Bruce Brown's 100 Voices...
Two Eagles' Story of the Battle
TWO EAGLE'S ACCOUNT
Q. Name and age of witness and to what tribe of Sioux did he belong.
A. Two Eagles, 50 years old. Brule.
Q. What chief did he fight under?
A. The band he was with had no head chief; it was everybody for himself. Fought in bands wherever they liked, or mixed in with other tribes where they had relatives or acquaintances.
Q. Were you in the fight against Crook (Lone Star) on the Rosebud a week before the Custer fight?
Q. How many days were you in the village before the fight with Custer?
A. About 7 days.
Q. How long before the fight was it learned that soldiers were coming?
A. Had just got through with Reno [and] had barely reached camp when Custer arrived.
Q. Did the Indians suppose it was Crook or Custer (Long Yellow Hair)?
A. Thought it was Crook.
Q. Where did the fight with Reno soldiers first begin? At what tepees?
A. Opposite Sans Arc tepees. (He means Custer-WMC.)
Q. What chief or chiefs or what tribes went out to this (Reno) fight?
Q. How long did the Reno battle last? Take note of any incidents of this battle.
A. Fight started about 1 P.M. and lasted about 4 hours. Two Eagles states that he was very much excited; that he had just left the women and children who were in tears; that a firm determination came over him. He reasoned that the nation (Sioux) was big and they were going to kill all the soldiers. From this explanation [I infer] it was an intuition.
Q. In the Reno fight, did any of the Indians cross the river and try to cut Reno off?
A. Indians were aware that Reno was too well fortified. They had all left him except a few who were watching for soldiers going for water.
Q. After this fight at "R", was there confusion in the village among the squaws and children, and did any of them prepare to leave the village? [See map at page 144.]
A. There was lots of confusion. The women and children started for the hills.
Q. ([Instruction for the interviewer:] In referring to the map, it is presumed that the letters are for the convenience of the questioner, and that to make the Indian understand, it will be necessary to point to the spot on the map.) Where did the soldiers next appear-to the east or the north? (This question is very important. Army officers disagree as to whether Custer came down to the river at Ford "B" and was driven from there to the high ground at "C" [bluff] -or whether he first appeared at "E" [Nye-Cartwright Ridge] and then went from "E" to "D" [Calhoun Hill], and from there to "G" [Custer Hill]. By this [latter] theory he never got to the river at all.) If he was first seen in the east, he must have been at Ford "B". If he was seen approaching from the north, then he probably first was seen at "E" or thereabouts. If there is disagreement about this let me have the exact view of each Indian.
A. Soldiers came down from "E" to a point near "B" and were driven to "C". There were a few [who] went from "E" to "D" [Calhoun Hill]. Those who went from "E" to "D" did so when the main body of the troops went to "B" [ford].
Q. When these soldiers appeared, where there any Indians on that side of the river, and what was their purpose in being there?
A. Two Indians were going up to reconnoiter. [They] were going up to see if other than Reno's soldiers were in the neighborhood.'
Q. If Custer came to Ford "B", were his men mounted or on foot?
A. All mounted.
Q. Did they get to the river, or across it, or into the village, and was there much fighting there?
A. [Custer] did not get down to the river, [and it was] short fight only.
Q. If Custer came to Ford "B", was he driven off by Indians in great force, or did he appear to be seeking a crossing farther down the stream?
A. At "B", Custer was attacked by a large force, [but I] could not say if he was looking for another ford or not.
Q. If Custer's men went from Ford "B" to "C", did they go in one body or in two divisions?
A. Soldiers were not in a compact body, [and] a few soldiers were killed before "C" was reached.
Q. Was there fighting between "B" and "C"?
A. Yes. (See answers to previous two questions.)
Q. Where did the Indians cross the stream to attack Custer?
A. Indians went anywhere they could find a safe crossing.
Q. Important-When Custer got to "C", did his men all go on to "D" in a body, or did they split and [did] part go to "H" and part go to "D". [Instructions given to interviewer by Walter M. Camp] Try to draw him out definitely on this point.
A. Soldiers went from "C" [bluff] to "D" [Calhoun Hill]. Some soldiers on reaching "K" [Keogh's stand] made a dash to the river, [and] went down on a line about half way between "C" and "H" [Deep Ravine]. They scattered some in going down. There were from 10 to 12 in this bunch.4
Q. Were there Indians on the long ridge (between "D" and "G") ahead of Custer, or when he got there were all of the Indians behind him?
A. Indians were on long ridge between "D" and "G" before Custer. They came around between "C" and "D" and on the north [side] of ridge and were on top before Custer got there.'
Q. Were all of the Indians of the village, that is all of the warriors, were they all [massed] against Custer? Or did some large number of them remain in the river bottom at "R", where the fight first started?
A. There were some at "R". They had neither horses or guns. (These might have been the young men along in front who have given Reno the impression he was surroundedWMC.)
Q. Did any of the men take a stand and fight hard at "C", or at "D", or at "K", or was there only one firm stand, and that at "G"?
A. "G" [Custer Hill] was the only firm stand made. "C", "D" and "K" was a moving fight.
Q. The men killed between "C" and "D", between "D" and "K", and between "K" and "G", were they mounted or on foot, and were they making a stand, or killed running?
A. In the fight from "C" [bluff] to "D" [Calhoun Hill] some of the soldiers were mounted and some were dismounted. The most of those dismounted had lost their horses. A slight stand was made at "K". Between "K" and "G" most of the soldiers killed were dismounted and moving.
Q. The men killed between "G" and "H"-were they killed in fighting their way from "H" up, toward "G", at the start of the fight, or in running from "G" toward the river at the last part of the fight?
A. They were killed going from "G" [Custer Hill] to "H" [Deep Ravine].
Q. In the last stand at "G", did the soldiers all fight to the last, or did some try to break away and escape?
A. It was the last of the soldiers (surviving at "G"WMC.) that run from "G" to "H". They were all dismounted, [and their] horses were either killed or were stampeded.
Q. At what part of the battlefield were you stationed-on the side of the ridge toward the river, or the north side?
A. Part of the time near "D" [Calhoun Hill]. Went around [to] north side of long ridge, and at finish was a little northwest of "G" [Custer Hill].
Q. One company had gray horses. What was seen of them in the fight?
A. The gray horses were not in a body by themselves. They were mixed up with other horses of different color.
Q. Did the soldiers charge on the Indians, and at what points?
A. Soldiers never made a charge.
Q. Did any of the soldiers leave their horses to fight on foot, and where was this done?
A. Soldiers held to horses and stayed mounted until horses were shot and became unmanageable so they were obliged to dismount.
Q. Were many of the horses captured alive, and was there much ammunition found in the saddles?
A. Yes, a great many horses were caught; [however,] more were killed than caught. There was a great amount of ammunition in nearly all the saddlebags.
Q. Were any of the horses taken early in the fight?
A. From the first of the fight horses got loose, [and] some of the Indians would take after [them] and capture them.
Q. Did the Indians hold the top of the long ridge between "D" and "G" during the whole fight?
A. It was a moving fight from "D" to "G". The Indians were in the draws that were just below the crown of the ridge. There were no Indians to the northwest of "G".6
Q. At the end of the long ridge, at "G", was the fighting at close quarters?
A. At all times from "D" to "G", soldiers and Indians were quite close to each other.
Q. Custer and 50 men were killed at "G", all on the side of the hill. Why were no soldiers killed on the top of the ridge, where the monument [now] stands?
A. They were killed on top of the ridge. (Two Eagles explains that the top of the ridge was very level, and at the finish, and for some little time before, he was just a trifle north of west from "G".7
Q. At what part of the battlefield did any of the soldiers try to get away, and how far did they get?
A. None tried to get away until "K" [Keogh's stand] was reached. Then, a few started for the river, presumably for water, [and] their manner and progress did not indicate they were trying to run away. It was the 8 soldiers west of "C" [bluff] that came down from "K". (At that time, Two Eagles was on the east side of the ridge at a point between "C" and "D", a little nearer to "D" than halfway between the two points.) (It seems to me that these men might have been sent to see if a way could be opened up for the whole command to escape toward the river, and that they went in skirmish order-WMC.)
Q. Did any of the soldiers escape to the river?
A. None reached the river that he knows of, or that he ever heard of.
Q. How long did the battle last, and where did the soldiers fight the hardest?
A. Battle ended about 5 P.M. The soldiers fought the most stubborn at "G".
Q. Eighteen men could not be found. Could it have been possible that these men got considerable distance from the battlefield before being killed?
A. Could not answer this question.
Q. Were any of the wounded soldiers alive after the battle, and what was done with them? Who killed them-the squaws or the warriors?
A. Almost immediately after the fight, Two Eagles returned to the village. After he was in the village for a short period he returned to the scene of the fight. There was one squaw that he noticed particularly as she had her hair cut short. (She was mourning for a son killed a few days before at the fight on [the] Rosebud.) She was carrying an ax, [and] just before he reached the place where she was, a soldier got up, but was quickly caught by two warriors who held him while the squaw killed him with the ax. This was a private soldier. This squaw was a Cheyenne.7 [Note: Click here for more info on Sioux and Cheyenne woman warriors.]
Q. Were any of the soldiers taken to the village alive?
A. No soldiers were taken alive.
Q. Why were none of the soldiers around Custer (at "G") scalped?
A. It is common among Sioux Indians that when one man is killed by them it is the practice to scalp him; but when there are numbers [killed] it is not the practice. This is not a set rule that is always followed.
Q. Was Custer (Long Hair) recognized during the fight, or after he was dead?
A. He was not recognized during the fight.
Q. Was Tom Custer (Little Hair) recognized during the fight or afterward?
A. He was not recognized during the fight.
Q. Was any scout recognized during the fight or after he was dead?
A. Did not know any of the scouts.
Q. How many Indians were killed or wounded?
A. Can only answer as [to] the number he was acquainted with, which was placed at 12 killed. The number [of] wounded was a few more.
Q. How soon after the Custer battle did the Indians leave to attack the soldiers (Reno) on the bluff?
A. The same evening, after the fight with Custer, the Indians made a move on Reno.
Q. Why were the Indians unable to kill Reno and his soldiers like they did Custer's men?
A. From Indian scouts heard that more soldiers were coming; however, they stayed around Reno that night.
Q. Was there any quarreling between Sitting Bull and Gall or any other chiefs during the night after the battle, and what about?
A. Never heard of any quarrel between Sitting Bull and Gall or with any other chiefs.
Q. Why were 30 dead Indians left in the village when the Indians left?
A. Heard that more soldiers were coming, [and] did not think they would have enough time to bury the dead.
Q. Who was the chief of the Blackfeet in the fight? Of the Minneconjou? Who was chief of the Sans Arc (without a bow)? Who was chief of the Brule warriors?
A. Did not know the name of the chief of the Blackfeet. Lame Deer was the chief of the Minneconjous. Yellow Cloud and Spotted Eagle were chiefs of the Sans Arcs. The Brules had no chief. The Brules were mixed in with other bands where they had relatives.9
Q. Was American Horse, afterward killed at Slim Buttes, there and with what tribe?
A. American Horse was not there.
Richard G. Hardorff's Notes:
1 Two Eagles was a Brule Lakota who was born in 1858. He was an allottee on the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota where he was interviewed by Sewell B. Weston in 1908. Weston was a former government employee at the Rosebud Agency who conducted this interview at the request of Walter Mason Camp. The Two Eagles Interview is contained in the Camp Collection, Custer Battlefield National Monument, National Park Service, and it is hereby reproduced with their permission.
2 Two Eagles apparently misunderstood the inquiries about Reno because his answers to the next several questions are in reference to Custer's attack.
3 Several men and women observed the approach of Custer's command while on the east side of the river. See, for example, the account of the Minneconjou, Standing Bear, who saw the approach of troops from Black Butte, which was probably the most northern butte of the cluster now known as Weir Point. See DeMallie, The Sixth Grandfather, pp. 184-85.
4 A different opinion was expressed by the Oglala, He Dog, who told Walter Camp that "when the men rushed from Custer's last stand toward the river, the dismounted ones took to the gully [Deep Ravine], and the mounted ones tried to get away to south ... Line H [Deep Ravine] to C [bluff] mounted soldiers trying to get away when they ran toward the gully." See Hammer, Custer in '76, p. 207.
5 Some of the others interviewed by Weston denied the presence of warriors on Custer Hill ahead of Custer. See the interview with the Minneconjou, Lights given hereafter.
'This statement is corroborated by the Scott interviews with He Dog and Red Feather given heretofore, which revealed that as little as 40 yards separated the soldiers on the east side of the long ridge from the Indians on the west side below its crest.
6 The summit of Custer Hill was found to be a nearly level site in 1876, some six feet higher than the adjacent ridge. The laying of the monument's foundation, the digging of burial trenches, and the installation of a fence in the 1880s resulted in the levelling of the elevation, which was measured to be some 30 feet in diameter. The very top contained the bodies of four officers and six enlisted men: General George A. Custer, Capt. Thomas W. Custer, Lt. William W Cooke, Lt. Algernon A Smith, Chief Trumpeter Henry Voss, Color Bearer John Vickory, Privates John Parker and Edward C. Driscoll, and two unidentified enlistees. [Note: Hardorff is incorrect here. George Glenn, who was on the Seventh Cavalry burial detail after the battle, said Voss's body was found at the water's edge.] Due to the four burial trenches and the placement of the monument, these ten kill sites on top of Custer Hill have not been marked. See Hardorff, The Custer Battle Casualties, pp. 33-34.
7 There are a number of sources which record mutilations by enraged women. See, for example, Marquis, Wooden Leg, p. 263. See also Hammer, Custer in '76, pp. 136-37, which reports the finding of a bloody ax, "evidently one that had been used by the Indians to cut up or mutilate the wounded." [Note: Click here for more info on Sioux and Cheyenne woman warriors.]
8 The Sans Arc named Yellow Cloud has not been identified. White Bull, who camped with his Sans Arc in-laws, recalled the following Sans Arc tribal leaders at the Little Bighorn: High Horse, Black Eagle, Blue Coat, and Two Eagles, the latter probably being Spotted Eagle; see the White Bull Interview, Campbell Collection, box 105, notebook 24, University of Oklahoma Library. The majority of evidence indicates the existence of a Brule camp whose lodges were erected adjacent to the Oglala circle. See the Hollow Horn Bear interview given hereafter.
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 141 - 152
The notes by Walter M. Camp (WMC) are intrusive and often wrong, as here. A railroad construction engineer who never served in the military, Camp was the most steadfastly wrong-headed of the early collectors of Little Bighorn information, frequently coloring his informants' accounts with his own preconceptions, and rarely letting them just tell their own story and highlight the things that they thought were important.
Camp's biggest miss -- and his most damaging influence on Little Bighorn studies -- was his outright dismissal of Peter Thompson's story, which it turns out is absolutely crucial to understanding what really happened at the Battle of the Little Bighorn.
-- Bruce Brown