Hunting for Big Foot, part 8: 30 December 1890.


Whatever the circumstances of that fight with Big Foot may be it must have had the effect of increasing the hostile element very largely.
–Maj. Gen. N. A. Miles

This day 125 years ago… General Miles finally departed Rapid City en route to Chadron, Nebraska.  While out of communication, Major Henry returned to the agency only to turn around and ride to the rescue of his supply train, which was under attack about two miles north.  Soon after returning to the Agency with his trains Henry and his men and horses sought a much needed rest after traveling over 80 miles in the past 24 hours while Colonel Forsyth conducted a reconnaissance to the Drexel Catholic Mission near White Clay Creek to determine if it was set ablaze as smoke from that direction could be seen at the Pine Ridge Agency.  Forsyth left Henry with standing orders to proceed to the Mission if there was any fighting.  (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.

Tuesday, Dec. 30, 1890.

Poland to Asst Adj Gen Dept Platte (after midnight): Telegram about Indians on Medicine creek received and sent to the commander.  Captain Whitney, 8th Infantry, left here at ten o’clock to-night. {671}

Sanford to Truitt (8:15 a.m.): Am on White river near mouth of White Clay.  Have scouted along west side White river between Black Tail and mouth of Little Beaver.  No signs of Indians on the Little Beaver.  Lieut. Casey with Cheyenne scouts here reports his wagon going into agency this morning fired on and driven back about ten miles east of here.  Have you any instructions? Casey reports that he sent courier into the agency yesterday morning with dispatch for General Miles.  Nothing heard from him.  He also says he met Short Bull and Kicking Bear the night of twenty-eighth with one hundred and fifteen lodges on White river at crossing of Flour road.  He moved out following morning and said he was going to camp at White Clay and go into agency next day.  Has scouted from mouth of Battle creek through the hostile camp down the Cottonwood, up White river to crossing of Flour Road and connected with Taylor’s scouts coming up White river.  No signs of hostiles.  The rations of that battalion expire to-morrow night.  The fifteen days’ supplies for which I had asked had not reached Oelrichs when I left.  Shall I send for them from here or go on to the agency? (telegram via Oelrichs, S.D.) {710}

(Click to enlarge) Inset depicting approximate location of U.S. troops and as Col. Forsyth conducts on 30 Dec. 1890.

(Click to enlarge) Inset depicting approximate location of U.S. troops and Indian bands as Col. Forsyth conducted a reconnaissance to the Catholic Mission on White Clay Creek on 30 Dec. 1890.

Brig. Gen. John R. BrookeBrooke to Miles (9:30 a.m.): The First Infantry should be pushed out into Beaver Valley without delay and put where it will be most needed.  I cannot say where that may be.  Great many settlers there and I don’t think they have any arms.  An attack was made by a few Indians on Ninth Cavalry train early this a.m.  Everything is all right now.  Have sent cavalry to Mission, smoke there indicates fire. {673}

The Fighting 7th's OfficersForsyth to BrookeThe Mission has not been harmed or molested in the least.  A log school house between here and the agency is burning, and beyond, a mile or so, there are two columns of smoke, supposed by Father Jutz to be another school house and a log shack in its vicinity.  An Ogallalla reported to the Father here that about twenty Brules passed here this morning and that they had fired the buildings named.  There are no Indians in sight nor can the direction taken by them be ascertained.  I see no use in remaining here or attempting to follow a handful of Indians who passed here some hours ago.
I think the order for Colonel Henry’s command to move out should be countermanded.  Will return with my command. (by courier) {679}

Lt Fayette W. RoeRoe to Casey (10:45 a.m.): The 7th Cavalry destroyed nearly all of Big Foot’s band yesterday a.m. at crossing Rosebud with White river.  The Rosebud Indians who have been here and in the Bad Lands are now on White Clay, and are evidently on the war path.  They number with the accessories from the Pine Ridge Indians at least 300 men.  Yesterday during the fight with Big Foot’s band at Wounded Knee these Brules to the number of 150 left the camps of Two Strike, Turning Bear and these chiefs, and went out to assist Big Foot’s people.  They arrived too late and returning fired into the agency.  Police returned fire and unfortunately stampeded Red Cloud, Big Road and Little Wound’s camps of Pine Ridge or Ogallalla Indians.
The Indians have moved down White Clay creek about 12 or 15 miles from which point the young bucks are making forays.
A command of two (2) troops cavalry and one (1) company infantry are on the way here from Rosebud and are at this time about half way–will probably reach here to-morrow or next day.  Should your scouts see them they will understand.  Colonel Sanford is on his way down White river from Oelrichs and should be now in vicinity of mouth of White Clay. Colonel Carr is expected to be near mouth Wounded Knee to-day.  Communicate this information to each of them and to any other commands in your vicinity.
It is important that no Indians be permitted to cross north of White river and to confine them as much as possible to valley of White Clay.  When all is ready orders for movement on the main camp will be given from here.  Keep these headquarters thoroughly informed on what is occurring. (by courier) {696-697}

Brig. Gen. John R. BrookeBrooke to Miles (11:15 a.m.): Report from Mission received.  Nothing molested.  Everything quiet.  Am communicating with Red Cloud and others who were carried away in the scare yesterday.  One of Casey’s scouts came from White river and I have sent directions through him to all commanders there.  As soon as everything is ready we should close this up. {680}

Sanford to Truitt (11:29 a.m.): Am about four or five miles from mouth of White Clay.  Will scout south and east in conformity with last orders. (telegram via Oelrichs, S.D.) {675}

The Fighting 7th's OfficersForsyth to BrookeHave developed a supposed small force of Indians, but cannot say positively about how many.  Please have Colonel Henry report here to me as soon as possible.  Am about two (2) miles beyond the Mission.  One Soldier wounded now. (by courier) {676}

Lt Charles M. Truittto Bacon (12 p.m.): Order issued to-day for you to return here. Forsyth, in fight with Big Foot, lost Captain Wallace killed and Lieutenants Garlington and Hawthorne wounded.  Twenty-five enlisted men killed and thirty-four wounded.  One Ninth Cavalry man killed to-day in attack on Henry’s wagon train.  The Brules have broken also and may be regarded as hostile. {707}

Brig. Gen. John R. BrookeBrooke to Forsyth (1 p.m.): I send you Henry with his battalion. We are not yet ready to round up the Indians unless you see your way clear to making a clean sweep. I have sent a messenger to Red Cloud and others to return here. Let me know of the situation. A signal could probably be seen from the hill north of this point where the infantry has a picket post. Little Bat tells me he heard guns from the other side. If this be true you had better close in and see what you can do. Sanford should be near mouth of White Clay. He was four or five miles from mouth White Clay yesterday and it may be that his guns are heard. If you can hear his guns he should hear yours. Let me know about it. (by courier) {677}

Rev. Fr. John J. Jutz, S. J. Pioneer Indian MissionaryJutz to Brooke: If you have some more soldiers to spare, send them down at the Mission to help the soldiers, the fight is hard. (by courier) {678}

Brig. Gen. John R. BrookeBrooke to Miles (2:15 p.m.): Forsyth has been skirmishing with Indians down White Clay to-day. They moved back to White Clay yesterday. Scouts tell me they hear guns to north. Sanford must be on that side. Sent instructions through Casey to all commands on White river this morning, which will place them in possession of the situation. Will move on the Indians as soon as I can arrange it. Two troops cavalry and one company of infantry en-route from Rosebud should be here to-morrow. {682}

Brig. Gen. John R. BrookeBrooke to Forsyth (3:20 p.m.): I do not hear from you. Can you not signal? The 2nd Infantry signal officer is stationed on the hills to the north. Let me hear from you. The 9th Cavalry horses are not in good trim for hard work and you may find them of little use. (by courier) {700}

General Miles after reaching Chadron by rail was able to communicate by telegraph again.

Maj Gen Nelson A. MilesMiles to Brooke (3:30 p.m.): As Indians left Bad Lands to surrender they hesitated when Big Foot’s band was out. Now his force is destroyed, are they not prevented by fear from surrendering? Endeavor if possible to have the troops circle them towards the agency. {685}

e-a-carrCarr to Henry (8:40 p.m.): I have here 6 troops, 2 Hotchkiss and part of a company of infantry. My orders from General Miles by heliograph which started from Rapid City yesterday p.m. are to prevent escapes along White river and cover as much ground as I can. I may go or send to White Clay to-morrow. I have no scouts. If you are in communication with General Brooke Please inform him. Sorry I missed you. (by courier) {709}

Maj Gen Nelson A. MilesMiles to Brooke (3:45 p.m.): What number of Indians are about the agency and what number in hostile attitude? Work your troops to south and west of Indians as that would keep them on reservation, as there is strong force to the north of them. Can push three companies of infantry by wagons from here to-morrow morning. That company of Seventeenth Infantry that Sanford left at Oelrichs should be ordered to join him. I will order it unless you have done so. It is not needed at Oelrichs. {686}

Brig. Gen. John R. BrookeBrooke to Miles (4 p.m.): Do you mean to push three companies of infantry here? I send the company from Oelrichs at once to join Sanford. Will communicate with Carr to-night. Less than half the Indians of this agency are away but I do not think they are all to be classed as hostile. I do not think all of those of Two Strike’s band are hostile. Am trying to get the Indians from here back to their camps. Cannot now tell how successful it will be. There may be a fighting force of five hundred in all. Shall have Carr work them this way and Sanford has orders to work them from the west. {687}

Maj Gen Nelson A. MilesMiles to Brooke (5:30 p.m.): Send word to Little Chief of the Cheyennes and Big Road, as I know these two men, and direct them to tell all the principal men including Red Cloud, American Horse, Little Wound, Two Strikes, Crow Dog, Big Foot if he is not killed, King Bear, Short Bull and others to report to me at Pine Ridge agency day after to-morrow at noon. As Little Chief and Big Road have done as I told them before, it will be better that all do so now. This need not interfere with any measures of yours or your exercising the utmost care and energy in holding them on the reservation and circling them by a force of troops towards the agency. {688}

Brig. Gen. John R. BrookeBrooke to MilesSome days ago I telegraphed you that a part of Big Foot’s band were being held by a party of my scouts.  This party will be in to-night.  They have about twenty bucks and about the same number of squaws.  I trust the disarming will not be so bloody as was that of Big Foot’s party.  They will be disarmed to-morrow. {690}

Maj Gen Nelson A. MilesMiles to Brooke (6:12 p.m.): Three companies just started, five o’clock, in wagons. Will be to Beaver creek in four hours. Bivouac there until to-morrow morning, then move towards agency. I cannot imagine the Indians will remain on White Clay creek as they have for two days with troops all around them. I do not understand it. Is it possible they can be slipping out between the commands anywhere? {691}

Brig. Gen. John R. BrookeBrooke to Miles (6:45 p.m.): Little Chief and American Horse are here. Big Foot is dead. The others were carried away with their people. I have been at work since yesterday to get them back. I have no hopes of Kicking Bear or Short Bull. If the Ogallallas can be brought back and part of Two Strike’s band, it is all I can hope for. Forsyth has been skirmishing with them to-day and it may have a good effect on those who profess not to want war. It is the young men who are doing all the deviltry and are holding the older ones with them. Red Cloud, Little Wound and Big Road have sent me word that their people are not doing any fighting but are held quietly in their camps. {689}

Maj Gen Nelson A. MilesMiles to Brooke (10:30 p.m.): I hear that twenty-five men were killed and thirty-four wounded in fight with Seventh Cavalry. Some one seems to be suppressing facts. I have made my report to the Adjutant General of the Army on what is received regarding skirmish between Forsyth and Indians. State position of Forsyth’s command and also the other troops. From latest reports I have more apprehension for the line to the right of these Indians now than any other. That high table land was ordered occupied by three companies of infantry, so that there is no chance of their returning there. A small force can hold the agency and a larger portion of the command should be kept to the west of them on the reservation. Whatever the circumstances of that fight with Big Foot may be it must have had the effect of increasing the hostile element very largely. If you have a troop of cavalry at Pine Ridge that can be spared send it down on the Chadron stage road to-morrow morning by daylight to meet Colonel Bacon and Captain Dougherty. {692}

Brig. Gen. John R. BrookeBrooke to Miles (11 p.m.): The party of Indians of which I telegraphed you are in and all their guns are in my hands. There are eighteen bucks and fifty-five women and children. Your telegram about losses is not understood. Forsyth is here as is Henry. There was a loss of one man killed and one officer and six men wounded to-day. Yesterday Forsyth lost Captain Wallace and twenty-four men of the Seventh Cavalry and one Indian scout killed and Lieutenants Garlington, 7th Cavalry, and Hawthorne, 2nd Artillery, and thirty-six men wounded in the fight with Big Foot. I was sure I reported this to you last night, but it seems I did not, but sent it to General Ruger. The skirmish was to-day, the fight yesterday. The situation is not now alarming but precautions are of course necessary. I regret that there was a mistake in sending to General Ruger the information which should have gone to you. You need not be apprehensive. I feel that everything is going well here. I am trying to communicate with Red Cloud and others but there is great jealousy among the chiefs and it is difficult to combine them. I have sent to Carr and expect to hear from him to-morrow. I did telegraph you at 9:25 last night that Forsyth had about seventy killed and wounded. {693}

Brig. Gen. John R. BrookeBrooke to Miles (11:30 p.m.): The fact that the Indians are on the defensive only is quite clear to me.  There has been no attempt as yet to make an aggressive movement outside of yesterday’s work.  My scouts are active and I think they cover the country east and west and are close to the Indians also.  I send cavalry to scout north-west to-morrow and a troop on Chadron road. {694}

Lt Fayette W. RoeRoe to ForsythThe Commanding General directs that you send a troop of your regiment down on the Chadron stage road to-morrow morning by daylight to meet Colonel Bacon and Captain Dougherty, en-route to this agency. (by courier) {701}

Lt Fayette W. RoeRoe to ForsythThe Commanding General directs that you send to-morrow a battalion of cavalry to scout the country lying to west of White Clay and going some ten (10) miles in a northwesterly direction, to return and report.  Packs will be taken.  If a trail should be struck running south or west it will be followed. (by courier) {702}

Tomorrow, General Miles arrives at the Pine Ridge Agency.

(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 8: 30 December 1890,” Army at Wounded Knee (Carlisle, PA: Russell Martial Research, 2015-2016, http://wp.me/p3NoJy-Pl) posted 30 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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