Bruce Brown's 100 Voices...
Sage's Story of the Battle
SHERMAN SAGE'S STORY OF THE BATTLE
MITCH BOUYER [Mitch Boyer] may also have been killed down by the river toward the end of the battle. [Note: according to Pretty Shield, Bouyer was actually killed at the river at the very beginning of the battle, not the end. See Who Killed Custer -- The Eye-Witness Answer for more info.] Sherman Sage, Arapaho warrior in the fight, told me in 1939 that a man in a calfskin vest and a soldier with a bugle and a carbine escaped from the ridge and got down to the river, reaching the west bank before the Sioux and Cheyennes found them. Bouyer, it was said, begged the Indians to kill him, which they eventually did. His [Bouyer's] body was thrown into the river along with that of the bugler. [Note: Hollow Horn Eagle and Brave Bird also said another Seventh Cavalry trooper, probably the bugler, was killed at the river after the battle. See Who Killed Custer -- The Eye-Witness Answer for more info.] The story rings true, for the Arikara scouts knew Bouyer as Man-with-a-Calfskin-Vest rather than as Two Bodies, and it is probable he was wearing such a garment the day of the fight.
This fragmentary eye-witness account of the Battle of the Little Bighorn by Arahao warrior Sherman Sage -- also known as Sage, Old Man Sage, Well-Knowing One, Good-To-Look-At, and perhaps Green Grass -- is as fascinating as it is brief.
Sage's account story largely agrees with that of Thomas LaForge -- one of the scouts with the Seventh Infantry in June 1876 -- who told of a wounded Mitch Bouyer begging to be killed on the banks of the Little Bighorn before the Sioux accomodated him and threw his body into the river.
Although Sage and LaForge's story differs from that of Pretty Shield -- who said that Bouyer was shot out of the saddle in the middle of the Little Bighorn River during Custer's initial charge at Medicine Tail Coulee -- Sage and LaForge agreed inasmuch as they implied that Bouyer's body was found in the river along with that of "the bugler."
In fact, the two stories fit together like two pieces in a jigsaw puzzle, for it's possible that the badly wounded Bouyer was able to drag himlself to shore after he was shot in Custer's charge at Medicine Tail Coulee, and then was subsequently found by the Sioux, begged to be killed, was finished off, and finally thrown back in the river.
The Americans never found Bouyer's body, but LaForge said Bouyer's distinctive calf-skin vest was found "near the river after the battle," and George Glenn said the Seventh Cavalry burial detail found "the body nearest the river was that of the chief trumpeter [Henry] Voss."
Thus, in a broad sense, Sage's story supports the stories of Curley, Pretty Shield, White Cow Bull, Soldier Wolf and Horned Horse when they stated that two or more American troopers were killed or badly wounded at the river at the beginning of the Custer Fight. See Who Killed Custer -- The Eye-Witness Answer for more info.
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Sage was one of five Arapahoes who fought with the Sioux and Cheyenne at the Battle of the Little Bighorn. Here are eye-witness accounts of the battle from two other Arapahoes -- Waterman and Left Hand -- plus Cheyenne war chief Young Two Moon's account of how they came to be there.
Intestestingly, Sage deceived the Americans all his life about his participation in the Battle of the Little Bighorn. Although he was clearly at the battle -- Waterman was with him there -- he told a garbled, fundimentally dishonest account of his experience, claiming he learned about the battle afterwards at Camp Robinson, according to Jeffrey D. Anderson.
Judging from his recent biography of Sage, One Hundred Years of Old Man Sage: An Arapaho Life, Anderson was apparently unaware of the statements concerning Sage by Waterman and David Humphreys Miller, and was maybe even unaware that Sage -- the subject of his biography -- fought with the free Sioux and Cheyenne at the Battle of the Little Bighorn (oops!), although the index to his book contains entries for both George Custer and Battle of the Little Bighorn listed for page 52. There is, however, no mention of either on page 52 as the book was published in 2003 by The University of Nebraska Press, suggesting that text on this matter may have been cut from the book at the last moment, after the book had been indexed.
Although this statement by Sage is very brief, it is a testiment to the Indians' high regard for David Humphreys Miller that he would say anything at all on the subject of the Little Bighorn.
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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.
-- Bruce Brown