Lakota Casualties at Wounded Knee


Chief Big Foot's frozen body on 3 January 1891. Major Whitside is pictured in the background, third from the left accompanied by Lieutenant Cloman and a surveying party. Source: Photograph donated by Ann S. Russell of Cornwall, New York.

Chief Big Foot’s frozen body on 3 January 1891. Major Whitside is pictured in the background, third from the left accompanied by Lieutenant Cloman and a surveying party.  Photograph from author’s private collection.

The number of Lakota that were killed as a result of Wounded Knee has remained an unknown question that the Army, reporters, historians, and, perhaps most importantly, the survivors and their relatives have wrestled with since the day of the engagement.  The first accounting of the number of Indians present at Wounded Knee was provided by Major Samuel M. Whitside on 28 December 1890 when he reported, “I have just arrested Big Foot and 120 Indians, all well armed and plenty of ammunition in their belts.  About 250 women and children are in the party.”[1]

On the evening following the battle, Brigadier General Brooke sent a telegram to Major General Miles in response to the commanding general’s request for accurate information regarding how many of Big Foot’s people may have escaped.

Forsyth says there were one hundred and six bucks and about two hundred and fifty squaws and children.  The bucks were accurately counted, the squaws and children were estimated.  Six badly wounded bucks are here, six wounded bucks were with a party of twenty-three bucks and squaws which Captain Jackson had to drop when attacked by the Brules.  Sixty-two dead bucks were counted on the plain where the fight commenced and on other parts of the ground were eighteen more.  This does not include those killed in ravines where dead bucks were seen but not counted.  This accounts for ninety-two bucks without taking into consideration those which were not counted, and leaves but few alive and unhurt.  The squaws and children broke for the hills when the fight commenced and comparatively few of them were hurt and few brought in.  Thirty-nine are here, of which number twenty-one are wounded.  Had it not been for the attack of the Brules an accurate count would have been made, but the ravines were not searched afterwards.  I think this shows that there is little to apprehend from Big Foot’s band in the future.[2]

Colonel James W. Forsyth’s report of 31 December 1890 provided the first estimate of the numbers regarding Indian casualties.  He was focused on male Lakota warriors and thus made no mention of the number of woman and children that fell in the engagement.

Killed.
83 bucks in and near camp.
7 bucks by pursuing party.
Wounded.
6 bucks brought to agency,
5 bucks abandoned by pursuing party,
19 squaws and children abandoned by pursuing party,
27 squaws and children brought to agency.[3]

On 1 January 1891 Captain F. A. Whitney of the 8th Infantry was dispatched to the scene of the battle to determine the number of Lakota casualties.  He provided the following report two days later.

…I have examined the ground where the fight with Big Foot’s band occurred, and counted the number of Indians killed and wounded, also number of ponies and horses, with the following result:
82 bucks and 1 boy killed, 2 bucks badly wounded, 40 squaws killed, 1 squaw wounded, one blind squaw unhurt; 4 small children and 1 papoose killed, 40 bucks and 7 women were killed in camp; 25 bucks, 10 women and 2 children in the canon near and on one side of the camp; the balance were found in the hills; 58 horses and ponies and 1 burro were found dead.
There is evidence that a great number of bodies have been removed.  Since the snow, wagon tracks were made near where it is supposed dead or wounded Indians had been lying.  The camp and bodies of the Indians had been more or less plundered before my command arrived here.  I prohibited anything being removed from the bodies of the Indians or the camp.[4]

When added up, Whitney accounts for 128 Lakota killed.  That number is 18 short of the 146 bodies that the Army paid a contractor to bury in the trench on the hill overlooking the battlefield.

Major S. M. Whitside wrote to his wife on 5 January and provided an estimate of Lakota casualties.  Like Forsyth, he focused his numbers only on male Indians.

Eighty four Buck Indians were buried yesterday, ten are wounded in the hospital and nine were taken away and buried by friendly Indians. 8 are at the Catholic Mission wounded. So out of 120 present at the beginning of the fight we know of 111 that were either killed or wounded, leaving nine unaccounted for….[5]

On 5 February 1891 in a letter to Major General Miles’s headquarters, Captain Frank D. Baldwin of the 5th Infantry provided perhaps the most comprehensive accounting of Lakota casualties from the engagement at Wounded Knee.

                From the most reliable information obtainable, I collected the following relative to Big Foot’s band of Indians:–
January 4, 1891, there were buried on the battle field at Wounded Knee Creek, eighty-two men and sixty-four women and children.  Captain Whitney, who was in command of the troops near battle field January 4, 1891, states that there was undoubted evidence of the removal of twenty-six bodies of dead Indians, and there was no doubt in his mind but that at least forty bodies of dead Indians had been moved from battle field between December 29th, 1890 and January 4th, 1891.
I proceeded January 20th, 1891, with a small detachment of troops up White Horse Creek, to a point three miles west of the battle field and buried one Indian woman, two girls and one boy, who had been killed on the day of the battle at Wounded Knee.  A day or two prior to this, an Indian scout reported as having found the bodies of two warriors who had been shot.  These were buried by the scouts.  About the same time, reliable reports through Captain Ewers was received, that the body of one warrior had been found and buried by a party of scouts.
There was received in the post hospital, Pine Ridge up to January 25th, 1891, eight adult males, twelve children males, eleven adult females, five children females.  Seven of the foregoing died in hospital of wounds and two adult females were cared for at Gennies’ ranch.
Captain Ewers reports that he has trace of some seventy surviving members of Big Foot’s band, but is unable to give positive information as to their whereabouts, condition or sex.  As soon as he secures the information it will be furnished.

SUMMARY.

Killed on the battle field,
or died of wounds, warriors…                                     85
Killed on the battle field,
or died of wounds, non-combatants…                       68
Killed on the battle field,
or died of wounds, sex and age not known…            47                                                                                                              200

Wounded and received in Hospital at Pine Ridge,

Adults, males…                                                 8
Children, males…                                            12
Adults, females…                                            11
Children, females…                                          5……… 36
seven of the foregoing died in hospital.

Scattered among other bands of Indians, exact whereabouts, condition or sex not known, although the major portion of whom are believed to be wounded…                 70
Grand total…   306 [6]

Based on Baldwin’s estimates he accounts for 207 Lakota killed or later died of wounds and another 99 that survived, which is significantly larger than the 146 buried in the trench and the 128 listed by Whitney.  Baldwin’s total number of 306 Indians is still 64 short of the 370 that Whitside estimated captured on 28 December 1890.

Judge Eli S. Ricker in his interviews with Indian survivors compiled a list that he attributed to Joseph Horn Cloud of both killed and survivors.  His list included the names of 185 Lakota killed at Wounded Knee, still twenty-two short of Baldwin’s estimate.  Ricker further provided names of 104 survivors of Big Foot’s band, which puts the total number of the band at 289, still eighty-one short of the total number that Whitside reported captured.  Part of the discrepancy in numbers may be the Hunkpapa and Brule Lakota from Sitting Bull and Hump’s bands that joined Spotted Elk’s group during their trek to Pine Ridge. Joseph Horn Cloud’s list of Lakota casualties as compiled by Ricker follows.  It is a sobering identification of lives lost.

Chief Big Foot
Mrs. Big Foot
Horned Cloud
Mrs. Horned Cloud
William Horned Cloud, son
Sherman Horned Cloud, son
Pretty Enemy, niece
Mrs. Beard, daughter-in-law
Thomas Beard, grandson
Shedding Bear
Trouble-in-Front, son
Last Running
Red White Cow, daughter
Mother-in-law of Shedding Bear
High Hawk
Mrs. High Hawk
Little boy, son
Little girl, daughter
Whirl Wind Hawk
Mrs. Whirl Wind Hawk
Young lady, daughter
Young girl, daughter
Little girl, daughter
Little boy, son
Little boy, son
He Crow
Pretty Woman, daughter
Buckskin Breech Clout
Running In Lodge, son
White Feather, son
Little boy, son
Bear Woman (the oldest woman in the band)
Crazy Bear
Elk Creek
Mrs. Elk Creek
Spotted Chief, son
Red Fish
Mrs. Red Fish
Old Good Bear
Young Good Bear
Mrs. Good Bear
Little boy, son
Pretty Hawk
Mrs. Pretty Hawk
Baby Pretty Hawk
Mrs. Lap
Shoots The Right
Bad Wound, son
Bear Parts Body
Little boy, son
Brown Beaver
White Beaver Woman
Black Coyote  (The one who made the trouble)
Red Water Woman
Sun In Pupil
Mrs. Sun In Pupil
Henry Three, or Pretty Bald Eagle
Iron Eyes (Big Foot’s brother)
Mrs. Iron Eyes
Has A Dog
Red Shirt Girl
Pretty Woman
Albert Iron Eyes
White Day
Little Boy, son
Charge At Them
Old Woman, mother
Mrs. Iron American
Mrs. Yellow Buffalo Calf
Louis Close To Home
Cast Away And Run
Bad Braves
Red Horn
Winter
Strong Fox
Mrs. Strong Fox
Little boy, son
One Feather
Little boy, son
Without Robe
Old Man Yellow Bull
Mrs. Old Man Yellow Bull
Brown Woman
Shakes The Bird
Red Ears Horse
Shoots With Hawk Feather (Shot with Hotchkiss)
His mother
Ghost Horse
Little boy, son
Chief Woman
Mrs. Trouble In Love
Hat
Baby boy
Mrs. Stone Hammer
Little baby
Wolf Ears
Good Boy, son
Edward Wolf Ears
Little girl
Shoots The Bear
Kills Senaca Assiniboine
George Shoots The Bear
Mrs. Shoots The Bear
Kills Crow Indian
Little Body Bear
Mrs. Little Body Bear
Little boy, son
Baby girl
Red Eagle (This man was in the tent & killed by the cannon)
Eagle Body, daughter
Little girl
Little Elk
Mrs. Little Elk
Black Shield’s little girl
White Wolf
Red Ears Horse, sister
Old Woman, her mother
Wood Shade
Mrs. Wood Shade
Running Standing Hairs
Mrs. Running Standing Hairs
Young lady, daughter
Scabbard Knife
Mrs. Scabbard Knife
He Eagle
Mrs. He Eagle
Edward He Eagle, son
Young girl, daughter
Young boy, son
Log
Mrs. Log
Really Woman, son
Brown Hoops
Little boy, son
Young girl, daughter
Mule’s daughter, young lady
Red Other Woman
Black Flutes, young boy
Takes Away The Bow
Gray In Eye
Mrs. Drops Blood
Young boy, son
Little boy, son
Old Woman
Mrs. Long Bull
Young girl, daughter
Spotted Thunder
Swift Bird
Mrs. Swift Bird
Boy, son
Boy, son
Strike Scatter
Boy, son
Wolf Skin Necklace
Last Talking, old woman
Not Go In Among, son of Hailing Bear, and Her Good Medicine
Wounded Hand
Comes Out Rattling, wife
Big Voice Thunder
Mercy To Others
Long Medicine
Broken Arrow
Mrs. Broken Arrow
Young man
Young woman
Brown Turtle
Old woman, mother
Bird Wings
Not Afraid Of Lodge
Bear Comes And Lies
Wears Calf’s Robe
Yellow Robe
Wounded In Winter, son
Mrs. Black Hair
Bad Spotted Eagle (a Cree Indian)
Mrs. Bad Spotted Eagle
White American
Long Bull
Courage Bear
Mrs. Courage Bear
Fat Courage Bear
George Courage Bear
Black Hawk
She Bear, wife
Weasel Bear, daughter[7]

Endnotes
[1] Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Sioux Campaign 1890-91, vols. 1 and 2 (Philadelphia: Historical Society of Pennsylvania, 1919), 604.
[2] Ibid., 656.
[3] James W. Forsyth, letter to Adjutant General, Department of the Platte dated 31 Dec 1890, from National Archives Microfilm Publications, Reports and Correspondence Relating to the Army Investigations of the Battle at Wounded Knee and to the Sioux Campaign of 1890-1891, Roll 1 “Sioux Campaign, Jan. 1891,” p. 760-763.
[4] F. A. Whitney, letter to Adjutant General, Department of the Platte dated 3 Jan 1891, from National Archives Microfilm Publications, Investigations of the Battle at Wounded Knee, Roll 1 “Sioux Campaign, Jan. 1891,” p. 824.
[5] Samuel M. Whitside, letter to Carrie Whitside dated 5 Jan 1891, from Samuel L. Russell, “Selfless Service: The Cavalry Career of Brigadier General Samuel M. Whitside from 1858 to 1902,” thesis (Leavenworth: Command and General Staff College, 2002), 144.
[6] Frank D. Baldwin, letter to Adjutant General, Division of the Missouri dated 5 Feb 1891, from National Archives Microfilm Publications, Investigations of the Battle at Wounded Knee, Roll 2 “Sioux Campaign, Jan. – Oct. 1891,” pp. 1075-1076.
[7] Eli S. Ricker, Voices of the American West, The Indian Interviews of Eli S. Ricker, 1903-1919, (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2005), 204-206.

Citation for this article: Samuel L. Russell, “Lakota Casualties at Wounded Knee,” Army at Wounded Knee, updated 7 Sep 2015, accessed date _________, http://wp.me/p3NoJy-kP.

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About Sam Russell

I am a fifth-generation Army officer with over twenty-eight years of commissioned service. I have been researching the frontier Army for over fifteen years and am interested in documenting the lives of the soldiers that participated in the battle of Wounded Knee using primarily official reports, diaries, letters, newspaper articles and other primary source documents. My interest in Wounded Knee stems from my kinship to one of the principal participants. I am the great-great-grandson of Samuel M. Whitside, who was a major and battalion commander at the battle. I welcome and encourage comments on posts and pages and am always interested in any new primary sources. If you have copies of letters, diaries, etc, from participants and are willing to share, please contact me. Disclaimer: The views expressed in this blog are strictly my own, and should in no way be construed as official Army or U.S. Government positons.
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7 Responses to Lakota Casualties at Wounded Knee

  1. Michael Renn says:

    Calling the events that occurred at Wounded Knee a battle is wrong, no matter how you twist it. Would you call shooting fish in a barrel a battle? Even if the fish were piranha or sharks they are still under armed, underfed, defeated captives. And I don`t really care who your great grand daddy was, you should be ashamed of his actions, and should not try to justify or glorify them. Count the women and children dead, then add the papoose to your conscience. It should cause you to lose sleep as it does me. And the 27 Medals of Honor awarded add insult to injury not only to the native American dead, but to all of those who came after and actually earned the award for actual acts of valor. Have a heart. Rescind the 27 undeserved medals.

    Like

    • Stonebear says:

      Apologies for the comment regarding your g-g-grandfather. I meant no disrespect to either him or to you. I know you are proud of him and your heritage and deservedly so. My maternal grandfather was in the horse cavalry until, in the name of progress, the Army traded in mounted soldiers for motorized ones. He wouldn’t speak of it much, but I saw how the memory of the way the horses were dispatched still brought tears to his eyes.

      Like

  2. Will Selling says:

    Sir,
    Thank you for sharing this list. I do not see the Medicine-Man Yellow Bird listed. Was he left out or listed under another name?
    Thanks,
    Will

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    • Sam Russell says:

      Will… Thanks for your comment. Yellow Bird appears in numerous fictional accounts and some scholarly ones as the name of the ghost dancer or medicine man that threw dirt or dust in the air just before the first gun shot. The first documented account of this identification was from ethnologist James Mooney two years after the battle in his work for the interior department. There isn’t any primary source accounts that list his name as Yellow Bird. One of the Horn Cloud survivors identified Good Thunder as the Ghost Dancer at the council that morning. Good Thunder was wounded but survived the battle. A good secondary reference for this is Jensen, Paul, and Carter’s Eye Witness at Wounded Knee. Yellow Bird is listed in the index with respective page numbers.

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  3. David Goble says:

    John Shangrau was an eye witness to the events at Wounded Knee Creek. Some time later when interviewed by Eli Ricker, Shangrau quoted his exchange with a young officer, “He said to me, ‘Well, scout, we’ve got our revenge now!’ I replied, ‘What revenge is that?’ And he said to me, ‘Why, don’t you know? Revenge for the Custer massacre!'”

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  4. David Goble says:

    From the accounts I’ve read, Samuel M. Whitside was a decent and humane man. He detained Spotted Elk and those with him at Porcupine Butte, them having journeyed from the forks of the Cheyenne River. Spotted Elk was in very bad condition, hemorrhaging blood from his lungs. Whitside listened to reason when Shangrau suggested they not disarm the warriors then and there. Who knew what was waiting for them? And Whitside ordered that Spotted Elk be removed from the buckboard he was in and accommodated in the ambulance.

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