Bruce Brown's 100 Voices...
Goes Ahead's Story of the Battle, #2
EARLY IN THE spring of 1876 a cryer was heard throughout the camp calling for volunteer scouts for Gen. Custer's chase of the then war-like Sioux and Cheyenne Indians. Picked men were called out: I was one of the unlucky braves.
Our duty was scouting on either side of the Yellowstone, far and wide. One day a steamboat glided up the Yellowstone and launched near where Custer's junction is now. I was one of the six called out to go into the ship to Gen. Custer [Crow name - Child of the Stars.] We were under the great chieftain, Gen. Geo. A. Custer. He told us that he had sent for us, and that we were very prompt; that it was good to be there and ready; that those dark people were there to be cooks for us; that he had selected the Crows for scouts because he knew from a good source that they were very familiar with the country, and very alert.
We began our scouting for the General from the first. We found the first camp of the Cheyenne and Sioux quite a way up the Rosebud. The signs at the deserted village showed that there must be over one hundred buffalo teepees. The trail of the fleeing Indians leading up the Rosebud and to the Little Big Horn country was as clear to us as the roads are today. About the time that the Indians build their camp-fires in the morning, which is very early, we went to a high butte in the Wolf Mountains and saw with our telescopes herds of horses grazing near where Garry Owen is now. The smoke from the camp-fires seemed like a great mist hanging over the entire Indian camp.
Finally, at the main fork of Reno, Custer gave orders to his command for the last time. It was plain that he was outnumbered, but he was fearless. One division of his troops under Reno was sent to attack the Indian camp from the upper end and Gen. Custer and his division was to attack from the lower end. Custer was brave, so it was no time for him to back out. He led his men to where he was repulsed and driven to where the Custer Monument now stands.
We scouts went as far as the bluffs before the trenches of the pack-mules. Here we were told to make our escape. We took a drink of water near there and made haste to be away with our lives. [Note: This detail is a very significant because it places all the Crow scouts on the banks of the Little Bighorn at the time Peter Thompson observed "one of our Crow scouts" in the midst of an apparent war crime. See Who Killed Custer: The Eye-witness Answer for more info.]
It was sunset when we got to the black horse riders at Reno's entrenchments. We journeyed all the night toward the mouth of the Little Big Horn. Before daybreak we got across the Big Horn near the mouth of the Little Horn. My attention was called to look back from where we came. To my surprise I saw some one trailing us. We told them of the ill-fated general and his men. We pointed back in the direction of the fight, where the smoke still hung like a vast cloud. Gen. Gibbon told us through an interpreter that we could go home. The Crow camp was finally located, but we had a hard fight before we finally knew each other to be Crows. We altogether got in camp hearing nothing but joy-songs for the return of the warriors, and the weeping for the lost ones.
The Custer Battle Book by Herbert Coffeen, A Reflection Book, Carlton Press, Inc., New York, 1964 p 51
In addition to confirming the story the two other Crow scouts who were with him -- White Man Runs Him and Hairy Moccasin -- told of riding with Custer down Medicine Tail Coulee to attack the Indian village, Goes Ahead 's acounts of the Battle of the Little Bighorn are important because they describe two crucial details not mentioned by the others.
In his interview with Orin Grant Libby, Goes Ahead mentioned one of the enduring mysteries of the Battle of the Little Bighorn -- the double volley fired by Custer's men shortly after they tried to charge across the Little Bighorn to attack the village and were repulsed by less than a dozen warriors, some of whom lacked guns, as White Cow Bull and Bobtailed Horse described.
The Accepted Consensus View of the Battle has no good explanation for how ten warriors could turn back 200-plus cavalry troopers who were "coming fast" with Custer in the lead, and it similarly has no good explanation for why Custer's men would then fire a double volley -- which Custer's orderly, John Burkman, took to be a distress signal -- at the very beginning of the Custer fight.
The second double volley possibly fired by Custer's men later in the battle, when they were under ferocious assault, is much easier to explain, tactically and psychologically, but why would Custer's men fire a double volley at the beginning when there were few Sioux and Cheyenne warriors opposing them? It makes no sense unless you know that White Cow Bull had just blasted Custer out of the saddle in the middle of the Little Bighorn River, and even though the Indians hasn't massed significant force against them yet, Custer's men already were in mortal distress. See Who Killed Custer -- The Eye-Witness Answer for more info.
In his 1916 Tepee Book account of the battle, Goes Ahead mentioned another important detail overlooked by his two companions -- that the three of them went down to the Little Bighorn River on their own, AFTER Custer headed down Medicine Tail Coulee to attack the Indian village, and BEFORE the Custer fight began. This is important because it tallies with the account of Seventh Cavalry Pvt. Peter Thompson, who was amazed to encounter one of the Seventh Cavalry's Crow scouts with a Sioux squaw on a tether while he was wandering lost along the Little Bighorn just before the Custer fight began.
Like the Arikara scouts at the outset of Reno's charge a half hour before, it appears at least one of the Crow scouts with Custer was looking for a little rape and/or murder action among the Sioux and Cheyenne women on the curling edge of Custer's charge. Curley could be Crow scout Thompson caught in the middle of a war crime since he admitted he was in a position to see two of Custer's men shot out of the saddle when they tried to charge across the Little Bighorn at Medicine Tail Coulee, but it could also be one of the other Crow scouts -- Hairy Mocassin, White Man Runs Him and Goes Ahead -- since Goes Ahead said the three of them went together to the river for a "drink of water" after they left Custer -- exactly the moment Thompson said he saw the Crow Scout with the roped squaw.
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All the Indians -- friendly and hostile -- were very guarded about what they said about the battle to the Americans, which is understandable given the Americans' murderous history. But a full and candid account of the battle as the Crow scouts observed it is contained in the story told by Pretty Shield, who was the wife of Goes Ahead and the neice of Half Yellow Face, leader of the Crow scouts. Pretty Shield fills in the blanks left in the accounts of Goes Ahead, Hairy Moccasin and White Man Runs Him.
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Here is another account of the battle by Goes Ahead.
For more information on Custer's scouts, please see The Twisted Saga of the Unsung Seventh Cavalry Scouts.
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