Published on November 30, 2010 by John
American Horse (ca. 1820-1876) was a minor headman of the Oglala Lakota during the Plains Indian wars of the last half of the nineteenth century. More commonly known as Iron Plume, he was probably present at the Battle of the Little Bighorn and was mortally wounded at the Battle of Slim Buttes. He was fifth son of the old Chief Smoke (1774–1864).
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Following the native victory over General George Armstrong Custer at the Little Bighorn in June 1876, the Lakota and Northern Cheyenne moved eastward where by early fall, many were encamped in the area of the Little Missouri River. A small group of about forty lodges, including minor headmen such as Roman Nose, Red Horse and Iron Plume, separated from the main villages and moved near Slim Buttes, South Dakota, apparently intending to quietly slip in to the Cheyenne River Agency to surrender. Unfortunately, they were discovered by a party of troops under Captain Anson Mills, an advance party of General George Crook’s column, and attacked.
During the battle, Iron Plume, four warriors, and fifteen women were backed into a cave, but refused to surrender. During the shooting, Iron Plume was mortally wounded by a shot through his bowels. After the battle, he was treated by an army surgeon, but little could be done for him and he died later that night.
Scout Frank Grouard identified the wounded man as American Horse, though later Lakota corrected his error, noting that the minor Indian headman was named Iron Plume. This has resulted in considerable confusion by later historians. Many have misidentified him as the Oglala American Horse and have even used portraits of him to represent Iron Plume. George Hyde, historian and author, incorrectly listed him as American Horse the elder, to distinguish him from the younger Oglala by the same name. Contrary to Hyde’s writing, these two men were not related. he was an Indian chief.