Sting of the Bee: A Day-By-Day Account of Wounded Knee and the Sioux Outbreak of 1890 – 1891 as Recorded in the Omaha Bee


Honey is sweet, but the bee stings.
Gnomologia: Adagies and Proverbs, 1732

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I am proud to introduce my first publication, Sting of the Bee: A Day-By-Day Account of Wounded Knee and the Sioux Outbreak of 1890 – 1891 as Recorded in the Omaha Bee, from Russell Martial Research.

Following is the back cover description and an abridged version of my introduction to the compilation.

Wounded Knee, as it was first reported, and, as you’ve never read it.
A sensational contemporary view of the events surrounding the Sioux outbreak of 1890 and 1891 that violently climaxed at Wounded Knee, South Dakota.
These articles from the Omaha Bee represent some of the most widely read and published correspondence of that sanguinary winter. Until now, Will Cressey’s on-scene dispatches have never appeared under a single cover.
Step back 125 years into the past and experience the exhilaration and anguish that was the sting of the Bee.

The language of the day was harsh and reflects the strong views that many Americans held of the native tribes following more than two and a half centuries of persistent conflict with the indigenous communities that first occupied the continent. To our twenty-first century sensibilities, the articles and commentary are replete with racist and visceral remarks that provide an unvarnished perspective of life in the Midwest at the closing chapter of conflict with the American Indian. These news reports are provided to the western historian, Americana scholar, and Indian wars enthusiast as an unfiltered glimpse into an American tragedy that unfolded on the front pages of papers from the Atlantic to the Pacific a century and a quarter ago.

The headlines of 1890 newspapers demonstrate a progressive nation moving rapidly toward the twentieth century. The United States federal census that year revealed that the country had swelled to almost sixty-three million people, adding twenty-four million new residents over the previous decade, a sixty percent growth in just ten years. America’s population boom was due in large measure to emigration from Europe and Asia. Well over nine million people—almost fifteen percent of the total population—were foreign born in 1890. The nation’s eleventh census boasted, “A century of progress and achievement unequaled in the world’s history.” It went on to say, “The century has witnessed our development into a great and powerful nation; it has witnessed the spread of settlement across the continent,” and has seen lands redeemed “from the wilderness and brought into the service of man.”[1]

However, an undeniable reality was that the country’s native populations were in steady decline. By some estimates, American Indian numbers had dwindled from 600,000 at the beginning of the century to less than 230,000 by 1890, a period that saw the nation’s population explode from just five million to more than twelve times that number. The once dominant race of peoples on the continent was, under the reservation system, arguably the most marginalized minority.[2]

1890 saw Republican President Benjamin Harrison, who inaugurated the custom of displaying the American flag daily on all federal buildings, unfurl a new forty-three-star spangled banner on the Fourth of July, adding five white stars for the states of North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Washington, and Idaho. Wyoming entered the Union a week later as the forty-fourth state, the first with women’s suffrage. Patriotism also soared with the formation of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution.[3]

In contrast, the Lakota peoples saw the renewed patriotic fervor in the form of further encroachment on their lands. In early 1890, President Harrison opened to settlement what remained of the Great Sioux Reservation in North and South Dakota, with boomers and townsite companies snapping up the choicest acreage. Many of the Northwestern tribes saw the Great Father continuing to take more of their lands, eliminating their way of life, and leaving little to sustain a basic existence.[4]

On the front of social and economic equality, 1890 saw the new Republican administration hire the first female White House staffer, Indiana stenographer Alice B. Sanger. New York City, home to more than one and a half million people, saw the formation of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs fostering the improvement of lives through volunteerism. Pennsylvania native and New York World journalist, Elizabeth Cochrane, gained fame under the pseudonym of Nellie Bly when she traveled around the world in seventy-two days, hailed as being eight days quicker than Jules Verne’s character, Phileas Fogg. In the District of Columbia, Susan B. Anthony headed up the newly unified National American Woman Suffrage Association. While at Chicago, Illinois, the National Afro-American League, a precursor to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, was formed to promote racial solidarity and self-help. Columbus, Ohio, saw the formation of the United Mine Workers of America dedicated to adequate wages and safer working conditions for the nation’s coal miners.[5]

Meanwhile, in the Midwest, for the second consecutive summer, drought parched the plains between the Missouri River and the Rocky Mountains. The sun scorched what little crops the Lakota were able to grow in the alkali-tainted lands. Congress cut the Sioux appropriation by $100,000 that year after having reduced the beef issue by twenty percent the previous year, issuing a million pounds less from 1888 to 1889. According to the 1876 treaty with the Sioux, the Indians at the Standing Rock Agency alone were shorted over 485,000 pounds of beef, more than 760,000 pounds of corn, and over 280,000 pounds of flour in the fiscal year of 1890. Compounding the shortages, the hearty cattle raised in the southwest lost as much as forty percent of their body mass from the time they were sold to the government until they were issued to the Indians at the reservation agencies in the Dakotas. Failed crops, reduced rations, and fewer and smaller beef issues were leading the Lakota nation down a path to starvation.[6]

In late summer 1890, Congress took measures to restrict monopolies and cartels by passing the Sherman Antitrust Act. This law was aimed at some of the world’s wealthiest businessmen, the robber barons of the Gilded Age. They were men like Standard Oil’s John D. Rockefeller, steel magnate Andrew Carnegie, railroad tycoons Cornelius Vanderbilt and Jay Gould, and the timber industry’s Friedrich Weyerhauser.[7]

In the Dakotas, what few jobs that were available on the reservations were doled out mainly to white men that had connections to the Indian agents, who, appointed under the home-rule policy, were little more than local politicians rewarded with their appointment for garnering votes for the incumbent party. The progressive American way of life offered no progress to its original inhabitants. Facing starvation with no jobs, no income, and little hope for carving out a niche in the land of the free, the Lakota saw only a barren future. Many western Indian tribes turned to the belief in a messiah that would deliver them from their plight and restore them to their heyday.[8]

1890 headlines of American sports saw the Brooklyn Dodgers, known as the Bridegrooms, win the National League championship a year after they won the American Association title, the only club to win back to back titles in different leagues. John Owen, Jr., of the Detroit Athletic Club became the first man to run one hundred yards in under ten seconds, a record that stood for three decades. At West Point, New York, the Naval Academy’s midshipmen shut out the Military Academy’s cadets twenty-four to zero in the first ever Army–Navy football game. And, to the roar of 2,000 San Franciscan fans, Jack “Nonpareil” Dempsey successfully defended the world’s middle weight boxing title against Australian Billy McCarthy with a twenty-eighth-round technical knockout when Dempsey refused to continue pummeling the badly beaten McCarthy, who agreed to cede the fight.[9]

But as 1890 drew to a close, the headlines of newspapers across the country and around the world were dominated daily by enthralling reports of potential Indian outbreaks across the Dakotas, this, at a time when the nation thought war with the aboriginal peoples was a closed chapter. Americans were riveted by correspondents’ often unsubstantiated claims of horrific depredations, false reports of stunning military defeats, and ultimately the real and tragic destruction of almost an entire band of Miniconjou Lakota at the hands of the U.S. Army’s renowned 7th Cavalry Regiment along the Wounded Knee Creek. It was an event that came to define 1890 and the one-term presidency of Benjamin Harrison.

The impact of the events surrounding the Sioux reservations in November, December, and January of that winter were felt in small communities across the Dakotas and the border states of Montana, Wyoming, Minnesota, Iowa, and Nebraska. The farmers, ranchers, and settlers of the Northwest read with fascination of a mysterious Indian spiritual movement dubbed by the press as the Indian Messiah craze or the Ghost Dance religion, they read how its fanatical adherents danced themselves into a feverish pitch that could only be quenched when the white race was swallowed by the earth, and they read that those same Sioux warriors were arming themselves in greater numbers than during the height of the Great Sioux War. Those events were most widely and wildly reported in the major urban areas of the region, cities like Minneapolis, St. Paul, Bismarck, Des Moines, and Omaha.

Readers craved news of the apparent looming Indian war, and the newspapers readily obliged the public’s unquenchable thirst for any and all information from the Dakota region. The potential outbreak was front page news across the country. In Omaha, the Bee ran its first article on the new Indian religion on November 13 on page two, and followed up five days later with another report on the “New Christ” as the lead story on the upper fold of the front page. From November 18, 1890, until January 28, 1891, for all but three days, the Bee reported on the Ghost Dance religion and the Sioux outbreak. It was front page news on all but four of those days and the lead story for fifty-four days during the ten week period.

Founded by Edward Rosewater, a Jewish-Bohemian emigrant, by 1890 the Bee had been in circulation for two decades under Rosewater’s editorial management with a daily readership of just under 20,000. At forty-nine-years of age, Rosewater was in his prime as a newspaperman. He had settled in Omaha during the Civil War in 1863, four years before Nebraska became a state, when Omaha was little more than a village with a population of about 2,000. He had recently completed an enlistment with the telegraph corps in the nation’s capital, a position that saw him transmit to the world President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. Rosewater was an ardent Republican, and his self-taught mastery of the English language coupled with his telegraphic experience provided the bedrock upon which he based the newspaper he launched in 1871.[14]

Amounting to little more than a political pamphlet, Rosewater titled his publication the Bee as it provided the sweetness of honey with political sting. The Bee grew steadily, thrived throughout the West, all but supplanted the city’s other papers, and eventually was recognized as one of the foremost newspapers in the Midwest, if not the country.[15]

As Omaha grew, so too did the Bee’s readership. Located between the Missouri and Platte Rivers and just north of the confluence of those two natural shipping lanes, Omaha’s population by 1880 had almost doubled from 16,000 in 1870 to 30,000. It grew again almost five fold by 1890 with over 140,000 residents, making it the twenty-first most populous city in the country and one of the largest between the Missouri River and the Rocky Mountains. In January 1890, the Omaha Bee had a daily readership of 19,300 with its Sunday edition reaching 22,300 Nebraskans. Reporting on the Sioux outbreak clearly increased the Bee’s circulation. By January 1891 the Daily Bee’s readership was reaching over 29,000 and the Sunday Bee more than 35,000 readers, almost a fifty percent increase in one year. There was a clear spike of copies sold in the weeks following the tragedy at Wounded Knee. The sting of the Bee reached far beyond Omaha with Rosewater’s paper serving as an Associated Press outlet. As such, many of the Bee’s articles from Pine Ridge were printed in papers across the country, even in those that had their own correspondents reporting from South Dakota.[16]

Rosewater retained and increased his circulation by providing world, national, regional, state, and local news. The Daily Bee ran eight pages in length, and the Sunday Bee anywhere from twelve to twenty. He staffed his newspaper with reporters who traveled across the state, had feature writers, and regular political correspondents in Chicago, New York, and Washington. Rosewater’s success was due largely to his ability to give his readers what they demanded: sensational news reporting with captivating narrative.[17]

Some contemporaries also viewed the Bee’s reporting during the troubles in the Dakotas in the winter of 1890 and 1891 as overly dramatic. In early December, “Buckskin Jack” Russell, a former army scout and interpreter for Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, waxed poetic while taking a jab at the sensational reporting in Rosewater’s newspaper.

I have tramped the Bad Lands o’er and o’er,
And camped on Wounded Knee,
But my heart grows faint at the warriors’ paint,
And the lurid hue of the savage Sioux,
As they charge—in the Omaha Bee.[19]

The writing style in the pages of the Bee was reflective of the dime novel genre, and can be seen in the prose of papers across the country. Certainly the Bee can hardly be singled out for its sensationalism, and the fact that many of that paper’s articles in the winter of 1890 and 1891 were reprinted across the country demonstrated a shared view among editors of what news would sell. When targeted for criticism by competitors, the Bee often was paired with other papers that were equally complicit in the reporting of rumor and speculation with a flair for the melodramatic. “On Monday some of our citizens circulated for signature a protest to the Omaha Bee and World-Herald, asking them to discontinue the publication of sensational reports of the Indian troubles which have filled the columns of the Omaha papers for the past few weeks.”[20]

Rosewater provided editorial comment throughout the course of the outbreak, and early on addressed criticism that his correspondents were writing sensational stories to increase circulation. “There is more or less complaint that the reports of correspondents have given a too sensational aspect to the situation and exaggerated the danger. The best answer to this is the activity of the military authorities. General Miles, who is thoroughly familiar with the Indian character and has the best sources of information regarding the situation in the northwest, has shown by his course that he regarded the danger as very great.”[23]

The first correspondent that Rosewater dispatched to the Pine Ridge Agency, and the most widely criticized both by contemporaries and historians alike, was Charles Herbert Cressey, a thirty-three-year-old native of Cannon City, Minnesota. “Will” Cressey was the thirteenth and last child of an aging Baptist minister, Rev. Timothy R. Cressey, who died when the boy was barely a teenager. Five years younger than his closest sibling, there were only six children living at home by the time Cressey was born. During the war, his father, at the age of sixty-one, went off to serve for two years as a chaplain in the Second Regiment of Minnesota Volunteers. Later his pastorate took the family to various locations across Minnesota, Indiana, Illinois, and Iowa. Will Cressey spent his formative years in Des Moines where he graduated from high school, then attended the Chicago University for a couple of years before he began a profession as a newspaper correspondent in the early 1880s.[24]

Cressey’s ability to dig up a story where seemingly there was none was evident early in his career. A peer writing in 1891 of the then widely known Bee correspondent provided the following anecdote concerning Cressey’s start in the business when he first arrived in Omaha a decade earlier. Applying for a position at The Republican, the city editor charged Cressey with producing a story worthy of publication, a difficult job for someone unfamiliar with the city and what the paper had already covered.

Cressey saw some men digging a trench in the middle of a side street. On inquiry he found it was the beginning of Omaha’s cable car system. His news sense told him he had a good thing, and he hunted up the head of the enterprise, a kindly gentleman, who showed him the plans and filled him full of facts. The next morning his article appeared under a big head on the first page, and he has never had to ask for a position since.[25]

That Cressey could craft an engrossing article from something as mundane as men digging a trench was a skill he put to effective use at the Pine Ridge Agency in the fall and winter of 1890, particularly on days when there were few events that were newsworthy. His assignments at the Bee usually involved covering legal cases in Omaha’s courts, but that fall Rosewater sent Cressey to South Dakota to cover the potential Indian outbreak. It was Will Cressey’s pen that provided the Bee’s greatest sting that winter. His articles almost always ran on the front page and twenty-five times were the lead story of the day, reading more like a western dime novel than a serious news article. Because the Bee was an Associated Press outlet, Cressey’s stories made headlines in papers all across America making him perhaps the most published of the almost two dozen correspondents reporting from Pine Ridge.

The first sentence of his first correspondence is a fitting introduction to Cressey’s melodramatic style in which he exaggerated the tension of an otherwise routine train trip to northwest Nebraska. “After supper at Long Pine I made a quiet canvas of all the male passengers on our train and found that nine out of every ten had not only one but two guns of extra size caliber, and making up a traveling arsenal of 100 large sized shooting weapons good for 700 shots without reloading.” Cressey later wrote a loathsome caricature of the reservation Indian, which was perhaps a better reflection of the animosity and disdain with which Cressey viewed the Lakota rather than an accurate portrayal of the local residents at Pine Ridge. “Without the trimmings and spirit given it by reflections from the ghost dance and military, life on an Indian reservation must be dull enough to cause the half animated, long haired, blanket-swathed musk bags that make up nine and three-quarters tenths of the inhabitants, swim their tepees in tears and then go blind.” But, despite his prejudices, even Cressey could recognize the root cause of the disaffection among the Lakota. After five days at Pine Ridge, he wrote, “The Indians are slowly starving to death. That is the real, the way down, deep cause of this war scare.”[26]

Cressey went to great lengths to obtain information that he deemed newsworthy. In addition to interviewing soldiers, scouts, guides, cowhands, friendly Indians, and just about anyone with an intriguing rumor, Cressey employed the services of the daughter of Chief Standing Elk to serve as an interpreter and an Indian named Rocky Bear—recently returned from the European tour with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show—who would bring back information from what were deemed to be hostile camps. Cressey described his efforts to obtain newsworthy items in a letter he sent to the Pittsburg Dispatch, “I secured the best scouts possible, and daily had them make secret trips into the camp of the Indians who were regarded as unfriendly. I myself obtained an interpreter and daily went up and down through the camp of the friendlies first-handed and kept up with every move of any importance that was contemplated.” Cressey indicated that at one point early in the campaign the senior military commander confronted him about the detailing of military movements in his articles and directed him to refrain from divulging such sensitive information in future dispatches. The lead Bee correspondent went so far as to offer up a dog to a group of “hostile” Indians for their supper in order to obtain an interview, the dog being brought along for just such a purpose.[27]

As the Bee received criticism, so too did Cressey. Charles W. Allen, publisher of the Chadron Democrat and one of the New York Herald’s correspondents at Pine Ridge, decades later recalled of Cressey, “This writer had a penchant for lurid, long-drawn-out stories—they seemed to please his managing editor and were a constant source of amusement to the rest of us.” Allen went on to say that Cressey enjoyed “grabbing thrilling rumors and converting them into something he considered a ‘scoop’ on his rival [Thomas H. Tibbles of the Omaha World-Herald], though to the balance of the bunch they more nearly resembled puffballs.” Interestingly, the New York Herald, for whom Allen wrote, was one of those newspapers that regularly printed copy from Cressey’s articles.[28]

Cressey’s ability to know where a good story may turn up led him to being one of only three reporters on the scene at Wounded Knee at a time when a veritable hoard of correspondents and photographers had descended on Pine Ridge. The other two were the aforementioned Allen of the New York Herald and William F. Kelley of the Nebraska State Journal. According to Allen, he and Cressey worked together on their copy while cataloguing and tabulating facts.[29] Cressey’s description of the carnage that unfolded on December 29 was one of the first accounts that brought the tragic news of that sanguinary event to the nation and was reprinted on front pages across the country from the Los Angeles Herald to the New York Times.[30]

With General Forsyth and Major Whitside, I stood, when the firing started, within touching distance of the treacherous devils. The only thing that saved all three of us from death was that the Indians had their backs turned towards us when they began firing.
Their first volley was almost as one man, so that they must have fired a hundred shots before the soldiers fired one.
But how they were slaughtered after their first volley![31]

4-Diagram_of_the_Situation_at_the_Battle_of_Wounded_Knee-Omaha_Daily_Bee_Wed_Jan_7_1891

Charles H. Cressey’s “Diagram of the Situation at the Battle of Wounded Knee” was published on the front page of the January 7, 1891, edition of the Omaha Bee.

Cressey, Kelley, and Allen had worked out a lottery system to determine whose reports would be sent over the wires first. The three correspondents found a daring and willing courier to ride—albeit for the exorbitant fee of $75—nearly forty miles to the closest telegraph operator on the Elkhorn railway. Fortune shined on Kelley that 29th day of December, 1890, as his report was the first telegraphed to the country. Cressey’s short initial report was received in time to make a special evening edition of the Bee and was reprinted the following morning. However, a quick search of key words from the three reporters’ articles reveals that Kelley’s report was published almost three times that of Cressey’s and more than tenfold that of Allen’s. On the most critical day of the campaign, Cressey had been scooped by one of his contemporaries. He more than made up for it with follow on articles that provided further detail of the battle and army casualties, which, again, were widely publicized.[32]

While many of Cressey’s competitors criticized his dramatic style, he was hailed by others as being one of the finest reporters at Pine Ridge. The Philadelphia Ledger often printed many of Cressey’s articles and subsequently sang his praises.

3-Charles_H_Cressey-Harrisburg_Telegraph_Sat__Apr_11__1891_

The Indian war near the Pine Ridge Agency has developed another war correspondent…. He writes for The Omaha Bee, which paper has been the chief source of information respecting the movements of the Indians. The Bee correspondent differs from more famous war chroniclers in that he simply relates facts as he sees or hears them and leaves criticism to others. He has been remarkably accurate in his statements, though sometimes twenty-four hours ahead of government reports, and he deserves honorable mention for keeping a cool head and sticking to facts, instead of glorifying himself after the usual fashion of war correspondents.[33]

In December, Rosewater sent a second correspondent to Pine Ridge, twenty-eight-year-old Charles H. Copenharve, a Pennsylvania native, who, along with two of his nine brothers, started at the Bee as a print setter in the mid-1880s. By 1891, he was working as the telegraph editor at the Bee. Charley Copenharve’s writing style was not as sensational as that of Cressey, but, like his fellow correspondent, he probably accompanied the soldiers on one of the more adventurous missions. Where Cressey headed to Wounded Knee with the 7th Cavalry, it was most likely Copenharve who rode out on Christmas Eve with the 9th Cavalry on their mission to ensure that Big Foot’s band did not reach the stronghold in the Badlands. The description of his two-day ride with the Buffalo Soldiers appeared in print a week later. “Crossing White river we entered the bad lands, whose curious formations in the moonlight were ghost-like. We reached Cottonwood creek at 3 a.m., having traveled fifty miles on the jump, with men, horses and pack mules in good order and at daybreak the hostile Indians looked down upon us from their Gibraltar and gained some idea how cavalry could travel when necessary.”[34]

A third correspondent for the Bee arrived at Pine Ridge, likely following the aftermath of Wounded Knee. Edward Ambrose O’Brien, aged thirty-five, was Rosewater’s city editor. The son of Irish immigrants, he was born in Vermont, grew up in Chicago, and settled in Omaha as a young man working as a teacher at the newly founded Creighton College. By 1885, O’Brien had left the teaching profession and begun work as a reporter. Four years later, he was working as the city editor of the Bee and two years after that was listed in the Omaha directory as a special correspondent to the Bee. Historians list O’Brien as an Associated Press reporter and overlook the fact that he was in the employ of Rosewater at the time. Whether working for the Associated Press or directly for the Bee while at Pine Ridge, at least one article that ran in that latter paper was attributed to O’Brien. At the end of the campaign, Ed O’Brien detailed the grand review of the army forces massed at Pine Ridge. “Then came the Seventh cavalry filled with heroes of Wounded Knee and mourners for the dead who had perished there and were sleeping in the little rude cemetery overlooking the agency. The magnificent bugle corps led and sounded, ‘Hail to the Chief,’ as they were marching past the station. Major Whitside, the officer whose command arrested Big Foot’s band, rode by with the air of a general veteran.” It was the only article in the Bee, during the course of the campaign, attributed to the name “O’Brien.”[35]

Similarly, only two articles were actually attributed to Copenharve in the pages of the Bee, with the simple close of “Cope.” Cressey, on the other hand, concluded his articles with his monogram, “C. H. C.” This, perhaps, caused some confusion when Copenharve arrived at Pine Ridge, as he had the same initials. Toward the end of December, the Bee’s lead correspondent spelled out his last name, “Cressey.” The numerous “Specials to The Bee” from Pine Ridge that were unattributed were likely from Copenharve and O’Brien, particularly in the latter part of January, as the last article attributed to Cressey was on January 6, while the Bee continued to receive specials by telegram into February.

2-The_Bee_Building-Omaha_Daily_Bee_Jan_1_1890Edward Rosewater’s success as a newspaper man could not be more demonstrable than in the magnificent edifice he constructed to house his enterprise: The Bee Building. Built for the princely sum of a half million dollars and opened in 1889, The Bee Building was advertised as the “Palace Office Building” of Omaha and claimed to be absolutely fire proof. It boasted of night and day elevator service, incandescent lighting, and perfect ventilation. Built prior to the new city hall and county courthouse that would sit adjacent to and across the street from The Bee Building, Rosewater’s palace dominated downtown Omaha in 1890. Constructed on the site of Rosewater’s former home, the building was seven stories of red granite accented with beehives carved on the exterior stonework and ornamenting each doorknob. The structure functioned as an office complex with the newspaper’s plant in the basement, and some of the most prominent businesses of the River City occupying its seven floors. When it opened, Rosewater could boast that the Omaha Bee was churning out its sting in the largest building of any newspaper in the country, save that of the New York World.[39]

Filling the offices of the entire fifth floor of The Bee Building was the headquarters of the U.S. Army’s Department of the Platte. The Bee provided a detailed accounting of its military occupants in the 1891 New Year’s edition. “The department of the Platte embraces the states of Iowa, Nebraska and Wyoming… the territory of Utah and so much of the state of Idaho…. The headquarters of the department are at Omaha in The Bee building with Brigadier General John R. Brooke in command.” This accommodation made General Brooke a well-known face to the principle owner and editor of the Midwest’s most prominent newspaper. It also assured that the Bee staff was privy to the comings and goings of that military organization at the onset of the supposed Sioux outbreak, and that they were familiar with the general who would command the troops converging at the Pine Ridge Agency.[40]

After the outbreak had been resolved and the military departed Pine Ridge, the Bee’s correspondents returned to Omaha where their lives took divergent paths. Historians have recorded little concerning the careers of Cressey, Copenharve, and O’Brien.

Will Cressey’s life after Pine Ridge is difficult to trace. At the end of the 1890s, he met with some moderate success in Cincinnati writing at least two books which were known familiarly as “Cressey’s Unusual Zoo Stories.” The books were in essence pamphlets marketed toward children, the first being forty-eight pages and the second, an expansion of the first, to seventy-two pages. The pamphlets, popular with visitors to the Queen City’s zoo, were titled Original Stories, Exclusive Pictures, Unusual Gossip of the Wild-as-Ever Animals of Quality at The Zoo, and sold for ten cents, making each book a dime novel of a different sort. While other correspondents were covering America’s war with Spain, Cressey was writing of his two years of daily “hobnobbing with the wild-as-ever Kings and Queens and lesser of the jungle royalty at the Zoological Gardens.” In 1902, Cressey was mentioned as the editor and publisher of a new Indianapolis based monthly magazine, The Steno-Typer, devoted to the craft of typewriting and shorthand dictation. A decade later Cressey was working in St. Louis as a reporter and magazine writer. He remained in the Gateway to the West for seventeen years and died there in March 1926 at the age of sixty-eight, his death certificate listing him as a reporter by trade. Will Cressey never married, and was buried in the Valhalla Cemetery in Bel-Nor, St. Louis.[42]

Charley Copenharve continued for about six months as the telegraph editor for the Bee. In August 1891, he moved to Butte, Montana, began work with the Anaconda Standard, and continued with that paper for twenty-six years. He worked variously as the dramatic editor, mining editor, courthouse editor, city editor, and, ultimately, the managing news editor. In 1916, he was considered for a gubernatorial appointment as Montana’s commissioner of the bureau of publicity and agriculture. Copenharve did not pursue nor receive the position, and retired from the Standard as a relatively wealthy man in 1917. With his health failing, he relocated his family to Los Angeles where he died in October 1918 at the age of fifty-six. Charley Copenharve was survived by his wife, Cora, of thirty years, and his daughter, Helen, and son-in-law, Louis Lorenz.[43]

Ed O’Brien also left Omaha in the early 1890s and settled in Oakland, California, reporting for the Oakland Tribune and the Oakland Enquirer. O’Brien was instrumental in the taking of the Oakland census in the early 1900s, serving as the Census Marshal, and was commended by the city council in 1902 for his work. He was occasionally referred to by the military rank of major as early as 1901 and “promoted” to colonel by 1909, although there is no record of O’Brien ever having served in the regular or volunteer army. The military titles seemingly were a nod to his work as an Indian war correspondent in the winter of 1890 and 1891. O’Brien later covered state politics and the state legislature in Sacramento. He apparently never married, and, according to city directories, lived at various hotels over the course of two decades. All record of Ed O’Brien vanishes after 1914 when he was about sixty years of age. He likely died about that time period.[44]

1-Edward_Rosewater_of_Nebraska-The_Inter_Ocean_Sun__Jan_13__1901_Edward Rosewater continued to run his expanding newspaper for another fifteen years, but in his lifetime the circulation of the Bee only occasionally reached the peak it attained in January 1891. Popular, if not controversial, within the Republican Party, Rosewater made an unsuccessful bid for one of Nebraska’s U.S. Senate seats in 1902, and again in his final year of life. He died on August 30, 1906, while working late at the Bee Building and was found the next morning sitting upright, as if deep in thought. Rosewater was active up to his last day, having delivered a speech that afternoon to the Grand Army of the Republic at their camp ground in Waterloo, Nebraska. Management of the Bee transferred to his thirty-five-year-old son, Victor, and the paper’s sensationalist style continued well into the twentieth century. In 1919, the yellow journalism of the Omaha Bee was viewed by many as inflammatory to racial tensions that erupted into riots that summer, resulting in a mob assault of Omaha’s mayor and the subsequent lynching of an African American man. The Rosewater family sold the newspaper the following summer. It was acquired by newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst in 1928, and he sold it in 1937 to Rosewater’s fiercest rival, the Omaha World-Herald, whose owners promptly terminated the Bee’s publication.[45]

The selection of articles for this compilation is but a fraction of the material recorded in the Omaha Bee covering the Sioux outbreak of 1890–1891. The compiler focused primarily on dispatches from Pine Ridge though the Bee received specials from across the region. The few articles presented here that were not from Pine Ridge provide context or critical details not otherwise reported, including the original first-hand account of the battle of Wounded Knee by an officer on the scene. Until now, Lieutenant John Kinzie’s description of the battle in the pages of the Bee has gone unnoticed by historians. The two non-Bee articles, one from the Pittsburg Dispatch and the other from the Detroit Free Press, provide a rare glimpse into Cressey’s retrospective view of that winter’s events and his only firsthand account of his actions during the battle, again, overlooked by historians. This compilation includes some minor editing of apparent typographical print errors, including the correction of frequent misspellings of names. Through exhaustive research, the compiler has determined the identities of most of the hundreds of individuals detailed in print and indexed many of them by their full names. The exception to these corrections concerns the Bee’s multiple listings of military casualties from the Wounded Knee and White Clay Creek fights, which displays the army and the press’s inability to compile and publish an accurate list of dead and wounded. Correct names of these casualties are provided in the footnotes and are also indexed.

Absent from this collection of news articles is anything remotely resembling an Indian perspective of the events that unfolded in the winter of 1890 and 1891. To be sure, it was a white man’s newspaper, with an overtly Republican political slant, presenting a white man’s viewpoint of an anticipated Indian war. There were no Lakota correspondents reporting from Pine Ridge. The only reporters that came close to resembling that description were Tibbles and his wife, Bright Eyes, who wrote for the Bee’s rival paper, the World-Herald, and nothing the Tibbles wrote ever appeared in the pages of the Bee. Notwithstanding the political leanings and white perspective, the Bee correspondents often went to great lengths to quote Lakota men and present their side of events, though always within the context of white reporters who were little more than reluctant visitors to the Dakota reservations. The only Lakota perspective of the tragedy at Wounded Knee in this compilation is the article reporting on the Sioux delegation to Washington detailing American Horse’s description of that catastrophic event, again, as recorded by a white correspondent. Even the placement of the monument, dedicated to Big Foot and his fallen people, was told from the white man’s view point. Nevertheless, the works of correspondents like Will Cressey, Charley Copenharve, and Ed O’Brien were a serious attempt to accurately portray events as they unfolded. Perhaps their reporting is best captured in Elmo Watson’s conclusions recorded fifty years after that bloody winter. “Despite all their violations of news-writing principles—rumor-mongering, exaggeration, distortion and faking—the corps of correspondents who covered the Ghost Dance troubles of half a century ago are entitled to some recognition in the history of American Journalism.”

These articles presented here are an important collection of period news reports, and represent some of the most widely published daily accounts of the Sioux outbreak. To be sure, Will Cressey’s specials were both criticized and acclaimed by his peers, and he was likely the most read war correspondent during that troubled time frame. The country’s collective memory of Wounded Knee and the events that unfolded in the winter of 1890 and 1891 have been formed and reformed through conflicting accounts and historical analysis of that American tragedy. Returning to the pages of the newspapers of the day provides a valuable perspective of the events as they occurred in one of the most read papers of the Midwest. The sting of Edward Rosewater’s Omaha Bee is a harsh, contemporary reflection of those events and their impact on a nation progressing toward the twentieth century.

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Sting of the Bee was meticulously compiled and edited by Samuel L. Russell, an Army Colonel with over 27 years of active service. He is currently assigned to the U.S. Army Peacekeeping and Stability Operations Institute at Carlisle Barracks, PA, and is the author of ArmyAtWoundedKnee.com.
Col. Russell graduated from the Virginia Military Institute in 1988 with a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering. He holds a Masters of Military Art and Science in history from the Army’s Command and General Staff College and a Masters of Strategic Studies from the Army War College.

Endnotes:

[1] U.S. Census Bureau, “Table 1. Nativity of the Population and Place of Birth of the Native Population: 1850 to 1990” (https://www.census.gov/population/ www/documentation/twps0029/tab01.html), accessed 23 Feb 2015; Department of the Interior, Report on the Population of the United States at the Eleventh Census: 1890, part 1 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1895), xxvii.
[2] Michael R. Haines, Richard H. Steckel, eds., A Population History of North America (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 24.
[3] “History of the Flag,” San Francisco Morning Call (4 Jul 1890), 5; “The Deed Is Done,” Salt Lake Herald (11 Jul 1890), 1; “Daughters of the Revolution,” Los Angeles Herald (13 Oct 1890), 1.
[4] “Opened the Reservation,” Omaha Daily Bee (11 Feb 1890), 1.
[5] “She Knows Their Secrets,” Pittsburg Dispatch (6 Apr 1890), 20; “Club Women in Council,” New York Evening World (23 Apr 1890), 2; “Nellie Bly There,” Pittsburg Dispatch (26 Jan 1890), 1; “Woman’s Suffrage Association,” Salt Lake Herald (20 Feb 1890), 1; “Colored Men’s Rights,” Washington Evening Star (23 Jan 1890), 6; “Call for a Meeting of Miners,” Indianapolis Journal (2 Apr 1890), 1.
[6] “Prices of Food: The Cost of Living Increased by the Unprecedented Drought,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch (1 Aug 1890), 1; Nelson A. Miles, “Report of Major General Nelson Miles, Headquarters Department of the Missouri, Chicago, Ill., September 14, 1891,” from Annual Report of the Secretary of War (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1892), 132—140. Gen. Miles enumerated eleven major failings of the government to adhere to treaty obligations and directly correlated those failures as causes for disaffection among the Northwest tribes in the fall of 1890.
[7] “Applying the Anti-Trust Law,” Omaha Daily Bee (29 Sep 1890), 4.
[8] Heather Cox Richardson, Wounded Knee: Party Politics and the Road to an American Massacre, 170.
[9] “Brooklyn Wins Again,” New York Times (26 Oct 1890), 8; “It Was a Glorious Day,” Sunday Herald and Weekly National Intelligencer (12 Oct 1890), 1; “Uncle Sam’s Cadets Kick,” New York Sun (30 Nov 1890), 2; “Jack Dempsey Regains Prestige by Knocking Out Billy McCarthy,” New York Evening World (19 Feb 1890), 1.
[14] James W. Savage, John T. Bell, and Consul W. Butterfield, History of the City of Omaha, Nebraska and South Omaha (New York: Munsell & Company, 1894), 575—577; J. Sterling Morton, Illustrated History of Nebraska, vol. 1, 744—745; Albert Shaw, ed., The Review of Reviews. An International Magazine. vol. 13 (New York: The Review of Reviews Co., Jan–Jun 1896), 709—710; Charles A. Bates, ed., American Journalism (New York: Holmes Publishing Co., 1897), 270—271; Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives, “Rosewater Family Papers” (http://americanjewisharchives.org/ collections/ms0503/#top) accessed 17 Sep 2014.
[15] Morton, Illustrated History of Nebraska, 746.
[16] Circulation numbers were printed in the Sunday Bee on page 4. George R. Kolbenschlag, A Whirlwind Passes: News Correspondents and the Sioux Disturbances of 1890-1891, 16—17.
[17] Library of Congress, “About Omaha Daily Bee,” Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers, (http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/ sn99021999/) accessed 15 Sep 2014.
[19] John W. Russell, Chicago Inter-Ocean (11 Dec 1890), 6; also found in Kolbenschlag, A Whirlwind Passes, 1; and Charles W. Allen, From Fort Laramie to Wounded Knee: In the West That Was, 180.
[20] Roger L. Di Silvestro, In The Shadow of Wounded Knee: The Untold Final Story of The Indian Wars, 223, originally reported in the Chadron Democrat on 27 Nov 1890.
[23] “Situation in the Northwest,” Omaha Daily Bee (25 Nov 1890), 4.
[24] The Old Northwest Genealogical Society, The “Old Northwest” Genealogical Quarterly, vol. 7, no. 1. (Columbus: Press of Spahr & Glenn, 1904), 246—257.
[25] “The Life of a Reporter,” Logansport Pharos-Tribune (10 Apr 1891), 19.
[26] Charles H. Cressey, “A Squaw’s Warning,” Omaha Daily Bee (20 Nov 1890), 1; Cressey, “Life Among the Red Men,” Omaha Daily Bee (8 Dec 1890), 6; Cressey, “Hounded By Hunger,” Omaha Daily Bee (25 Nov 1890), 1.
[27] “Various Topics,” Capital City Courier (21 Mar 1891), 1; “A Sioux Inferno,” Detroit Free Press, (9 Aug 1896), 19; “From the Frontier,” Pittsburg Dispatch, (1 Feb 1891), 9.
[28] Allen, From Fort Laramie to Wounded Knee, 178.
[30] On December 30, 1890, the New York Times ran an earlier Cressey article on their front page in which Cressey described Big Foot’s surrender to Maj. Whitside and the 7th Cavalry.
[31] Cressey, “A Bloody Battle,” Omaha Daily Bee (30 Dec 1890), 1.
[32] “Various Topics,” Capital City Courier (21 Mar 1891), 1.
[33] “A Great War Correspondent,” Omaha Daily Bee as reported in Philadelphia Ledger (8 Jan 1891), 1.
[34] Charles H. Copenharve, “Henry’s Cavalry Dash,” Omaha Daily Bee (1 Jan 1891), 1. Kolbenschlag also indicates that the Bee correspondent traveling with the 9th Cavalry was likely Copenharve. The author of this article also may have been O’Brien, but there is no definitive way of determining which of the two Bee correspondents rode out with Henry and his Buffalo Soldiers. Cressey stated in his article “Captured Indians Escape,” on December 24, 1890, “No correspondents accompanied Colonel Henry, for the reason that he is going too wide of the seat of war and is to do simply scouting.” If Cressey was correct, the possibility exists that one of the three correspondents crafted this first person account based on later interviews with officers from the 9th Cavalry.
[35] J. M. Wolfe & Co., Omaha City and South Omaha City Directory for 1891, vol. 17, 653; Edward A. O’Brien, “The March of the Forces,” Omaha Daily Bee (26 Jan 1891), 2.
[39] Ed. F. Morearty, Omaha Memories: Recollections of Events, Men and Affairs in Omaha, Nebraska from 1879 to 1918, 165; Savage, Bell, and Butterfield, History of the City of Omaha, 160 and 169—170.
[40] “A Military Center” Omaha Daily Bee (1 Jan 1890), 14.
[42] Cressey, Original Stories, Exclusive Pictures, Unusual Gossip of the Wild-as-Ever Animals of Quality at The Zoo Together with an associate feature entitled Swans in a Quiet City (Cincinnati: Charles Herbert Cressey, 1899), iii; Jerome B. Howard, The Phonographic Magazine, vol. 16, no. 12 (Cincinnati: Dec 1902), 289.
[43] “Death Removes C. Copenharve,” Anaconda Standard (Butte, MT: 9 Oct 1918).
[44] “Good Work of Postmaster,” Oakland Tribune (16 Dec 1902), 2; “Major Edw. A. O’Brien Is Known at Vallejo,” Oakland Tribune (6 Aug 1901), 5; “Col. Ed O’Brien,” Oakland Tribune (16 Jan 1909), 10.
[45] “Edward Rosewater Dies Very Suddenly,” Omaha Daily Bee (1 Sep 1906), 1; “Edward Rosewater’s Last Speech,” Omaha Sunday Bee (2 Sep 1906), half tone section page 1; Library of Congress, “About Omaha Daily Bee,” Chronicling America.

Citation for this article: Samuel L. Russell, “Introduction,” Sting of the Bee: A Day-By-Day Account of Wounded Knee and the Sioux Outbreak of 1890 – 1891 as Recorded in the Omaha Bee , ed. Samuel L. Russell (Carlisle, PA: Russell Martial Research, 2016), xi-xxxiv.

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Campaign Letters of Sergeant Michael Conners, D Troop, 7th Cavalry


I cannot describe in language the battle
but bullets sang home sweet home around our ears,
but I always said that Indian bullets were not made to kill me.

Sergt Michael Conners in Barracks at Ft Riley

(Click to enlarge) Sergt Michael Conners in barracks at Fort Riley, Kas. Photograph courtesy of Mrs. Joy Skinner.

During the course of the Pine Ridge campaign, Sergeant Michael Conners of Captain Godfrey’s D Troop wrote seven letters to a young seventeen-year-old woman, Lillie Carlyon, from Junction City, Kansas, the town adjacent to Fort Riley. Like the campaign letters of Sergeant John B. Turney and Private Thomas McGuire, Conners’s letters provide an enlisted soldier’s unique perspective of that winter’s events.

At about twenty-six years of age, Sergeant Conners was nearing the end of this first five-year enlistment when the 7th Cavalry was ordered to Pine Ridge toward the end of November 1890. Writing on letterhead from The Northwestern Hotel, Conners wrote his first letter from Rushville, Nebraska, on 26 November.

90_1126

My Dear Lillie,
I have just had time to write to you and let you know how we got along on the trip. We arrived here today at noon and unloaded and started for the Pine Ridge Agency at once so I had no time to write then, but I was sent back at 10 o’clock tonight for some mules and wagons that were to come in from Colorado, and I leave here for the Agency about four o’clock in the morning. So that gives me about one hour sleep, and it is the first, that is the first sleep, I had since I left Riley.
Well, Lillie, we may have fun tomorrow or next day. All the people here are wild over the Indian scare, but I guess we will wind up their game when we turn loose. It is just my luck to have all the night riding, just as I told you before I left. Well, don’t be alarmed as there are enough soldiers here to do up all the Indians here.
I will close now, and when I get settled down I will write you all the news. When you write, address:

Sergt. M. Conners
Troop D 7th Cav.
Pine Ridge Agency
South Dakota

Let me know all the news.

Goodbye dear for the present,
Yours forever,
Conners[1]

Sergeant Conners’s second letter, written from the 7th Cavalry camp at Pine Ridge, described events from 6 December 1890 surrounding Brigadier General John R. Brooke’s council with Chief Two Strike and other chiefs from the bands holdup in the stronghold of the Badlands.

My Dearest Lillie,
I have a few leisure moments, and I thought I would employ them by writing to you, as I know it will make you feel good to receive any news which may come from here. There was 35 of the hostile Indians came in today. I was up at the Agency when they came in over the bluffs. They all had guns and fine horses, and they had a large white flag on a pole in front of them that was a sign of peace. They held a council of war with Gen’l Brook, and the rumor now is that all the Indians that are out now will come in and give themselves up, and if they do, that may end the present troubles until spring, but the wind up of the whole thing will be the disarming of the Indians. If we do that without a fight, we will be in Riley by Christmas, and I hope so.
They had another big squaw dance here today in the Agency, and it called out a large crowd. They were dressed up in great shape with feathers and belts with bells, and they beat a large drum which they call a Tom-Tom. Six squaws beat it with sticks and sing, and the rest form a circle around them and dance. I wish you could see it for it would make you laugh. I wish you were here tomorrow to see the Indians come in. I bet when you saw them you would run four miles. It will be a great sight as they are all in war paint and their horses painted red, which makes them look as if they were all blood. Their hair are tied full of feathers, and the horses tails and manes are also full of feathers. Each has a gun slung over their back and their faces all streaked with three or four kinds of paint, which makes them look fierce.
I have a great mob in my tent. They are now raising the devil and you can’t hear yourself think. One half are in bed, and the rest are throwing boots at them and pulling the blankets off them. Once in a while one will say, “Keep still, the big chief is writing to his girl, and he will get some of our conversation in his letter, and it would horrify her if she would read what we are saying,” but I tell them to go ahead as they don’t bother me.
Captain Godfrey, our captain, joined us here today, and he will stay with us for good. They say that Maj. Bacon will come here in a day or two. We have all our Officers with us now except Bell. Capt. Moylan and Lt Squiers of K Troop are here. That completes all of them except Gibson and he is on sick leave.
Well, Lillie, I hope you are happy and having a good time, and I want you to enjoy yourself with my best love until you hear again.

I am still the same old Conners.[2]

Sergeant Conners’s next letter came just days after General Brooke cancelled his plans to move on the Indians in the Badlands with twenty-seven troops of cavalry and one hundred scouts. Writing again from the cavalry camp at Pine Ridge on 17 December, Conners expressed his chagrin that his regiment had not been given the opportunity to engage with the Indians. Perhaps more telling, Conners provided a glimpse of the enmity with which the troopers of the 7th Cavalry held their old nemesis, the Sioux. He also foreshadowed the carnage to come less than two weeks later at Wounded Knee.

My Dear Lillie,
I take the pleasure of writing to you to let you know that we are still in Pine Ridge, but we are under orders to march in a minute’s notice. The reason that we did not go the other day when we got orders is that we got word that a large band of Indians were coming in, and Gen’l Brooke thought if we went out we would scare them back, and, sure enough, there was 900 came in last night and today, and they are now camped with us. That leaves about 400 still in the badlands.
The 6th Cav. are coming down this way from the north, and they ran into and captured a band of Indians in the bluffs at the Cheyenne river. They had a small fight, and the Indians surrendered. They will chase the rest this way, and we will round them up. I suppose you heard the fight between Sitting Bull’s band and the 8th Cavalry and the killing of the Indians. They are now after the rest of them. That makes a fight for the 6th and the 8th, and we are laying here like wooden men doing nothing.
There are the maddest lot of men in this camp at present you ever saw. Just think of it, the celebrated 7th Cav here and not allowed to do anything. I would like to get one whack at them any way just for practice, and if we ever do get at them, we won’t take any prisoners. That is what Gen’l Brooke says, that if the 7th ever start in on the Indians that they will never stop until they kill them all, and you bet we will. We may go out at any time, and if we get them between us and the 6th they will catch hell (excuse my expression; it was a slip).
The weather still holds pleasant; only the nights are quite cold, but the days are nice and warm. Lt Hare left here yesterday for Riley. He is all broke up. Everybody is in good health and lively. There are only a few men in the Hospital here, and they are hurt by horses.

Sgt A H Haselwood

Sergt. Alvin “Jack” Haselwood, A Trp., 7th Cav., with his mount, likely at Fort Riley circa 1890.

Jack Hazelwood is over on a visit, and he says it keeps him busy writing letters to Riley. I am very busy in the daytime, but the nights I have to myself to write. Jack says he has only one friend, that is his nose; it is so big. He is lonesome like the rest of us.
We have grub and grain ready for four days’ march, which we don’t touch, and if everything turns out good, we may be back in Riley in a month or so. I hope so anyway.
Well, my dear, I hope you are in good health and enjoying yourself. The candle is near out, and Hazelwood wants to know if I am going to write all night. He says that if I don’t quit, he will kick over the writing desk, which is a board. The candle is out. Goodbye, with my love. Hazy held a match while I finished this.

I remain yours,
Conners[3]

Two days later on 19 December 1890 Sergeant Conners again wrote from Pine Ridge and expressed his disdain at still no active role in the campaign.

My Dear Lillie,
I received your most welcome letter and adored picture and am very pleased to receive both, especially the picture, but I am sorry to say that the picture was broke in the mail, but it is just as good. We have not got ours yet, as the photographer sent them to the Chicago Inter-Ocean, but he says he will have some soon.
Well, my dear, we are still awaiting orders to go after the Indians. There are 200 Indian scouts going after them in the morning, and probably we will move after them. I hope so, anyway. We are tired laying here doing nothing and would like to get after them. I tried to go with the scouts in the morning, but the Gen’l would not let me go. One of the guides is a fellow I knew in the hills five years ago, and I would liked to have gone with him as we would have lots of fun, and I would send you an Indian scalp, but as it is now, I don’t think I will have a chance to get away. I was not going to tell you about it until we got back, if I had got permission to go, so you would not be scared. There was five of us volunteered to go, and I think they should have let us gone as the Indians wanted us to go with them, but I guess the Indian war is about over, and I would dearly love to get a few shots at them before they give up.
Campbell sends his regards, and he says to tell Fannie that he would like to squeeze her going down the hill to sod alley. Give my love to Carrie, and tell her she can’t send me any too much love, as I am sadly in need of that article just at the present, as I have not seen anything worth loving for a month or more. It is very near that long since we left Riley. It seems like a year to me; how long does it seem to you?
When you go to town give my regards to Mrs. Stevens, and tell her that I will look out for Steve while he is away, and, if he is killed, I will send her a curl of his hair, and then I will get the widow. I will take my choice between her and Aunty Campbell. Give my love to Aunty and Graney Baumgartner and all the people in Riley.
There was a company of Indian scouts left here the other day for Rapid City, and you should hear their squaws cry. They kept it up all night, and we got no sleep. I tell you, they raise a great howl. To day they had a great feast. They had dog soup. I would like to eat some of that dog. They ate it in good shape.
Well, my Dear, I have no more to tell you at present, but you can tell all your friends that there will be no fighting with the Indians this year for us.

I remain yours truly,
Conners[4]

Conners and Campbell

(Click to enlarge) Sergeant Michael Conners and Regimental Saddler Sergeant Otto Voit, likely at the Pine Ridge Agency prior to Wounded Knee. Voit was a Medal of Honor recipient from the battle of Little Bighorn.  Photograph courtesy of Joy Skinner.

Following the fight at Wounded Knee Creek on 29 December and the skirmish near White Clay Creek on the 30th, Conners managed to write later that night and get off a letter on New Year’s Eve. The following afternoon the regiment buried thirty of their comrades in shallow graves at the Pine Ridge Agency.

My Dear Lillie,
I received your most welcome letter and present, and I am very glad and thankful for the cigars.
I suppose you heard of our fights. Well, the 29th we killed about 150 Indians. We had them on level ground, and we done them up in good shape; only ten out of the whole band got away. That band was said to be the worst one in the country. It was the one that got away from the north. We made a night dash and captured them, and they made a break, and we shot them down. We followed them for miles and killed them all quick. We had about 25 killed and about the same wounded. We left the dead Indians laying where they fell and brought our dead and wounded in here, and the 30th all the other Indians left here, and we followed them in the hills and fought them all day. We killed a good many and only had two of our men killed and six wounded. We expect more troops here tomorrow and we will exterminate all the Indians in the country.
I cannot describe in language the battle but bullets sang home sweet home around our ears, but I always said that Indian bullets were not made to kill me. Every one is wild to get at them to revenge the death of our men. The fight of the 29th was the hardest and the hottest fight ever known in Indian warfare. All the Officers said so, and they say the men behaved very good and done splendid.
While we were fighting on the 29th, we were about 18 miles from the Agency, and the Indians here broke out and fired into the Agency and then left. We have been up now for three days and nights, and tonight I have to sit up until one o’clock with half the troop, and then we can go to bed, if we don’t have to go out in the meantime.
Well, Lillie, we feel very blue having our men killed, but it is war. I think that in a week we will have them darned Indians all killed. I am very sorry that Campbell was wounded. He was shot in the mouth at the first fire. He is not seriously wounded, but it will lay him up for a couple of months. I want you to tell Mrs. Campbell that I said it was nothing and that he was very happy and in good care in the hospital. I will give you a list of the killed and wounded that you know, above [at end of letter]. This Captain Wallace was killed at the first fire, also Stewart Pollock and the Sergeant-Major, and Sergeant Coffee was stabbed, also the Catholic preist who went with us.
Well, Lillie, I think everything will soon be over as other troops will be here tomorrow. Myself and Steve are all right, and I hope will remain so. Goodbye and think of me. Give my regards to all in Riley. I was thinking of you when the bullets were flying around us.

Bye Bye,
Conners

[P.S.] Killed
Sergt Coffee
Stewart Pollock
Sergt Major
Poor Kelly
Sergt Dryer
Toohey who worked for Ba
Wounded
Sergt Hazelwood
”       Campbell
Lt Hawthorn
”   Garlington
”   Mann
Pvt Clifton
Lt Mann was shot today, the 30th.
Tell everyone that the gallant 7th never gives up.

Mick[5]

Sergeant Conners followed up the next day, 1 January 1891, from Pine Ridge with additional details of the fights at Wounded Knee and White Clay Creek.

My Dear Lillie,
I received your welcome letter today, and it was just as I supposed it would be in Riley when they first got the news of the fight. I knew that everyone would be wild.
We are having a slight rest now, but I suppose we will have it hard again in a few days. We started out the night of the 28th and rode all night, and at eight o’clock in the morning, we surrounded the Indians and started to disarm them. When the ball opened, it was warm work for a while, and it was 1 o’clock when it was over. We loaded our wounded and dead in our wagons and marched into the Agency to give medical treatment to the wounded. It took all that night, and the next morning the 9th Cavalry wagons were attacked by Indians, and we had to saddle up and charged out to their rescue. When we came in with them we had to start out again, and we fought them all day until dark when we came in to get something to eat. That was the night I wrote to you.
When I was writing that letter we were under arms and bullets singing around us all the time. I wrote it on the butt of my carbine, and the men were asking me if I was making my will. We were 3 days and nights without sleep, and last night I slept like a top. To day the Infantry went out about 15 miles to camp. We have the Indians surrounded by troops, and I think that we will soon have them done up. The first day’s fight we killed about 150 Indians, and the second day we killed about 75. We had 32 men killed in the two days and about 30 wounded. Campbell is feeling good today. He has all his teeth and chin shot, that is, his under teeth. Hazelwood is very low, but he will recover. Lt Mann is not hurt much. He was shot the second day, also Sergt Ragnar of K troop. I always told you, if they only would give the gallant 7th a chance, we would raise the Devil, and I guess we have done it.
Well, my dear, give my love to every-one. Tell Mrs. Campbell that I will look out for Campbell. They are going to send all the wounded home as soon as they can stand the travel. We are ready for another fight whenever they are ready, but I guess they have enough.

Bye Bye until later,
I remain your Devoted,
Conners

[P.S.:] The last words Kelly said was when we started down in the ravine, “it is sure death to go down here,” and at that he was shot.[6]

Sergeant Conners wrote his final campaign letter on 21 January 1891, from Pine Ridge just days prior to the regiment returning to Fort Riley.

My Dear Lillie,
I received several letters from you, and I have been so busy. I had hardly time to write to you, but when you receive this we may be on the way home. We received orders to day to move our camp six miles out from here on the road to Rushville, and if the Indians remain quiet, we will start for home. I expect, in case everything proves favorable, we will be home by the first of February. Some of the Infantry will remain here for some time, but the 7th Cav. goes home. We don’t expect any further trouble, and all are eager now to go home. I suppose everyone will be pleased in Riley to hear of our coming back. You can all rest assured that the trouble is all over, and the 7th has earned a great name, but it cost us very dear, but we made a name which everyone can be proud of. All the western papers want us to go back to Fort Meade, also all the citizens up there, but ourselves want to go to Riley.
I hope everyone is well and in good shape there. Tell Campbell that I received his letter and that I will write to him in a day or so. I hope he is doing well. I suppose when we get back we won’t get a growl for a month. The people of Nebraska are going to present Forsyth with a diamond-hilted saber for the Wounded Knee fight. Some of the eastern papers give us the Devil for killing the poor Indians. I wish they were out here for a while. I think they would change their opinion. Give my regards to all in Riley, and tell Joe that Hazelwood is doing very nice. I will write again when we get settled, and by that time we may know just when we will be home. I will now close, hoping to see you soon.

I remain yours truly,
Conners[7]

Conners was indeed busy during the remainder of the campaign following the fights at Wounded Knee and Drexel Mission. His friend, Charles Campbell, who was shot through the lower jaw at Wounded Knee, was the 7th Cavalry’s regimental quartermaster sergeant. With Campbell out of commission, Sergeant Conners was appointed to act in his stead, giving him the duties of supplying a regiment during active campaigning, and then redeploying them to Fort Riley. The appointment was a testament to the confidence that the regiment’s commander, Colonel James W. Forsyth, and quartermaster, First Lieutenant Ezra B. Fuller, placed in Conners’ ability.

At the beginning of April 1891 after settling back at Fort Riley following the campaign and enlisting for another five years, Sergeant Conners and Lillie, the recipient of his letters, were married. She was a local Junction City, Kansas, woman, seventeen years of age. Born on 3 August 1873, she was baptized Eliza Cora Jane Carlyon in the town of St Keverne, England. She was the fourth daughter of William and Eliza Jane (Williams) Carlyon. She immigrated with her family to America in 1886 arriving in New York harbor on 6 March aboard the ship Britannic of the White Star line.[8]

A military post on the frontier is a close knit community, with marriages connecting soldiers, siblings, and children. The familial connections between some of the 7th Cavalry’s officers in the early 1870s is well documented, with Captain James Calhoun marrying George Custer’s younger sister, Maggie, and Captain Myles Moylan marrying Calhoun’s sister, Lottie. Such connections were fairly common. In 1889, the regiment’s senior major, John Bacon, married the commander’s daughter, Mary Forsyth, and three years later Colonel Forsyth’s eldest daughter, Bessy, married the post surgeon, Lieutenant Colonel Dallas Bache.

As with officers, the regiment’s enlisted men that chose to marry often were similarly connected. Regimental Quartermaster Sergeant Charles Campbell, a veteran of the Battle of the Little Bighorn, was married to Elizabeth Hughes. She was connected to the regiment in that her oldest brother, Frank, was serving as a private in L Company when he was killed at Little Bighorn. Frank’s widow then remarried another 7th Cavalry trooper, John Rafter, also a private in L Company and survivor of the Little Bighorn disaster.

In May 1892, Mrs. Elizabeth Campbell’s youngest sister, Mary Hughes, exchanged vows with Fort Riley Post Quartermaster Sergeant Charles Lurig, thus making the regiment’s quartermaster sergeant and the post’s quartermaster sergeant, brothers-in-law. Sergeant Lurig was in his mid-forties and had just begun his fifth term of enlistment. Although not a veteran of the 7th Cavalry, he had served in the 6th and 4th Cavalry regiments and was wounded in Colonel Randall MacKenzie’s fight with Dull Knife in the Battle on the Red Fork in November 1876. Sergeant Michael Conners seemed to cherish his friendship with the Campbells, but his connection with Charles Lurig brought a swift and inglorious end to Conners’ military career.

Sergeant Conners was appointed duty as the provost guard placing him in charge of much of the security across Fort Riley. In the fall of 1892, Sergeant Lurig approached Conners with a money making proposition. The post quartermaster sergeant indicated that he had some condemned and excess property that he wanted to sell. With Conners in charge of post security, Lurig would benefit greatly with Conners’s cooperation to sell any goods. Conners agreed to seek out a buyer and arrange for transportation of what he believed was condemned and excess property. Conners would later state that he entered the arrangement innocently and once he was aware that what Lurig proposed was illegal, he backed out of the deal.[9]

The Junction City Weekly Union, February 4, 1893.

(Click to enlarge) The Junction City Weekly Union, February 4, 1893.[12]

Two months later, Conners approached Lurig asking if he could borrow $25 dollars, an amount equal to two months pay. Lurig had apparently just completed an illegal sale of government supplies and agreed that if Conners would go into Junction City and cash a $175 third-party check, he could keep $25 of the money. Conners agreed, traveled to town to the First National Bank, turned over the check, and endorsed a receipt for the cash. Conners kept the allotted portion and ensured that the remaining $150 was given to Sergeant Lurig.[11]

The government goods, by then in a railcar in Junction City, were brought to the attention of a deputy sheriff who reported it to the post quartermaster, and a quick investigation led to the arrest of Sergeants Lurig and Conners. Both men were charged with “wrongful disposition of public property.” A General Court Martial was convened on 20 February. Sergeant Lurig plead “guilty” to the charge and was dishonorably discharged and sentenced to three years confinement. Sergeant Conners plead “not guilty” and the court heard testimony over the course of four days. The prosecution’s key witness, a civilian named J. W. Johnson, testified to the effect that Lurig and Conners were partners in the crime. Several other witnesses provided circumstantial evidence and hearsay that implicated both Lurig and Conners. But, the proverbial smoking gun was the check that Conners cashed and the $25 that he kept.[13]

For the defense, Sergeant Lurig testified that Conners knew nothing of the property that he, Lurig, wrongfully sold. As character witnesses, the defense brought two officers, the first was Captain Fuller, commander of K Troop and former regimental quartermaster. Fuller testified:

In the field at Pine Ridge in the winter of 1890 and 1891, he [Conners] was acting Regimental Quartermaster Sergeant, after the regimental quartermaster sergeant had been wounded. As such, under my direction he had general charge of all the property that I had in the field, which consisted of the tentage of Headquarters, a large quantity of extra supplies including some clothing. I thought him thoroughly trustworthy and honest in every respect, and he performed his duties to my entire satisfaction.[13]

Next the defense called the Regiment’s commander, Colonel James W. Forsyth, who revealed that he knew Conners personally and trusted him implicitly.

I have known him [Conners] since 1886. I think he enlisted in the regiment about the time I took command of it. I have always regarded him as one of the finest soldiers in the regiment and have had the most implicit confidence in his honesty and integrity until this break. Sergeant Conners has been in charge of public property to my certain knowledge for the last three or four years as stable sergeant, and as acting regimental quartermaster sergeant with the regiment in the Pine Ridge campaign. I never heard of the faintest question as to his honesty or the care with which he performed the function of his office. Prior to his appointment as a sergeant, during my absence from home on an extended leave of absence Sergeant Connors had general charge of all my property. I left my house without turning a lock or a door and everything was found in perfect order on my return, although my property had been moved in the meantime to another set of quarters under his charge. I mean by this that my silverware and everything in my house was under his charge and not a thing missing on my return.
It was my intention if the opportunity occurred to appoint him regimental quartermaster sergeant.[14]

Conners provided testimony in his own defense in which he stated that once he learned that Lurig was trying to wrongfully sell government property, he, Conners, stated that he “wanted nothing more to do with it.” He went on to testify:

I did cash a check for Sergeant Lurig at his request and signed my name to it, which the banker asked me to do. He asked me if my name was Ulrich. I told him no, my name was Conners and I put it on the check at his request.
How I came to get this check from Sergeant Lurig was, I had asked him for the loan of some money. He told me he had a check, if I would take it to town and have it cashed, I could have the money I asked him for, twenty-five dollars, which I did.[15]

The court martial returned a verdict of “guilty” and recommended Conners receive the same sentence as Lurig. On 7 March Major General Nelson A. Miles approved the sentences and directed that both men serve their three-years’ confinement at the Leavenworth Military Prison.[16]

On 19 March 1893, Lurig and Conners arrived under guarded escort at Fort Leavenworth and were processed into the military prison. Conners was listed as twenty-nine years old, standing five feet seven and a half inches tall, with a fair complexion, sky blue eyes, light red hair, and weighing 149 pounds. The medical examination also revealed that Conners had a tattoo on the front of his right forearm depicting a scroll with his initials “M. C.” over top of a shield of stars and stripes.[17]

Three months after Conners was remanded to prison, Mrs. Lillie Conners gave birth to their only child, Ernest M. Conners, on 29 June.[18]

Conners requested a copy of his court martial records and began work on an appeal, which he filed on 1 January 1894. The basis of Conners’s appeal was that the key witness, Mr. J. W. Johnson, was actually the receiver of the stolen goods, and that his testimony therefore lacked credibility. While the appeal made its way to the Judge Advocate General of the Army, Conners fell ill in prison. He was suffering from Lobar Pneumonia, and in an era before the advent of penicillin, his symptoms gradually worsened with Conners experiencing fever, chills, coughing with rusty sputum, rapid shallow breathing, a bluish discoloration of his skin, nausea, vomiting, and chest pains from the accumulation of fluid in his lungs. Eventually the consolidation of lung tissue led to his death on 3 March 1894. The following day Michael Conners was buried in the Leavenworth Military Prison cemetery, a veteran of the Battle of Wounded Knee and a convicted man who likely never met his only son.[19]

Michael Conners is buried in the United States Disciplinary Barracks Cemetery at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.[20]

Unaware that Conners was dead, the Judge Advocate General denied his appeal on 31 March, four weeks after the ex-trooper succumbed to pneumonia in the prison hospital. The following September Charles Lurig received an early release from prison after serving a year and a half of his three-year sentence. He was also granted permission to again enlist in the Army if he so desired. After five five-year enlistments, Lurig was done with the Army even if the Army wasn’t done with him. He moved with his wife, Mary, to St Louis where he disappeared from all record. Mary Hughes Lurig later married a former infantry soldier in 1896 and settled in Illinois.[21]

In 1895, Conners’s widow, Lillie, married William McKulskey with whom she had four children: Ethel, William, Harry, and Lawrence. Ernest Conners, Michael and Lillie’s only child, lived out his life in Geary County, Kansas, in the town of Wingfield working as a farmer. Ernest married Anna Heim in the 1920s with whom he had two daughters, Maryanna Elizabeth and Joy Sue. Sergeant Michael Conners’s letters from the Sioux Campaign of 1890-1891 passed into the hands of his granddaughter, Joy, who has kindly given permission to share them on this site.[22]

Endnotes:

[1] Michael Conners, letter to Lillie Carlyon at Junction City, KS, 26 Nov 1890. These private letters have never been published before now, and were provided through the generosity of Conners’s granddaughter, Mrs. Joy Conners Skinner. They were scanned and transcribed by Gregg Legutki of Rancho Cucamonga, CA. For ease of reading, I have made minor spelling corrections and added missing punctuation and capitalization.
[2] Conners, letter to Lillie Carlyon, 6 Dec 1890.
[3] Conners, letter to Lillie Carlyon, 17 Dec 1890.
[4] Conners, letter to Lillie Carlyon, 19 Dec 1890.
[5] Conners, letter to Lillie Carlyon, 31 Dec 1890.
[6] Conners, letter to Lillie Carlyon, KS, 1 Jan 1891.
[7] Conners, letter to Lillie Carlyon, 21 Jan 1891.
[8] Ancestry.com, England, Select Births and Christenings, 1538-1975 (Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014), FHL Film Number: 246852, 246853; Ancestry.com, New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 (Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010), Year: 1886, Arrival: New York, New York, Microfilm Serial: M237, 1820-1897, Microfilm Roll: Roll 492; Line: 40, List Number: 237.
[9] Adjutant General’s Office, Court Martial Case File for Michael Conners, Principal Record Division, Record Group: 153, Stack area: 7E3, Row: 15, Compartment 29, Shelf: 4. Research conducted by Vonnie S. Zullo of The Horse Soldier Research Service.
[10] Ibid.
[11] Ibid.
[12] “The Quartermaster Robbery,” The Junction City Weekly Union (Kansas), 4 Feb 1893, 3.
[13] Adjutant General’s Office, Court Martial Case File for Michael Conners.
[14] Ibid.
[15] Ibid.
[16] Ibid.
[17] Fort Leavenworth Descriptive Book of Prisoners, Record Group: 393, Part: V, Entry: 125, Volume: 3. Research conducted by Vonnie S. Zullo of The Horse Soldier Research Service.
[18] Ancestry.com, U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918 (Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2005), Registration State: Kansas, Registration County: Geary, Roll: 1643517; Ancestry.com, 1900 United States Federal Census (Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2004), Census Place: Wingfield, Geary, Kansas, Roll: 481, Page: 9A, Enumeration District: 0047, FHL microfilm: 1240481.
[19] Adjutant General’s Office, Court Martial Case File for Michael Conners; Fort Leavenworth Descriptive Book of Prisoners.
[20] Steve McCray, photo., “Michael Conners,” FindAGrave (http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=14288016), uploaded 25 Apr 2010, accessed 7 Nov 2015.
[21] Fort Leavenworth Descriptive Book of Prisoners; Ancestry.com, Illinois, Marriage Index, 1860-1920 (Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2015).
[22] The Junction City Weekly Union (Junction City, Kansas: Nov 17, 1894), 3; United States Federal Census, Year: 1900, Census Place: Wingfield, Geary, Kansas, Roll: 481, Page: 9A, Enumeration District: 0047, FHL microfilm: 1240481; Year: 1910, Census Place: Wingfield, Geary, Kansas, Roll: T624_440, Page: 8A, Enumeration District: 0053, FHL microfilm: 1374453; Year: 1920, Census Place: Wingfield, Geary, Kansas, Roll: T625_533, Page: 7B, Enumeration District: 55, Image: 53; Year: 1930, Census Place: Wingfield, Geary, Kansas, Roll: 702, Page: 2A, Enumeration District: 0015, Image:547.0, FHL microfilm: 2340437; Year: 1940, Census Place: Wingfield, Geary, Kansas, Roll: T627_1232, Page: 2A, Enumeration District: 31-16;

Citation for this article: Samuel L. Russell, “Campaign Letters of Sergeant Michael Conners, D Troop, 7th Cavalry,’” Army at Wounded Knee (Carlisle, PA: Russell Martial Research, 2015-2016, http://wp.me/p3NoJy-Rk) posted 2 Apr 2016, accessed date __________.

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Lieutenant James D. Mann’s “Incidents of the Wounded Knee Fight”


I thought, “The pity of it! What can they be thinking of?” I knew what must be the inevitable consequence to them with so many soldiers present.

Second Lieutenant James D. Mann at target range camp at the Fort Riley, Kansas in 1888.

Second Lieutenant James D. Mann at target range camp at the Fort Riley, Kansas in 1888.

On 28 December 1890, First Lieutenant James D. Mann, K Troop 7th Cavalry, was left in charge of his battalion’s camp at the Wounded Knee Post Office while Major Whitside rode out with over 240 troopers to meet and capture Big Foot and his band of Miniconjou Lakota. Lieutenant Mann sent the following message at 1:30 p.m. from the cavalry camp to the Assistant Adjutant General of the Department of the Platte headquartered in the field at the Pine Ridge Agency.

Major Whitside with all mounted men and mountain guns left camp at 12 m. to meet Big Foot’s band, reported to be in camp at the crossing of the Porcupine, having been reported there by Little Bat. We have in camp here two of their men, holding them as prisoners.
I have just been informed by Vespucius, a halfbreed, who has driven from the agency to this point, that he met about 50 strange Indians, who were about 9 miles from the agency and heading in that direction. These, I learn from our prisoners, are from Cherry creek and are trying to get into the agency.[1]

Lieutenant Mann was severely wounded during the skirmishing along White Clay Creek on 30 December 1890 in what became known as the Mission Fight. While recovering in the post hospital at Fort Riley, Kansas, in January he dictated to one of his brothers his account of the battle at Wounded Knee. Lieutenant Mann succumbed to his wounds on 15 January 1891. Almost a half century later Mann’s account was published by a cousin, Lieutenant Colonel Frazer Arnold, in The Cavalry Journal in 1939. It is reproduced here in its entirety.

Before all of Big Foot’s band came in [on 28 December 1890], two bucks were brought to camp. I had a boy with me from one of the agency stores and, through him, asked one of the bucks why they were coming in. He answered, “Because Red Cloud sent for us.” I then asked him if they had seen anything of Colonel Henry’s soldiers. [Major Guy V. Henry, 9th Cavalry, was scouting farther north at the confluence of Wounded Knee Creek and the White River.] He answered “No, but if they had, they would have run them out of the country quick enough.” I thought both of these answers sounded ominous, and the boy thought so, too, for he said, “Yes, you are nice Indians to talk of running the soldiers out of the country.”

The night before the fight, the Indians had asked for tents, saying they had not enough tent room, so we put up Wallace’s mess tent and some “Sibleys,” but when we went into them in the morning, there were no evidences of their having been occupied, except Wallace’s, which was occupied by Big Foot, who was sick.

The morning of the 29th we started to disarm them, the bucks being formed in a semi-circle in front of the tents. We went through the tents searching for arms, and while this was going on, everyone seemed to be good-natured, and we had no thought of trouble. The enlisted men were not allowed to go inside the tents and only took the arms as we handed them out. The squaws were sitting on bundles concealing guns and other arms. We lifted them as tenderly and treated them as nicely as possible. Had they been the most refined ladies in the land, they could not have been treated with more consideration. The squaws made no resistance, and when we took the arms they seemed to be satisfied.  Wallace (Captain George D. Wallace, 7th Cavalry, West Point, ’72) played with the children chucking them under the chin and being as pleasant with them all as could be. He had picked up a stone war club, which he carried with him. I think we got about thirty pieces of various kinds from the tents.

As soon as we had finished this search, the squaws began packing up, which was a suspicious sign.

While this was going on, the medicine man, who was in the center of the semi-circle of bucks, had been going through the “Ghost Dance” and making a speech, the substance of which was, as told me by an interpreter afterwards, “I have made medicine of the White Man’s ammunition. It is good medicine, and his bullets can not harm you, as they will not go through your ghost shirts, while your bullets will kill.”

Inset of Lieut. S. A. Cloman’s map of Wounded Knee depicting the scene of the fight with Big Foot’s Band, December 29, 1890.

(Click to enlarge) Inset of Lieut. S. A. Cloman’s map of Wounded Knee depicting the scene of the fight with Big Foot’s Band, December 29, 1890.

During this time the detachments that had been detailed to make the search of the tents had resumed their places, but I had to fill in on the “left,” instead of on the “right,” where I should have been. [This positioning would place Mann nearest the apex of the ‘V’ formed by B and K Troops.] I had a peculiar feeling come over me which I can not describe–some presentiment of trouble–and I told my men to “be ready; there is going to be trouble.” We were only six or eight feet from the Indians, and I ordered my men to “fall back.” I finally got them back about twenty-five feet. Then it seemed that at some signal all the bucks threw off their blankets and drew their weapons. My mind was never clearer than at this moment, and I saw distinctly what was coming. I thought, “The pity of it! What can they be thinking of?” I knew what must be the inevitable consequence to them with so many soldiers present.

In front of me were four bucks–three armed with rifles and one with bow and arrows. I drew my revolver and stepped through the line to my place with my detachment. The Indians raised their weapons over their heads to Heaven as if in votive offering, then brought them down to bear on us, the one with the bow and arrow aiming directly at me. Then they seemed to wait an instant. The medicine man threw a handful of dust into the air, put on his war bonnet, and then I heard a gun fired near him. This seemed to be the signal they had been waiting for, and the firing immediately began. I ordered my men to fire, and the reports were almost simultaneous.

After the first fire the Indians broke and ran back among their women and children, and some secreted themselves in the tents, keeping up their firing from there. One of them secreted himself in one of the “Sibley” tents and, cutting slits in it, out of which he could see, picked off a number of our men before we could locate him. One of my men, noticing where the shots came from, said: “I will get the ——– out of there” and ran up to the tent. I called to him to “come back,” but he kept on and with his knife slit the tent from top to bottom. Before he could do more, the buck had fired at him. He stepped back and exclaimed, “My God, he has shot me. I am killed. I am killed.” He turned and started to run back to us but, before reaching us, he fell dead. A Hotchkiss gun was brought up, and a couple of shells exploded in the tent. There was no more shooting from there after that, but we did not know whether or not the buck was dead. To avoid the loss of any more men from him, we threw a fire-brand on the tent and burned it down, revealing the buck lying dead.

After the battle we found Wallace lying dead in front of a tent with two bullets through his body and a wound on his head, with empty revolver in his hand. I think someone must have reached out of the tent and struck him on the head with a war club after he was down, and possibly it was done with the war club he had been carrying. By this time all the Indians had been killed except a few who had secreted themselves in a gully, and these were dislodged by the Hotchkiss guns.

This photograph, taken in January 1891, was probably the Indian shooting from the Sibley tent that Lieut. Mann described in detail. The photograph is credited to L. T. Butterfield of Chadron, Nebraska.

(Click to enlarge) This photograph, taken in January 1891, was probably the Indian shooting from the Sibley tent that Lieut. Mann described in detail. The photograph is credited to L. T. Butterfield of Chadron, Nebraska.[2]

It was during this latter firing that Lieutenant Hawthorne was wounded.

I do not see how any disposition of the troops could have been made to have prevented the fight. I have thought over and over about this, and the only thing I can see would have been to place a man behind each buck, with his revolver against the buck’s head, with instructions to shoot if he made the least move, and I doubt if even that would have done any good.

This band of Indians was a sullen, hard lot, and they had made up their minds to die.

They were crazy with religious frenzy and believed they were going to exterminate the soldiers.[3]

Endnotes

[1] John R. Brooke, Sioux Campaign 1890-91, vols. 1 and 2 (Philadelphia: Historical Society of Pennsylvania, 1919), 603.
[2] L. T. Butterfield, photo., “The Medicine Man,” (Chadron: Northwestern Photographic Co., 1891), on file at The Beinecke Rare Boot and Manuscript Library, Yale University Library, New Haven, Connecticut.
[3] James D. Mann, “Incidents of the ‘Wounded Knee Fight,’ December 29, 1890, as related to his brother by Lieutenant James D. Mann, K Troop, 7th Cavalry,” as quoted by Frazer Arnold in his article “Ghost Dance and Wounded Knee,” The Cavalry Journal, May-June, 1934, (Fort Riley: The United States Cavalry Association), 19-20.

Citation for this article: Samuel L. Russell, “Lieutenant James D. Mann’s ‘Incidents of the Wounded Knee Fight,’” Army at Wounded Knee (Carlisle, PA: Russell Martial Research, 2015-2016, http://wp.me/p3NoJy-n5) posted 24 Feb 2016, accessed date __________.

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