V. THE BATTLE OF THE WASHITA The camp was becoming aroused now -- beyond the teepees of the Cheyenne, half-dressed Arapaho and Kiowa rushed from their warm lodges and began to spread the alarm -- "Pony Soldiers!" and "Yellow Hair!" hastened the cry. They called about to one another to see what had gone awry, 8 for in the dark of morning dawn, only the first lodges really knew what was coming down on them. What must have been passing through those weary, wakened minds would have surely been the tales told, or memories held, for some among them had been there to behold, 16 of Colonel J.M. Chivington's Colorado Volunteers attack on the Cheyenne village at Sand Creek, or even further back, of General W.S. Harney, whose troops in fifty five had fallen upon the sleeping Sioux, and left few of them alive, 24 at Blue Water Creek in Nebraska -- they clubbed and shot at will the hapless Sioux, not just the braves, but women and children until the camp was silent beneath them. Now, here, Custer raised his hand and signaled for the troops to charge, and for the regimental band 32 to commence playing 'Garry Owen,' the Seventh's own war hymn. The soldiers drove their horses and charged directly in and across the shallow river -- on the far bank they came upon the first of the lodges. The Battle of the Washita had thus begun. 40 The woman of Double Wolf had been the first to see them come, and had alerted her husband, but she had stumbled back away from her teepee and the river after seeing her husband shot down, and she tried to make her way to a safety that could not be found. 48 Brotherhood and friendship had long been old Black Kettle's quest -- he sought peace with his white brothers, even when all the rest told him that he was wrong. Even after his escape at Sand Creek, he sought to avoid conflict -- for reason, he would stand to speak. 56 This morning, he stood and stumbled out from his lodge into the snow, aroused by the rising tumult. Seeing the attacking foe, he and his grey-haired old wife made their slow way toward their ponies tied not far away to escape this savage horde. 64 Black Kettle's old bones did not fail him as he mounted upon his steed and pulled his feebler wife on behind him, and urged the horse to speed. And then came the fire of the soldiers -- their carbines found their mark, but Black Kettle's stout heart rallied through the rifle's continuing bark, 72 and he turned dead at the soldiers and miraculously broke through, heading for the river and seeking escape, weaponless, and bleeding, too. Custer's men had their orders -- none were to escape -- and so once more, the Pony Soldiers turned toward them and unleashed another roar. 80 A blaze of bullets blasted through the pony and it went down. Black Kettle fell motionless while his bleeding wife looked around, and tried to run toward her dead husband -- more lead filled her back -- she fell and tried to crawl to him and then was still. The attack 88 went on over the still bodies -- the tribes in disarray, were caught by surprise by the assault. In the dark of early day, there would be no way to guide a bullet to its mark -- women and children fell beside the men. Yellow Hair's orders barked 96 above the exploding of rifles, the shouts and screams and battle din. The Pony Soldiers took no care; the aim of their carbines took children from their mothers' arms. Below the camp and to the south, Elliot and Meyers blocked escape, and there could be no escape without 104 the ponies, and they had all been seized -- they could not outrun lead. And Cook's men blocked the river when they ran toward it in dread. In the icy waters, bodies bobbed about, and the snow was red with flesh, and Custer's brave soldiers smelled triumph, and so, the battle they pressed. 112 Yet, somehow in the slaughter, perhaps through strength of heart, a group of Black Kettle's warriors managed in the frenzy to chart a way across the water. They reached the river bank and fought slowly toward the Arapaho camp, which itself had been caught 120 in the cavalry attack as well. The sounds of battle there were fading in the distance -- the gunfire that had filled the air had slackened, and so Custer, to quell the fire, raised his hand, shouting that the fight was over. With "We've got them!" came the command. 128 VI. EAGLE FEATHERS While the dreaded Long Hair marked triumph, his scouts down to a one urged him not to be fooled now -- this fight was not yet done! And his officers quickly agreed, for from the other camps below came only the blasts of Winchesters, not the crack of carbine blows. 8 And George Custer's face betrayed the realization he had made; he must rush with speed to go to Major Elliot's aid. Moments passed as they rode on toward the camp of the Arapaho; passed the bend in the river they marched out into a large meadow, 16 when they stopped their advance, for the hills for as far as they could see were lined with battle dressed warriors on all sides of the cavalry. For a moment, Custer, undaunted, gave out the order to proceed, but the scouts, his men, or a moment's wisdom, registered quickly to intercede. 24 As from one, a great war cry echoed down from off the slopes, and the cavalry took fire -- now he would heed Hard Rope and his other scouts and men, as the tide of warriors rolled down; Colonel Custer ordered his trumpeter to sound recall; his face frowned. 32 Before their retreat took them back to the camp they had secured from Black Kettle, some of Elliot's men joined up with them bringing word of his death, and of the great force of the impending storm -- a force of warriors numbering in the hundreds about to swarm. 40 Perhaps three thousand hostiles were moving in upon Long Hair, and Custer understood instinctively what he must do with dispatch there, so he ordered Captain Meyers to take his and Cook's best shots and hold off the gathering horde that even now had got 48 to the other side of the river. Now Custer set to stamp, under their protection, the final destruction of Black Kettle's camp. In the midst of the hundred dead -- their bodies dotting the icy ground -- he set his men to swiftly act to pile in one great mound 56 the saddles, hides, and rifles, lances, arrows, blankets, and meat -- all the captured plunder -- and with that task complete, they pulled down each of the lodges, dragging them into the store, then poured all the captured gunpowder, five hundred pounds or more, 64 onto the mountain of the wealth of goods that had been raised, and set the mound afire -- in great, roaring flames it blazed. Blackened smoke rolled across to where the eagle feathers danced, held there now the last half hour, but savoring their inevitable chance. 72 And then in full and clear view of that impending wash of braves that held the far bank waiting to sweep down as a wave, Custer ordered the entire pony herd of Black Kettle driven out and slaughtered before the warriors -- for an hour came the shouts 76 of the arms of Cook's sharpshooters, roaring in steady blasts, until all nine hundred of them had been cut down at last. And now the hearts of the Cheyenne fell within them dead. And now the rifles of the Cheyenne ceased to spout their lead. 88 They could not fight, Long Hair knew, seeing their horses being killed, and without a sound, all of them rode off slowly from the field. By the hundreds, they withdrew, stunned and heart-broken, to the hills, and the Battle of the Washita ended -- across the land, all was still. 96 The warriors rode off down the river, and soon, too, the cavalry followed its tracks back through the snow, to the west, in 'victory,' marching the women and children prisoners with them on the way to Camp Supply near the Canadian River, triumphant in this foray. 104 Upon the cold and quiet snow, Black Kettle lay in death and the smell of death filled the valley -- the night before, his breath had urged his people to send a delegation to the soldiers he would lead to convince them that they wanted peace, that there would be no need 112 for further battle or bloodshed, and the people had agreed. But it had been a different day that fate had here decreed. The weariness of his old bones had at Washita found their rest -- indeed, he had just returned from Fort Cobb to push his quest, 120 and had been turned away, but to seek to try once more -- his efforts had been answered by the bullets' bloody roar. In the wake of the Washita, Red Cloud was moved to seek an end to the hopeless struggle, but to Sitting Bull, another voice would speak. 128 VII. THE GREAT SIOUX UPRISING Out beyond where once was forest, passed the mighty river's banks, stretched the broad expanse of plainsland for which the Sioux tribes offered thanks. An ambiance of open spaces -- wide open spaces of the west, yet there is no place too isolate when there are those intrigue will press. 8 The whole expanse of this continent -- indeed, the limits of our earth have been torn of such intrigue forever -- our noble republic, in its birth rose of the conflict that has marked us, man as God's hand on the earth, reaching to fulfill the divine spark in us, the Gottenfunken of our worth. 16 But to meet at every turn, at every precipice and crossroads, they who there would intercept us, lighten the burden of our load; we, their sweating beasts of burden -- we, their poor unfortunate knaves -- without reason, bound forever, to their mastery as their slaves. 24 Thus, it has been that our nation, born in struggle with these foes, has known ever and endured their efforts, falling now beneath their blows, but to rise up, we Prometheans, though we are marched to Calgary -- and endure the burdens placed upon us by our endless quest for liberty. 32 Are there they who scoff at the notion through time of such conspiracy? Would they have us fall beneath it, ignorant of our history? Men are bent to pursue their favor and Milton knew that the data base was not knowledge in itself, as Dante and Plato also knew the human race. 40 So it has been that our Republic, formed of Franklin's firming hand has been besieged at every corner yet somehow it still can stand, and fitting is it that we wonder, as watching over ramparts we stare, through the rockets that glare red, to see if the stars and stripes are still there. 48 And so it was that under Lincoln, we had to stand and face the test to see if we could preserve the Union which God's hand on us had blessed. But the bloody battles raging had been visited upon our land by they who would undo our glory with every motion of their hand. 56 This War Between the States was not a sudden sibling rivalry -- it was embedded in this struggle that had brought us liberty -- thus it was most fittingly that all that marked that bravery should also have locked in its step to undo the chains of slavery. 64 But this was not merely our struggle. Indeed, it was world-wide war, in Africa and India, China, Russia, and everywhere across the shores of North America it raged, where brothers noble in their quest fought each other without knowing -- north and south, east and west. 72 So it was that the real masters of the ill-fated Confederacy were perhaps not within its borders, were not the Davis' and Lees. Look to see what forces struggled to undo Juarez in Mexico -- these it was behind secession; these it was were our common foe. 80 The Battle of the Washita Valley had been set as a time bomb ticking from the days of Polk and Jackson -- a phenomenon not unlike Bleeding Kansas or Harper's Ferry -- the destiny of even noble men at times is controlled because they will not see. 88 Until the Civil War, the Sioux had maintained a peace relatively, even in the face of caravans of prairie schooners and inequity. They, the Cheyenne, and their brothers, would attack and raid or kill from time to time, often in revenge, but it was haphazard still. 96 But in the midst of the great conflict, then the Minnesota frontier was ravaged and devastated by the Sioux who suddenly appeared organized and well-armed, taking hundreds of lives in the year from August of eighteen sixty two until the next July. Casualties here 104 were mainly civilian, but the army, hands full up with Civil War, had to contend with this rearguard action. And still there were more. Cheyenne fought in Colorado, as the Sioux had, the next year, and in the Southwest, took revolt spread, but it also was crushed here. 112 This was not Tecumseh's rampage as an English General, but the roots were still the same, and worked as a drain on the morale of the staggered nation. Near the close of Civil War hostilities, Jefferson Davis sent a Creek, Tukabatchemiko to see 120 if he could arrange a grand council with all the Indians of the west to meet in May of sixty five to join with the South and attest a peace and alliance among them. Twenty thousand were to heed the call, but this Treaty of Washita came a full month after Appomatox' fall. 128 VIII. PAHA SAPA Paha Sapa, the Black Hills, was the center of the world, the place of holy mountains where the gods lived, where warriors went to face and speak to the Great Spirit, Wakantanka, and await visions brought them, and which the whites should not desecrate, 8 for this was sacred to the Sioux, the Cheyenne and Arapaho, too. In the years after the Civil War, no white man wanted anything to do with this expanse; yet not many moons after Spotted Tail and Red Cloud had led their Teton peoples to settle on the reservation land allowed 16 in the northwest of Nebraska, word began to spread far and wide that there was gold in those hills, and thus it was grew a tide of white prospectors invading Paha Sapa to search the streams and passes of the sacred lands for the yellow metal of their dreams. 24 Red Cloud's treaty with the white man was not what it had seemed to be, but it did give this land to them, and no whites, supposedly, could enter in without permission of the Indians, but they came seeking out their fortunes, their hearts ablaze with yellow flame. 32 And when braves found these crazed white men at large in the sacred hills, they would harass and chase them, and some of them were killed. Yet gold fever brought in evermore in direct contradiction of the law, and so the Sioux turned to defending their sacred lands from what they saw. 40 And they made the north plains bloody -- they plundered, scalped, and burned. No settler, prospector, or wagon train was safe, for they had churned the old spirit of resistance up among the Sioux who simply sought to enforce Red Cloud's treaty, which was their right they thought. 48 But all the Sioux and other tribes were not agency Indians, and just as they had been during the Civil War, once again, they could now be motivated to become an insurrection in the west to block the growth of the united republic, or break it up in their quest, 56 and so the vast stretch of frontier was ablaze, while the U.S. had seen the eastern bankers collapse our economy depressed. Their cry was gold just as it was, coincidentally, for all they who were gold-hungry and coming here -- and the Sioux stood in the way. 64 And these raised a great clamor for the government to intervene by sending in the army, and while there had indeed been those who argued against it, and there were those who argued that peaceful treatment had failed 72 and that these utter savages could only be restrained by force, and besides due to all the budgetary restraints brought on by the depression, we could no longer afford to pacify the Sioux by spending millions on their board. 80 There were Sioux like Red Cloud and Spotted Tail who knew the futility of struggle -- that they'd be wiped out -- and then, too, the Great White Father Grant announced his desire to prevent invasion of this country, but in the end, he would relent. 88 But among the Sioux there was a determination that grew to fight for the sacred lands, and now there were new leaders among them, Tashunka Witko or Crazy Horse, and Nakpa Kesla, American Horse, and Sitting Bull, of course. 96 These were men who had grown to manhood throughout all -- Sand Creek, Washita, the Civil War, Red Cloud's Treaty -- and the call they made to the people was one they were prepared to hear -- they must defend the Paha Sapa, the land they so revered. 104 While on the reservation, Red Cloud was having troubles of his own with the agent, J. J. Seville, for the supplies and rations had grown poor and sparse. His people, bent in hunger and misery, turned to the new voices they now heard -- Red Cloud's words were spurned. 112 Into the middle of the decade, the crisis grew more severe. As the centennial was approaching, all across the vast frontier, as the hordes of miners moved across the sacred Paha Sapa land, the Plains Indians rose up and the War for the Black Hills began. 120 With the Moon of the Red Cherries, a thousand Pony Soldiers marched across the Missouri River and into the Black Hills. Unprepared, and at a loss, the Sioux could but look on as their long columns entered there. At their head rode Colonel Custer, Pahuska, the Star Chief Long Hair. 128 IX. THE BOY GENERAL Blossoms fade and pass to silence -- the silence of the pall of time -- but 'tis time brings from the shadows deeds of honor and of crime. It is not always good interred with the bones -- it's not regrets, but truth that we would seek to render, that the careless earth forgets. 8 The western legions were a home for him, a place where he could fit, this power-hungry glory-seeker -- this was surely where he would get it. And there were many name for him, Long Hair, Yellow Hair, Hard Ass -- the latter because he'd chase for days across the open prairie grass 16 pursuing an Indian he wanted enough -- Squaw Killer, Boy General, and the Butcher of Washita. But he was known well across the land, this eccentric, outrageous fellow -- the Star Chief Custer, whose name, which to some meant fame and glory, now reeks of infamy and shame. 24 He wasn't born there, though they claim him, for it was the place he'd grow -- once known as the Frenchtown, long officially as Monroe, on the banks of the River Raisin at Lake Erie's western shore, where Old Glory first waved in Michigan, her topographical floor. 32 The young Custer left there for West Point where his record was less than esteemed, for while he earned good marks in his classes, the demerits he got it seemed always kept him near the bottom in ranking -- he seemed to make his own rules. That perhaps is not the best trait for the soldier he became when he left school. 40 Yet, with the Civil War, the young Custer established a record noted and marked by his superiors and by the nation, for this flashy officer sparked notice that made him a hero, of sorts. In the Virginias, he blazed a trail behind Confederate lines in a victory where others had tried and failed. 48 At Gettysburg, he led his regiment of Wolverines from Michigan and repeatedly succeeded through his unorthodox tactics, again and again. The youthful commander of the Union forces, another West Pointer, who had known Custer for a time before the war was impressed with the daring he'd shown 56 and so McClellan added him to his command and Custer moved up in rank rather quickly among the dire fortunes of the Union cause, perhaps thanks to his bold initiative in battle, but there were detractors who thought that much of his daring was folly which reckless abandon was wrought. 64 To some degree the dire fortunes of the Union effort were grounded in the disagreements between McClellan and Lincoln -- this general just could not win. Indeed, he seemed embedded in failure and his blundering hurt the North. Even when he acted boldly, he's hesitate, and from victory bring defeat forth. 72 As Custer's star rose, McClellan's sat, and while Long Hair got general's stars, McClellan was relieved by Lincoln with a new Union commander. Still, Custer, who had become the youngest to gain general rank in our history, continued his brazen escapades, and was busted in rank eventually. 80 His court-martial left him a colonel, suspended from duty for a whole year. And when McClellan ran against Lincoln, it brought Custer into the sphere of politics from which he had really not strayed far from. Lincoln won over McClellan, and the Union was triumphant -- the war was done. 88 Yet, while it ended, it continued, for Lincoln fell and in the west, the Indian card was still to be played out, and Custer would take his quest for fame and glory into the plains under Grant, who knew him well, and was not impressed by his disobeying orders, or his tactics so doggerel. 96 George Armstrong Custer was a good Democrat in the tradition of Lewis Cass, his old friend from Michigan, and both of them were cast in the mold of the Democratic Party of the day, of Jackson who sneered at the American System and who marched the Indians on the Trail of Tears. 104 This had been the party of slavery and become that of disenfranchisement. And Custer was a renowned figure, throughout the nation, and this lent itself to his rising fortune as a star of the Democratic field, and politics became his background on and off the battlefield. 112 In Monroe County, the Democratic Party treated him as the great man he knew all along that he was, as it did throughout the State and the nation, too. In the decade after the Civil War, they kept his hand in the frey and this mentality manifest itself in all of his western forays. 120 Thus he was at Washita. Thus his men would in victory scalp the men and cut off private parts of the Indian women to be worn as part of their uniforms as they roamed across the west subduing the savages of the plains, marking civilization's conquest. 128 Continue