Crazy Horse was a legendary warrior and leader of the Lakota Sioux, celebrated forhis battle skills in addition to his efforts to maintain Native American customs andway of life. Resisting efforts to induce the Sioux on to bookings, he fought alongside Sitting Bull and others in the American-Indian Wars, and has been instrumental in the defeat of George Armstrong Custer’s forcesat the Battle of the Little Bighorn. After surrendering to federaltroopsin 1877, he was murdered amid rumors of a planned escape.
Since his violent and controversial death, Crazy Horse, or Tashunka Witko, is now almost a mythical figure of the Great Plains Indian wars. The place and date of his birth are uncertain, but he was probably born at the early 1840s near Bear Butte on the Belle Fourche River in South Dakota.
This image of Crazy Horse was allegedly taken just prior to his death in 1877, but it is validity has been disputed since for the majority of his life he refused to be photographed.His father was a medicine man of the Oglala subtribe, his mother a Brulé. There’s been much speculation about the origin of the name Crazy Horse, but most historians now agree that his father had the same name. As a youth he was called Curly, but acquired the dad’s title after proving himself in battle.
Did You Know? The Crazy Horse monument in South Dakota was under construction since 1948. When it’s completed, it’ll be the world’s largest sculpture. He was below average height, his body lithe, his complexion and hair lighter compared to that of most Indians. Different photos bear his name, but many are discredited, and likely none is real. Except for his past days near Fort Robinson, Nebraska, he was out of reach of frontier photographers.
His first encounter with U.S. soldiers was about the old Oregon Trail, July 25, 1865, at Platte Bridge, where he acted as a decoy to draw soldiers from their defenses. During the following year, when soldiers marched up the Bozeman Trail to build forts, Crazy Horse honed his skills as a guerrilla fighter and analyzed the manners of his army adversaries.
In December 1866, when the Sioux and Cheyenne combined to challenge Fort Phil Kearny, Crazy Horse’s daring as a leader of the decoy warriors brought Lt. Col. William J. Fetterman and eighty men into an ambush which became known as the Fetterman massacre.
Throughout the following decade, Crazy Horse joined Sitting Bull in an unyielding determination to defend the Black Hills and resist reservation control. When the U.S. Army mounted a three-pronged military operation in 1876 to drive the “free” Plains Indians onto reservations, Crazy Horse faced the column headed by Gen. George Crook at Rosebud Creek, June 17. He focused his warriors against weak areas in Crook’s lines, fighting hand to hand at times to win the day.
After the conflict, the victors rode over to the Little Bighorn to join Sitting Bull’s large encampment of Sioux and Cheyenne. On the twenty-fifth, Gen. George A. Custer’s column attacked the camp, and Crazy Horse and Gall, a leader of the Hunkpapa Sioux, led their warriors in a pincers attack that quickly enveloped Custer’s divided cavalry and hauled it out.Other military forces chased the Indians, finally driving Sitting Bull into Canada.
Crazy Horse and his followers tried to carry out in remote regions of the Yellowstone country, but soldiers hunted them. On May 6, 1877, he gave up himself and spent the summer near Fort Robinson, anticipating the assignment to a reservation that had been promised him.The events impacting Crazy Horse during which long summer were imbued with elements of classical tragedy.
Deceptions, betrayals, and false rumors engulfed him. He was disliked by a number of the elderly Indian leaders, and as a result of his popularity among the young warriors, rumors spread he was intending an outbreak. When on September 5 he had been detained, he offered no resistance in the beginning.But when he saw that he was to be locked in a guardhouse, he struggled with his captors and has been stabbed to death. In the day of its occurrence this incident was described in several versions, all adding to the mystique of Crazy Horse.