts scouted with General Crook who was following the Sioux trail. At the Little Missouri, he and Running Wolf left with dispatches for Fort Lincoln. They rode all night and day to Sentinel Butte and then all night and day and reached Lincoln OK.
In Part I of Young Hawk's story as told by Wild to Welch, he switches to Red Star's story when he says "the next camp was on the Powder River June 11" Red Star was with Custer on June 11 when Custer found a trail suitable for wagons to travel from Terry's camp down to the head of Powder River on the Yellowstone where the depot was established. It was also where the sutler arrived and sold whiskey which Bloody Knife got "sick" on. Custer left there on the 16th to go to the Tongue where Reno was supposed to return (and Terry went by boat). The message from Reno was received on the 19th by Terry who was then at the Tongue. Terry ordered Custer to continue on the YS to meet with Reno who was camped 8 miles further up the YS.