Bruce Brown's 100 Voices...
White Man Runs Him and Curley's
ON THE NORTH FORK OF UPPER RENO CREEK
Custer followed down the Lodge Pole Trail which goes down the north fork of Upper Reno Creek, then down Reno Creek to the Little Horn River. The lodge where the dead Sioux was found was near where we saw the pack train. The trail often crossed the creek down the valley. Custer was led into the pocket near the last point north of the Wolf Mountains. It heads up near the lookout. Crook fought the Sioux village on the Rosebud and Custer followed the Sioux from the Rosebud. Custer came in a southwesterly direction through a pass to the head of the north fork of Upper Reno Creek. This pass follows up Davis Creek from the Rosebud and is fairly smooth. Cha tish: Crow word for the Wolf Mountains, or Wolf Hair Mountains.
AT THE POCKET BELOW CUSTER LOOKOUT
Q. Did Custer come in here himself? Show me where he came in.
A. Custer came up the valley from the other side but did not come in with the horses. The soldiers stopped this side of the creek north of the point. Custer did not climb clear to the top. He came up far enough to see over and down the valley.
(Note: There are 6 pines in the coulee leading to the pocket, which winds right behind the ridge which Custer climbed from the other side)
ON THE RIDGE, THE POINT TO THE RIGHT WHERE THE SCOUTS FIRST CAME
Q. Who was the guide?
A. I was the guide.
Q. How did you know the place; is it such a good hiding place?
A. I am acquainted with all the country here.
Q. How did you know you could see the Little Horn?
A. The Crows often hid their horses here during the campaigns and I had been here many times before.
Q. There was water here?
A. Not to speak of; just a little.
Q. What did you see when it became light?
A. We could see the smoke from the camp of the Sioux in the Little Horn Valley. We also saw two Sioux out there by the lone tree. (Due west IV, miles. From this point we moved to a point to the left and by that time the Sioux had gone down Davis Creek toward the soldiers camp. The soldiers and the Sioux met.
Q. Where did Custer come?
A. He came up Davis Creek and stopped opposite the point. We went down and told him about the smoke, and Custer came up part way, far enough to see the smoke.
Q. What time was that?
A. The sun was just up; a little after 6:00.
ON THE POINT TO THE LEFT: CUSTER'S LOOKOUT.
The officer who led us into the pocket had a large nose and a long moustache.
Q. Could you see any horses?
A. Yes, we could see some white horses on the other side of the Little Horn River. The horses were on the hills.
Q. Was it a clear day?
A. Yes; nice and clear. We also saw 6 Sioux to the northeast over on the other side of Tullocks Creek.
Q. Any buffalo in the country then?
A. Yes; the Sioux were hunting them and they were going ahead of the Sioux.
Q. Where were the buffalo?
A. Over to the north and northeast on Tullocks Creek.
Q. Did you come up on the point with Custer?
A. I went down and reported to Custer what we saw, and Custer came up to see.
A. Ca pay.
Q. What did the scouts say to each other up here on the point?
A. I told Mitch Boyer it would be a good thing if they would hide here until night and then surprise the camp. Then the two Sioux appeared over there and I said we had better hurry and get over there just as soon as possible. We did not know whether Custer would listen, but if we hadn't seen the two Sioux we would have suggested to him to stay here all day and make a night march. I was judging from the Indian campaigns and warfare. Custer always advised them not to bother anyone and to keep out of sight if possible, but if the enemy saw them to go ahead and fire into them. If the Indians came up on them here, they could do nothing with them.
Q. What brought them here in the first place?
A. We decided to come here when we were below Busby. We know this place. We knew we could see very far from up here. Night was coming on when we were at Busby. We reached here about 2:00 in the morning.
Q. Were you following any trail?
A. We were trailing the Indians down the Lodge Pole trail and horse trail. This was the regular trail from the Rosebud over on to the Little Horn. On June 24, Hairy Moccasin, Goes Ahead and I rode some soldiers' horses and came to that peak and then rode back. The soldiers were just below Busby.
Q. What did you see?
A. We were not sure whether the Sioux were camping there. It was late and we could not see so well. We knew the trail and the way the Sioux were moving, but were not sure which way they went. Mitch Boyer and the officer and I left Custer at Busby about sundown on the 24th. I was one of the oldest scouts and I did most of the advance scouting. I was very familiar with this country, so I knew the country well and I told Custer he had better go down Reno Creek and then he could wait this side of the divide before going into the Little Horn Valley. The soldiers moved fast down Reno Creek, their horses trotting all the time. Our ponies were loping most of the time. The Sioux tell the story that the soldiers made their first appearance when the laziest were just getting up, about 9 or 10 o'clock in the morning. I do not know how long Custer left with his outfit, but I was with Reno and stayed there quite late; about 7 or 8, near sundown. Then I came toward the east. The first time we stopped on the bluff when Mitch Boyer [Bouyer] left us to go to Custer, and before we returned to Reno those nearest began to run. Custer's men did not fire at all on this side. Custer believed that Reno's command was all killed because they were retreating into the bluff and the dust was flying. The scouts believed that Reno's outfit was all killed. It was hard to tell because the dust was flying and they were retreating so fast. I know for sure that Custer went right to the river bank. I saw him go that far. The Sioux were right across the river. Then Custer fired. That was the first firing Custer did. If it wasn't for Mitch Boyer most likely I would be there with Custer buried, but Mitch Boyer told us to go back. There were only three of us, Hairy Moccasin, Goes Ahead and myself. We did not see Curley. Mitch Boyer told us to go back. He said "You go back to the pack train and let the soldiers fight." We went back and met some soldiers and soon after that the pack train was there. If those soldiers hadn't turned back and been reinforced by the pack train they would all have been killed. The Sioux were coming up fast. Curley would have been one of the live ones because he was with the Arikarees and the horses. There were older men with me and they all said my story was true as much as they could remember in all the excitement; but I did not see Curley at all when he went back to the pack train. The Arikaras said they took the horses and went on to the Rosebud junction (near Lame Deer). When they left with the horses they hurried and by evening they were where the Rosebud flows into the Yellowstone. They said Curley was with them. After the Sioux had killed all of Custer's men they had better guns and they came back and killed more of us than they did before. Hairy Moccasin and Goes Ahead say the same story as I tell. I tell the story from the scout's standpoint. While there were many things happened during the day, I try to tell a general outline of the campaign, but I cannot remember every detail. When we were fortified with Reno and the soldiers got real thirsty they would volunteer to get water and many were killed while getting the water. I left Reno and went down where the Little Horn flows into the Big Horn. The next morning I was there. It was just daybreak. I could see the soldiers just across there -- Terry's outfit. I was on the east side of the river and I saw the soldiers in a boat on this side of the river. We call General Terry, "Man without Hip," or "Lame Hip"; another officer we called "White Whiskers." I told them I had no more clothes and I had done lots and scouted and was going home. The officers said "All right" and I went on. I went to Pryor. They had another fight when I came into camp. The Crows thought I was a Sioux and commenced firing.
Q. When did you see Curley?
A. I did not see Curley until next fall. That fall I saw Curley.
A. Up the Yellowstone in the camp of the Mountain Crows. Very soon after reaching home others and myself left the Crows again on a scouting trip. That was the reason I did not see Curley until in the fall.
Q. What did the Indians call Custer?
A. They called him "Son of the Morning Star."
Q. How was Custer dressed?
A. His hair was down to his shoulders. His hair was yellow. He wore buckskin. [Note this disagrees with what others like Lt. William Edgerly said, which was that he had his hair cut short before the expedition began.]
Q. What would you do if you had the troops and were going to fight the fight?
A. That depends. If I wanted to surprise them I would attack by night, but if anyone saw me I -would hurry and get there and get an even fight, with them.
Q. Would you go all with Reno or all with Custer; or would you do just as Custer did?
Q. You think he could have whipped them that way?
A. He would have had a better chance. Some would have been killed, but not all. Custer was reckless. Instead of Custer going ahead and starting at the same time as Reno, Custer held back and did not start until he saw Reno fighting. That was poor generalship. We do not cut up our command when we fight and say "While you wait I will fight, and while I wait you will fight." If he had gone right down, there were plenty of places to ford [the Little Bighorn] just as well as at Reno Junction. I have been with other officers of the Army and they attacked differently than Custer did. It did not look right. It was just as if he [Custer] said, "Reno, you go ahead and let them whip you and then I will go ahead and they will whip me." Only seven who crossed the river with Reno came out alive.
A. He looked over and said, "These people are troublesome and bother the Crows and the white people. I am going to teach them a lesson today. I am going to whip them and I will build a fort at the junction where the Little Horn flows into the Big Horn and you Crows may live in peace." He said he would finish the Sioux trouble.
Q. Did the Scouts think there were too many Indians for Custer to fight?
A. Yes; from Garryowen down the valley were camps and camps and camps. There was a big camp in a circle near the west hills.
Q. How many warriors?
A. I would say between 4000 and 5000, maybe more. You can ask Curley about that if you care to do so.
Q. Why did you leave Reno?
A. Because I could get no water and I wanted to go down and get some water.
Q. Were the Sioux on this side?
A. No; north, west and south. Only a few were on the east and I had a chance to get away.
Q. Who was with you?
A. Hairy Moccasin and Goes Ahead.
Q. Did you walk?
A. No; we were on horseback.
Q. Was it light or dark?
A. It was just about sundown. It must have been about 8:00 o'clock.
A. I do not know. The Arapahoes told me Curley went as far as the Junction (Rosebud and Yellowstone).
AT THE SITE OF THE LODGE WHERE THE SIOUX WAS BURIED.
White Man Runs Him: says "the lodge was not burned by the scouts but by the soldiers."
AT RENO'S BATTLEFIELD.
Q. Where did the Sioux go when General Terry came up?
A. They went up the Little Horn River.
Q. Did you find any dead bodies and evidence?
A. I was not here then.
Q. Where did you last see Custer here?
A. Over there when he was going down the draw where he made his first charge.
Q. Where did Reno go around the flat at the left of the divide?
A. Out across the river at the mouth of Reno Creek near the present Spear Camp.
Q. Where did he dismount first?
A. Just over the divide near the woods in the valley.
Q. Where did he cross coming back?
A. No particular place. The soldiers stampeded and they scattered coming back. They crossed at the foot of the bluffs.
Q. Can you see where he fortified himself?
Q. Where was Custer when you saw Reno come across?
A. Over the divide to the right of the first entrenchment. Custer saw the camp from the highest point on the ridge to the right of the first intrenchment. He just saw Reno going down the valley but did not see him come back.
A. The Sioux met Reno's command where Garryowen now is.
Q. Where did he cross coming back?
A. I do not know. I was not there to see them.
Q. Did you see a negro with them? [Isaiah Dorman]
A. He was killed on the other side of the river.
White Man Runs Him:
Curley left us up on Reno Creek. I do not like to quarrel with Curley, but that is the truth.
AT THE MOUTH OF CUSTER CREEK OR MEDICINE TAIL CREEK, 4 MILES FROM RENO'S INTRENCHMENT.
Q. How far down here did Custer get?
A. Right down to the river
Q. How far did they come?
A. They came down the ravine to the river here and started back.
Q. What did the scouts do then? Where was Mitch Boyer?
A. He was on that point there.
Q. Where was Curley?
A. He was back on the ridge.
Q. Where did you go then?
A. I went back.
A. Mitch Boyer said "You go back; I am going down to Custer."
Q. Did you see Reno go up on the bluffs then?
A. No. I saw him fighting across the river but didn't know he had retreated back to the bluffs.
Q. When Custer came down here could he hear the shooting over there?
A. Didn't pay much attention; everybody around us was shooting and no one could tell the place where most of the firing was done.
Crow Agency, Mont., August 25, 1919.
I hereby certify that the foregoing account is correct as told by the two scouts on August 24, 1919.
(Sig.) Russell White Bear
I hereby certify that the foregoing account in sixteen pages is as interpreted by Russell White Bear on August 24, 1919
(Sig.) Angela Buell
The Custer Myth: A Source Book of Custerania, written and compiled by Colonel W.A. Graham, The Stackpole Co., Harrisburg, PA 1953, p 14 - 18
This eye-witness account of the Battle of the Little Bighorn by White Man Runs Him, who was one of the four Crow scouts who rode with Custer down Medicine Tail Coulee just before Custer was killed, is important because it establishes that Custer tried to charge across the Little Bighorn to attack the Indian village at the very beginning of the Custer fight.
White Man Runs Him said, "Custer tried to cross the river at the mouth of Medicine Tail Creek, but was unable to do so. This was the last we saw Custer." White Man Runs Him later added, "I know for sure that Custer went right to the river bank. I saw him go that far. The Sioux were right across the river."
When Custer led the Seventh Cavalry's charge across the Little Bighorn to attack the Indian village moments later, Oglala Sioux warrior White Cow Bull said he shot an officer out of the saddle mid-river, and saw him fall into the water, which brought the charge to a sudden and immediate halt, as the American troopers all gathered around the spot where he had fallen.
White Cow Bull didn't know it at the time, but his description of this officer -- wearing buckskin and riding a sorrel horse with four white socks -- can only be George A. Custer. See Who Killed Custer -- The Eye-Witness Answer for more info...
* * *
All the Indians -- friendly and hostile -- were very guarded about what they said about the battle to the Americans, which is understandable given the Americans' murderous history. But a full and candid account of the battle as the Crow scouts observed it is contained in the story told by Pretty Shield, who was the wife of Goes Ahead and the neice of Half Yellow Face, leader of the Crow scouts. Pretty Shield fills in the blanks left in the accounts of Goes Ahead, Hairy Moccasin and White Man Runs Him.
For more information on Custer's scouts, please see The Twisted Saga of the Unsung Seventh Cavalry Scouts.
-- Bruce Brown