Hunting for Big Foot, part 5: 27 December 1890.


I am doing everything with the means at hand that mortal man can do to accomplish the end you desire.
–Maj. S. M. Whitside

This day 125 years ago… day four of the hunt for Big Foot saw Major Whitside establish his camp adjacent to the the post office where the Pine Ridge Agency road crossed Wounded Knee Creek.  (click to open Hunting for Big Foot homepage)

The time displayed, e.g. (9:30 a.m.), at the beginning of each message reflects when that information was sent from or received at General Brooke’s headquarters, unless otherwise indicated.  Most of the messages were transmitted via telegraph. Those messages that were delivered by other means such as couriers or heliograph are so annotated in parenthesis at the end of each respective message.  Hover the mouse over the names displayed in Red to display the full identity of the individual mentioned.  Bold Red will also indicate location of the individual.  Blue underlined texts are hyperlinks to other pages or cites.  Click on photos of individuals to see an enlarged version of the source photograph in a new tab.  Similarly, clicking on maps will open a new tab with an enlarged view of each map that can be zoomed in for greater detail.

Saturday, Dec. 27, 1890.

(Click to enlarge) Inset depicting approximate location of Col. Carr, Maj. Henry, and Maj. Whitside on the morning of 27 Dec. 1890.

(Click to enlarge) Inset depicting approximate location of Col. Carr, Maj. Henry, and Maj. Whitside on the morning of 27 Dec. 1890.

Maj Samuel M. WhitsideWhitside to Asst Adj Gen Dept Platte (sent 10:30 p.m. Dec. 26, rec’d before 3 a.m. Dec. 27): I have the honor to report my arrival with 1st Battalion 7th Cavalry at this point at 5:10 p.m. after dark. About a mile back from here I was met by an Indian scout who reported to me that four horsemen had been seen in the vicinity of this point. Troop A, under command of Captain Moylan, was pushed forward at a trot but the horseman had disappeared in the darkness. Allela, an Indian policeman, who was at his home near here reported to Captain Moylan that these four men had come to his home and he had talked with them. They were Indians with whom he was not acquainted. They told him they were Sitting Bull people and that they had been near the agency, but seeing our approach had retreated. They left him, going in an easterly direction.
The 15 Indian scouts who left the agency in advance of me are between here and the mouth of the Porcupine with instructions to report to me at once if any Indians are seen heading in this direction. To-morrow morning I will cause the country to the north-east and south of me to be thoroughly scouted to ascertain if any Indians have passed during the night. I will remain here till further instructions, constantly scouting this vicinity. (by courier) {548}

Brig. Gen. John R. BrookeBrooke to Whitside (3 a.m.): Your report received. I am sorry the Indians have seen you. Big Foot travels at night and may get around you. Be very active and do not let him escape you. You must hide your troops and not let yourself be seen if you can help it. Everything depends on your being able to capture these Indians. Your scouts should be out in every direction and should be very active. Major Henry will be found on the road going down Wounded Knee. Do not fail to make every effort to head off and capture them. It is thought they are somewhere on Porcupine creek in your front. Have your scouts find them. (by courier) {573}

Maj Guy V. HenryHenry to Asst Adj Gen Dept Platte (6 p.m. Dec. 26, rec’d 7 a.m. Dec. 27): Scouts report wagons passing out of Bad Lands location and nothing left there as far as they can see. The occupation of this place or its examination would be good, as, if they make a break, they will return there. I cover the east and north-east well from my position here, with Captain Wright on the White river, watching those two trails, and I the whole valley east and near Bad Lands. The only way on this side, Indians leaving agency to move east and south of White river, and strike north some distance east of me, and this is covered by Carr and Sumner. I will go to-morrow towards these “Bad Lands” and prospect for future information. McGaw found a horse of his to-day shot by Indians. He says Indians will go back to Bad Lands, but not north. Ponies too poor for travel. Big Foot can not get into table by me, that is except by passing on this road, here or near a basin being watched north and west of me 2 miles, and then he would strike the Cottonwood, and have to follow it around, and enter by Battle creek trail, which I suppose is covered. He could not enter by Bad Water trail or Cottonwood, for I am looking there. Lieut. Powell, who is east of a little north about 14 miles, writes that Major Adam is over there with 6th Cavalry. I covered that trail to look for Big Foot. Have ordered Lieut. Powell in. This is a well protected camp, and being north and east of what I am to cover, fulfills the conditions of the problem better further south where I have a troop. So unless so directed, will remain here as being better able to perform my part. Mr. Pugh, Indian herder, tells me there is a trail out of spur of “table land”, not on map. Shall I look for it? (by courier) {553}

Lt Fayette W. RoeRoe to Whitside (7:50 a.m.): I am directed by the Commanding General to say that he thinks Big Foot’s party must be in your front somewhere, and that you must make every effort to find him and then move on him at once and with rapidity. There must be a solution reached at the earliest possible moment. Find his trail and follow or find his hiding place and capture him. If he fights destroy him. Take all precautions to report promptly what you may ascertain so that intelligent co-operation may be possible. (by courier) {574}

Brig. Gen. John R. BrookeBrooke to Miles (8:15 a.m.): Henry reports having been informed that there are no troops between Spring and Battle creeks and that there is a trail reported which leaves the small or north table and goes down towards the Cheyenne. Also that Major Adam was fourteen miles east of his camp, which was at Harney Springs. Also that as far as could be ascertained all the Indians had left the Bad Lands table. Would it not be well to push a force up there and occupy it at once? From Whitside I hear that which leads me to think that Big Foot is east of here. He may go towards Rosebud but I have directed Poland to look out for him. I have no other news this morning. {552}

Lt Charles M. TruittTruitt to Henry (9 a.m.): I am directed by the Commanding General to say that a messenger from the Bad Lands Indians reports they all moved to White river last night and that they would be on White Clay to-night. Have the table examined and see if it be all true and report. Look out for Big Foot to east and south. Major Whitside’s report shows some of his party east of here evidently trying to get in here. Do not send in for rations and forage until it is absolutely necessary, as the whole matter may be closed up before you will need them. If you find the table land deserted move your whole force to White river and cover all points from there, having especial care for the outlets to the north and east which will then be in your rear. Report frequently. The great object now is to catch Big Foot and his party. If you catch them disarm them and dismount them and hold them securely where you may be and report your action and await orders. Your letter of 6 p.m. reached here at 7 a.m. General Miles has been asked to send Wells to occupy the table. Also communicate with Major Adam, 6th Cavalry, if possible, and inform him of the situation as regards Big Foot. Also tell Mr. Pugh that the facts regarding his men have been communicated to General Miles. (by courier) {575}

Maj Samuel M. WhitsideWhitside to Brooke (1:15 p.m.): Lieutenant Preston and Little Bat reached here an hour ago. None of the fifteen scouts who went east in the direction of Porcupine last evening have returned. Two of my scouts went over to the Porcupine this morning and have just returned without finding any trail or seeing any of the missing scouts. I have sent scouts down the Wounded Knee to communicate with Major Henry, should he be south of White river, which your dispatch of this morning seemed to indicate; also to look for trails going west in the direction of the agency. This party has not returned. Little Bat and Yankton Charley will leave camp in a few minutes for the east and will go to the Porcupine and beyond it, if necessary, to find the absent scouts and to gain such other information regarding Big Foot’s band and his location as possible. Little Bat has instructions to send me at the earliest moment all information obtainable. I hold my command in readiness to move out on ten minutes notice. I am doing everything with the means at hand that mortal man can do to accomplish the end you desire.
I will keep you advised regarding my movements and any information I may receive as to the location of these Indians. I am satisfied Big Foot’s band is not in this vicinity and on account of the long absence of the scouts I am of the opinion they have gone over to Rosebud or returned to their agency. We have offered our scouts a reward of $25.oo to locate and take me to Big Foot’s band. (by heliograph) {591}

Brig. Gen. John R. BrookeBrooke to Whitside (1:30 p.m.): The probable place to find Big Foot is near the mouth of Porcupine at a place called “Wooded Bank”. Send word to Henry at mouth Wounded Knee. (by heliograph) {576}

Poland to Asst Adj Gen Dept Platte (5:44 p.m.): Your telegram of 26th reached me at eleven fifteen this morning. Telephone line blown down yesterday. I gave orders at once for cavalry to get ready to move at the same time almost. I heard news of Big Foot Indians. Chief Herder Dyer, just in from White river, says that Big Foot’s band had moved into the Bad Lands, to get into which they had to approach White river at or near mouth of Eagle Nest creek to reach trail leading west to get on trail from near mouth of Porcupine creek to Creston. Antoine Bordeaux, who brought this news, is reliable man and tells what an Indian told him. He says the Indians had two men die on the road who were wounded at Standing Rock. As your dispatch has been delayed so long and is not generally reported, I have suspended the order for the cavalry to move till further orders are received, as you may have additional news or instructions. Agent Wright will send Indian police to Pass and Black Pipe creek, to obtain more or any information of the approach of any body of Indians toward this agency. I am prepared to meet and shall arrest them if possible. Dyer’s latest information from Short Bull, Bordeaux says, is that he intends to try to escape to the north. Indians are passing and repassing to and from the Bad Lands to the agencies.
The telephone line is out of order again. I send this by scout to Valentine. Would like authority to enlist five or six scouts. (telegram via Valentine, Neb.) {577}

Maj Samuel M. WhitsideWhitside to Brooke: Still at Wounded Knee post office. None of the scouts that went east to the Porcupine last evening have returned. A party have been sent down Wounded Knee to look for fresh traces and communicate with Major Henry if possible. All of my scouts now searching for Big Foot’s band. All necessary steps have been made to find these Indians if they are in this vicinity. (probably via heliograph) {584}

Maj Gen Nelson A. MilesMiles to Brooke: Have you any information about Big Foot? Colonel Carr is of the impression that he went a long distance east of his command on White river toward the Rosebud. {585}

Brig. Gen. John R. BrookeBrooke to Miles (4:45 p.m.): A report just received from Whitside. His scouts have been to Porcupine and no trail has been seen. Other scouts who went out in advance have not yet been heard from and may have some information when they get back. {586}

Maj Samuel M. WhitsideWhitside to Brooke (7 p.m.): Lieutenant Garlington has just returned from a scout down the Wounded Knee. He went within six miles of its mouth, from which point he could see the valley of White river and the mouth of Wounded Knee, but Major Henry’s command was not in sight. I will send a scout in a few minutes down to communicate with Major Henry with your message regarding the probable location of Big Foot.
No news of my scouts up to this time, but am hourly expecting to hear from them. (probably heliograph) {590}

Tomorrow, the hunt for Big Foot continues with Whitside capturing the band near the Porcupine Butte.

(click to open Hunting for Big Foot homepage)


Source: John R. Brooke, Sioux Campaign 1890-91, vols. 1 and 2 (Philadelphia: Historical Society of Pennsylvania, 1919). These documents were typed and certified as true copies by 1st Lieut. James T. Dean who served as aide-de-camp to General Brooke from February 1893 to May 1895. These original certified copies appear to have been bound into two volumes and an index likely by Lieut. Dean during that same time frame. A label in the front of each volume indicates that they were presented by General Brooke to the Historical Society of Pennsylvania on 21 May 1919. The messages were not bound in chronological sequence, but rather grouped by similar material. The messages presented here have been reordered chronologically and represent only a portion of all the documents. Numbers inside the braces ‘{666}’ at the end of each message denote respective page numbers from the bound volumes. A select few of these documents–145 of over 1,080 pages–are also available online from the Historical Society of Pennsylvania under the title, “Correspondence, Sioux Campaign (vol. 2),” (http://digitallibrary.hsp.org/index.php/Detail/Object/Show/object_id/2392) accessed 8 Sep 2015.  Maps and insets are from William F. Kelley, Pine Ridge 1890: An Eye Witness Account of the Events Surrounding the Fighting at Wounded Knee, edited and compiled by Alexander Kelley & Pierre Bovis (San Francisco: Pierre Bovis, 1971), fold out map attached to back of book.

Citation for this article: Samuel L. Russell, “Hunting for Big Foot, part: 27 December 1890,” Army at Wounded Knee (Carlisle, PA: Russell Martial Research, 2015-2016, http://wp.me/p3NoJy-Pe) posted 27 Dec 2015, accessed date __________.

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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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One Response to Hunting for Big Foot, part 5: 27 December 1890.

  1. Jerry Greene says:

    Sam– You’ve presented here an immensely important and valuable series, and I thank you for compiling and creating it in line with the 125th anniversary of Wounded Knee. Best wishes to you in 2016!

    Liked by 1 person

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