Lazy White Bull's Story of the Battle #2
"Only Heaven and Earth last long!"
I rode past them up the ravine. They took courage and followed me. We were behind the soldiers as we got up on the ridge, and we began to shoot at them. Some of them got off their horses and hid behind them to shoot back at us.
Lakotas were riding all around, shooting at the soldiers, who didn't go any farther along the river. I [rode] around the ridge and dodged the bullets until I met a party of warriors with Crazy Horse. He was a chief of the Oglala and a brave fighter. He wore plain while buckskins and let his hair hang loose with no leathers in it. He had white spots painted here and there on his face for protection in battle, and it was said he was bulletproof.
The soldiers were divided into two bundles. I galloped my pony in between the two bunches and kept close to his neck until I rode clear around one of the bundles and circled back to Crazy Horse. I shouted to him:
"Hoka hey, brother! This life will not last forever!"
I started to circle the soldiers again. This time Crazy Horse and the others followed. Some of the soldiers ran like scared rabbits, and we rode after them. One soldier was riding a black horse. A Lakota on foot shot him. and he fell oil the horse. I ran up to strike him with my quirt.
One of the soldiers blew on a bugle. The others began to get on their horses. I dared Crazy Horse to lead a charge against them. He refused, so I rode out alone and came up behind a soldier on a bay horse. I grabbed his coat and pulled him out of his saddle. He tried to shoot me, but his rifle fired into the air; he fell screaming to the ground. I rode down two soldiers and lashed them with my quirt. Crazy Horse struck both of these men after I did.
The soldiers who were still alive got off their horses and lay down to shoot. I charged through them twice. They were firing up in the air and acted as though they were drunk. A brave Lakota rode up and chased away their horses. Soon bays and sorrels and grays were running everywhere. Many Lakotas stopped shooting and began to chase these loose horses. I caught a sorrel horse. Just after that my pony went down with bullets in his shoulder and ribs. So I had to fight on foot.
One soldier fired his rifle at me, then threw it at my head. He tried to wrestle with me. I had a bad time keeping him from getting my rifle. He began hitting me on the face. Then he grabbed my long hair in his hands and tried to bite my nose off!
Two Lakotas came running up and began hitting this soldier with their war clubs. He let go of me. I knocked him down with the butt of my rifle. He was a brave man and put up a good fight -- except that he tried to bite off my nose.
Not many soldiers were left alive by this time. We surrounded them and kept shooting them down. They acted like drunk people. Some of them shot wildly into the air, not hitting any of us. The Army was crazy to have sent such a small band of soldiers against us, anyway. They could never have beaten us in that fight.
One soldier still alive toward the last wore a buckskin coat with fringes on it. I thought this man was leader of the soldiers, because he had ridden ahead of all the others as they came along the ridge. He saw me now and shot at me twice with his revolver, missing me both times. I raised my rifle and fired at him; he went down. Then I saw another soldier crawl over to him. The leader was dead.
By the middle of the afternoon all the soldiers were dead. The fight lasted only a short time. All of us were crazy. We had killed many soldiers. They had attacked us and meant to wipe us out. We were fighting for our lives and homeland. Cries of victory went up. Our women came through the timber by the river and began to strip the dead soldiers.
Lacking clocks or watches, Indians then told time by the sun's position. All Indian informants agreed that the action against Custer's command on the ridge occupied the time it took for the sun to travel the width of the shadow of a tepee pole across the ground. By actual measurement this turned out to be almost exactly twenty minutes.
Some of the sisters and wives and mothers of slain warriors cut the bodies of the soldiers to pieces. They were crazy with sorrow. Two old women took the clothes off a wounded soldier, who pretended to be dead. When he was naked, one of the women started to cut off something he had. He jumped up and tried to fight the women. One of them tried to stab him with her knife while he was trying to get away from the other one. Then a third woman came up and stabbed the soldier. [The old man laughed.] He really died that time!
Some of the Lakotas said they found whiskey bottles on the soldiers after the fight.The soldiers had acted like drunk people.
Troopers carried rations of whiskey in their canteens, but probably lacked enough to get hard-drinking troopers intoxicated.
My cousin Bad Soup [Bad Juice] was stripping the soldier I thought had been the leader and held up the buckskin coat. He looked in the pockets of the coat and brought out some papers with pictures on them [maps]. In one of the pockets he found coils of long yellow hair. But the dead leader had his hair cut short.
"Onhey!" Bad Soup cried. "That man there was Long Hair Custer. He thought he was the greatest man on earth, but he lies there now. And he cut his hair so he would not be scalped!" He was the leader who had tried to kill me. But I had killed him.
The old man looked both relieved and vaguely troubled. After several moments he said: "I never told this to anyone before. I was afraid the white men would hang me or lock me up for a long time, if they knew I had killed Long Hair. Hecetuyelo. So be it."
Excerpted from "Echoes of the Little Bighorn" by David Humphreys Miller, American Heritage, June 1971, p 28
According to Richard G. Hardorff, Lazy White Bull's name in Lakota actually translates as Lazy White Buffalo. He was also known as White Bull and Joseph White Bull. His parents were Makes Room and Pretty Feather Woman, and thus Lazy White Bull was a maternal nephew of Sitting Bull, and brother of One Bull. He should not be confused White Bull, the Northern Cheyenne leader (also known as Ice Bear or just plain Ice).
Lazy White Bull fought in the actions he describes -- at both the battles of the Little Bighorn and the Rosebud -- and he was a major hero at the Rosebud when he rescued mortally wounded Cheyenne warrior Black Sun. But Lazy White Bull also sometimes claimed the brave deeds of others as his own.
At the Battle of the Little Big Horn, for instance, He Dog remembered how Crazy Horse led the charge that split Custer's right flank, Red Feather told of how Crazy Horse rode between two split portions of Custer's embattled troops, and Left Hand said Crazy Horse "was the bravest man I ever saw." Lazy White Bull, however, claimed Crazy Horse was a coward and he -- Lazy White Bull -- was the one who performed this brave act, even though no one else reported seeing him do it.
Lazy White Bull also claimed to have killed Long Hair, which wasn't true either, based on his own testimony that the officer he killed near the end on Last Stand Hill did not have a mustache. White Bull's claim that he killed Custer is not in the 1930 interview, but it is in the one conducted a decade or more later. Here is Richard Hardorff's succinct dissection of the false claims made by Lazy White Bull, and Walter Campbell on his behalf.
Based on both the eye-witness accounts of the battle, and the subsequent developments on the battlefield that day, however, it appears that Custer was killed or seriously wounded at the very outset of the Custer Fight, probably by White Cow Bull at the river before Custer's troops were fully engaged in the battle. Later, in the confusion of the final moments of the battle, it is impossible to say who may have been riding a sorrel horse. Click here for Astonisher.com's Who Killed Custer -- Top Ten List.
White Bull did honestly excel in one area though. With Amos Bad Heart Bull, he was among the leading pictographic artists among the Sioux during the early 20th century.
Although not born into the Teton Sioux, David Humphreys Miller was adopted late in life by both Iron Hail and One Bull, and like the other Sioux, Cheyenne and Crow chroniclers in 100 Voices (Ohiyesa, John Stands In Timber, William Bordeaux, Pretty Shield, Bird Horse, George Bird Grinnell), he had unique access to important particpants in the Battle of the Little Bighorn, some of whom left no other record, such as White Cow Bull and Drags The Rope.
Miller frequenlty made pastel sketches of the Sioux survivors of the Battle of the Little Bighorn whom he interviewed. Some of Miller's portraits are exceptionally fine evocations of the historic personalities in their own right, such as his portraits of Lazy White Bull and Old Eagle and Black Elk late in life.
Click here for information of David Humphreys Miller's sources among the Sioux, Cheyenne, Crow, Arikara and Apapaho.
This material was excerpted from Custer's Fall by David Humphreys Miller, and appeared in American Heritage, June 1971.
-- Bruce Brown
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