Bruce Brown's 100 Voices...
Hollow Horn Bear's Story of the Battle
HOLLOW HORN BEAR'S ACCOUNT
Q. Name and age and to what tribe did you belong?
A. Hollow Horn Bear (Mato Heli Dogeca), 59 years. Brule.
Q. Were you a hostile, or an agency Indian, and where had you spent the winter?
A. Agency [Indian]. At Spotted Tail Agency, on Beaver Creek .
Q. What chief were you fighting under, and where did your tribe or band join Sitting Bull.
A. Buffalo Horse. Hollow Horn Bear had some horses that had either strayed or were stolen. He, in company with about 20 Two Kettle Indians, was out looking for these horses. While at Heart Creek, a branch of the Yellowstone, he first saw soldiers. This was in the latter part of May or the 1st of June. The Soldiers were headed westward. He states that he was informed that this was Custer's outfit. This bunch followed the soldiers for two days and then cut across to the Greasy Grass and joined Sitting Bull.
Q. Were you in the fight against Crook's soldiers on the Rosebud a week before the fight with Custer?
Q. How many days were you in the village before the Custer fight?
A. About 5 days.
Q. How many tepees or how many warriors were in the village of your own tribe?
A. About 65 tepees, and 30 warriors.
Q. How long before the fight was it learned that soldiers were coming?
A. Just shortly after the fight with Reno.
Q. What preparation was then made to meet the soldiers? Why did the Indians not go out several miles to meet the soldiers?
A. They were practically prepared to fight Custer. They went to Custer as soon as they could recover from the earlier fight with Reno. Some talk had to be indulged in before they went to Custer, which took some time.
Q. Did the Indians suppose it was Crook's soldiers or Custer's soldiers that were coming? Did the Indians expect to be attacked in the daytime?
A. Heard someone say that he saw a man with a red and yellow handkerchief around his neck and a buckskin jacket on. The warrior who made the remark said it must be Long Yellow Hair. Had no idea to offer relative to a night or day attack.
Q. Were you in the first fighting, at the Hunkpapa tepees? State any noteworthy occurrence that you remember concerning this fight. Did the Indians all have their ponies when this fight started?
A. Yes. Was among the first to cross the river. Some of the young warriors rode back and forth in front of Custer's front before any real change was made. None of these were killed, a good omen that the Indians would win the day. Most of the Indians were mounted; a good many however, were afoot. [Here is Arapahoe Waterman's description of Crazy Horse riding "closest" to the American soldiers.]
Q. How long after this first fight did soldiers appear opposite the village, and where was this second party of soldiers (Custer) first seen. (This is an important question, and I would give the witness plenty of time to answer it. Let him point out the place on the map without any suggestion from the questioner; or let him say whether Custer first appeared opposite some particular part of the village, such as the Minneconjou or Sans Arc tepees, or elsewhere.)
A. About one hour. Witness was at the Brule village and first saw the soldiers over the top of the high ridge at about "E" [Nye-Cartwright Ridge].
Q. How near the river did these soldiers come, and were they at any time near Ford "B" [Medcine Tail Coulee]?
A. Custer got as far as the ridge south of "C" [bluff]. (As shown on the blueprint.) Never got any nearer to the river. [Note: others like White Cow Bull disagree, saying Custer came down to the river and tried to ford before being driven back. See Who Killed Custer -- The Eye-witness Answer for more info.]
Q. Did these soldiers fire across the river into the village before the fight started, and did they hit anyone in the village?
A. Yes, soldiers fired into the village, [but] no one was hit.
Q. Did the Indians cross the river and attack Custer's soldiers immediately, as soon as they appeared, or were the soldiers in sight over there a considerable time, and what did the soldiers appear to be doing?
A. Quite a little talk was indulged in before an attack was made on Custer after he was first seen.
Q. Did it appear that the soldiers were preparing to cross over and attack the village?
A. They did not appear to want to cross after the warriors made their presence felt in such large numbers.
Q. Did the fight start near the river or back on the ridge where the soldiers were finally all killed?
A. The fight started somewhere near the ridge south of "C" as shown on blueprint.
Q. If the fighting started near the river, was there heavy fighting as the soldiers fell back to the ridge, and were the soldiers all together, in one body, or were there two widely separated parties of them?
A. The fighting was heavy at the start. Soldiers gave ground from the start. In the early start of fight, soldiers in front were dismounted and many of their horses were killed. There was no fighting near the river...
Q. After the soldiers got to the ridge, did they keep together in one body, or did some of them make a stand to give the others a chance to select a position?
A. Soldiers kept together all during the fight. The soldiers would shift positions, [but] no stand [was] being made to do so.
Q. Was a determined stand made at any of the points "C", "D" or "K" by part of the soldiers, or were all of the soldiers together at these different points, and were they trying to hold their ground or were they moving?
Q. At any time during the fight were the men strung out at intervals in good order, in a long line as between "C" and "D", or between "D" and "K", or between "K" and "G", or did they keep pretty much together all the time?
A. At the start of the fight the soldiers were in good order, but soon after they became demoralized. By the time "C" was reached they were bunched...
Q. In the last stand at "G", did the soldiers appear to run short of ammunition?
A. No. They fought as hard at "G" as at any other point.
Q. Were the soldiers here all shot down at long range, or was there fighting at close quarters at the last of the fight?
A. The fighting was at close quarters. This witness used his war club at this point.
Q. Did many of the soldiers at "G" have horses and did they keep them long?
A. Nearly all had horses.
Q. Assuming that some of the soldiers broke from this point and tried to get away, were any of them mounted?
A. He did not see at any time any of the soldiers make a rush to get away. Said they were all brave men.
Q. How long did the fight last where the last stand was made at "G"?
A. Just a few minutes. (Witness could not tell whether one or ten.)
Q. At what part of the battlefield were you stationed, or at what particular points do you remember being at?
A. [He] was on the opposite side of the ridge from river, all the way around from "C" [bluff] to "G" [Custer Hill]. At all points except at "H".
Q. What did you see of the company having gray horses? Did they keep together? At what point particularly did you see the gray horses?
A. Saw gray horses from the first. They kept fairly well together. Some of the soldiers on these horses were in the last of the fight.
Q. At any time during the fight did the soldiers make a charge and where was this, if they did so?
A. Soldiers never made a charge.
Q. Were many of the horses captured early in the fight? A. Horses were captured soon after the fight commenced. Could not state how many.
Q. While the soldiers were being killed at "K" [Keogh's stand], where were the Indians? Were they in gully north of "K", or were they on the ridge just south of "K" as well as in the gully?
A. The warriors seemed to him to be in their own way at this point. He did not stop here.
Q. Where did the soldiers seem to fight the hardest?
A. The hardest fight was at the start.
Q. Was any ammunition found on the dead soldiers at "G" [Custer Hill]?
A. Soldiers at "G" had plenty of ammunition.
Q. Were any of the wounded soldiers permitted to live long after the fight?
A. Could not answer.
Q. Why were so few of the soldiers scalped at point "G"?
A. Hair was too short.
Q. Was Custer (Long Hair) recognized on the battlefield, dead or alive?
A. Heard someone say that he saw a man with a red and yellow handkerchief around his neck and a buckskin jacket on. The warrior who made this remark said it must be Long Yellow Hair.
Q. When was it first known to the Indians that Custer had been killed?
A. Some time before [it was] generally known. [Who said Indians did not have a sense of humor?! -- Richard. G. Hardorff.]
Q. Did you ever hear how many Indians were killed altogether, in all of the tribes of the village or how many wounded altogether?
A. Six killed and six wounded; the latter all recovered.
Q. In the two day's fighting against Reno on the bluff, four miles from the Custer fight, why were so many Indians not able to defeat the soldiers there also?
A. Reno had burrowed in the ground like a prairie dog. Guns and arrows could not reach him.
Q. Did many or most of the Indians have Winchester rifles (pump guns)?
A. What guns the Indians had were Winchester carbines. As fast as the soldiers were killed, the Indians would take their arms and ammunition.
Q. Why did the Indians quit Reno and move the village on the second day?
A. Indians were all in as far as the fighting was concerned. They had got enough.
Q. When the Indians took up the village and moved out of the valley, did they still have plenty of ammunition?
A. Yes, were extra well supplied. Many carried two rifles.
Q. When the Indians moved they left a tepee in the village in which there were seven or eight dead Indians finely robed and tied in standing positions surrounding a center pole or post. What significance had this, if any? Were any of the dead Indians left in the village for want of means of transportation to carry them away?
A. The dressing of the Indians in this way was done to show proper respect to the dear departed. [Here is Lt. Winfield Scott Edgerly's account of what Low Dog said to him about the dead the Sioux left behind.] Sioux on the warpath never bury dead...
Lakota Recollections of the Custer Fight: New Sources of Indian - Military History, compiled and edited by Richard G. Hardorff, The Arthur Clark Co., Spokane, WA, 1991, p 177 -186
Hollow Horn Bear provided Sitting Bull and the other Sioux / Cheyenne leaders with important scouting information on Custer's movements that fatefull summer. For more info, see American Horse's account, and my note there.