Bruce Brown's 100 Voices...
Young Hawk's Story of the Battle
THE ARMY was on the little knoll at the foot of the hill, they were met by Custer's party from the high butte. Considerable excitement among the scouts was to be seen. They wondered what Custer would say when he heard that the Dakotas knew of his approach. The scouts from the hill had told them of the six Dakotas. When the scouts saw Custer coming down they began to group themselves according to tribes, Arikara, Crows, etc. The Arikara grouped themselves about the older men who spoke to the younger men as is the custom of the tribe. Stabbed spoke to the young men and Custer gave the instructions here to the scouts through [Fred] Gerard. He said: "Boys, I want you to take the horses away from the Sioux camp." Then Stabbed told the Arikara scouts to obey Custer's instructions and to try and take away as many horses as possible. Custer continued: "Make up your minds to go straight to their camp and capture their horses. Boys, you are going to have a hard day, you must keep up your courage, you will get experience today." On the top of the ridge the bugle sounded for the unfurling of the flag (this is what Gerard told the scouts). This caused great excitement, all made ready, girths were tightened, loads were made light. Another bugle sounded and Custer ordered the scouts forward. They went down the dry coulee and when about half way to the high ridge at the right, Young Hawk saw a group of scouts at the lower end of the ridge peering over toward the lone tepee. The scouts he was with slowed up as the others came toward them. Then behind them they heard a call from Gerard. He said to them: "The Chief says for you to run." At this Strikes Two gave the warwhoop and called back: "What are we doing?" and rode on. At this we all whooped and Strikes Two reached the lone tepee first and struck it with his whip. Then Young Hawk came. He got off on the north side of the tepee, took a knife from his belt, pierced the tent through and ran the knife down to the ground. Inside of the lone tepee he saw a scaffold, and upon it a dead body wrapped in a buffalo robe.
At the same moment he saw by him on horseback, Red Star. All of the scouts rode around to the north side of the tent at full speed and turned into the dry coulee just beyond the tepee. A little further down they overtook the white soldiers and all rode on mixed together. The best mounted scouts kept up with the hard riding soldiers, others straggled behind. They crossed at the mouth of a dry coulee through a prairie dog village, turned sharp to the right, and Young Hawk saw across the Little Bighorn on the west side, Red Star, Goose, Boy Chief, and Red Bear. Young Hawk had a bunch of loose eagle feathers, he unbraided his hair and brought it forward on his head and tied it in with the eagle feathers. He expected to be killed and scalped by the Dakotas. Turning sharp to the right the battle began at about the spot where the prairie dog village stands. The first fighting began as skirmishing in front of the line. Behind the ridge at the left he could see the Dakotas circling in and swarming about. The soldiers and the scouts dismounted, the horses were held in groups behind the line. The soldiers formed in-line toward the right, the scouts at the left out toward the ridge, while far to the left on a slant were scattered scouts. Bob-tailed Bull was farthest at the left and nearest the ridge. In front of the line rode the Dakotas skirmishing back and forth. Young Hawk moved toward the right and took his position there. He saw the following scouts in order: Red Bear, Little Brave, Forked Horn, Red Foolish Bear, Goose, Big Belly (Crow) and Strikes Enemy (Crow). The last scout to the left was Bob-tailed Bull, far out beyond the others. Young Hawk stood between Goose and Big Belly. Behind them all, on the Little Bighorn, there appeared Bloody Knife. "He came right toward me and I looked up and noticed his dress. He had on the black handkerchief with blue stars on it given him by Custer. He wore a bear's claw with a clam shell on it." Bloody Knife spoke to Young Hawk, calling out: "What Custer has ordered about the Sioux horses is being done, the horses are being taken away." Then Bloody Knife passed on back of the line and took his stand by Little Brave. The battle got stronger and the line curved back toward the river. Many of the soldiers were killed and they began to fall back. One Dakota charged the soldiers very closely and was shot about sixteen feet from the line. He rode a sorrel horse with a bald face and his tail was tied [up] with a piece of red cloth. [Note: this may have been the Sioux warrior Horned Dog.]
When the Dakota fell, the horse kept on coming toward the soldiers, and Young Hawk took the horse. He said: "I yelled to Red Bear that I wanted to give him the horse I had captured, and for him to come where I was." Red Bear did not come to take the horse. A Crow Indian, Big Belly, came and said "My brother, I want this horse, give him to me."
Big Belly was Young Hawk's friend and his other name was Half-Yellow-Face. He took this Dakota horse, let his own horse go, as it was a very poor one, and jumped on the back of the Dakota horse. All this time the Dakotas had been collecting back of the ridge nearest to Bob-tailed Bull. All at once over the middle of the ridge came riding a dense swarm of Dakotas in one mass straight toward Bob-tailed Bull. At the same moment a white soldier standing nearest to Young Hawk turned to him and cried: "John, you go!" The Dakota attack doubled up the line from the left and pushed this line back toward the soldiers. They all retreated back across the river lower down about two miles. They retreated across the flat and up the bluff on a long diagonal up the steep bank, which was hard climbing. The soldiers were the first to retreat across the river. Of the scouts two Crows were ahead, Half-Yellow-Face and Strikes-Enemy, then followed Red Foolish Bear and Forked Horn and then Goose and Young Hawk. When Young Hawk got back to the timber, before crossing the river, he heard Forked Horn call: "Let's get off and make a stand." He did this on account of Bob-tailed Bull who was hard pushed by the pursuing Dakotas and had fallen back nearly to the ford used by the soldiers. Young Hawk thought this was a general signal for the scouts and jumped off his horse and Goose followed him, also, in making the stand. They did not stop their horses, but leaped off as they were running and both shot at the Dakotas. At the crossing where the soldiers forded the river Bob-tailed Bull got over the river. The charging Dakotas turned sharply as the scouts fired at them and rode back. Young Hawk intended to fire again, but as he opened the breech of the gun he dropped his shell. The four scouts, Half-Yellow-Face, Strikes Enemy, Red Foolish Bear, and Forked Horn rode into the brush and over the river still lower down less than one-eighth of a mile. Goose and Young Hawk followed them through the brush and crossed the river where the water was deep and the brush grew very thick on the opposite bank and the horses struggled hard before getting to land. They took refuge in a thick grove of trees just across the river. The Dakotas were riding on all sides of them by this time. Here Young Hawk found the other four scouts who had ridden ahead, he did not know they were there.
All of the scouts had their horses in this grove. The Dakotas saw them ride in and began firing at them through the trees as they crouched there on horseback. He and Goose stood facing each other, then he heard a sound like a sigh and Goose groaned and called to him: "Cousin, I am wounded." Young Hawk said: "When I heard this my heart did not tremble with fear but I made up my mind I would die this day." Goose showed him his wound, his right hand was badly shot. Then Young Hawk took off the cartridge belt belonging to Goose and put it on himself, as he stood by the horse on the ground. He told Goose to get off his horse and he helped him dismount. Then Young Hawk was seized with rage. He took off his coat and army blouse and made ready to fight for his life. Just as Goose dismounted his horse was shot down. Young Hawk put Goose against a tree and told him to hold his horse. Goose had a revolver in his belt. Just then Young Hawk saw Half-Yellow Face crawling toward him. He said, "My friend is being killed, he is just on the edge of the thicket." Young Hawk went with him crawling on hands and feet to where the Crow scout lay on his back with his hands up. The two scouts took him by his arms and dragged him back to where Goose sat with his back against a tree. He was Strikes Enemy or White Swan (Crow). He told them he was not afraid and that he was glad he was wounded. Young Hawk said: "The sight of the wounded men gave me queer feelings, I did not want to see them mutilated, so I decided to get killed myself at the edge of the timber. Before going out I put my arms about my horse's neck, saying, `I love you.' I then crawled out and stood up and saw all in front of me Sioux warriors kneeling ready to shoot. I fired at them and received a volley, but was not hit. I was determined to try again and get killed, so I crawled out to the edge of the timber in a new place, jumped up and fired again and received a volley, but I dropped out of sight before I was hit. Then I saw near me a tree with driftwood piled against it, making a very good protection and behind it I found Forked Horn lying face down to avoid being shot." When Forked Horn saw that it was Young Hawk who had drawn the fire of the Dakotas the second time, he scolded him, saying, "Don't you do so again, it is no way to act. This is not the way to fight at all, to show yourself as a mark." The Dakotas tried to burn the scouts out but the grass was too green to burn. Young Hawk sat still for a time after being scolded by Forked Horn and the Dakotas came closer, one on a gray horse came very close indeed. Young Hawk fired and missed him, then he jumped up and shot again, killing him.
The horse had on a very handsome bridle with very beautiful trimming and after the Dakota was shot and fell the horse kept circling to the left, probably because he was tied by a lariat to the body of the Dakota. Young Hawk fired twice at the horse and at last killed him. As the horse fell, Young Hawk gave the Arikara yell which is always given at the death of an enemy. Goose saw the horse fall and he called Young Hawk to get the fine bridle for him. Young Hawk said, "Some little time after this the Sioux came closer again and I saw one Sioux coming right toward me and I drew a fine bead on him and dropped him, then I jumped up and gave the death call again." While this was going on several Dakota women rode up and gave the woman's yell urging on the warriors to kill all the Arikara. He heard them in many places about the bushes where he lay hiding, then they went away with the others. Some time before noon he noticed that the Dakota attack was slackening and he saw them begin to ride off down stream, which made him think that Custer's attack had begun at the lower ford. They could see many Dakotas crossing the river farther up and riding down past them to the north. He said: "After the shooting had slackened, I stood up and looked around. On the ridge above me on the highest point I saw a United States flag." Forked Horn then said to Young Hawk: "My grandson, you have shown yourself the bravest. The flag you have seen up there shows where the pack-train is which we were to meet and we must try now and reach it." Custer had instructed them what to do, so as not to be mistaken for the Dakotas. So Young Hawk cut a stick and tied his white handkerchief on it. They tried to put Strikes Enemy on a horse; his leg was pierced by a shot and his right hand also. They were able to put him on his own horse and Goose was mounted on the horse of Red Foolish Bear, who himself went on foot. Young Hawk rode ahead with the white flag. They rode down the stream half way the length of the ridge and as they climbed up the slope they saw the Dakotas riding back on the east side of the ridge toward the white camp. The Custer fight was over and the Dakotas completely covered the hill where the soldiers had made their last stand and were swarming toward him and beginning to fire. The rest of the party turned back down the hill. Goose took Red Foolish Bear up with him and they rode back the entire length of the ridge and up at the other end into the white camp. Young Hawk remained behind and the Dakotas chased him along the ridge. He held to his white flag, waving it in front of him. The soldiers fired over him at the enemy and the Dakotas fired at him. A few rods from the camp his horse was shot down but he scrambled to his feet still carrying his white flag and ran into the camp. The first man he saw was his chief of scouts, Peaked Face (Varnum). The pack-train was there and the survivors from the fight on the Little Bighorn [Reno and Benteen's troops]. Then he met the officer in charge and he was glad to see Young Hawk, his face showed it. He signed to Young Hawk that the sergeant (Bob-tailed Bull) was killed and that his horse was in camp there. [Note: here is Cheyenne warrior Little Hawk's description of Bob-Tailed Bull's death.]
Young Hawk saw the spotted horse which belonged to Little Brave and he caught it for he had no horse of his own and he thought Little Brave must be dead. Meanwhile the Dakotas were coming up and riding around them. The other scouts who had left him now rode into the camp. Then the whole party retreated into a ravine near by. Here the Dakotas attacked them and the shooting made a continuous roar on both sides, soldiers and horses were killed very fast. Then the Dakotas worked around at the right and began firing into the ravine at one end. The soldiers threw up breastworks across the open end of the ravine, consisting of cracker boxes, bags of bacon, etc. Young Hawk was not one of the party that built these breastworks, but he took a cracker box and put it in front of himself as he lay on the ground. The Dakotas were on every side, firing into the ravine, they came very close, crouching in lines on all sides. The guns made such a noise that nothing else could be heard. The wounded men were dragged up to the breastworks as the safest place. This heavy firing went on without a . break until it was dark. When it grew dark they began to take up the wounded and to place the dead at one side. They all stayed up until morning watching for the Dakotas and just at dawn a few shots were fired at them. Then the fight began again with heavy firing as before and this went on until late afternoon. All the scouts were together on the side next to where the Dakotas came from and nearest to the ridge. During the first afternoon an officer came to the scouts, saying a message was to be carried after dark. Forked Horn said, "All right." The officer told Goose he could not go for he was wounded and that each scout was to carry the same message. Later he came again and brought with him a sergeant and told them that this man was to go with them so that in case all the scouts were killed he could tell what the conditions were in the camp. Goose said he would go, too, although his hand was wounded; if they were killed, he wanted all to be killed. The officer told the scouts they were to carry the message out to the President of the United States, in order that all might know what had happened. They were told that they could ride government horses since they were faster than their own. Each one was to ride hard and pay no attention to anyone else who might be shot by the Dakotas. If anyone fell wounded or shot he was to pull out the paper with the message on it and leave it on the ground so that when the soldiers came they could learn what had happened and where the camp was. Then Forked Horn said that the government horses were shod and he wanted the shoes taken off so they could run better. When the messages were written for each of the scouts, the two Crow scouts stayed behind, one was wounded and the other stayed to care for him. The scouts who had the messages to carry were Goose, Forked Horn, Red Foolish Bear, Young Hawk, and the white sergeant. When it was dark they followed the ravine out but there the Dakotas fired on them and they all ran back. Meanwhile the Dakotas were coming up and riding around them. The other scouts who had left him now rode into the camp. Then the whole party retreated into a ravine near by (something like the ravine adjoining the house of Bears Belly, at the northwest between the graveyard and the telephone line). Here the Dakotas attacked them and the shooting made a continuous roar on both sides, soldiers and horses were killed very fast. Then the Dakotas worked around at the right and began firing into the ravine at one end. The soldiers threw up breastworks across the open end of the ravine, consisting of cracker boxes, bags of bacon, etc. Young Hawk was not one of the party that built these breastworks, but he took a cracker box and put it in front of himself as he lay on the ground. The Dakotas were on every side, firing into the ravine, they came very close, crouching in lines on all sides. The guns made such a noise that nothing else could be heard. The wounded men were dragged up to the breastworks as the safest place. This heavy firing went on without a break until it was dark. When it grew dark they began to take up the wounded and to place the dead at one side. They all stayed up until morning watching for the Dakotas and just at dawn a few shots were fired at them. Then the fight began again with heavy firing as before and this went on until late in the afternoon.,", All the scouts were together on the side next to where the Dakotas came from and nearest to the ridge. During the first afternoon an officer came to the scouts, saying, a message was to be carried after dark. Forked Horn said, "All right." The officer told Goose he could not go for he was wounded and that each scout was to carry the same message. Later he came again and brought with him a sergeant and told them that this man was to go with them so that in case all the scouts were killed he could tell what the conditions were in the camp. Goose said he would go, too, although his hand was wounded; if they were killed, he wanted all to be killed. The officer told the scouts they were to carry the message out to the President of the United States, in order that all might know what had happened. They were told that they could ride government horses since they were faster than their own. Each one was to ride hard and pay no attention to anyone else who might be shot by the Dakotas. If anyone fell wounded or shot he was to pull out the paper with the message on it and leave it on the ground so that when the soldiers came they could The officer told them to stay until morning and start again. They stayed there all night and in the morning the Dakotas began firing again as hard as ever, the guns were going very rapidly (Young Hawk showed how the guns sounded by clapping his hands as fast as possible). Then he heard in the midst of the firing on the farther side of the ravine, the south side, not fifty yards away and very close to the soldiers, a Dakota warrior call out and give the Dakota song for a charge. The words were: "Come on, white man, come on, if you are brave, we are ready for you." As soon as he had done singing, all the Dakotas seemed to disappear suddenly and the firing stopped."' Then the soldiers and scouts all got up and in every direction they saw the Dakotas retreating all on horseback toward their camp over the ridge down to the dry coulee. He saw no wounded or dead being carried off. When they climbed the ridge they could see the Dakotas in groups retreating down toward the dry coulee, all on horseback. This was now about noon. The Dakotas got to their village and the tents went down in a hurry. They thought that the Dakotas might camp where they were before. The Dakotas then moved toward the ford and reached the prairie dog village near the ford, only five tents were standing on their camping place. But the Dakotas passed the ford and went into the timber along the Little Big Horn above the ford. Then smoke began to come up as from a camp. They could see the trees above which the smoke rose. As they watched, off past the old Dakota camp to the west was a ridge over two miles away and here they saw a band or body of people moving over the ridge and down toward the Dakota camp. They thought it was a band of Dakotas returning to camp from hunting. Then the party approached the five Dakota tents and they rode about among them. The commanding officer said to Young Hawk and Forked Horn "They are the white men who were coming to help us. Saddle up and go to them." So these two scouts rode to meet them down the ridge to the west and across the Custer ford until they were quite near to the party. Then they saw that they were whites and they rode back again.
The soldiers in the party were busy stripping off the buckskin shirts from the bodies of the dead Dakotas there and taking their ear-rings. When the scouts got back they told the officer through the interpreter, Gerard, that the party were white men. The officer, Varnum, said that these were the white men whom they were expecting to come and help them. It was not right that Custer went ahead, he ought to have waited. The officer then said: "Now let us go and look for Custer's body." Then Forked Horn, Red-Foolish-Bear, Goose, Young Hawk, and Gerard, Varnum, and some soldiers (the Dakotas called one of these soldiers Jack Drum Beater, probably a white drummer) went down to look for Custer's body. They went north along the ridge and followed Custer's trail across a low soft place or coulee east of the hill called Custer's last stand. On the other side of the ravine they began to find dead soldiers lying with a few dead horses. When they came to the flat-topped hill where Custer fell, the officer, through Gerard, told the scouts to go off east on the hill and watch for the Dakotas lest they come back to attack them. Lying all over the hill Young Hawk saw dead horses of the Dakotas and of the whites and also many bodies of the soldiers, lying stripped. He also saw the circle breastwork made of dead horses on top of the hill. Here Young Hawk took a piece of bearskin from the saddle of a buckskin horse and then shot the horse because he was very angry at the Dakotas for the death of Custer. He did not take the trappings from the horse because he could see from them that the horse was much beloved by its owner. Varnum told them through the interpreter that when they found Custer's body the bugle would call and Gerard would go and tell the scouts that they had found his body. The scouts had not been long on the hill watching (a little more than half a mile away) when they heard the bugle sound the reveille and Gerard came to tell them that Custer's body had been found. When he told them this they came back to camp, the sun was near the horizon and they were very hungry. The commanding officer said: "Let's go to the village and follow along up the river through where the Sioux camped. " The soldiers at the camp had been placing the dead in rows in preparation for the burial. They crossed lower down than where they had first crossed, a good watering place, right below Custer's hill (probably the Custer ford). The body of Bloody Knife lay a little back from the brush near the ford. He saw evidence of fighting from the Custer hill clear to the river by the dead horses, though he saw no bodies of soldiers. The five tepees in the deserted Dakota camp were thrown down and some of the bodies stripped by the soldiers they had seen there. They went on to the Dakota camp and found the body of a dead Dakota lying on a tanned buffalo hide. Young Hawk recognized this warrior as one who had been a scout at Fort Lincoln, Chat-ka. He had on a white shirt, the shoulders were painted green, and on his forehead, painted in red, was the sign of a secret society. In the middle of the camp they found a drum and on one side lying on a blanket was a row of dead Dakotas with their feet toward the drum. Young Hawk supposed that a tent had covered them, with the entrance to the tent at the side opposite where the dead bodies lay, that is, at the holy or back side of the tent. When alive these braves would sit on the other side and drum. This drum was cut up and slashed. Farther on they found three more groups of dead Dakotas lying on canvas, buffalo hides, or blankets at the back side of where the tent had stood, that is, opposite the opening. All the fine buckskin shirts they had worn as well as beads and ear-rings had been stripped off by the soldiers. These groups of bodies were two, three, or four. In this camp they found evidence of great haste, bedding thrown away, bundles of dried meat dropped, etc. Young Hawk picked up a paunch of pemmican and put it on his horse. Then they rode on to where the fight first began and on the west side of the river they found the mule drivers camped. On the prairie dog village at the end of the bushes they found the negro, Isaiah, [Isaiah Dorman] lying dead; he was a Dakota interpreter enlisted at Fort Lincoln. The Dakotas had left a kettle full of his own blood close by his head and the body was very much mutilated. Further on they found one of the Arikara scouts; the body was stripped, the head pounded to pieces, and a willow branch was thrust into his chest, the leafy part outside. They went on to the mule camp, and there they had supper, for it was nearly dark. While in camp Young Hawk volunteered to go with Forked Horn to the deserted Dakota camp for dried meat. They went on horseback through the dark and at the end of the camp he saw lying on the ground a long dark bundle. He cut it open and found it to be meat and he selected the widest pieces to take back with him. At this camp they met a white man (one of those who had come with Gibbon's command) and he had taken from the Dakota camp a stick with a scalp on it. He asked the scouts if this were a Dakota scalp and when they looked at it they recognized from the gray hair that it was the scalp of Bloody Knife, since he was the only one with hair slightly gray. The white man said the scalp was hanging from a stick standing by the body of a dead Dakota in the deserted camp. The scouts told the white man to throw it away since it was an Arikara scalp but he said: "No, if it is Bloody Knife's scalp, I will keep it for my father knew him and I will show it to him." He said he was sorry that Bloody Knife was killed and that his father would be sorry to hear it, too. He had captured twenty-five Dakota ponies which he said he would give to the Arikara scouts. His father was a well-to-do man, well known in the West, whom the Arikara called Woolly-Back, and he was at one time commandant of a post on the Yellowstone. At this post Bloody Knife once acted as guide and hunter for him and he thought, a good deal of him. Young Hawk selected for himself a black pony from the Dakota ponies the white man had captured.
In the morning they looked after the dead. Young Hawk saw one of the soldiers standing near the bank. He went close and the soldier told him to go into the river and get out the body of the dead soldier there. There were no bushes on the bank here; this was about the place where the soldiers retreated across two days earlier. He took off his clothes and went into the water nearly to his armpits. The dead soldier lay on the water, head down, and his back was out of the water; he had on trousers but no coat or shirt. It seemed to Young Hawk that the Dakotas on the other side had pulled this much of his clothes off and left him there. He and the soldier pulled the body up on the land and left it and went further up the bank. Then Young Hawk met the rest of the scouts and they agreed to go where Bob-tailed Bull was chased by the Dakotas. They found the place where he went over the bank and there they saw four leafy branches of willow sticking up in the stream. The water was shallow here and they wondered to see the willow branches there. Then they went up to a better crossing; the water was up to their hips when they crossed over. They came down on the right bank, seeing two dead soldiers stripped, all the way to the brush and there, in the edge of the brush, was the body of a sergeant (they called him "Sarge"). The soldiers followed and placed the bodies straight. The scouts went into the bushes and found their coats where they had left them on the day of the fight and they put them on. They went on but found no more dead soldiers and crossed back again at a watering place for horses. As they came up the bank they found a soldier standing there and he said: "Here is one scout lying in the bushes." They could not tell who the scout was because his face and head were all pounded to pieces, but they think it was the body of Bloody Knife. Then they all got together and Gerard told them that the soldiers were going to cut poles for horse travois for carrying all the wounded.
In the morning they looked after the dead. Young Hawk saw one of the soldiers standing near the bank. He went close and the soldier told him to go into the river and get out the body of the dead soldier there. There were no bushes on the bank here; this was about the place where the soldiers retreated across two days earlier. He took off his clothes and went into the water nearly to his armpits. The dead soldier lay on the water, head down, and his back was out of the water; he had on trousers but no coat or shirt. It seemed to Young Hawk that the Dakotas on the other side had pulled this much of his clothes off and left him there. He and the soldier pulled the body up on the land and left it and went further up the bank. Then Young Hawk met the rest of the scouts and they agreed to go where Bob-tailed Bull was chased by the Dakotas. They found the place where he went over the bank and there they saw four leafy branches of willow sticking up in the stream. The water was shallow here and they wondered to see the willow branches there. Then they went up to a better crossing; the water was up to their hips when they crossed over. They came down on the right bank, seeing two dead soldiers stripped, all the way to the brush and there, in the edge of the brush, was the body of a sergeant (they called him "Sarge"). The soldiers followed and placed the bodies straight. The scouts went into the bushes and found their coats where they had left them on the day of the fight and they put them on. They went on but found no more dead soldiers and crossed back again at a watering place for horses. As they came up the bank they found a soldier standing there and he said: "Here is one scout lying in the bushes." They could not tell who the scout was because his face and head were all pounded to pieces, but they think it was the body of Bloody Knife. Then they all got together and Gerard told them that the soldiers were going to cut poles for horse travois for carrying all the wounded. Goose said that they had better do it for him, too, for his hand was wounded. Red Foolish Bear began to fix a travois for Goose for riding jarred his wounded hand. The white soldiers collected the ten poles from the abandoned Dakota camp for the travois and the scouts wondered how they would use them. Two of the poles were lashed to the sides of two mules, one mule at each end of the poles, making mule litters. Over these poles suspended between the mules were lashed army blankets, and upon these blankets the wounded were laid. A soldier walked at the head of each mule. Young Hawk took care of Goose himself, dressing his wound and bringing him food and drink. Gerard told the scouts that they were to follow the Little Big Horn and then the Big Horn River down to the mouth of the Yellowstone or Elk River, and there would be a steamboat waiting for the wounded." The march was very slow and wounded suffered very much. Young Hawk led the pony which dragged the travois upon which Goose lay. At last they reached the Elk River and saw the steamboat waiting for them near the shore with soldiers on board. Young Hawk put Goose and his property near the wheel, for the deck was covered. The Crow scout, White Swan, was helped on board by his companions. The soldiers and scouts, who were not wounded, marched down the south side of the Yellowstone and camped there. The next day they saw a soldier-camp across the river. Some of the Arikara scouts had brought mail to this camp as the boat had arrived already. Here Goose saw Horns-in-Front, Young Hawk's father, and told him that his son was coming down the river. Horns-in-Front took Goose off the boat, unwrapped his wounded hand and washed it for him. It was very badly swollen and Goose said he was getting no attention at all on the boat. The Arikara scouts who brought the mail heard that their comrades were coming down on the other side so they crossed to the south bank and met them as they came along. Young Hawk jumped off his Dakota horse and placed the bridle in his father's hand for the horse was the gift to his father. His father was very glad to see him alive and embraced him as he used to do when he was little. The soldiers and scouts all crossed the Yellowstone to camp. The soldiers from the battlefield were in great disorder, some were hatless, others wore dirty and bloody clothing.
The Arikara Narrative of Custer's Campaign against the Hostile Dakotas, June 1876, edited by Orin Grant Libby, State Historical Society of North Dakota, Bismark, ND 1920 p 94 - 115
For more information on Custer's scouts, please see The Twisted Saga of the Unsung Seventh Cavalry Scouts.