Hunting for Big Foot

Big Foot did not come into my camp to-day as promised and I started for him this afternoon.
–Lt. Col. E. V. Sumner, 8th Cavalry

(Click to enlarge)

(Click to enlarge) “At the Dance.  Part of the 8th U.S. Cavalry and 3rd Infantry at the Great Indian Grass Dance on Reservation.  Photo and copyright by Grabill, ’90.”  According to Jensen, Paul, and Carter’s Eyewitness at Wounded Knee, 14, John C. H. Grabill took this photograph of Big Foot’s band in August 1890.

125 years ago this week a series of events led to the converging of a band of Sioux Indians and the 7th Cavalry Regiment at Wounded Knee.  This tragic meeting of two polarized cultures ended in the deaths of thirty soldiers and perhaps ten times that number of Lakota in what is remembered today by the public at large, and many historians, as a massacre of innocents.  History is based on perspective that has a way of shifting over time.  In an online Indian Wars forum during the course of a lively discussion of Wounded Knee, the husband and father of Lakota survivors of the Chief Big Foot Massacre asked me why Big Foot’s band were, “Considered hostile when they were only traveling to Pine Ridge to act as diplomats between the different chiefs’ factions on Pine Ridge at the time?” I responded, “Military intelligence can be summed up as: what you know, what you think you know, and what you don’t know.” The only way to honestly answer the gentleman’s question is to look at the army’s records. Nothing demonstrates better what the Army knew, thought they knew, and didn’t know about Big Foot than an isolated look at the message traffic flowing into and out of the army’s headquarters at Pine Ridge. Fortunately, just such a record exists in the form of certified copies of the official correspondence of Brigadier General John R. Brooke, commander of the Department of the Platte and all military forces at the Pine Ridge and Rosebud Indian reservations in South Dakota, archived at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.  Over the course of this coming week, I will present the best record available of what Generals Miles, Brooke, and Ruger, Colonels Carr, Forsyth, and Sumner, and Majors Henry and Whitside knew, thought they knew, and didn’t know as they hunted for Big Foot and his band.

To set the stage for the Army’s search for the Miniconjou band I offer the following extracts from General Brooke’s correspondence about the time that the attempted arrest of Sitting Bull resulted in that Sioux chief’s death at the hands of the Standing Rock Agency Indian police, two weeks prior to Wounded Knee.  On that same day General Brooke was preparing to march his forces to the Indian stronghold in the Bad Lands to capture or fight about 250 ghost dancers under the leadership of Short Bull and Kicking Bear.  The Indians there were preparing defenses and refused to heed the general’s calls to peacefully come into the Pine Ridge Agency.  Chiefs Red Cloud and Little Chief professed friendship and were camped around the agency with their respective bands.  Chiefs Two Strike and Little Wound had responded positively to General Brooke’s entreaty, left the stronghold with their followers, and were en route to  the Pine Ridge Agency.

Monday, Dec. 15, 1890.

Brig. Gen. John R. BrookeBrooke to Asst Adj Gen Div Mo.: All the Indians who can be brought in are now here or near here, leaving about two hundred bucks in the Bad Lands, who refuse to listen to anyone or anything.  Against these I will send a sufficient force to capture or fight them.  All has been done that can be done.  The Indians now out have a great many stolen horses and cattle with them.  I hope to be able to end this matter now. {342}

Brig. Gen. John R. BrookeBrooke to Ruger: I have given orders to Colonel Sanford and Captain Wells and Colonel Carr which will place the whole force in this section around the Indians in the Bad Lands or across their lines of retreat as far as is possible.  This in the spirit of the orders of the Division Commander given in your telegram of December 2nd.  Please confirm this to the officers named.  The force in the Bad Lands may be two hundred and fifty but I do not think it over two hundred. Forsyth starts out to-morrow with twelve troops of cavalry three Hotchkiss and one rifle of Capron’s  battery.  Unless the Indians know of some trail not known to my scouts or get away before the troops get around them I hope this move will end the matter. {343}

Thomas_H__RugerRuger to BrookeThe Division Commander who is now here thinks it advisable that you suspend a few days your orders for movement against the Indians in the Bad Lands, mentioned in your dispatch of this date to me.  This pending full information of occurrences on Standing Rock reservation and effect thereof.  Report from Yates to-day is to effect that Sitting Bull was arrested by Indian police this morning and in attempt by his followers to rescue him he was killed, and several Indians on both sides.  Please acknowledge. {344}

Lt Marion P. MausMaus to Brooke (6:35 p.m.): In case troops have to engage the Indians the Division Commander directs that the commands be so organized, commanded and equipped as to enable them to successfully cope with any body of Indians they may encounter.  It is of vital importance that the troops win the first engagement…. {352}

Tuesday, Dec. 16, 1890.

Brig. Gen. John R. BrookeBrooke to Miles (8 a.m.): I telegraphed general Ruger yesterday, which was also intended for you to see, that Two Strike and the Indians with him were near the agency.  They number one hundred and eighty-four lodges.  I will have a count of them to-day.  This separates from the disaffected all who can be drawn from them and leaves them the only Indians who are really hostile.  I was prepared to capture or fight those remaining in the Bad Lands.  Their camp is known and every arrangement possible was made to close up the disaffected element now on this reservation.  The majority of the Indians in this party are from this agency and are now stealing horses and otherwise depredating on the settlers north of their camp.  They are reported to have many horses and cattle on the high table land where they are, and which they consider to be impregnable.  I regret very much that the movement was suspended as I believe it would have led to the capture after some fighting of the entire band.  The affair would have been over in three days, that is by the twentieth at furthest, and would, I believe, have prevented any more hostility on the part of these Indians or of their joining or being joined by any from the Standing Rock agency who might leave there under present circumstances.  It will require some little time to again arrange all the details should you conclude to permit this move to be resumed.  I have my scouts near the hostile camp and expect to keep myself well informed as to their whereabouts and probable intentions.  I would like to have some idea of the program to be followed so that I might act intelligently in so far as my part is concerned here and at Rosebud.  I would add that all the Indians of this agency and those of Rosebud now with Two Strike are here, leaving those of both agencies who now refuse to receive any communication and declare their intention to fight to the death.  I have men here who know that portion of the Bad Lands as well as the Indians do. {355-356}

Maj Gen Nelson A. MilesMiles to Brooke (9:37 a.m.): If by your movement you can enclose those Indians in your front in the Bad Lands and hold them there you can do so, but I fear if you attack them you may drive them off the reservation, and the President’s orders are to prevent an Indian war. I believe their intention was to all leave together. Sitting Bull was getting ready to go and I gave positive orders for his arrest several days ago. I hope his death and seven others may discourage marauders. What effect has it upon those under you? You can send word to those in the Bad Lands with orders for them to come in. {354}

Brig. Gen. John R. BrookeBrooke to Miles (10:30 a.m.): I have no doubt that the movement I proposed to make would have effectually enclosed the Indians in the Bad Lands and would have resulted in their capture or destruction. I acted promptly on your order to suspend the movement and it would require some little time to get the cavalry under Carr in position again, as General Ruger has given other orders to him. I intended to use all the cavalry at Oelrichs and that on the Cheyenne to surround the whole party and prevent their escape. The cavalry would also have been able to cover everything they now cover, and enclose the Indians at the same time.
I do not think these Indians know about Sitting Bull’s death yet. I am having every effort made to see what effect it has on them. I shall now let them know he is dead and see what effect is had and report. The First Infantry can move to any point you wish. I am not familiar with General Ruger’s dispositions except as relates to the troops on the Cheyenne. I have enough infantry to cover all points remaining to be covered in event of its being necessary. The garrisons at Russell and Douglas are waiting and ready to move. That at Russell has a train at hand and can come over to the Elkhorn road from that point. The connection north from Cheyenne being now made puts all these troops much nearer this line than they were. I believe I have done all things possible to avert a war or an outbreak here and have no hopes of any further efforts at pacification being successful.

Maj Gen Nelson A. MilesMiles to Brooke (1 p.m.): I appreciate in the highest degree all that you have accomplished. It could not have been better. If those Indians have taken a place from which they cannot retreat it will be the first in the history of Indian warfare. The troops are not losing anything and the hostiles in the Bad Lands not gaining anything. You have succeeded in drawing out and restraining the great majority of the disaffected and the number of hostiles greatly reduced. Possibly others will desert them when they hear from Standing Rock. If it was not for the danger of driving them out into the settlements I would say attack at once, but I feel sure that would be the result from an advance from your side. You can place all the troops you can spare on the north and west so as to make their escape impossible. Up to the present time they have not killed a single person and I have thought that every day has increased the chances of getting all under control without serious loss of life. Telegraph me fully. I leave on west bound train at 2:25 p.m. {357}

Brig. Gen. John R. BrookeBrooke to Miles (2 p.m.): If Carr can take the position I told him to take I can move from here and from Oelrichs at any time he may be ready. I think his troops can stop the known gaps and can cover any that may be found. These Indians are acting differently from any I have had to do with. My guides have been in the country the Indians are in for years and say they know it thoroughly. It is a high table with perpendicular rocky sides except at certain known places. It will be necessary now for me to get communication with Carr and have him understand that he must obey my orders. I can not hear from him nor from the officer he left at Rapid City. As soon as Carr is in position I can move cavalry from here and from Oelrichs and try to do this work. Consider that there are twenty-seven troops cavalry and one hundred scouts in the forces I proposed to use. If you wish I can send the First Infantry to Rapid City, but it would be thirty or forty miles from the Cheyenne river. The line of the Cheyenne would be covered by part of Carr’s troops and by Wells’ command when the move takes place, and the north east would be entirely covered by the same body, leaving part of the east and all of the south and west for troops from here. {358}

Maj Gen Nelson A. MilesMiles to Brooke: You may be sure those Indians will not stand a fight with any such a force, but would slip out through some pass as they have done many times, leaving all the troops far in the rear in the Bad Lands and murder settlers by the hundreds as they go. General Ruger’s lowest estimate is that there are two hundred on the Cheyenne and three hundred on the Standing Rock reservation that would go with those in your front, making 750 warriors. There are no troops to west in rear of Carr’s line and General Ruger’s are too much scattered to stop such a force. He will in a few days have an effective reserve force concentrated on the line of Northern Pacific. I realize and appreciate your desire to attack those in Bad Lands. I have considered it of vital importance to confine them to the reservation or near it and delay decisive action until cold weather and deep snow. The animals they have or would steal are now strong and during this weather they could move as well as in summer. I think it would be better to hold the cavalry outside in three strong columns in such positions on three sides of them that should they move out either column could strike an effective blow or pursue and overtake them by forced marches. I believe infantry would be more effective for fighting in the Bad Lands if cavalry can surround them. Infantry can do it or drive them out in any direction where cavalry should capture or destroy them. You had better move Mizner’s regiment (17th Infantry) up where they can be used and let me know where you want Carr’s command. Will be at Rapid City to-morrow morning. {362}

Brig. Gen. John R. BrookeBrooke to Miles (2 p.m.): I will bring 17th Infantry to Robinson and put it in camp there for the present. There will be a conclusion reached to-morrow by the Indians here regarding those in the Bad Lands. The tenor of their council to-day was to the effect that individual effort would be made by them to disintegrate the hostile element by withdrawing relations. To-morrow they will talk the matter over again and I will then advise you. This talk is their own. The announcement of Sitting Bull’s death does not seem to cause any excitement. The general expression seems to be that they are not surprised and looked upon it as more of a piece of news than anything else. Do you want the First Infantry sent to Rapid City? Nearly two hundred lodges of Two Strike’s band is now here with all their chiefs. This makes nine hundred and fifty-two lodges here at the agency with some scattered at houses of well disposed Indians near. {363}

I begin the hunt for Big Foot with the reported capture of his band on 21 December 1890 by Lieutenant Colonel Edwin V. Sumner, 8th Cavalry, near Big Foot’s village on the south side of the Cheyenne River.  Major General Nelson A. Miles, commander of the Division of the Missouri and overall commander of the Sioux campaign of 1890-1891, had displaced from Chicago, Illinois, and was centrally located by telegraph and railway at Rapid City, South Dakota.  The fifty-one-year-old Infantry officer had taken command of the division in September and, since the death of General George Crook earlier that same year, General Miles was regarded in military circles and across the country as perhaps the greatest Indian fighter alive.

Brigadier General Thomas H. Ruger, commander of the Department of Dakota, was at his headquarters at Saint Paul, Minnesota.  Also an Infantry officer, General Ruger at the age of fifty-seven had been in command of his department for over four years, but his assignments following the Civil War had kept him out of the Indian campaigns up to his current position in the Dakotas.  He had at his command Lieutenant Colonel Robert H. Offley covering the west with seven companies of the 17th Infantry Regiment spread north to south from Rapid City to Oelrichs, Lieutenant Colonel Sumner covering the north with five troops of the 8th Cavalry Regiment and two companies of the 3rd Infantry Regiment patrolling on the north side of the Cheyenne River, and Colonel Henry C. Merriam in the east with seven companies of the 7th Infantry Regiment based near Fort Sully.

Brigadier General John R. Brooke, commander of the Department of the Platte, was a portly fifty-two-year-old Infantry officer who had been in command of his department since 1888.  He had served in the 3rd Infantry and commanded the 13th Infantry at various posts across the frontier in the 1870s and 1880s.  In November 1890, General Brooke had established his field headquarters in the south at the Pine Ridge Agency where he was situated with the eight troops of the 7th Cavalry Regiment under the command of Colonel James W. Forsyth, eight companies of the 2nd Infantry Regiment commanded by Colonel Frank Wheaton, four troops of the 9th Cavalry Regiment commanded by Major Guy V. Henry, and Light Battery E, 1st Artillery Regiment, under the command of Captain Allyn Capron. Also under General Brooke’s control was Lieutenant Colonel John S. Poland of the 21st Infantry Regiment with three companies of infantry and two troops of cavalry along with Lieutenant Colonel Alfred T. Smith with three companies of the 8th Infantry in the southeast at the Rosebud Agency, Colonel William R. Shafter with seven companies of the 1st Infantry Regiment at Fort Niobrara, Nebraska, and Lieutenant Colonel George B. Sanford in the west commanding four troops of cavalry near Oelrichs.  Also in the field was Colonel Eugene A. Carr, commanding eight troops of the 6th Cavalry Regiment. Recently assigned permanently to General Brooke’s Department of the Platte, Carr’s location near Rapid City placed him under General Ruger’s authority, and his close proximity to General Miles created the confusion of regularly receiving orders from all three general officers. There were numerous other units throughout the Dakotas and Northern Nebraska, but the aforementioned comprise the central commanders and their units involved in the hunt for Big Foot.

(see note at bottom for a detailed list of troops in the region)

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 sites.  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.  The map displayed is the same map that General Brooke used during the campaign and which he provided copies of to his subordinates in the field. Both the accuracy and inaccuracy of the map is occasionally mentioned in the message traffic.  Without the use of a grid coordinate system–not to mention GPS locationing–General Brooke had at best an approximate idea of where his forces were operating based on their descriptions.  I use insets with graphics to display where message traffic indicated forces were located.  The initial set of forces on 21 December 1890 is displayed on the basic map below, which is adapted from the map published in Alexander Kelly and Pierre Bovis’ 1971 work, Pine Ridge 1890.

(Click to enlarge) “Map of the Pine Ridge & Rosebud Indian Reservations and Adjacent Territory,” prepared under direction of Chas. A. Worden, 7th Infantry, Acting Engineer, Department of the Platte, from 1890 authorities, with inset showing disposition of forces on 21 Dec. 1890.

(Click to enlarge) “Map of the Pine Ridge & Rosebud Indian Reservations and Adjacent Territory,” prepared under direction of Chas. A. Worden, 7th Infantry, Acting Engineer, Department of the Platte, from 1890 authorities, with inset showing disposition of forces on 21 Dec. 1890.

Sunday, Dec. 21, 1890.

Thomas_H__RugerRuger to Brooke: Colonel Sumner reports that he sent you information that Big Foot and his following together with some Sitting Bull fugitives and those Cherry creek Indians who joined, surrendered to him yesterday; he will take them to Fort Meade. Other Sitting Bull fugitives, forty one, are en route to Fort Bennett under escort to surrender at that point. Some thirty others, supposed, including women and children arrived yesterday. This disposes of disaffected factions of Cheyenne River and Standing Rock reservations. {486}

Monday, Dec. 22, 1890.

Maj Gen Nelson A. MilesMiles to Brooke (9:30 a.m.): From information received to-day it may be possible that white men are tampering with those Indians, telling them that they have committed serious crimes and to not come in unless they can be assured of certain conditions. You will have to look out for this. I can not think it possible that any one for selfish purposes would do or say anything to those Indians that would prolong for an hour the great danger to the thousands of settlers in this country. If they surrender absolutely to the military they need not fear anything except just treatment. As to what that might be, I shall not decide until I confer with you, but they should be held under absolute military control, and they should turn their arms over to you. {483}

Maj Gen Nelson A. MilesMiles to Brooke (9:39 a.m.): Thirty-one of Sitting Bull’s Indians have gone into Fort Bennett and Hump is reported near here with forty others. Big Foot’s band surrendered to Colonel Sumner to-day. The other Cheyenne Indians have gone into the agency. Sumner reports this cleans up all Indians on the Cheyenne river. {485}

Brig. Gen. John R. BrookeBrooke to Hostile Indians: “Big Foot and his Indians and all those who ran away from Standing Rock Agency when Sitting Bull was killed have surrendered to the soldiers on Cheyenne river, and that the Indians in the Bad Lands must come in at once and those from the north must come with them, for they can find no other place to go.” (by friendly Indian couriers) {493}

Brig. Gen. John R. BrookeBrooke to Miles (10 a.m.): There is no doubt in my mind that the Indians in the Bad Lands have been tampered with though I have not yet been able to fix it on any particular party or parties, though I hope to be able to do so yet. I have sent word to the Indians, who went out, of the situation on the Cheyenne and have told them to tell the Indians to come in at once and that we would treat them justly but would make no promises. I can pick out all who have been doing the deviltry, but do not think it would be wise to tell them who would be called to account until they come in. I have made no promises except food and just treatment. I expect the party is now in or near the camp and I look for a messenger to-night to to-morrow morning. Turning Bear and a few others got to the camp last night. I would suggest that Carr look out for any of the northern Indians who may make a break for home. I instructed Sanford yesterday to patrol to north east and south east.  Any movement of the troops here would be likely to frighten the hostiles as they would be informed of it by their friends here at once.
The cavalry at Rosebud is ready to move out at once in any direction and the police there are out in all the camps watching for any coming in and are to report at once. All is working well here and I think this last news will bring them in.

Tuesday, Dec. 23, 1890.

Brig. Gen. John R. BrookeBrooke to Miles (9:30 a.m.): Turning Bear of the Rosebud Indians, a chief standing next to Two Strike, went to the Bad Lands camp after the council here a week ago. He returned last night, having left the camp before the large party got there, having met them on the road. From what he says I think it likely that all the Indians will come in. There are some from Standing Rock and Cheyenne and Lower Brule agencies there who may try to go back to their agencies in case they can get away. I look for news after the council which will be held there this morning, as a messenger will start back as soon as the council is over. There is no doubt that all the camp is on top of the table, this has been repeatedly said by all who have been in it from here. {495}

Sumner to Carr (sent 7 p.m., rec’d by Carr at 10 a.m. Dec. 24.): Big Foot did not come into my camp to-day as promised and I started for him this afternoon.  His lookouts of course let him know that I was on the road.  He sent me word by messenger that he would go to Fort Bennett to-morrow with all his people, but when I approached his village I found it vacant, and my scouts have informed me that he has gone up Deep Fork Trail, due south, that he will probably pass Mexican Ed’s and head of Bull Creek near the Bad Lands.  If you can move out to-morrow morning (a force) you will doubtless intercept him.  They had yesterday a hundred fighting men, and about three hundred altogether including women and children.  They started from here in very light order, no wagons, all had ponies and will travel very fast.  For fear they may return here I will stay here to-night, scout up Deep Creek to-morrow, and if I hear nothing will start for Smithville and go out Bull Creek towards Bad Lands.  Dispatches from General Miles relative to Indians coming from the north and west of me in considerable numbers prevent my following the trail and getting out of reach.  I hope you will get this in time and you will head them off. {1061}

Tomorrow, the hunt begins with Henry’s Brunettes of the 9th Cavalry….

Sources: 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.
Note:  Perhaps the most detailed, if not concise, listing of troops available in the region during the outbreak comes from Brigadier General Thomas H. Ruger’s annual report to the Secretary of War dated 19 October 1891. His list of troops follows:
To provide for contingencies troops were assembled, by direction of superior authority, from other departments at the Rosebud and Pine Ridge agencies, S. Dak., and other points in the Department of Dakota as follows:
Troops A and G, Ninth Cavalry, and Companies A, B, and H, Eighth Infantry, Lieut. Col. A. T. Smith, Eighth Infantry, commanding, arrived at the Rosebud Agency, November 20.
Lieut. Col. J. S. Poland, Twenty-first Infantry, with Companies A, C, E, and G, Twenty-first Infantry, arrived November 25.
Maj. Edmund Butler, Second Infantry, with Companies A, B, C, and D, Second Infantry, C, Eighth Infantry, and Troops F, I and K, Ninth Cavalry, arrived at Pine Ridge Agency November 20.
Maj. Guy V. Henry, Ninth Cavalry, with troop D, Ninth Cavalry, and Companies G and H, Second Infantry, on the 25th.
Field, staff, and Troops A, B, C, D, E, G, I, and K, Seventh Cavalry, and Light Battery E, First Artillery, on November 26.
Brig. Gen. John R. Brooke, commanding Department of the Platte, arrived at Pine Ridge Agency on November 20 for immediate command of the troops in the vicinity.
Troop I, First Cavalry, F, Second Cavalry, I, Fifth Cavalry, and C, Ninth Cavalry, Capt. C. C. C. Carr, First Cavalry, commanding, from Fort Leavenworth, arrived December 4, in the vicinity of Oelrichs, S. Dak.
Lieut. Col. G. B. Sanford, Ninth Cavalry, arrived on December 9, and took command of the battalion.
The headquarters and Companies B, C, D, E, F, G, and H, Seventh Infantry, Col. H. C. Merriam, commanding, arrived at Fort Sully, S. Dak., on December 7.
The headquarters and Troops A, C, D, E, F, G, I, and K, Sixth Cavalry, Col. E. A. Carr, commanding, arrived at Rapid City, S. Dak., December 9.
The headquarters and Companies A, B, C, D, E, G, and H, Seventeenth Infantry, Lieut. Col. R. H. Offley, commanding, arrived in the department December 19–the headquarters at Rapid City and the companies at different points from that place south to Oelrichs along the railroad, running from Chadron, Nebr., through Rapid City to the north.
The headquarters and Companies A, B, C, D, E, G, and H, First Infantry, Col. William R. Shafter, commanding, arrived at Hermosa, S. Dak., a place on the railroad referred to, on December 26.
Light Battery F, Fourth Artillery, Capt. G. B. Rodney, arrived in the department November 28–one platoon, Capt. Rodney commanding, being directed to Fort Meade, and the other platoon, First Lieut. Frederick S. Strong, commanding, to Fort Snelling, Minn., for service with troops at the west.
There has been since April, 1890, two troops, A and B of the Eighth Cavalry, from the garrison of Fort Meade, S. Dak., Capt. Almond B. Wells, Eighth Cavalry, commanding, in camp at Oelrichs, S. Dak., a short distance west of the Pine Ridge Reservation, charged with the duty in particular of keeping watch of the Cheyenne Indians of the Pine Ridge Reservation, and preventing them from going to join the Cheyenne Indians on the Tongue River Reservation, Mont….
A force consisting of three troops, C, I, and M, Eighth Cavalry, and Companies F and I, Third Infantry, belonging to the garrison of Fort Meade, under command of Capt. Argalus G. Hennissee, Eighth Cavlary, had since April been encamped near the junction of the Belle Fourche with the Cheyenne River, S. Dak., having for especial duty keeping under restraint the Indians of Big Foot’s following, located in the vicinity, and other disaffected Sioux belonging on the Cheyenne River Reservation.
Lieut. Col. E. V. Sumner, Eighth Cavalry, with Troop E of the regiment from Fort Meade, arrived at the camp December 3, 1890, and took command.  The force was increased December 12 by Company C, Third Infantry, Capt. Philip Reade, from Fort Meade.
Further movements of troops belonging to the Department of Dakota took place as follows:
The garrison of Fort Bennett, at the Cheyenne River Agency, S. Dak., was increased November 17 by Company B, Twelfth Infantry, Capt A. G. Tassin, from the garrison of Fort Sully, making the garrison of Fort Bennett two companies of Infantry, the garrison remaining at Fort Sully being two companies of infantry.
Company H, Twenty-second Infantry, Capt. Hiram H. Ketchum, from Fort Keogh, arrived at Fort Abraham Lincoln, which before had a garrison of one company of Twelfth Infantry, November 25, and Troops A and E of the First Cavalry, belonging at Fort Custer, under command of Maj. Henry Carroll, on November 27, and Companies A and D, Twenty-second Infantry, from Fort Keogh, Capt. J. B. Irvine, commanding, arrived on November 30, for service as might be required, especially in the region of the Standing Rock Reservation.
Companies F and H, Twenty-fifth Infantry, from Fort Missoula, and Companies C and E, from Fort Shaw, under command of then Lieut. Col. J. J. Van Horn, Twenty-fifth Infantry, and Troop B, First Cavalry, Capt. John Q. Adams, from Fort Custer, and Troops C, and F First Cavalry, and Companies G and H, Twentieth Infantry, Maj. John M. Hamilton, First Cavalry, commanding, from Fort Assinniboine, Mont., arrived at Fort Keogh on November 29 and 30.
Troop B, First Cavalry, and Casey’s troop of Cheyenne Indian scouts, and a detachment of Company B Twenty-second Infantry, Capt John Q. Adams, First Cavalry commanding, left Fort Keogh on December 13 for the Little Missouri River to the east to keep that section under observation and intercept any Sioux Indian who might leave their reservations for that region or attempt to pass through to the northward.
Troop H, Eighth Cavalry, with a detachment of Company B, twenty-second Infantry, Capt. S. W. Fountain, from Fort Keogh, arrived December 13, at Dickinson, N. Dak., a station on the Northern Pacific Railroad east of the Little Missouri River and nearly northwest of the western boundary of the Standing Rock Reservation.
The general disposition of the forces was such that by means of those placed at the Rosebud Agency, the Pine Ridge Agency and along the railroad running northerly from Chadron, Nebr., near and west of the Pine Ridge Reservation, the Sioux Indians of this and the Rosebud reservations could be kept under observation and the regions to the south and the Cheyenne River Valley section to the west be protected and movement of bands to the west or northwest be intercepted, and by means of those assembled under command of Lieut. Col. Sumner, near the junction of the Belle Fourche River with the Cheyenne, and the garrisons with the additional troops collected at Forts Bennett and Sully, Fort Yates at the Standing Rock Agency, Fort Abraham Lincoln, the force at Dickinson, N. Dak., that under Capt. Adams, First Cavalry, en route for the Little Missouri, and that assembled at Fort Keogh, the Indians of the Standing Rock and Cheyenne River reservations were placed under restraint or observation, and any excursions from these reservations could be soon met.
War Department, Annual Report of the Secretary of War for the Year 1891, vol. 1 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1892), 179-181.

Citation for this article: Samuel L. Russell, “Hunting for Big Foot,” Army at Wounded Knee (Carlisle, PA: Russell Martial Research, 2015-2016, posted 23 Dec 2015, accessed date __________.

7 Responses to Hunting for Big Foot

  1. Cheryl A. Price says:

    Mr. Russell, Been working on Lieutenant Hale’s part in the Wounded Knee and Cherry Creek events for almost three years via primary, secondary sources but just came across this. My grandfather was the best friend of Harry Clay Hale. Hale’s been overlooked by many. Your information provides valuable material for my search which also extended to Hale’s entire military career. Do you have any information on Hale’s wife. Hired two genealogical firms and only have basic information on her – no photos or description.


    • Sam Russell says:

      Ms. Price… Thank you for your query. I do not have much on Harry Hale or his wife other than what can be found searching online newspapers, besides the Medal of Honor recommendation that Vonnie Zullo was able to locate in the National Archives. I was not able to turn up much about Elizabeth Smith Hale or her family, and I’m sure your genealogists were able to find all I did. Born in Toledo, Ohio in 1864 she was the only daughter and second of four children of William Henry and Elizabeth (Brown) Smith. The Smith’s moved to Buffalo, New York about 1873 or 1874. The father appears to have died between 1900 and 1905, and the mother between 1905 and 1910. Her brothers were Frederick H. Smith, Charles C. Smith, and Edmond Sewall Smith, the youngest born in New York and the older brothers in Toledo, Ohio. Elizabeth Smith married Harry Hale on 2 Dec 1886 in Buffalo. They had no children, or at least none that survived childhood. Because she predeceased him, there is no widow’s pension file that would normally provide additional family information. All I could turn up on her death were two very brief death announcements in the Washington Post.


  2. Cheryl A. Price says:

    That’s pretty much what I have. Mainly have information from census and finally found out she died in a sanitarium when Hale was in Hawaii on his way to another tour of duty in the Philippines. What I’m attempting to do is concentrate on Hale’s years in South Dakota. I believe that he was one of the few who kept his word with the Sioux and tried to do what his duty called for. My grandfather was Charley Devendorf, who grew up with Hale in Galesburg.


  3. Dr. Laurent Olivier says:

    Dear Sam,

    Congratulations for your wonderful website! it is marvelous to get such an easy access to these fascinating and moving archives.

    I have just a few questions about the hunt for Big Foot:
    – 1) what was the final purpose of this operation, after the surrounding and the disarming of the band: to take the men as prisonners of war and send them away to jail, and let the women and children go? Or to remove everyone?
    – 2) what was the point to bring the band to Wounded Knee ? Was the place considered to be under specific American military rules, as an US Army camp – making easier the operations of disarming and transportation of the men?
    – 3) Do you think it was planed to bring the Big Foot band there (and if this is the case, for which reasons?) Or was it just because it was a too long (and dangerous) travel to bring them to the Pine Ridge Agency?

    With many thanks in advance,
    and best wishes,

    Laurent Olivier

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Michael W. Gast says:

    My great grandfather Sergeant Reinhold Gast of the 8th cavalry participated in the hunt for Big Foot Anybody with any information on my ancestor can write me at Will be willing to pay fee for unique information. My ancestor was written up in the book Boots and Saddles. Thank you. Michael W. Gast, Esq.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sam Russell says:

      Mr. Gast… Thank you for the post. Doing a quick search of enlistment records, it appears that your ancestor enlisted under the name Reinhold Geist and served in M Troop and A Troop 8th Cavalry. His transfer from M to A likely occurred in late summer 1890 when the Army ‘skeltonized’ M and L troops in all the cavalry regiments and transferred the soldiers to other troops within their respective regiments. I pulled a section of Brig. Gen. Thomas Ruger’s annual report that he submitted in October 1891, which covered the Department of Dakota’s actions during the Pine Ridge Campaign. He provided the following information regarding your ancestor’s unit(s):

      “There has been since April, 1890, two troops, A and B of the Eighth Cavalry, from the garrison of Fort Meade, S. Dak., Capt. Almond B. Wells, Eighth Cavalry, commanding, in camp at Oelrichs, S. Dak., a short distance west of the Pine Ridge Reservation, charged with the duty in particular of keeping watch of the Cheyenne Indians of the Pine Ridge Reservation, and preventing them from going to join the Cheyenne Indians on the Tongue River Reservation, Mont….
      “A force consisting of three troops, C, I, and M, Eighth Cavalry, and Companies F and I, Third Infantry, belonging to the garrison of Fort Meade, under command of Capt. Argalus G. Hennissee, Eighth Cavlary, had since April been encamped near the junction of the Belle Fourche with the Cheyenne River, S. Dak., having for especial duty keeping under restraint the Indians of Big Foot’s following, located in the vicinity, and other disaffected Sioux belonging on the Cheyenne River Reservation.
      “Lieut. Col. E. V. Sumner, Eighth Cavalry, with Troop E of the regiment from Fort Meade, arrived at the camp December 3, 1890, and took command. The force was increased December 12 by Company C, Third Infantry, Capt. Philip Reade, from Fort Meade.”

      Likely this would indicate that, at least for a portion of 1890, your father served under Capt. Argalus Hennissee at his camp of observation on the Cheyenne River. You can read more about this camp and the 8th Cavalry’s actions during the campaign at the following post:

      Warmest regards, COL(Ret) Sam Russell


  5. Grace Hans Pawol says:

    Dear COL. (Ret.) Sam Russell,
    My paternal grandfather, Frederick Mahlon Hans, “Lone Star,” was also present at Wounded Knee in December of 1890. He wrote “The Great Sioux Nation,” which was published in1907, using his shortened name of Fred M. Hans. The book is in the Public Domain now. The last pages, 571 through 575, reveal his personal acquaintance with Big Foot and others. He camped with Big Foot Dec. 28, 1890. (I truly feel that he had much sympathy and empathy for the Native Ameicans.)–
    Though I never met my granddad, he somehow prompted me to attend the Big Foot Memorial, Dec. 29, 2015, and perform a personal, loving gesture from him to Big Foot and his people. I was 79 at the time. I’m the last of this former Army Scout’s grandchildren.
    Thank you, Mr. Ret. Col. Russell, for trying to unveil the Truths of History and attempting to make amends in so doing.
    Grace Lakota Anne Hans Pawol ( not Native)

    Liked by 1 person

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