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Frank Grouard's Story of the Battle
37: Battle of the Rosebud
THE GENERAL [George Crook] asked me, upon my arrival in camp from my trip to the village of the friendly Crows, if I had any idea where the Sioux camp was. From all signs I had seen, I supposed they were on the Rosebud, and I so informed him. He told me that he wanted to start as soon as he could get ready. Two days afterward, the infantry was mounted on mules, and the command started for the Rosebud, leaving the wagon train upon the Big Goose about a mile from the works. We traveled in light marching order, taking as little with us as possible -- much less than we needed. The first night out, we camped on Tongue River near the mouth of Big Goose, the next morning starting off through the hills over to Badger Creek, sending out two parties of scouts from there to try and discover the Sioux village.
There being plenty of buffalo along the line of march, the Indians killed hundreds of them. Camping on the Rosebud, we ran onto a scouting party of Sioux just before reaching the river, but from the direction they took, I was satisfied the camp was on the Rosebud, down the stream. The next morning, we moved down toward the big bend of the Rosebud and went into temporary camp there to await the report of the scouts who had been sent out to discover the hostile village. We had not reached the big bend before we went into camp.
It was the morning after the scouts had been sent out that the Sioux were reported to be coming in large numbers. Then we moved down to the big bend. There we laid down our arms and rested -- without unsaddling. Our Indian allies had caught up their horses, ready for anything thing that happened to turn up. The scouts commenced to come in then, telling us that the Indians were coming. Not having had much experience with the troops, I could not tell whether they were ready to meet the enemy or not, but I supposed that they were always ready for a fight and did not pay much attention to them. It was not long before an Indian they called Humpy, a little hunchbacked Sioux, came riding down over the hills as fast as his horse could carry him, hallooing "Sioux" as he came into camp, and he said the Sioux were charging on us, and, almost at the same time, you could hear the Sioux war cry.
The Indians and the scouts jumped on their horses, and just then the Sioux came charging down over the hills. But the troops were not ready to meet the attack, so the Crows met the first charge of the Indians, and I believe if it had not been for the Crows, the Sioux would have killed half of our command before the soldiers were in a position to meet the attack. It was a hand-to-hand fight for quite a while between the Crows and Sioux. It was on a kind of plateau where they were fighting, and the troops were down under the hills. I charged up the hill when the Shoshones and Crows started out so that I could see everything that occurred. It was all of twenty minutes, I think, before the soldiers appeared over the hill. As soon as the soldiers came up and commenced fighting, the Sioux fell back. The coming together of the Sioux, Crows, and Shoshones, I think, was the prettiest sight in the way of a fight that I have ever seen. They were all mixed up, and I could hardly distinguish our allies from the hostiles. After the fight became general with the troops, our Indians drew back. I passed where one Crow Indian was sitting on the ground, and he didn't act as if he was one bit hurt. He was watching the fight between the Indians, and every once in a while he would yell like a madman. He was unable to get on his feet, having been shot just above the knee, and the bone was terribly shattered. His horse was lying dead by his side. He seemed to be so interested in the fight that he had entirely forgotten his wound. The soldiers could not tell one Indian from another, but the redskins knew each other all right, and if a man was familiar with them, he would know, but it was very hard to keep the soldiers from firing into our allies after the troops became engaged with the Sioux, mistaking the Crows and Shoshones for the enemy.
After the troops came up, they formed into line and commenced driving the Sioux back. Then the Shoshones, Crows, and Sioux commenced separating. The friendly Indians came back, and the Sioux went into the hills.
The soldiers kept driving the hostiles back until they got them on the big flat beyond the first line of hills. Col. Guy V. Henry, with his battalion, was stationed on the left, and he was ordered up the river. Mills's battalion was down below on the right, and the other battalions were in the center of the fight. The Crow and Snake Indians got scattered out but would keep in behind the troops, out of harm's reach, as much as possible. I was close to the position held by General Crook, and he was in about the center of the field. The General ordered a battalion to charge the Indians and drive them back.
In the charge that followed, one poor fellow's horse ran away with him, and the animal went right for the Indians, just as the order had been given to retreat. The horse kept straight ahead after the command had driven the Indians away and turned back and ran up to within forty or fifty yards of the hostiles before they turned. Of course, they began shooting at the horseman, and as his horse began to turn, both of his hands were shot off at the wrists. When he came past me, both of his hands were dangling. The Indians had turned the horse by firing at it. I rode up on the hill, and the poor fellow was calling for someone to check his horse. I rode very rapidly and tried to get ahead of the frightened animal, and then I could see his hands dangling from his wrists.
I tried to head off the horse, but the animal got in ahead of me, started down the divide, and went right through the troops, never stopping for anything. The Indians were on that side of the flat fighting, and he went through the line of troops towards them, and I went after him. I got up as close as I could to him. My horse was a fast one, but I could not reach the runaway animal's bridle, and, whip as much as I could, I was unable to grasp it. If he had been a man of any nerve or had not lost his head, he might have helped turn the horse by grasping the reins with his wrists. I hit the horse over the head as hard as I could in an effort to turn it, but the horse was stubborn and frightened and was not very easily turned. I told the wounded man to throw himself off when I hit the horse the second time. He gave me one look that I will never forget. I got up as close as I could to the horse and hit it on the side of the head. The blow turned the horse some, but not clear around, and the wounded man threw himself off. The horse went right in among the Indians and was lost to view. The wounded man picked himself up and ran down over the hill out of sight. The Indians were shooting at us all of this time.
When I got back to the command, the Indians were going down below us, and the General had sent all of his aides out with orders to the different commanders. It was right after this runaway-horse incident occurred that the Indians got Col. Henry's battalion in a tight place and seriously wounded that gallant officer. The Indians were pressing down pretty close. Henry's battalion received an order to retreat, but I do not know who gave the order. I suppose while standing there, Col. Henry was shot. As quick as they commenced to retreat, the Indians rushed down. Yute John made a dash to the place where the Colonel fell, got off his horse, and turned it loose just as the Indians got to Col. Henry. Singlehanded, he stood them off until the soldiers commenced shooting and drove the Indians away.
In the meantime, Yute John, as quick as the Indians were driven away, put Col. Henry on his back and carried him over to where Henry's battalion was. If it had not been for the Indian (Yute John), Col. Henry would have been killed and scalped where he fell. The battalion that was on the other side of Henry had retired at the same time that Henry's battalion retreated.
I saw an Indian run right in among the soldiers as they were retreating. I don't know whether it was done purposely, but I saw a soldier hold up a gun as though he were giving it to this Indian, but I think the gun was held up to protect his head from a blow aimed at it by the Sioux. There were several soldiers killed. It was right after Henry was shot that I went over to where Gen. Crook was. There were no aides there with him, so he told me to go down and tell Capt. Mills to drive the Indians out of Rosebud Canyon. I went down and carried the order to Mills. It was but a short time afterwards that one of the aides came to me and said the General wanted to see me. When I got to Crook, he said: "I am going to move down Rosebud Canyon and want you to go, with two battalions, as far as you can handle the defile and find out whether the village is at the other end of the canyon or not."
I went down the canyon with the two battalions. After getting down into the rocky pass and seeing what was going on amongst the Indians, I became convinced they would not attack us, would not pay any attention to a detachment when they wanted the entire command. I was aware of this as quick as I got in there. They wanted to draw the entire command down into this canyon and massacre every soul of it. I had not been in the canyon twenty minutes before I knew what was going on. The canyon rose to a height of one thousand feet on both sides of us. The Indians had all of this fortified. I had got almost through the canyon with two companies when an aide-de-camp (Col. Nickerson) overtook us. The Indians had tried hard to draw the command down into the canyon, and the General thought it was a fresh attack made and wanted the two battalions to come back to the field and take the Indians in the rear-wanted us to come up in behind them. So, going up into the right of the canyon on the north side, we attempted to come in behind the redskins. But the Indians watched all our movements, and before we could get in behind them, they had drawn off. . .
I had seen all I wanted to see to convince me of what was going on, and when I got back, the General was just ready to start down the canyon. In fact, the whole command had started when I met it. I asked General Crook where they were going. He said: "Down to take the village."
"You can't go through the canyon," I told him. He asked why.
I said, "You can't go through. They will kill your whole command if you attempt to go through there.
He could not believe that; laughed quietly about it. I did everything I could to dissuade him, and the only way I could prevail on him to abandon the undertaking was by telling him there was no ammunition in the command. The scouts didn't have any, and a great many of the companies didn't have any, and when the General gave orders to find out how much ammunition there was, it didn't average ten cartridges to the man, and that was the only thing that stopped him. In fact, it was the only thing that saved his command because he would have made the attempt to go through the canyon under any other circumstances. When Crook made up his mind to do anything, it was generally done. The only way I could convince him not to go was by satisfying him of there being no ammunition in the command. I had seen all day how the Indians and troops were firing, and especially the scouts, so I asked the General to find out the amount of ammunition each company had. He found he would have to wait until he got more ammunition from the wagons before taking the offensive. We went into camp at the lower end of the battlefield. As far as the fight was concerned, I don't think that either side could claim a complete victory, although the troops held the ground. The Indians had tried to lead the troops down through the canyon where they had fortified on each side, and if the troops had ever gone down through there, there would not have been one of them left to tell the tale, for the Indians were fixed in such a way that they could have cross-fired them without getting hurt themselves or could even have rolled rocks down in amongst them and crushed them.
Seeing this while I was going down through the canyon is the reason I tried so hard to stop the command from going through. To sum up the whole battle, there were twenty-eight soldiers killed and fifty-six wounded . One of the Indian scouts was killed and three of them wounded. On the Indian side, there were thirteen of them killed that I know of, and I could not tell the number that were wounded, but there were a good many of them. The next morning, we started back to the wagon train. Starting up the Rosebud, we camped at the head of it. After we had been in camp some time, the Crow allies got stampeded for some cause, drove in their ponies, saddled them up, and left us, starting back for their village, taking their wounded along with them, and nothing we could say or do would stop them. Breaking camp next morning, we reached the wagon train the same evening, and the train and a large escort of troops were sent back to Fetterman for supplies. . .
Life and Adventures of Frank Grouard by Joe DeBarthe, University of Oklahoma Press 1958 p 95 - 101
Frank Grouard, also spelled Frank Gruard among other variants, was called Yugata by the Sioux. He was the half Tahitian son of a Mormon missionary who became a personal friend -- and ultimately mercinary betrayer -- of both Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse. He should not be confused with Fred Gerard, another U.S. Cavalry scout during the summer of 1876.
Frank Huston said Grouard was married to one of Sitting Bull's daughters.
-- Brown Bruce
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