IT WAS IN THE village of Touch the Clouds on Beaver Creek that Crazy Horse spent his last night, but where he slept is unknown. From the Red Cloud Agency he had brought no lodge, just a packhorse with a few necessaries and personal possessions, including, by one report, his sicun, or medicine bundle. On his last night, therefore, Crazy Horse was someone’s guest. Many years later, members of the Standing Bear and Fast Thunder families both said the chief had visited, stayed, or shared a meal with them before returning to Camp Robinson. There is no substantial account of his thoughts or conversation on that last night, but it is clear that he grew apprehensive, and that he did not know what to do. If he had expected fighting he would have known exactly what to do. He would have arisen early, performed his medicine, and prepared himself for battle.
Crazy Horse had been meticulous about his medicine on the day of the Custer fight, preparing and painting himself at length. He prayed. He gathered up the soft earth that collects at the entrance to a gopher hole. He sprinkled the earth over his horse’s shoulders and flanks, standing first at his horse’s head, then by his tail, and finally making marks with his fingers in the sprinkled earth.
Horn Chips said that in preparing for battle Crazy Horse painted his face with red earth, making a zigzag streak from the top of his forehead down one side of his nose to his chin. White Bull said Crazy Horse painted his face with “hail spots,” dipping his fingers into white paint and lightly touching himself here and there. Amos Bad Heart Bull, the nephew of He Dog and Short Bull, depicted Crazy Horse in the Custer fight painted all over yellow with white dots. On that day, Crazy Horse took some of the powder from the small medicine bundle he wore about his neck and sprinkled it onto a small hot fire made of buffalo droppings. In battle he sometimes wore the dried body of a red hawk attached to his hair at the side of his head and one or two eagle feathers taken from the center of the tail of what the Oglala called the spotted eagle. From his shoulders he sometimes hung the hide of a colt. The Crow said they recognized Crazy Horse in battle by this horsehide cape. Crazy Horse was aggressive in battle, charging in front, and he was always closer to the Crow, they said, than to his own people. It is evident he was not expecting to fight on his last day, because he made none of his customary preparations—no paint, no earth markings on his horse. The father of Crazy Horse went further, saying that everything might have been different if his son had done the sacred things properly on the morning of his last day. Waglula said this often before his own death, according to Ota Kte (Kills Plenty), son of Standing Bear, who was with the chief on this last day and was close enough to touch him at the moment he received his fatal wound.1
When Crazy Horse rose on September 5, 1877, he dressed himself in the plain clothes of everyday life: a white cotton shirt with blue stripes, deer-hide leggings, and beaded moccasins. Around his waist or over his shoulder was a red wool trade blanket. On his belt was a leather case holding a whetstone. Somewhere on him he carried a trade knife much worn with use, sharpened down to a slender blade six inches in length, used by Crazy Horse for cutting tobacco.
In addition to these items, certain sacred objects were always about his person. From a deer-hide thong over his left shoulder hung a small stone with a hole in it that he wore under his left arm. Crazy Horse also wore another, smaller stone secured behind his ear. In his hair were one or two strands of slough grass, reddish in color, and the feather of a spotted eagle. From his neck hung a small deer-hide bag, dyed red, containing various powders prepared for him by Horn Chips. Two of the ingredients were the dried heart of an eagle and the dried seed of the wild aster, it was said. With Touch the Clouds and High Bear he left the village sometime after eight thirty in the morning, probably riding a buckskin horse.2
In this manner Crazy Horse presented himself at the Spotted Tail Agency at nine o’clock in the morning, as promised, but he now regretted his too-quick agreement of the night before to ride back to Camp Robinson with Lieutenant Lee. He told Lee he was “afraid something would happen.” He did not spell out his fear but simply said, “If I go to Red Cloud there will be trouble.” He wanted Lee to go on without him, to explain everything to Colonel Bradley, and to arrange for Crazy Horse and his people to live henceforth with the Brulé people on Beaver Creek. Lee patiently repeated all his counterarguments of the night before—Crazy Horse needed to go back to smooth things over with his “good words” and “set himself right.” Crazy Horse resisted.
“I had hard work to persuade him that he should go,” recalled Lee. Gradually an agreement was hammered out. If Crazy Horse would go and explain himself, Lee promised that he would give a full report of all their talk at Camp Sheridan, and to say he was willing for the band of Crazy Horse to join the people at the Spotted Tail Agency. Both sides agreed as well that they would leave their arms behind, a concession, Lee wrote, “which, under the circumstances, Major Burke and I felt we could make.” The lieutenant reassured the chief again that no one wanted to harm him, and insisted that Crazy Horse ought to make this effort not for his own sake, but for the sake of his people. “I finally told him that he was no coward and could face the music over there,” Lee said. “This remark seemed to appeal to him and he said he would go.”3
But not quite yet. Escorting Crazy Horse on the six- or eight-hour ride across country would be Lee and Bordeaux, riding in an Army ambulance drawn by four mules. Touch the Clouds got into the ambulance for the journey but Crazy Horse refused to do so. He said it made him sick to ride in a wagon, but something deeper was at work.
“He seemed very suspicious about starting, fearing that something was going to happen to him,” Lee’s wife wrote soon after these events. It seems that heated words were exchanged. It happened that this moment was witnessed by Little Bull, an Indian scout returning from a hunt for stolen horses. On riding into the Spotted Tail Agency, Little Bull saw a large gathering of Indians and soldiers surrounding a horse-drawn wagon. In the center of the group, Little Bull said later, was Crazy Horse, who “was asked to get down from his horse and he would not do so.” The whites “wanted Crazy Horse to ride in the wagon,” Little Bull said, “but Crazy Horse would not ride in the wagon.” Now it was Lee’s turn to concede a point. “Crazy Horse asked to ride horseback,” he reported, “which request was granted.”4
But still Crazy Horse was not ready to depart. He had arrived at the agency that morning riding bareback. Now he wanted to return to the village of Touch the Clouds for his saddle. “He insisted,” Louis Bordeaux recalled. Again his request was granted, but this time a large group went along with him, including Lee and Bordeaux in the ambulance with Touch the Clouds, accompanied by Burke, Charles Tackett, and “a few of the friendly Indians,” according to Bordeaux. One of the friendly Indians was Charging First, the sixteen-year-old son of Touch the Clouds, a scout in his father’s company. Good Voice and Horned Antelope were again instructed to stick close to the chief as they had the night before. While Crazy Horse was saddling his horse at Touch the Clouds’s village on Beaver Creek, Burke was quietly conferring with Lee, telling him how to handle matters.
Lee was eager to start out, but just as Bordeaux was about to summon the chief he disappeared into Touch the Clouds’s lodge to share a breakfast with his friend of coffee, bread, and meat. Bordeaux joined them. Even after his breakfast, out of excuses at last, Crazy Horse still shrank from setting out. He told Bordeaux, “You go on and I will come after you.”
Lee did not protest. He climbed into the ambulance with Bordeaux, crossed Beaver Creek, and started out over the flat expanse of grass heading west. Lee and Bordeaux were soon relieved to see Crazy Horse coming after them as he had promised, followed closely by Good Voice and Horned Antelope and more distantly by a group of northern Indians from Touch the Clouds’s camp.5
From the many hesitations of Crazy Horse in the course of the morning it is clear that he was deeply apprehensive. What he wanted, he said, was to avoid trouble. The trouble he feared at Camp Robinson was not anything he planned to start himself. He had made no preparations for a fight, and was agreeing to put himself into a situation where a fight would be suicidal. What made him hesitate was distrust of the whites, who had planned to kill him Monday night, sent eight hundred men to arrest him Tuesday morning, and put a price of two hundred dollars on his head when he tried to flee the “bad winds blowing” at the Red Cloud Agency. Arguing against the plain meaning of these bald facts were only the promises of Lieutenant Jesse Lee. In the end, Crazy Horse set aside his doubts and chose to trust Lee’s repeated assurances that he would not be harmed, that he might move his people to Beaver Creek, that all might still be well.
It was not a large party that headed west from the village of Touch the Clouds at midmorning or a bit later on September 5. Captain Burke, Charley Tackett, and some of the friendly Indians had turned back for the military post. Setting out with Lee in the ambulance were Louis Bordeaux and four Indians, Touch the Clouds and High Bear, northern Indians who were considered to be friends of Crazy Horse, and the Brulé Swift Bear and Black Crow, both trusted by the whites. Near the ambulance rode Crazy Horse with a number of friends and allies—seven in all, according to Lee. One of them was Horn Chips. Another was Standing Bear, married to a cousin of Crazy Horse, who “advised him not to fear and not make any break but submit and return to Fort Robinson peacefully and explain himself.” But before leaving, Standing Bear told his wife to keep the horses close to the lodge.6
Other friends who traveled with Crazy Horse were the Brulé Turning Bear, who had argued in favor of going back to Camp Robinson and vowed never to abandon him, and the Oglala Yellow Horse.7 Mingled with the Crazy Horse Indians were the ever-present scouts Good Voice and Horned Antelope and “a few other reliables.” The whole party numbered about twenty, most on horseback while a few drove wagons. Lee estimated that about half of the group were reliables. Among them, Lee recalled, was Fast Thunder, who traveled in a light spring wagon with his wife of a dozen years seated beside him, the woman known originally as Sagyewin (Cane Woman) and then as Tsunka Opi (Wounded Horse). Later in the 1880s she took the name Jennie, and in her application for a pension in the 1920s she identified herself simply as Jennie Fast Thunder. Lee was confident of Fast Thunder’s loyalty to the whites, but at the same time he was an Oglala and called Crazy Horse cousin. The chief probably thought of Fast Thunder as not an enemy, and perhaps a friend.8
The willingness of Lee to travel so far across open country without arms or military escort suggests more trust than he actually felt. Burke and Lee did not want to lose their captive and had arranged a scheme to tighten their grip. Lee called it “a risky experiment.” An hour or two after the group left Touch the Clouds’s village, as it crossed Bordeaux Creek “about fifteen miles out,” according to Lee, several friendlies from the Spotted Tail Agency rode into sight and joined the travelers. No fuss was made of their arrival, but inevitably it shifted the balance between friends and enemies of Crazy Horse. After a bit other riders appeared, followed by still more, a few at a time. These men were all armed. All were loyal to Spotted Tail. Following further back, but drawing steadily closer over the course of the afternoon, were the twenty or thirty Oglala scouts sent after the chief by Lieutenant Clark the previous day. Included in this latter group were No Water, who had said he would shoot Crazy Horse, Clark’s protégé Three Bears, Whirlwind, and Red Cloud’s brother Spider. By the time Lee’s ambulance was halfway to Camp Robinson the immediate party had more than doubled in size, from twenty to fifty or more. At least forty scouts loyal to Spotted Tail now rode close herd on Crazy Horse, who “realized,” Lee said, “that he was practically a prisoner.”9
September is a hot month in western Nebraska. The journey was long. Lee seems to have relaxed as the group was joined by the friendlies. Sometime in midafternoon, Bordeaux reports, he and the lieutenant both drifted off to sleep as the ambulance bounced along. When they woke Crazy Horse had disappeared. A few hurried questions established that the chief had spurred up his horse, ridden on ahead, and disappeared over the brow of a hill. When the friendlies caught up with Crazy Horse he explained that he wanted only to water his horse.
Things had changed between Lee and Crazy Horse by this time; now the lieutenant did not hesitate to tell the chief what he must do: ride directly behind the ambulance and stay close. “He saw at once that he was closely guarded,” Lee recalled. The chief’s trust had run thin. “He seemed nervous and bewildered, and his serious expression seemed to show that he was doubtful of the outcome.” Lee addressed these doubts as he had all the others, promising Crazy Horse for the fifth time “that no harm would happen to him if he would keep quiet and act all right.”10
Many years later, Fast Thunder’s wife told one of Standing Bear’s sons that during part of the journey Crazy Horse rode in the wagon, seated beside Fast Thunder, while she sat behind. To Jennie Fast Thunder, Crazy Horse seemed troubled. Ota Kte (Kills Plenty) translated Jennie’s word as “sad” in one account of what she told him, but changed the word to “low-spirited” in a second version published a little later. Fast Thunder tried to reassure the man he called cousin.
Be brave, they have promised to make you a great chief. No matter if they try to kill you, be brave. You and I have fought together and we are not afraid to die together. But they have promised not to harm you, so be brave!11
“But Crazy Horse remained sad and talked very little,” Jennie Fast Thunder remembered.
By half past three o’clock, Lee with Crazy Horse now riding close to hand had crossed Chadron Creek and was within fifteen miles of Camp Robinson. On the road they met a number of Indians with lodges in tow hurrying in the opposite direction. These people said they were running away from trouble at the Red Cloud Agency and wanted to join the Spotted Tail Agency. Lee worried that the fleeing Oglala might suddenly rally to Crazy Horse and help him to escape. He scribbled a quick message and sent it ahead by fast courier, urging the agent at Red Cloud to keep his Indians “off the road, so that we could go in quietly.”
To Clark at the same time, Lee sent a note asking if he should deliver Crazy Horse to the agency or to the military post. Lee was hoping the answer would be the agency, a sign that the Army was still willing to talk things through. Lee made his own view clear enough in his note; he said that Crazy Horse was being delivered not by force but by persuasion, and that the chief had been promised that he could state his case. But Lee did not say what he was now beginning to understand—that his repeated assurances had given Crazy Horse something Lee did not have the power to deliver, a promise of safe conduct.
An hour later Lee received Clark’s terse answer. “Dear Lee: Gen. Bradley wishes you to drive direct to his office with Crazy Horse. Yours, Clark.”12
Three years earlier Lee had been in charge of building the military post at Camp Robinson. He knew that the commander’s office was in a log building just beside the guardhouse. From Clark’s answer, Lee concluded that Crazy Horse was to be arrested and confined. “But I still hoped,” Lee wrote later, “that he would be allowed to say a few words in his own behalf.”
Lee received Clark’s answer when he was still about four miles short of the Red Cloud Agency. As they passed along the southern shore of the White River, the crier in each of the Oglala camps was calling out instructions from the leading men: the people were to stand back and keep away from the procession of ambulance and Indians when they passed by the agency. No crowds gathered but all were on edge; Charging First remembered that “our arrival caused great excitement.” His father, Touch the Clouds, ordered the men he trusted to close in around Crazy Horse and the ambulance and to keep an eye out for the first man among the Oglala to draw a gun. As they approached and passed the agency buildings a scout was sent racing ahead to the military post to say Crazy Horse was coming. The agent, James Irwin, sent a telegram to the commissioner of Indian affairs: “A large body of Indian soldiers have just passed the Agency on way to the Post having him in custody. All quiet.”
A little beyond the agency on the road to the military post was a bridge. Here Horn Chips noted that the Red Cloud Indians all had their guns cocked, ready for fighting, but Crazy Horse was surrounded too closely—“he was guarded by good boys.”13
He Dog saw the approach of the procession from the spot where he had camped at the foot of the White Buttes. He wanted to give Crazy Horse “a good talking-to”—to say “I knew this was coming” and to urge him a final time “to listen to me, and go back with me to Washington.” He sent a man out to tell the scouts to bring Crazy Horse to his lodge. But of course he did not have authority for that, and the procession did not alter course.
Seeing this, He Dog stripped for war. He took off his leggings and his shirt and put on his warbonnet. He mounted his horse bareback and pursued the ambulance and the procession of Indians, catching up with them as they approached the military post by the road from Red Cloud, which curved past the row of officers’ quarters to the parade ground with the adjutant’s office and the guardhouse at the far end. Crazy Horse was in the lead, ahead of the ambulance. He Dog noticed that he was wearing a red blanket. By this time, the Oglala scouts loyal to Red Cloud had pulled up with the rest so Crazy Horse and his few friends were surrounded and hemmed in by hostile scouts. The whole party now numbered about eighty.
One of the scouts shouted to He Dog to keep back, but He Dog ignored the warning and rode up to Crazy Horse and shook his hand. “I saw that he did not look right,” He Dog remembered. “I said, ‘Look out—watch your step—you are going into a dangerous place.’ ”
He was nervous, bewildered, doubtful of the outcome. He was sad, low spirited, and spoke little. He did not look right. Every description suggests eroding trust and reluctance to go forward.
Crazy Horse spoke to his friend He Dog. “He asked him if he had any weapons, and of course He Dog had a scout gun with him.”14
The hour of their arrival was not recorded. Charging First said “the sun was low.” He noted soldiers drilling on the parade ground, so it may have been the moment of evening parade. Billy Garnett remembered that it was “fully two hours before sunset.” A correspondent for the Chicago Timessaid it was “about six o’clock.” The office of the commissioner of Indian affairs logged receipt of Irwin’s telegram at 9:42 p.m., Washington time.
It was late in the day, the sinking sun was probably blocked by the hills to the west of the military post, dusk was coming, and the parade ground was rapidly filling. Lee in the ambulance and Crazy Horse with his few friends were surrounded by eighty scouts loyal to Spotted Tail or Red Cloud, and they in turn were pressed by other Indians hurrying in from the camps. Soldiers on the parade ground were apparently falling into formation. It seems someone was expecting trouble. The post surgeon, Valentine McGillycuddy, and a handful of soldiers were standing about the guardhouse and adjutant’s office as Lee approached.15
Lee was expecting to meet Clark, but he was nowhere to be seen. In his absence, taking charge, was the officer of the day, Captain James Kennington, a man in continuous pain since he had been thrown forward onto the pommel of his saddle at Slim Buttes almost exactly a year earlier. Scar tissue constricted his urinary tract. Several times a day Kennington was required to pass a catheter up through his penis to draw off urine, a procedure he would continue for the remainder of his life.
In front of the adjutant’s office, Lee was met by Lieutenant Frederic Calhoun, brother of one of the officers killed at the Little Bighorn. It was Calhoun who had vented his fury at Crazy Horse in a letter to a friend that spring, expressing the wish that the Indians be exterminated, and who traveled to Leavenworth in July to participate in the reburial of his brother’s remains. Lee remembered that Calhoun informed him “at once” of Colonel Bradley’s wishes.
“Turn him over to the officer of the day,” Calhoun directed.
“The truth flashed across my mind, that he was to be put in the guardhouse, a prisoner,” Lee remembered.
“No, not yet,” he told Calhoun. Lee asked “if Crazy Horse could say a few words” to Bradley before he was placed in Kennington’s charge.
Only Bradley could answer that, Calhoun responded.
Lee led Crazy Horse to a chair inside the adjutant’s office. Keeping the chief company in the office while Lee set out across the parade ground to Bradley’s quarters were Swift Bear, Touch the Clouds, High Bear, Black Crow, and Good Voice. It was two hundred yards to Bradley’s quarters. There was quite a crowd of Indians to watch Lee cross the parade ground.
Lee found Bradley in a bully mood. “Well, Mister Lee, you got him!” he said—“rather exultantly,” Lee remembered.
“Yes, and I want to ask if he can be heard.”
“Have you got your orders?” Bradley responded.
“Yes,” Lee answered.
“Obey them,” said Bradley.
But Lee was not yet ready to surrender the point. His assurances to Crazy Horse were now paper thin—the right to “say a few words.” Lee felt that his honor and self-respect hung on those few words. He did what officers seldom dared and no superiors welcomed: he argued.
“General Bradley,” he began, using the commander’s brevet rank, “do you know under what circumstances we got this man? Your soldiers did not succeed in getting him yesterday. He came to me voluntarily, and now I have him here on a promise that he can have an opportunity to be heard. General Bradley, can he be heard?”
Two days later, when all was over, Bradley reported, “My orders from General Crook were to capture the chief, confine him, and send him under guard to Omaha.” There was no latitude in Bradley’s orders, and he gave Lee none.
“He informed me, in no doubtful terms,” Lee related, “that it was no use. The orders were peremptory; he could not change them; General Crook himself could not change them, and nothing further need be said, and the sooner I turned over Crazy Horse the better.”
Bradley added, “It’s too late to have any talk.”
Lee grasped at this straw. “Can he be heard in the morning?”
Several moments of silence followed. Bradley finally said, “Have him put in the guard house and not a hair of his head will be injured.”
Lee’s wife, suggesting what Lee hesitated to say outright, wrote later, “My husband returned with feelings that cannot be described.”
At this moment, crossing the parade ground to the adjutant’s office, Lee’s courage failed him. He could not bring himself to tell Crazy Horse the plain truth, that he was to be made a prisoner and taken away. Lee based one final assurance on “the glimmering hope that on the morrow Crazy Horse might be heard.” He returned to the Indians waiting in the adjutant’s office and said,
I am only a little chief and cannot get you a hearing now, but the commanding officer says that if you will go with this man (pointing to Captain Kennington, officer of the day) not a hair of your head will be injured.
This was the sixth time that Lee had assured Crazy Horse he would not be harmed. What he told the chief was true and it was not true. No hearing now implied chance of a hearing later, and Lee knew that, absent a miracle, there was to be no hearing ever. But he said no hearing now, and Crazy Horse chose to accept this frail suggestion of a promise. He said “Hau! Hau!” in acceptance and assent, and took Kennington by the hand in greeting. As Kennington, holding Crazy Horse by the hand, led him out of the adjutant’s office to cross the twenty yards separating it from the guardhouse, Lee quietly approached Touch the Clouds and High Bear to explain to them “as best I could” the limits of his authority and the actual “situation of affairs.” Louis Bordeaux interpreted for him. Charging First was standing near his father, Touch the Clouds, and several other chiefs, including Big Road and Standing Bear.
“The matter is in the hands of my superior officers and I can do nothing,” Lee said. Bordeaux remembered that Lee told the chiefs “the officers would take care of Crazy Horse to which they all replied, ‘All right.’ ” 16 Charging First remembered that Lee directed his father to take Crazy Horse “over to the house where the door stands ajar” and to remain there overnight with the chief. Lee further instructed Touch the Clouds, as Charging First recalled, that he would be given the job of taking Crazy Horse east “to see the president” and to stay with him and perhaps return with him. To Crazy Horse, Touch the Clouds said, “We will go to the house where the door stands ajar and there we will spend the night.”
“It was getting dusk,” Charging First remembered. “Crazy Horse said, ‘All right.’ ”17
Lee estimated that his arrival in the ambulance, his conversations with Calhoun outside the adjutant’s office, and with Bradley in his quarters, the walk back across the parade ground and his brief report to Crazy Horse that there could be no hearing now—all that, Lee guessed, occurred “within about 15 minutes after my arrival.” What happened next as he was talking to the Indians outside, Lee thought, took “less than a minute.”18
About sixty feet of open ground separated the adjutant’s office from the guardhouse. Lined up nearby were several field howitzers like the ones Crazy Horse saw in his dream. Captain Kennington held one of Crazy Horse’s hands. Little Big Man, wearing a red shirt, took the other as Crazy Horse stepped outside the door. “As they walked toward the guardhouse,” Garnett said later, “Little Big Man kept talking to Crazy Horse and assuring him that wherever he was taken he would go with him and stand by him.”
Turning Bear walked in front of the little group. Behind them were Wooden Knife, a Miniconjou from Touch the Clouds’s camp, and another man named Leaper. Two soldiers of the guard followed in the rear, gesturing to the crowd to keep back. Crazy Horse was wearing his red blanket over his shoulders.
Red Cloud and his followers were standing just outside the door to the adjutant’s office. He Dog was near them. Kennington and Little Big Man turned left toward the guardhouse, leading Crazy Horse away from the group around Red Cloud. They continued past a second big group gathered beside American Horse, who was on horseback. It was twenty paces to the guardhouse, a short walk requiring no more than a few moments. On several occasions He Dog had been sent to the jail by White Hat to get Indians locked up there by the soldiers. He knew they were taking Crazy Horse to the post jail. “But Crazy Horse did not know it,” He Dog said.19
There were eight hundred soldiers at Camp Robinson on this day, and many of them were now forming up in line around the parade ground, infantry in front, cavalry behind. Hundreds of Indians had now joined the eighty who rode in with Crazy Horse and more were arriving every moment. Many were in war dress and were carrying guns.
Lieutenant Clark was watching from the far side of the parade ground, near the officers’ quarters. He had just sent Billy Garnett to tell the officers to put Crazy Horse in the guardhouse. Frank Grouard was nearby but keeping out of sight. Near the entrance to the guardhouse was an uncle of Crazy Horse, probably Little Hawk. Horn Chips, Thunder Hawk, Black Crow, Fast Thunder, and Swift Bear were close to the door. Fast Thunder’s wife was standing nearby. Woman Dress was in the crowd, as were Crazy Horse’s new wife, Ellen Larrabee, and one of her sisters, probably Zoe.
As Crazy Horse neared the guardhouse, some people in the crowd said, “It’s the jail!” Touch the Clouds and some others in the group right around Crazy Horse stopped where they were. Captain Charles King said later that the friends of Crazy Horse were “persuaded to halt where they did.” If his friends had gone on in with him, King believed, nothing would have happened.
Red Feather and his friend White Calf had been peering in a back window of the adjutant’s office. They came back out front to watch the group approach the guardhouse. They heard Little Big Man say, “We’ll do whatever White Hat says.” Near him were Iron Hawk, friend of Crazy Horse, and Long Bear, friend of Little Big Man.20
“I could see a guard marching back and forth,” Charging First remembered.
“A soldier was walking back and forth with a bayonet over his shoulder,” Red Feather said.
The soldier stepped back and lowered his weapon to let Kennington and the others go in through the door that was ajar. The weapon was the infantry version of the Springfield trapdoor rifle. Locked onto the end of the rifle was a standard issue bayonet with an eighteen-inch blade. Standing Bear remembered that this guard wore a beard like Lincoln’s—no mustache. Bordeaux remembered that the man’s beard was red. Charging First remembered that the man was standing by the door on a low porch or deck in front of the house.
Outside, the scouts loyal to Red Cloud and Spotted Tail were to one side, the northern Indians friendly to Crazy Horse on the other. They dared not approach too close to one another. Many in both groups were on excited horses. The crowd was dense now. Those in front were pushed by those behind. Many people were pressed together. It was hard to see.
Billy Garnett was coming across the parade ground; he was heading for the adjutant’s office when he saw the commotion at the guardhouse, perhaps sixty or seventy feet distant. Charging First was following his father and Crazy Horse. He saw them step up onto the little porch. Inside the guardhouse were two scouts, Plenty Wolves and Yellow Horse. Turning Bear was still in front as they entered the building. Billy Garnett stopped where he was in the middle of the parade ground. He heard a noise inside the building. He Dog also heard the noise.
The officer of the guard, Lieutenant Henry Lemly, was inside the building. There were two rooms. Turning Bear, leading the way, entered the first room through the door that had been ajar with the rest close on his heels. To the right was a door into a second room. In the door was a window with bars. The door opened. In the second room were several men. It was said later that these men were wearing chains. Their feet were attached to iron balls. The chains could be heard rattling.
Charging First heard a shout from inside the building. Turning Bear shouted out, “It’s the jail!” He shouted, “Turn back!” He rushed back out through the door that had been ajar. Charging First heard the man rushing out say, “There are bodies hanging in that room!”21
In this instant Crazy Horse lost his weakness. “When the inner door was opened to pass Crazy Horse in,” Billy Garnett said later, “it dawned on him that he was a prisoner.”
With tremendous force Crazy Horse lunged back, pulling away from the door. Little Big Man grabbed him around the waist, trying to hold him, shouting, “Don’t do that!” The two men swung about wildly as Crazy Horse struggled. Captain Kennington was trying to seize and hold him. Crazy Horse grabbed the ornaments in Little Big Man’s hair and ripped them free. Little Big Man’s red shirt was torn away. Crazy Horse shouted, “Let me go! Let me go!” From beneath his red blanket Crazy Horse pulled his tobacco knife with the six-inch blade. Little Big Man tried to grab his wrists, shouting, “Nephew, don’t do that!” Crazy Horse slashed Little Big Man’s wrist—“to the bone,” said Lieutenant Lemly.
Crazy Horse’s red blanket fell from his shoulders to the floor. In a holster at his waist was a revolver with white grips. As they swung about the door, half in and half out, Plenty Wolves plucked the revolver from its holster and said, “I have got the gun!” A man said to be the uncle of Crazy Horse, probably Little Hawk, grabbed this revolver from Plenty Wolves’s hand.22
Still grappling, Crazy Horse and Little Big Man spun out of the guardhouse door into the crush gathered outside. Billy Garnett was about sixty feet away. He heard the shouting and a sound of chains from inside and saw the two men bursting out. “The two whirled into the space between the scouts and the surging Indians on the opposite side,” he said.
Jennie Fast Thunder and Horn Chips were there when Crazy Horse burst out. Horn Chips said, “Crazy Horse made a grunt and struggled.” Garnett heard Crazy Horse too. “It sounds like a growl as Crazy Horse repeats, ‘Let me go! Let me go!’ ” Jennie Fast Thunder said, “I heard him using the brave word—H’g un, the word a warrior uses when he wishes to keep up his courage.”23
Little Big Man was bleeding, his shirt torn. Captain Kennington had drawn his sword. Guns were being cocked in the crowd of Indians. Some of the soldiers of the guard were cocking their guns. Kennington shouted, “Don’t shoot! Don’t shoot!” Garnett saw the guard with the red beard; he was holding his rifle and bayonet at the ready. Kennington tried to get at Crazy Horse with his sword but Crazy Horse was lunging about too wildly, too many Indians were in the way. Louis Bordeaux heard Kennington shouting, “Stab the sonofabitch! Stab the sonofabitch!”
Lieutenant Lee at this instant was standing sixty feet away outside the adjutant’s office. The commotion caught his attention. He saw Swift Bear, Black Crow, and Fast Thunder grappling with Crazy Horse as he tried to lunge free, throwing himself this way, that way. Lee heard a voice shouting, “Kill him! Kill him!”24
By Lee’s estimate, less than a minute had passed since Crazy Horse walked out of the adjutant’s office, holding Captain Kennington by the hand.