Ohiyesa's Story of the Battle
MANY WERE in the midst of their meal when from the south end of the camp came the warning cry: "Woo Woo hay-ay hay-ay. Warriors to your saddles; the white soldiers are now upon us."
Led by Sitting Bull's nephew Lone Bull [also called One Bull] they [the young men who had been playing on the flats] would have forced him [Maj. Marcus Reno] back had it not been for the prompt interference of Gall, Rain-in-the-Face and Spotted Eagle. "Wait-wait," they said -- "We are not ready. Hold them until there are warriors enough upon their ponies."
In the midst of the confusion Sitting Bull stood by his tepee and addressed his people thus: "Warriors, we have everything to fight for and if we are defeated we shall have nothing to live for; therefore let us fight like brave men."
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Gall, Crow King, Black Moon and Rain-in-the-Face now joined the young men; this encouraged the latter so much that no sooner had Lone Bull given the war whoop for the charge than the soldiers retreated. The first company endeavored to return the way they came, but they were forced toward the east almost at right angles with their trail. Just as the Indians made their general charge the second company of the soldiers turned to flee. They were closely pursued. The Indians, having full knowledge of the ground and the river, were greatly encouraged. The leaders shouted "We can drown them all-charge closer." The first company of soldiers fared tolerably well, but the second lost many men.
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The forces that repulsed Reno numbered not over 500. This was all they could muster up in so short a time. Of this number probably 100 went over to the Custer battle; but they were a little late.
Just as the forces under Gall, Rain-in-the-Face and Crow King made their famous charge, the lower (north) end of the camp discovered General Custer and his men approaching. The two battles were fully two and one-half miles apart.
"Woo Woo-here they come" -- shouted the Indians, as Custer with his formidable column appeared on the slope of the ridge. They knew well he could not cross the river at that point. He must go down half a mile. The crossing therefore became at once of first importance.
As Crazy Horse started down to the ford, Custer appeared upon the river bank. Having discovered that it was impossible to cross, he began to fire into the camp, while some of his men dismounted and were apparently examining the banks. Already Crazy Horse and his men had crossed the river, closely followed by Little Horse and White Bull with their Cheyenne Warriors.
Two Moon was still loudly urging the young men to meet the soldiers on the other side, and as he led the remaining Cheyennes in the same direction, the Minneconjous and the Brules were coming down at full speed.
The forces under Crazy Horse and Little Horse followed a long ravine that went east from the crossing until it passed the ridge; it then took a southerly direction parallel with and immediately behind the said ridge. Iron Star and Low Dog, on the other hand, turned southward immediately after crossing the river. The firing from the camp still continued, and as the later forces arrived, they at once opened fire upon the soldiers who were gradually retreating toward the ridge one-half mile back from the river bank.
Up to this time General Custer did not seem to apprehend the danger before him. But when one company of his command reached the summit of the ridge, it was quickly forced behind the brow of the hill by the Indians. The soldiers now took up three separate positions along the ridge, but they were practically already hemmed in.
At first the General kept his men intact; but the deafening war whoops and the rattling sound of the gun shots frightened the horses. The soldiers had no little trouble from this source. Finally they let go of their horses and threw themselves flat upon the ground, sending volley after volley into the whirling masses of the enemy.
The signal was given for a general charge. Crazy Horse with the Ogalallas and Little Horse and White Bull [AKA Ice Bear] with the Cheyennes now came forward with a tremendous yell. The brave soldiers sent into their ranks a heavy volley that checked them for the moment. At this instant a soldier upon a swift horse started for the river, but was brought down. Again the Indians signalled for a charge. This time the attack was made from all sides. Now they came pelt mell among the soldiers. One company was chased along the ridge to the south, out of which a man got away. A mighty yell went up from the Indians as he cleared the attacking forces, as if they were glad that he succeeded. Away he went toward Reno's position. The rest of the company were now falling fast and the ridge was covered with the slain.
I reiterate that there were not 12,000 to 15,000 Indians at that camp as has been represented; nor were there over 1,000 warriors in the fight. It is not necessary to exaggerate the number of the Indians engaged in this notable battle. The simple truth is that Custer met the combined forces of the hostiles, which were greater than his own, and that he had not so much underestimated their numbers as their ability.
The Custer Myth: A Source Book of Custerania, written and compiled by Colonel W.A. Graham, The Stackpole Co., Harrisburg, PA 1953, p 96 - 97
A full-blooded Santee Sioux who graduated from Dartmouth College and Medical School, Dr. Charles Eastman or Ohiyesa was subsequently hired by the Indian Medical Service and arrived on the Pine Ridge Reservation just in time to treat the wounded survivors of the Wounded Knee Massacre in 1890.
Although he was not at the Battle of the Little Bighorn, he (like the other Indian chroniclers in Astonisher.com's 100 Voices -- John Stands In Timber, William Bordeaux, Pretty Shield, David Humphreys Miller and George Bird Grinnell) had intimate access to numerous Indians who were there, and learned their accounts first hand.
There is probably no one else who could have gotten death bed access to Rain In The Face as Ohiyesa did, and even more certainly no one who could have written the old warrior's story better.
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