Hunting for Big Foot, part 6: 28 December 1890.

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.
–Maj. S. M. Whitside

This day 125 years ago… the hunt for Big Foot appeared to come to an end peacefully. (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.

Sunday, Dec. 28, 1890.

Lt Charles M. TruittTruitt to Poland (5:15 a.m.): Your telegram of yesterday received. Enlist scouts. Big Foot’s party is not in Bad Lands. Troops are there now. All Indians from there are moving here. No probability of any escaping. {592}

Brig. Gen. John R. BrookeBrooke to Miles (5:15 a.m.): Have no further news of Big Foot. Country to east thoroughly covered. Indians from Bad Lands are moving slowly, being brought by Indians from here who have control. Report reaches me that troops moved in behind them yesterday as their last wagon left the table. It must have been Wells. Troops at Rosebud are on the lookout. {593}

Brig. Gen. John R. BrookeBrooke to Asst Adj Gen Dept Platte (8:15 a.m.): The Indians are on their way in from the Bad Lands. I expect they will reach here Tuesday. {594}

Brig. Gen. John R. BrookeBrooke to Miles (8:30 a.m.): Did Carr get any trail of Big Foot? As yet no trail has been found by my scouts. {595}

Lt Charles M. TruittTruitt to Sanford (9 a.m.): Leave Infantry company to guard stores and move remainder of your command to-day. You will probably not return to your present camp. Keep a look out for Indians on your way and bring in any you may find not absent by authority. {620}

Maj Gen Nelson A. MilesMiles to Brooke (12:20 p.m.): Scouting parties in the Bad Lands report finding no Indians; say all have gone towards the agency. I hope you will place those that have been hostile in the Bad Lands under such control as you will have no difficulty in future and you can make suggestions now as to measures to secure permanent peace or give them to me when we meet. I am ready to go across the country to Pine Ridge any time, but I have remained in telegraphic communication hoping to hear that Big Foot’s band is taken in. Sumner reported his capture to me and even issued him rations, about sixty lodges of Big Foot’s band, thirty belonging to Hump’s band from Cheyenne river agency and thirty-nine belonging to Sitting Bull’s following, the worst of the offending. {601}

Brig. Gen. John R. BrookeBrooke to Miles (12:45 p.m.): I have not heard from Henry for thirty-six hours. An Indian from the camp on White river tells me he heard firing in the direction of Henry’s troops yesterday. It may be that Big Foot has been found on White river about the mouth of Porcupine. Will inform you when I hear anything. {602}

Brig. Gen. John R. BrookeBrooke to Henry (1:30 p.m.): Nothing has been heard from you since the receipt of your report of 7 p.m., December 26th. The last sent to you left here at 10 a.m. yesterday. Major Whitside was directed to send you a copy of a message which was attempted to be sent to him by signal, but the party had closed the station and the message went to Major Whitside’s camp who writes he would send it to you. There is nothing new here about Big Foot. Captain Wells, 8th Cavalry, moved to the S. W. corner of table yesterday evening and camped at the point marked Herd Camp on your map of the table. An Indian reports firing from the direction of the soldier camp on White river. What was it? Make daily reports and oftener if necessary. Major Whitside is camped on Wounded Knee where the Rosebud road crosses it. (by courier) {597}

(Click to enlarge) Inset depicting approximate location of U.S. troops and Big Foot's band at noon on 28 Dec. 1890.

(Click to enlarge) Inset depicting approximate location of U.S. troops and Big Foot’s band at noon on 28 Dec. 1890.

Lt James D Mann

Mann to Asst Adj Gen Dept Platte (sent 1:30 p.m.): 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. (by courier) {603}

Maj Gen Nelson A. MilesMiles to Brooke (3:25 p.m.): Morrow has orders to move out and find Big Foot’s trail and follow it up. The several commands in that vicinity ought to capture him. What do you hear of the camp coming in? {596}

Maj Samuel M. WhitsideWhitside to Brooke (sent 1:30 p.m., rec’d 3:45 p.m.): 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. The entire outfit are now en-route to Wounded Knee P.O., guarded by my battalion. Big Foot is sick and is riding in my ambulance. I have not disarmed the bucks and do not think it prudent to do so until after they reach camp this evening. I respectfully request that the 2nd battalion of the 7th Cavalry be sent to report to me by daylight to-morrow morning, which will enable me to have sufficient force to disarm the Indians without accident.
The Indians are without rations. I wish you to send as many days’ rations as you may deem necessary for the three hundred Indian prisoners. Lieut. Nicholson will deliver this dispatch and will give you all necessary information regarding the capture &c. (by courier) {604}

Brig. Gen. John R. BrookeBrooke to Miles (3:45 p.m.): Major Whitside reports capture of Big Foot. One hundred and twenty men, two hundred and fifty women and children. Will endeavor to make this sure. I send another battalion to reinforce him. Will send them to railroad at Gordon if you so desire. If send them to Omaha will send part of Second Infantry as guard. {605}

Maj Gen Nelson A. MilesMiles to Brooke: All right. Use force enough. Congratulations. {606}


Lt Charles M. TruittTruitt to Poland (4:25 p.m.): Major Whitside captured Big Foot and band this afternoon. {612}

Brig. Gen. John R. BrookeBrooke to Ruger (4:50 p.m): Major Whitside captured Big Foot and his band about noon to-day on head of Porcupine creek. There were one hundred and twenty men and two hundred and fifty women and children.   I have sent Colonel Forsyth and another battalion to make sure. {610}

Lt Charles M. TruittTruitt to Henry (4:50 p.m.): The commanding General desires me to announce the capture of Big Foot and his band by Major Whitside this afternoon. He directs also that you look out for any stragglers who may be trying to escape, and cover the country as far to the east as possible for that purpose. Make arrangements to come in soon. You will receive orders for this later. Be on the look out also for stragglers from Short Bull’s camp. (by courier) {625}

Brig. Gen. John R. BrookeBrooke to Miles (3:45 p.m.): I sent Forsyth and another battalion at once to make sure that no accident will occur.
I would like to have you decide where these Indians shall go as soon as possible. The Bad Lands people are about fifteen miles north on White Clay creek to-night, very timid and need careful handling just now. {607}

Brig. Gen. John R. BrookeBrooke to Asst Adj Gen Dept Platte (5 p.m.): Major Whitside captured Big Foot and band about noon to-day, on head of Porcupine creek. There were one hundred and twenty men and two hundred and fifty women and children. {613}

Brig. Gen. John R. BrookeBrooke to Miles (5:50 p.m.): I deem it important to bring to this point all the troops which can be readily concentrated here. To this end I will direct Sanford to march at once. Will you please inform me when to expect Carr’s command and what other troops you will send here and when they may be expected, so that sufficient supplies may be on hand. {623}

Lt Charles M. TruittTruitt to Sanford (7:10 p.m.): Move down White river to White Clay creek and by that route to this point. You need bring with you only sufficient forage to reach here. Arrange your march so as to reach this place on the thirty-first. Acknowledge receipt. {618}

Maj Gen Nelson A. MilesMiles to Brooke (9 p.m.): I send you word all right and approve of your sending them to Omaha, but it need not be known where they go. The only objection is it may alarm those coming in from the Bad Lands. It is important to secure both bodies.   I can move troops forward beyond the Cheyenne line and all can be all along the line of the White river day after to-morrow night. They have been scouting in Bad Lands for the last two days. You can use the troops at Rosebud and Sanford’s command at once. I will wait in the telegraph office for your reply, or take any other measures that you deem advisable. {608}

Brig. Gen. John R. BrookeBrooke to Miles (9:25 p.m.): There will be no trouble on account of those coming in from the Bad Lands, they are securely watched by the Indians from here, and Henry is looking out for the rear. I will at once move in the matter and will have a train at Gordon as soon as I can get the Indians there. Big Foot’s party will not come here at all. I will not need the Rosebud troops, if those along the Cheyenne and Carr’s command get here it will be all we will need for any purpose. {609}

Brig. Gen. John R. BrookeBrooke to Asst Adj Gen Dept Platte (9:35 p.m.): Have a train at Rushville for four companies of Second Infantry and at Gordon cars for three hundred and seventy Indians and their plunder. This train must move in one body if it takes two engines. The transportation which came from Omaha will go with the troops. The train should be at Rushville on thirty-first, ready to load and then pick up the Indians at Gordon. {614}

Lt Fayette W. RoeRoe to Henry (10 p.m.): The commanding General directs that you march with your command on the 30th, camping at some convenient point on Wounded Knee about half way to this place. You will cover the country to the westward so as to prevent any Indians going to the north from this agency. You will also cover sufficient country to the eastward to intercept any who may possibly escape from Major Whitside. On the 31st you will march to your original camping ground here. (by courier) {626}

The Fighting 7th's OfficersForsyth to Asst Adj Gen Dept Platte (sent 8:30 p.m.): I reached here with my command at 8:30 p.m. Found everything in perfect condition. The Commanding General’s orders will be carried out in the morning, and as soon thereafter as possible I will report back to him with the battalion I brought out with me.
Rations for 400 Indians should be sent here to-morrow as early as possible with the forage train the General said he intended to send. I find that Major Whitside has been obliged to call in from the troops rations to feed these Indians to-day. I trust that the ration and forage train will be pushed here rapidly to-morrow morning. I can not now say at what hour I will reach the agency on my return to-morrow, but no time will be lost. (by courier) {617}

Brig. Gen. John R. BrookeBrooke to Asst Adj Gen Dept Platte (10:30 p.m.): Have train at Rushville and cars for Indians at Gordon ready to load on the thirtieth instead of thirty-first as directed. {615}

Maj Guy V. HenryHenry to Asst Adj Gen Dept Platte (written 12 p.m. Dec. 27, rec’d unknown): Have moved camp to this point, covering and on the Indian draw trail. I communicated with Major Adam and told him of my leaving and supposed location of Big Foot; and also that my camp covered the Standing Rock trail he was on. I send his reply which, if it refers to the same Cottonwood as on map, he is getting nearer to me. In reply to Major Whitside’s copy of letter to me from Department Commander just received, I came by the mouth of Porcupine this a.m. and could see nothing of any sign of camp or trail. I have just ordered a troop out to strike the mouth of Porcupine and follow it up, examine and report. To-morrow I will report as to the occupation of “table”. My opinion is that Big Foot struck directly south (if he came this way) from his camp on the Cheyenne, towards Eagle’s Nest, towards which a road, not on map, I am told runs, and thence on to a road leading to agency, or staying where he is. If looking for Big Foot is the only consideration now, I can take my command, go along Porcupine, south, till I strike his trail if he has any. It seems strange the trail which must have had a beginning was not struck and followed. Give me one end of it and I will get the other, or with any point to start with. This camp is not at the mouth of Wounded Knee but 5 miles east, at Miniseche, near Porcupine. The former is called Bad Water creek, and the trail by it leads to the “table”, and is open and broad and not difficult to access as reported. I am also watching the road from Porcupine along White river, and the Standing Rock trail. I will take in a.m. a portion of my command with packs and two days’ rations and examine thoroughly the Porcupine country till I strike the two roads leading to agency, or to save unnecessary work I will send the scouts with an officer to locate camp. I have sent Lieut. McAnaney with 6 soldiers and 6 scouts, 2 pack mules and rations to January 5th to move from mouth to source of Porcupine, thence north-east to Eagle Nest creek, a point south of Big Foot’s camp on Cheyenne, thence north to road leading near and towards the west near the White river, till he strikes the road leading to this camp. If he strikes the trail or location to inform me. On this [circle?] he must cut the trail if he has come south. If we are not here on his return he come to agency. I will have him go to Pass creek, for that leads to the Rosebud agency, they may want to get to. Scouts are in; report no one in Bad Lands. They met Lieut. Preston [sic: Lieut. Casey] and his Cheyenne scouts who had come in from the north. (by courier) {598-599}

Maj Guy V. HenryHenry to Asst Adj Gen Dept Platte (written evening Dec. 27, rec’d unknown): Your letter of 10 a.m., December 27, ’90, reached me at 5 p.m. To-day I went into the Bad Lands, followed along the base of “table land” as near as could be gotten, and back to camp, crossing the Standing Rock trail. No signs of Indians, but just before reaching camp 4 p.m. a signal smoke was sent up from “table land”.* Lieut. Powell reports that Major Adam is covering the Standing Rock trail. My camp at White river covers that by keeping a detachment at McGaw’s ranch where the trail comes to White river, which I shall do. But Indians can come part way on that trail, then cross to west and get on “Indian Draw creek road”, which skirts the east base of “table”, hug this close and go in or out at trail “Z” without being seen. There is a passable draw north-west of my camp, by which Indians can get into trail “Z”. I will write Major Adam,–I will leave this camp to-morrow–and of the situations. They know nothing of Big Foot or his outfit; say he is supposed to be traveling east some distance from them, and south, and slowly. I shall move camp to-morrow to White river as directed. The scouts object to going into the “table land”, so on Monday I will take the command, explore and report as directed. The occupation of this place will undoubtedly force an issue, as the Indians have no other place to go to than to flee north where they can be pursued &c.
* This smoke was not a regular fire, but shot up into a column, like a signal.
[P. S.] Major Adam has had orders to come to this post, so Lieut. Powell tells me.
[P. P. S.] I can get scouts to make a partial examination on edge to-morrow but Monday I will go in it all, especially the “spur”, said to be the strongest place. (by courier) {580-581}

(Click to enlarge) Maj. Henry's map of the Indian stronghold.

(Click to enlarge) Maj. Henry’s map of the Indian stronghold. {582}

Tomorrow, only disarming Big Foot’s band remains to bring about a peaceful settlement.

(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),” ( 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 6: 28 December 1890,” Army at Wounded Knee (Carlisle, PA: Russell Martial Research, 2015-2016, posted 28 Dec 2015, accessed date __________.

About Sam Russell

I am a fifth-generation retired Army officer with twenty-nine years of commissioned service. I have been researching the frontier Army for over eighteen 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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