Battle of the Rosebud

Published on October 29, 2014 by Carol

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“Battle on the Rosebud River”, 1876

The Battle of the Rosebud (also known the Battle of Rosebud Creek) occurred June 17, 1876, in the Montana Territory between the United States Army and its Crow and Shoshoni allies against an Indian force consisting mostly of Lakota Sioux and northern Cheyenne Indians during the Great Sioux War of 1876. The Cheyenne called it the Battle Where the Girl Saved Her Brother, because of an incident during the fight involving Buffalo Calf Road Woman. General George Crook’s offensive was stymied by the Indians, led by Crazy Horse, and he awaited reinforcements before resuming the campaign in August.

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Background

The Lakota and their Northern Cheyenne allies won in the Treaty of Fort Laramie (1868) a reservation, including the Black Hills, in Dakota Territory and a large area of “unceded territory” in what became Montana and Wyoming. Both areas were for the exclusive use of the Indians, and whites (except for government officials) were forbidden to trespass. In 1874, the discovery of gold in the Black Hills caused the U.S. to attempt to buy the Black Hills from the Indians. The U.S. ordered all bands of Lakota and Cheyenne to come to the agencies on the reservation by January 31, 1876 to negotiate the sale. A few bands did not comply and when the deadline of January 31 passed the U.S. undertook to force Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse, and their followers onto the reservation. The first military expedition against the recalcitrant Indians in March 1876 was a failure, ending in the Battle of Powder River.

In June 1876, the U.S. renewed the fight with a three-pronged invasion of the Bighorn and Powder river country. Colonel John Gibbon led a force from the west; General Alfred Terry (with Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer) came from the east; and General George Crook advanced northward from Fort Fetterman, near present day Douglas, Wyoming. The objective of the converging columns was to find and defeat the Indians and force them onto the reservation. Crook’s force, called the Bighorn and Yellowstone Expedition, consisted of 993 cavalry and mule-mounted infantry, 197 civilian packers and teamsters, 65 Montan miners, three scouts, and five journalists. Crook’s much valued chief scout was Frank Grouard. Among the teamsters was Calamity Jane, disguised as a man.

Crook left Fort Fetterman on the abandoned Bozeman Trail past the scene of many battles during Red Cloud’s War ten years earlier. His force reached the Tongue River near present-day Sheridan, Wyoming on June 8. Crazy Horse had warned that he would fight if “Three Stars” [Crook] crossed the Tongue and on June 9 the Indians launched a long distance attack, firing into the soldier’s camp and wounding two men. Crook and his men waited near the Tongue for several days for Crow and Shoshoni warriors to join his army. 175 Crow and 86 Shoshoni showed up on June 14 with Frank Grouard. They welcomed the opportunity to strike a blow against their old enemies although they warned Crook that the Lakota and Cheyenne were as “numerous as grass.” The Shoshoni and Crow were well-armed. Crook had made his reputation as an Indian fighter “using Indians to catch Indians” and the Crow and Shoshoni warriors were important to him.

On June 16, leaving his wagon and pack train behind with most of the civilians as a guard, Crook and the soldiers, with the Crow and Shoshoni in the lead, advanced northward beyond the Tongue to the headwaters of Rosebud Creek to search for and engage the Lakota and Cheyenne. Each soldier carried four days rations and 100 rounds of ammunition. Crook’s intention to make a quiet march was spoiled when the Crow and Shoshoni encountered a buffalo herd and shot many of them. Crook anticipated that he would soon find a large Indian village on Rosebud Creek to attack, but the Indian village was on Ash Creek, west of Rosebud Creek. Crook also underestimated the determination of his foe. He anticipated the usual Indian tactics of hit-and-run encounters and ambushes, not a pitched battle.

The Indian force of almost 1,000 men set out from their village on June 16 in the middle of the night to seek out the soldiers on the Rosebud. They rode all night, rested their horses for a couple of hours, then continued, making contact with Crook’s scouts at about 8:30 a.m., June 17

Attack on the Rosebud

On June 17, 1876, Crook’s column marched northward along the south fork of Rosebud Creek. The holiday atmosphere that prevailed since the arrival of the Indian scouts on June 15 was suddenly absent. The soldiers, particularly the mule-riding infantry, were fatigued from the previous day’s 35 miles (56 km) march and the early morning reveille at 3:00 am. At 8 a.m., Crook stopped to rest his men and animals. Although deep in hostile territory, Crook made no special dispositions for defense. His troops halted in their marching order. The Crow and Shoshone scouts remained alert while the soldiers rested. Soldiers in camp began to hear gunfire coming from the bluffs to the north, where the Crow and Shoshoni were positioned, but initially thought it was the Crow shooting buffalo. As the intensity of fire increased, two Crows rushed into the army’s resting place shouting, “Lakota, Lakota!” By 8:30 am, the Sioux and Cheyenne had hotly engaged Crook’s Indian allies on the high ground north of the main body. Heavily outnumbered, the Crow and Shoshoni fell back toward the camp, but their fighting withdrawal gave Crook time to deploy his forces.

The battle which ensued would last for six hours and consist of disconnected actions and charges and counter-charges by Crook and Crazy Horse, the two forces spread out over a fluid front three miles wide. The Lakota and Cheyenne were divided into several groups as were the soldiers as the battle progressed. The soldiers could fend off assaults by the Indians and force them to retreat but could not catch and destroy them.

Crook initially directed his forces to seize the high ground north and south of the Rosebud Creek. He ordered Captain Van Vliet, with two troops of the 3rd Cavalry, to occupy the high bluffs south of the Creek to guard against an Indian attack from the direction. In the north, the commands of Major Chambers with two companies of the 4th Infantry and three companies of the 9th Infantry, and Captain Noyes with three troops of the 2nd Cavalry, formed a dismounted skirmish line and advanced toward the Lakota. Their progress was slow due to flanking fire from Indians occupying the high ground to the northeast.

To accelerate the advance, Crook ordered Captain Anson Mills, commanding six troops of the 3rd Cavalry, to charge the Lakota. Mills’ mounted charge unnerved the Indians and they withdrew along the ridge line. Mills quickly re-formed three troops and led another charge, driving the Indians northwest again to the next hill. Preparing to drive the Indians from there, Mills received orders from Crook to cease the advance and assume a defensive posture. Chambers and Noyes led their forces forward in support and, within minutes, joined Mills on top of the ridge. The bulk of Crook’s command, joined by the packers and miners, occupied a hill they called Crook’s Hill. Establishing his headquarters there at approximately 9:30 am, Crook considered his next move.

During Mill’s advance the event occurred that would name the battle for the Cheyenne. A Cheyenne warrior, Comes in Sight, had his horse shot. While fleeing on foot from Mill’s advancing soldiers, his sister, Buffalo Calf Woman, rode to his rescue. Comes in Sight jumped onto her horse and the two successfully escaped. Mills was impressed with the swarming Indians at his front. “They were the best cavalry soldiers on earth. In charging up toward us they exposed little of their person, hanging on with one arm around the neck and one leg over the horse, firing and lancing from underneath the horses’ necks, so that there was no part of the Indian at which we could aim.”

Crook’s initial charges secured key terrain but did little damage to the Indians. Assaults scattered the Indians but they did not quit the field. After falling back, the Lakota and Cheyenne kept firing from a distance and attacked several times in small parties. When counterattacked by the soldiers, the warriors sped away on their swift horses. Crook realized his charges were ineffective.

Crook believed incorrectly that the unusual tenacity of the Lakota and Cheyenne was based on defense of their families in a nearby village, He ordered Captains Mills and Noyes to withdraw their cavalry from the high ground on Crook’s Hill and swing eastward to follow the Rosebud north to find the suspected village. He recalled Van Vliet’s battalion from the south side of the Rosebud to reinforce him on Crook’s Hill. While Mills and Noyes made their way up the Rosebud, searching for a village that did not exist, the situation of Lt. Colonel William Royall, Crook’s second in command, had worsened. Royall had pursued the Indians attacking Crook’s camp with six companies of cavalry. Royall advanced rapidly along the ridge line to the northwest to a point about one mile away from Crook and separated by the valley of Kolmarr Creek. The Lakota and Cheyenne shifted their main effort away from Crook and concentrated their attacks on Royall and he was in danger of being cut off from Crook. Seeing this danger, Crooks sent orders to Royall to withdraw to Crook’s Hill. Royall sent only one company to join Crook, claiming later his forces had been too hotly engaged to withdraw.

Royall’s situation became worse, and he tried to withdraw his entire command across Kollmar Creek, but the Indians’ fire was too heavy. Next, he began to withdraw southeast along the ridge line. A large group of Sioux and Cheyenne broke off from the fight against Crooks’ main forces and charged boldly down the valley of Kollmar Creek, advancing all the way to the Rosebud. When Captain Guy V. Henry was wounded, his soldiers began to panic but the Crow and Shoshoni arrived and drove the Lakota and Cheyenne back. Crook also sent two infantry companies to occupy a nearby hill to aid Royall with long-range rifle fire which kept the Lakota and Cheyenne at a distance. The Lakota and Cheyenne did not attempt any serious attacks on the infantry, respecting the longer range of their rifles as compared to the carbines the cavalry carried. The Crow, Shoshoni, and the two infantry companies probably saved Royall’s command from destruction.

At approximately 1130, Royall continued his withdrawal to the southeast and assumed a new defensive position. He was under attack on three sides. From his headquarters, Crook realized that Royall needed help that only Mills’ force, which was descending Rosebud Creek, two or three miles away, could provide. Crook sent orders to Mills redirecting him to turn west and attack the rear of the Indians pressing Royall.

At approximately 1230, Royall began another withdrawal into the Kollmar ravine. His cavalry remounted and prepared to ride through gunfire to reach the relative safety of Crook’s main position. As the US cavalry began their dash, the Crow and Shoshone scouts counter-charged the pursuing Lakota and Cheyenne and relieved much of the pressure on Royall’s men. The two companies of infantry provided covering fire from the northeast side of the ravine. Royall’s command suffered most of the U.S. casualties during the battle.

Mills arrived too late on the Lakota and Cheyenne flank to assist Royall’s withdrawal, but his unexpected appearance caused the Lakota and Cheyenne to break contact and retire from the battlefield. The cavalry pursued the Indians, but soon gave up the chase. The battle of the Rosebud was over about 2:30 pm.

Casualties and aftermath

Estimates of casualties by both the soldiers and the Indians vary widely. Crook said he had 10 killed and 21 wounded. His aide John Gregory Bourke added that 4 of the wounds were mortal and gave total casualties as 57. Frank Grouard said that 28 soldiers were killed and 56 wounded. Estimates of Crow killed range from one to five and Shoshoni from one to eight. The Lakota and Cheyenne casualties are likewise uncertain with estimates of the number killed ranging from 10 to 100. The Crow reportedly took 13 scalps (although scalps might be cut into pieces and divided among warriors). Crazy Horse reportedly later said that the Lakota and Cheyenne casualties were 36 killed and 63 wounded. How he came up with such a precise number is unknown, as it seems unlikely that the Indians compiled a statistical record of the casualties among the eight or so Sioux and Lakota bands plus the Cheyenne and a few Arapaho who participated in the battle.

By the standards of Indian warfare, the Battle of the Rosebud was a long and bloody engagement. The Lakota and Cheyenne fought with persistence and demonstrated a willingness to accept casualties rather than break off the encounter. The delaying action by Crook’s Indian allies during the early stages of the battle saved his command from a devastating surprise attack. The intervention of the Crow and Shoshone scouts throughout the battle was crucial to averting disaster for Crook.

Crook claimed victory by virtue of occupying the battlefield at the end of the day, but his actions belie his claim. Concerned for his wounded and short on supplies, Crook retraced his steps to his camp on Goose Creek, near Sheridan, Wyoming, and remained there immobile for seven weeks awaiting reinforcements. He would play no role in the Battle of Little Bighorn eight days later. Crook’s Crow and Shoshoni allies left the army for their homes shortly after the battle. The Lakota and Cheyenne returned to the battlefield after Crook’s departure and piled up rocks at the location of key events in the battle. Some of the rock piles they built are still there

Source: wikipedia

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Battle of the Rosebud

Published on February 3, 2013 by Carol

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Battle of the Rosebud

Given the number of combatants, the Battle of the Rosebud was one of the largest confrontations waged in the Indian Wars.

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In the spring of 1876, the U.S. Army took to the field against the Lakota (Sioux) and Cheyenne. The tribes had not met an ultimatum to return to their reservations in the Dakotas and Nebraska after U.S. negotiations to acquire the sacred Black Hills had failed in the fall of 1875.

Brigadier General George Crook moved 1,050 soldiers and 260 Crow and Shoshone scouts north into the Rosebud Valley, Montana Territory, after his scouts reported a significant concentration of Lakota and Cheyenne there. Crook’s column represented one of three tactical columns placed in the field in the summer to ferret out the natives.

On June 17, a roughly equal number of warriors led by Crazy Horse assaulted Crook’s force along Rosebud Creek. The confused battle over uneven ground separated into three pitched skirmishes. There were numerous brave acts on both sides, including a Cheyenne girl who rescued her brother after his horse had been shot out from under him.*

After six hours and much lead shot, the Lakotas and Cheyennes called off the fight; the braves had fought Crook’s men to a standstill. Crook’s force suffered 10 killed and 21 wounded, and the warriors sustained similar casualties. Crook claimed the day because he believed he had driven the Indians from the field, but his claim was empty.

The fight was at most a stalemate, and Crook’s badly hit column withdrew to its base camp on Goose Creek near present-day Sheridan, Wyoming. As a result of the battle, one of the three army columns converging on the Indians was effectively incapacitated and taken out of the campaign for two months.

Some say the battle set the stage for the Indian victory involving many of the same warriors eight days later and 30 miles away, at the Battle of the Little Bighorn. At least partial blame has been laid at Crook’s feet for Custer’s disaster because the latter failed to rout the Indians, give chase, and conceivably force them north into other U.S. Army columns. Instead, the reasoning goes, the action gave the Lakota and Cheyenne a psychological boost.

But other scholars say Crook is wrongfully implicated in Custer’s demise: The former had barely enough provisions for his soldiers through June 18, which suggests he would have had to reverse course the following day. In addition, Crook could not have advised General Terry, Custer’s commanding officer, of the battle’s outcome soon enough to aid Custer.

To historians of the battle as well as Native Americans today, the Rosebud is acknowledged as a positive chapter in the Lakota and Cheyenne defense of their lands and lifeways.

However, it was not a simple fight between whites and Indians. To the Crows and Shoshones who scouted for the Americans, it was their battle too, against the Lakotas and Cheyennes who were encroaching on their lands and lifeways.

Source: US-history

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Battle of the Rosebud

Published on November 30, 2010 by John

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Battle of Rosebud
Battle on the Rosebud River, 1876

The Battle of the Rosebud (also known the Battle of the Rosebud Creek) occurred June 17, 1876, in the Montana Territory between the United States Army and a force of Lakota Native Americans during the Black Hills War. The Cheyenne called it the Battle Where the Girl Saved Her Brother, because of an incident during the fight involving Buffalo Calf Road Woman.

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Background

General George Crook commanded a mixed force of some 970 cavalry and mule-mounted infantry, 80 civilian teamsters and miners, and 260 Crow (or Absaroke) and Shoshone Indian scouts, traditional foes of the Lakota. The expedition was part of a three-pronged campaign by some 2,400 soldiers to force roughly 2,500 Lakota and Cheyenne warriors, and thousands of family noncombatants, to return to their reservations.

Crook had made a previous attempt in March to corner the Lakota. When his force got within a hundred miles of the Yellowstone River, it was struck by a blizzard, forcing him to abandon his supply train and resulting in numerous frostbite casualties. When the force managed to locate a track of horses, Crook sent three companies of the 2nd Cavalry under its commander, Colonel J. J. Reynolds, to continue the search.

Reynolds discovered a village of Cheyenne which was in use as a staging area, containing 800-1500 ponies as well as large stores of guns, ammunition, food and other supplies. Ordering a pistol charge by a single company under his command, Reynolds took the Cheyenne by surprise and drove their warriors from the immediate area, but failed to support his attack with the rest of his force. When resistance on the outskirts of the village stiffened, Reynolds ordered the Cheyenne supplies destroyed and left with great haste, leaving several soldiers behind and exhausting his force in attempting to reunite with Crook thereafter. Guards posted that night to watch the ponies which had been seized were so tired they fell unconscious, and the ponies were liberated by Cheyenne trailing Reynolds’ force.

For failing to follow through on the initial attack with his full detachment, and for destroying rather than holding the Cheyenne supplies, Reynolds was later court-martialed.

Attacked on the Rosebud

On 17 June 1876, Crook’s column marched northward along the south fork of Rosebud Creek. The holiday atmosphere that prevailed since the arrival of the Indian scouts on 15 June was suddenly absent. The Crow and Shoshone scouts did not sense their enemies’ presence. The soldiers, particularly the mule-riding infantry, were fatigued from the previous day’s 35-mile march and the early morning reveille at 3 a.m.

At 8 a.m., Crook stopped to rest his men and animals. Although deep in hostile territory, Crook made no special dispositions for defense. His troops halted in their marching order. The Crow and Shoshone scouts remained alert while the soldiers rested. Soldiers in camp began to hear gunfire coming from the bluffs to the north, where the scouts were positioned. As the intensity of fire increased, a scout rushed into the camp shouting, “Lakota, Lakota!”{Vaughn, “With Crook at the Rosebud,” page 50} By 0830, the Sioux and Cheyenne had hotly engaged Crook’s Indian allies on the high ground north of the main body. Heavily outnumbered, the Crow and Shoshone scouts fell back toward the camp, but their fighting withdrawal gave Crook time to deploy his forces.

Crook directed his forces to seize the high ground north and south of the Rosebud Creek. He ordered Captain Van Vliet, with two troops of the 3d Cavalry, to occupy the high bluffs to the south. In the north, the commands of Major Chambers with two companies of the 4th Infantry and three companies of the 9th Infantry, and Captain Noyes with three troops of the 2d Cavalry, formed a dismounted skirmish line and advanced toward the Sioux. Their progress was slow due to flanking fire from Indians occupying the high ground to the northeast.

To accelerate the advance, Crook ordered Captain Anson Mills, commanding six troops of the 3d Cavalry, to charge the Sioux. Mills’ mounted charge unnerved the Indians and they withdrew along the ridgeline, not stopping until they reached the next crest. Mills quickly re-formed three troops and led another charge, driving the Indians northwest again to the next hill. Preparing to drive the Indians from there, Mills received orders from Crook to cease the advance and assume a defensive posture. Chambers and Noyes led their forces forward in support and, within minutes, joined Mills on top of the ridge. The bulk of Crook’s command, joined by the packers and miners, occupied Crook’s Ridge. Establishing his headquarters there at approximately 0930, Crook considered his next move.

At the west end of the field, Lieutenant Colonel William Royall, Crook’s second in command, pursued the Indians’ attacking the rear of Crook’s camp. Leading Captain Henry’s three troops of the 3d Cavalry and two troops borrowed from Mills’ command, Royall advanced rapidly along the ridgeline to the northwest, finally halting his advance near the head of Kollmar Creek. Royall’s detachment was a mile from the main body and in danger of being cut off and destroyed. Sensing this vulnerability, the Sioux and Cheyenne warriors shifted their main effort to the west and concentrated their attacks on Royall. Seeing the danger, Crooks sent orders to Royall to withdraw to Crooks Ridge. Royall sent only one troop to join Crook, claiming later his forces had been too hotly engaged.

Crook’s initial charges secured key terrain but did little to damage the Indian forces. Assaults scattered the Indians but they did not quit the field. After falling back, the Sioux and Cheyenne kept firing from a distance and attacked several times in small parties. When counterattacked by the soldiers, the warriors sped away on their swift horses. Crook realized his charges were ineffective.

Crook returned to his battle plan. Believing the Sioux and Cheyennes’ fighting tenacity was based on defense of families in a nearby village, Crook ordered Mills and Noyes to withdraw their cavalry from the high ground and follow the Rosebud north to find the suspected village. He recalled Van Vliet’s battalion from the south side of the Rosebud.

A mile away, Royall’s situation was deteriorating. He tried to withdraw across Kollmar Creek but found the Indians’ fire too heavy. Next he began to withdraw southeast along the ridgeline. A large group of Sioux and Cheyenne broke off from the fight against Crooks’ main forces and charged boldly down the valley of Kollmar Creek, advancing all the way to the Rosebud. The arrival of Van Vliet’s command checked the warriors’ advance. Crook ordered the Crow and Shoshone scouts to charge into the withdrawing warriors’ flank.

Mills’ advance up the Rosebud left Crook without sufficient force to aid Royall and his hard-pressed battalion. While Mills made his way up the Rosebud, searching for a village that did not exist, Royall’s situation grew worse.

At approximately 1130, Royall withdrew to the southeast and assumed a new defensive position. He hoped to lead his command across Kollmar Creek and rendezvous with Crook. Meanwhile, the Sioux and Cheyenne attacked him from three sides. From his headquarters, Crook realized that Royall needed help to get out of the situation, help only Mills’ force could provide. Crook sent orders to Mills redirecting him to turn west and attack the rear of the Indians’ pressing Royall.

At approximately 1230, Royall decided against further waiting and withdrew his troops into the Kollmar ravine to remount their horses. From there, they would have to ride through gunfire to reach the relative safety of Crook’s main position. As the US cavalry began their dash, the Crow and Shoshone scouts countercharged the pursuing enemy and relieved much of the pressure on Royall’s men. Two companies of infantry left the main position to provide covering fire from the northeast side of the ravine. Royall’s command still suffered grievous casualties.

Mills arrived too late to assist Royall’s withdrawal, but his unexpected appearance on the Indians’ flank caused the Sioux and Cheyenne to break contact and retreat. Concentrating his mounted units, Crook now led them up the Rosebud in search of the non-existent Indian village. The advance came upon a narrow ravine which the scouts warned was an excellent spot for an ambush. Crook halted his advance. The battle of Rosebud was over. By the standards of Indian warfare, it had been an extremely long and bloody engagement. Never before had the Plains Indians fought with such ferocity, and never before had they shown such a willingness to accept casualties. Nor was their sacrifice in vain. Concerned for his wounded, short on supplies, and perhaps still shaken by the Indians’ ferocity, Crook returned to his camp on Goose Creek and stayed there for seven weeks awaiting reinforcements. Unlike his enemies, Crook’s command would play no role in the momentous events at The Little Bighorn.

The hard fought battle lasted for six hours. Hard fighting by Crooks Indian allies during the early stages saved his command from a likely devastating surprise attack. The gallantry of the Crow and Shoshone scouts throughout the battle was crucial to Crooks averting disaster.

Results

Historian Joseph Marshall III argues that the Lakota would have won the battle had it not been for the fact that they were fighting after riding all night to arrive at the battle. Crook reported a loss of 32 dead and 21 wounded and 13 of the Lakota dead. Although Crook’s force was left in possession of the battlefield and he claimed a victory, the battle caused Crook to return to his base camp at Goose Creek and halted his advance which prevented him from joining up with the 7th Cavalry under George Armstrong Custer. Crook withdrew to a position on Big Goose Creek, near present-day Sheridan, Wyoming, and waited 7 weeks for reinforcements from the 9th Infantry and 5th Cavalry before resuming the campaign on August 5.

The battlesite is preserved at the Rosebud Battlefield State Park in Big Horn County, Montana.

Source: Wikipedia

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Chicago Manual Style (CMS):

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Modern Language Association (MLA):

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Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE):

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