Valentine Trant McGillycuddy: Crazy Horse's Friend

On a hot September day in 1877 on the Pine Ridge reservation in the Dakota Territory (now South Dakota), a large group of angry Sioux were crowded around the guard house. Writhing in pain on the ground before them, bleeding profusely from his abdomen, lay one of the greatest leaders of the Native American resistance to the U.S. government: Crazy Horse. Standing near the door, with the chief’s blood dripping off his bayonet, was a now very fearful William Gentles, a 47- year-old private born in County Tyrone, who had panicked and stabbed him.

(Above: Oglala Sioux Ghost Dance at the Pine Ridge Native Reservation. Illustration by Frederic Remington, 1890.)

The enraged crowd then parted, as word spread, to allow "Ta-sunka Witko Kola," Crazy Horse's friend, through to him. As the slim young Irish-American doctor with a Fu Manchu mustache and long goatee moved toward Crazy Horse and saw the wound, his worst fears were realized. Many miles from the nearest hospital, he knew there was no way to save his friend. The question now was whether Crazy Horse would be the only one to die there that day.

That doctor, Valentine Trant McGillycuddy (left), was born in Racine, Wisconsin, on Valentine’s Day, February 14, 1849, thus the name “Valentine.” The middle name, Trant, was his mother’s maiden name.

Both his parents, Daniel and Johanna, who met on the boat to America in 1842, were born in Ireland. The McGillycuddys held onto their land in Ireland by converting in the 1690s after James II was driven from Ireland. His mother’s Catholic family must have been well-connected, as she carried a letter of introduction to the archbishop of New York written by the “Uncrowned King of Ireland,” Daniel O’Connell.

Valentine began an interest in medicine while very young, practicing by “treating” the local dogs and cats for various ailments. He studied medicine at the University of Michigan, and in 1869 he was certified a physician. The adult Valentine was tall and thin, with blue eyes and dark hair. His first real job was at a mental hospital, and the depressing nature of that job caused him to begin to drink to excess. The already thin young man became pale and even more gaunt. His boss, fellow physician T.A. McGraw, prescribed “a year working outdoors” as a cure. That would send Valentine’s life on course to play a large role in the tragic final confrontation between the ever-expanding young American nation and the Native American tribes that stood in its way.

In 1870, thanks to some engineering training he’d taken in college, Valentine was hired by General Cyrus Comstock, who was surveying and mapping the Great Lakes. A year later, Comstock sent him to Chicago to help resurvey that devastated city after the famous conflagration there. It was around this time he met his future wife, Fanny Hoyt, in Detroit, before returning to the surveying work on the lakes. All this outdoor work was toughening up the now much healthier young man, and he would need it for his next assignment.

In 1872 he joined the Northern Boundary Survey team, who were tasked with surveying the border with Canada from the Lake of the Woods in Minnesota to the Rocky Mountains, some 860 miles. It was a massive and grueling undertaking that would take several years to accomplish.

(Right: A frontier railroad surveying team from the same period as the Northern Boundary Survey.)

During the winter of 1873 they worked along a marshy section of the Dakota Territory border that could only be done while it was frozen. The United States was just then beginning to come out of a period known as the “Little Ice Age,” and the survey team reported temperatures of under 40 below that winter. Valentine must have held up very well during that fierce winter, for he was put in charge of one of the topographical teams in the spring of 1874. As they moved into western Dakota Territory and eastern Montana, the danger of attacks from various Sioux tribes increased. All the teams now had Army escorts, some being men of the ill-fated 7th Cavalry.

Here McGillycuddy would first encounter another star-crossed group of northern Plains denizens, the American bison. He recalled that on occasion, “Buffalo dotted the plains as far as the eye could see” and that sometimes they couldn’t take their astronomical readings because “drumming hoofs of herds nearby shook the instruments.” Valentine’s group was escorted by a 7th Cavalry unit commanded by Major Marcus Reno at one point, and had a visit from a Sioux hunting party led by Sitting Bull. They were seeking only to know if the group had encountered buffalo recently, and Reno imparted that information to them. Two years later they would have a less pleasant confrontation on the banks of the Little Bighorn. As Reno escorted Valentine’s surveying group, George Armstrong Custer’s expedition looking for gold in the Black Hills was in progress. The latter would set in motion events that would affect their lives profoundly, and end his.

McGillycuddy met Custer at Fort Lincoln on his way back East after the field work of surveying project ended in the late summer of 1874. But Valentine was shortly on his way back to the northern Plains, when the famous western explorer John Wesley Powell, who led the first group to traverse the Grand Canyon, hired him to be part of another survey of the Black Hills. This one was to be a more scientific one to discover if Custer’s finding of massive gold and silver deposits was correct.

(Left: The Custer Black Hills expedition.)

Valentine would come in contact with several Western legends during this survey. One was Captain John Gregory Bourke, an Indian wars historian and ethnologist whose book, “On the Border with Crook,” is one of the classic accounts of the Indian War period. Another was the famous Army scout Moses Milner, known to all as “California Joe.” Milner was a favorite scout of Custer, but was not with him at the Little Bighorn in 1876.

The last was Martha Jane Canary, better known to history as Calamity Jane (right). She attached herself to the survey crew and often spent time helping minister the sick and injury. Valentine became quite friendly with her and grew to admire her, calling her “loud and rough in all her ways, but kind-hearted, always ready to help or nurse a sick soldier or miner.” He was allowed to put a name to many of the terrain features in the Black Hills during the survey, and gave one the name “Calamity Peak” in her honor. Valentine and two companions were the first to ascend to the top of a rock outcropping called Harney Peak, which was the highest point in the Black Hills.

Even while the survey was in progress, miners were already streaming into the Black Hills looking for the abundant gold Custer’s survey had claimed was there. This violation of the 1868 Laramie Treaty incensed the Sioux. The survey finished in late 1875 and was less sanguine regarding the gold deposits in the Black Hills than Custer was, but did conclude there were substantial amounts, which ensured that the government would continue their attempt to obtain them. As McGillycuddy began the trip East he first came to the area of the Sioux reservation in northwestern Nebraska, where Oglala Sioux chief Red Cloud held sway. Little did he know how intertwined their lives would become in the near future.

(Below: A photo showing McGilllycuddy on the top of Harney Peak. He is seen on the right.)

In December, Valentine married Fanny Hoyt in Michigan and the two of them traveled to Washington, D.C., where he began creating maps of the Black Hills from his field notes. Meanwhile, events back in the northern Plains were spinning out of control. In early December, the government issued an order for all tribes in the region to report to their reservations by January 31st or be deemed “hostile.” Most of the groups would never get this news, and in the middle of the winter it would be a great hardship for them to attempt to do it, if they did. So few came in, which is quite likely the outcome the government both expected and hoped for. In February the government transferred authority over the tribes from the Interior Department to the War Department. It was a clear sign that acquisition of Black Hills had moved from a negotiation to a military confiscation. The Great Sioux War, the final and most famous of the wars with the Plains Indians, was about to begin.

McGillycuddy must have left a very positive impression among the troops who had escorted his survey team, because in the spring of 1876 he got word that General Crook, commanding one of the three prongs of General Sheridan’s assault on the “hostiles,” wanted him to join the medical corps of the 2nd Cavalry as a civilian contract surgeon. Valentine was now a veteran frontiersman and enthusiastically accepted the invitation in spite of his recent marriage. He left Fanny in Michigan in early June, and was on his way into a very dangerous, expanding war.

In Cheyenne, Wyoming, while waiting for transportation to Fort Fetterman, the staging area for Crook’s forces, Valentine made the acquaintance of two more Western legends: “Buffalo Bill” Cody and “Wild Bill” Hickok. Cody was soon to join the fight as a scout with the U.S. cavalry. Hickok was shortly off to the brand new Black Hills gold-mining boom town of Deadwood, South Dakota, where he would be murdered less than two months later. Valentine made the last part of the trip into the fort with the mail wagon, a trip certainly fraught with danger with the northern Plains now alive with decidedly unfriendly bands of Sioux and Cheyenne.

(Below: A fanciful drawing of Crazy Horse's attack at the Rosebud, by Charles Stanley in "Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, 1876.)

Before McGillycuddy could join them in the field, Crook’s forces were attacked at Rosebud Creek on June 17th. The attacking force was led by the now famous Sioux chief Crazy House, and was a portion of the huge gathering of Sioux, Cheyenne and Arapaho who would nearly wipe out Custer’s 7th Cavalry eight days later at the Little Bighorn. Though Crook drove the attackers off, he then retreated to Goose Creek near present-day Sheridan, Wyoming, to tend to his wounded and to resupply and be reinforced. He stayed in camp there for several weeks. Though Crook is considered one of the best generals of the Indian Wars, some believe this lack of aggression on his part contributed to the calamity at the Little Bighorn.

The dead and wounded from the Rosebud reached Fort Fetterman on the 27th, and McGillycuddy and Army surgeon Joseph Gibson spent several day treating some 20 men with various arrow and bullet wounds. On July 4th he began his ride out to Crook along with the reinforcements. On the way, they got the news of Custer’s disaster from a courier, which would have further alerted them just how perilous this journey was. They encountered no Indians, however, and safely reached Crook on the 13th.

Crook didn’t move out until July 27th, with McGillycuddy assigned as the surgeon for the 2nd Cavalry. Among their scouts were “Buffalo Bill” Cody and Frank Grouard, a famous scout and former captive of the Sioux, who knew both Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse. On August 10th they meet up with General Terry’s forces, which included the survivors of the 7th Cavalry.

(Below: The Sioux attack at the Little Bighorn by Charles Russell)

Valentine and the other doctors treated some of their wounded, and he got a first-hand account of the tragic fight from his old friend Major Reno. Though a later court of inquiry would clear Reno of any blame for the fate of Custer’s men, many people then and now have criticized his actions that day. McGillycuddy would later get a first-hand account from one of the other commanders there, but from the other side. Crazy Horse would one day tell him, “Little Beard (his nickname for McGillycuddy), after we closed the lines that day [around Custer], no one but a bird could have escaped,” reinforcing the idea that Reno never had a chance of rescuing Custer.

Crook and Terry would part ways shortly, with Crook going on an infamous campaign in search of the Sioux. With only two-days rations on hand in early September, Crook was faced with a decision about whether to return west to the supply base on the Yellowstone, head east to Fort Lincoln, or take a much riskier route south, into the Black Hills and get supplied at Deadwood. Knowing McGillycuddy had surveyed that area, he asked his advice, and Valentine strongly warned him against such a course. Still, the obstinate Crook, believing correctly that he would find hostile Indians in the direction, chose to head that way.

(Left: The emaciated McGillycuddy at the end of the Horsemeat March.)

It rained relentlessly during this march, and the Sioux had burned much of the plains grass behind them, leaving fields of mud for the soldiers to trek though. Their horses began to weaken and die. On September 6th Valentine wrote “No wood to cook the bacon we don’t have.” Two days later he wrote, “shooting horses for rations.” Thus would this campaign become notorious among the U.S. cavalry as “The Horsemeat March.” For cavalry soldiers eating their horse was barely a step above cannibalism. One soldier had told John Finerty, a newspaper man accompanying them, “I’d as soon think of eating my brother,” but actual starvation overcame these emotions. 

Desperate for food, Crook sent a group ahead to Deadwood, but they ran into a village of the Sioux chief American Horse at Slim Buttes on September 9th and attacked the Sioux. McGillycuddy was sent ahead with a reinforcement group to tend to the soldiers wounded in the fight and also tended to the mortally wounded American Horse. It was not the last time he would tend to a dying Sioux chief.

(Bottom: Lt. Schwatka's charge at Slim  Buttes by Charles Schreyvogel.)

Shortly after Valentine got there, Crazy Horse arrived and attacked with a large number of warriors from his nearby camp. Luckily, Crook arrived with the rest of his forces not long after that and drove the Sioux off. Had he not arrived, said McGillycuddy, “there would have been a second Custer affair.” In the teepees, they found numerous items belonging to the 7th Cavalry, including a 7th Cavalry Regiment guidon from Company I, fastened to the lodge of Chief American Horse and the bloody gauntlets of slain Captain Myles Keogh. Many of his men wanted to execute the Sioux captives in retaliation after seeing this, but Crook forbade this. The capture of a large amount of dried buffalo meat in the village, and many Indian ponies, which were slaughtered and eaten, meant that for the first time in a long time, Crook’s men didn’t go to bed hungry.

Valentine worked through the night trying to save American Horse, who was nearly disemboweled by his wound. Though he was ultimately unsuccessful, he was observed in this effort by many of the captured Sioux, who were impressed at his sincere attempt to save the chief. Though he had no idea at the time, this would enhance his reputation among the Sioux and help him in the future.

When they finally made it to Deadwood, Valentine was reacquainted with his old friend Calamity Jane and even reported that they had a dance in a local saloon. They “cavorted through the half-drunken mob, Calamity shrieking at old pals and slapping them on the back as they passed,” he recalled later.

He spent the next few weeks ministering to the totally exhausted survivors of the Horsemeat March, then was assigned as assistant surgeon at Camp Robinson in northwest Nebraska in October. McGillycuddy was happy to meet with his old scout friend “Callifornia Joe” there. Later the same day, he was called to the scene of a shooting and found the scout mortally wounded by a shotgun blast, probably by a man named Thomas Newcomb, who had a personal grudge against him, though it was never proven.

(Left: Valentine & Fanny.)

In December, after briefly being in Washington with Fanny, the two of them returned to Camp Robinson to start their married life together. Fanny recorded in her journal at the time that Valentine was sick for a few weeks and weighed just 148 pounds, perhaps still suffering the effects of the Horsemeat March.  McGillycuddy’s duties included visiting the Red Cloud and Spotted Tail Indian reservations. The word had spread of McGillycuddy from his tender treatment of American Horse at Slim Butte, and, when he became the doctor at the Red Cloud Agency, the Sioux gave him the name Wasicu Wakan (Holy White Man).

In April 1877, Crazy Horse and his band of Sioux surrendered and came to the Red Cloud Agency. On their first day there, McGillycuddy was sent to treat Crazy Horse’s wife, Black Shawl Woman, who had tuberculosis. He and Crazy Horse became friends as he spent several days a week at the agency, much of it treating her. It may well be that it was only his wife’s illness that caused the proud man to give up his free life on the plains.

He told Valentine: “We did not ask you white men to come here. We do not want your civilization! We would live as our fathers did, and their fathers before them.” But for Crazy Horse and all the other northern Plains tribes, that life was over, and McGillycuddy was about to become a part of the system set up to move them on from that life that would never be again. Crazy Horse was highly regarded by nearly all Sioux. Captain John Bourke said of Crazy Horse, "I have never heard an Indian mention his name save in terms of respect." Now the Sioux began calling McGillycuddy by a new name, "Ta-sunka Witko Kola", "Crazy Horse's friend,” further boosting his reputation.

(Right: This is the only photo that is alleged to be of Crazy Horse, but it's characterization is disputed by many historians.)

What appears to have been an intentional mistranslation of a statement from Crazy Horse to General Crook by scout Frank Grouard, a former captive member of Sitting Bull’s Sioux tribe, telling Crook that Crazy Horse had threatened to kill all white men, set in motion the tragic circumstances that led to the great chief being bayoneted and killed. Red Cloud and other leaders in the agency wanted Crazy Horse out of the way, and Grouard feared retaliation from Crazy Horse for his having abandoned the Sioux and scouted for Crook. (See more about Grouard in the comments.)

McGillycuddy was only about 30 feet away from Crazy Horse, who had just greeted him with “how kola” (hello friend), on September 5th when Crazy Horse was bayoneted outside the Camp Robinson guardhouse as they attempted to lock him up there. As he tended to the chief's wound, Valentine tried to hide the fear that Crazy Horse’s supporters might attack at any moment. The presence of "Ta-sunka Witko Kola" may have been all that prevented it from happening. McGillycuddy, along with several Sioux chiefs and Crazy Horse’s father, stayed with him until he died around 11:30 that night. Valentine called him “a brave man and a good man,” and mourned his loss. McGillycuddy later said, “His death was one of the most pitiable and I may say inexcusable of the many I had to witness in my long career on the old frontier.”

In January 1879, McGillycuddy traveled to Washington to discuss problems on the reservation with Secretary of the Interior, Carl Schurz. Schurz was impressed and appointed him the Indian agent at the Pine Ridge reservation in the Dakota Territory, where Red Cloud’s band had been moved. There were many Americans at the time who sincerely wanted the best for Indians who were confined to the numerous reservations, and McGillycuddy was one. Pine Ridge encompassed 4,000 square miles, with about 8,000 Sioux living on it. It was a massive and complicated job with a nearly impossible goal: somehow converting the Sioux into farmers or ranchers.

(Left: McGillycuddy seated in the center, with, left to right - Standing Soldier, George Sword, interpreter Bill Garnett, and Young Man Afraid of His Horses.)

As much as we may look back today and wish those tribes had been allowed to continue to live as they had for generations, people like Valentine McGillycuddy had to deal with the reality that it was not going to happen. The mass destruction of the buffalo herds and huge reductions in other game animals on the northern Plains were quickly rendering the Sioux nomadic hunting life style impossible to maintain. In the mid-1800s there were an estimated 30 million or more buffalo on the Plains; by the 1890s there were less than 400.

Valentine’s time as agent at Pine Ridge would be marked by a contentious relationship with Red Cloud, who had been one of the first major Sioux chiefs to enter the reservations after sensing that resistance to the power of the U.S. government was futile. This put him in conflict with the chiefs such as Crazy Horse, who fought to the bitter end. So while McGillycuddy’s friendship with Crazy Horse was looked on favorably by many Sioux, Red Cloud held the opposite opinion. When Valentine pressed the idea of farming on the reservation, Red Cloud’s response was, “The Great Spirit made us to hunt and fish. The white man can work if he wants to, but he did not make us to work.” McGillycuddy and Red Cloud were both stubborn, tenacious and outspoken. Their battle of iron wills would last the entire seven years McGillycuddy was the agent at Pine Ridge.

What McGillycuddy accomplished in his years as the agent at Pine Ridge, organizing an Indian police and establishing a school on the reservation, while often looked at today in a negative light, were the things he believed he had to do to for the good of everyone on the reservation. Forming the police allowed McGillycuddy to have the soldiers stationed at the agency removed, but because the police reported to him, it undercut Red Cloud’s influence.

(Right: George Sword, head of the Pine Ridge Indian Police.)

The schooling of Sioux children was yet another area where McGillycuddy and Red Cloud butted heads. With a school started at Pine Ridge, and other Sioux children being selected to be sent to the school in Carlisle, Penn., this conflict intensified. Red Cloud and others resisted because they believed, quite correctly, that the purpose was to alter adherence to the traditional Native American culture by these Sioux children.

Things got so bad between the two that in a tribal council with McGillycuddy in August 1882, Red Cloud came at him with a knife saying "I am Red Cloud of the Oglala Sioux. When Red Cloud speaks, men listen. I have ordered this white man to leave my country. If he dies, it is his own fault." McGillycuddy did not back down to the chief, however, and Red Cloud did not try to kill him. Nor was there ever any attempt made on his life, but Red Cloud would be unrelenting in his accusations against McGillycuddy and requests to have him removed in communications with Washington. His accusations often included claims that McGillycuddy misappropriated government property or funds. McGillycuddy called himself “the most investigated man in the country,” but numerous investigations found no evidence that he ever did anything wrong.

When he was finally removed from the post in May 1886, it was because Grover Cleveland, a Democrat, had taken office two months earlier, not due to anything he did. In later years both McGillycuddy and Red Cloud softened their views of each other. He said of his disputes with Red Cloud that although he had done what he thought was best for everyone on the reservation, “if I had been in his place I would have had less use for the agent than he had.”

Valentine and Fanny moved to Rapid City, where he became vice president of a bank and helped organize a hydroelectric company. He was also appointed surgeon general on the staff of governor of the Dakota Territory. He and Fanny remained in close touch with people on the reservation, however, showing a sincere concern for the well-being of everyone there.

(Left: Red Cloud)

In 1890, when the government began to be concerned about the effects of the “Ghost Dance” movement on the Sioux, Governor Mellette appointed McGillycuddy commander of the territory’s national guard units. McGillycuddy went to Pine Ridge in November to investigate and was not happy to find 7th Cavalry troops stationed there for the first time since he had organized Indian police. He was invited to a council of the chiefs, including his old nemesis, Red Cloud.

The old chief’s views on Mcgillycuddy had evolved since he had been gone. He rose to say of McGillycuddy, “That is Wasicu Wakan (Holy White Man). For seven winters he was our Father. He said to me, ‘Some day you will say that my way was best for the Indian.’ I will tell him now that he spoke the truth. He was a young man with an old man's head on his shoulders, and he never sent for any soldiers.” Apparently, Red Cloud was now looking back on those years longingly, and it was about to get much worse than he could have imagined.

McGillycuddy met with General John Brooke, who was commanding the troops at Pine Ridge, and urged him to not interfere with the Ghost Dance and move the troops off the reservation or “trouble is sure to come.” Sitting Bull was killed by the Indian Police at Standing Rock on December 15th after they were ordered to arrest him as part of the Ghost Dance hysteria. Tragically, Brooke did not take Valentine’s advice, and on December 28th, at Wounded Knee, just east of Pine Ridge, between 150 and 300 Sioux men, women and children were killed by the 7th Cavalry.

(Right: The dead still lie frozen at Wounded Knee six days after the massacre.)

As soon as he heard of the massacre, McGillcuddy traveled back to Pine Ridge to help tend to the survivors. He must have been heart-broken to see many badly wounded friends and acquaintances. It was also a physical manifestation of the failure of the government’s Indian policies, which enraged him. As was usually the case, he was not shy about letting people know it. The new agent, Daniel Royer, telegraphed the Office of Indian Affairs telling them that while Dr. McGillycuddy was there treating the wounded Sioux, he was being openly and severely critical of him and them.

Valentine was elected mayor of Rapid City in 1896. In 1897, however, Fanny suffered a stroke, her second, and passed away. The grief-stricken McGillycuddy decided he needed a change. He resigned as mayor and left for California in 1898. He settled in San Francisco and became a medical inspector for the Mutual Life Insurance Co. As part of that job was able to return to South Dakota from time to time. There he married young Julia Blanchard, who had known him during his years as the Pine Ridge agent. As a young girl, Julia had once asked Fanny, with the innocence of youth, if she thought “the doctor would marry me after you die.” They later had a daughter, also named Valentine in 1905. The three of them survived the 1906 San Francisco earthquake

(Left: Julia McGillycuddy with their daughter, Valentine.)

When World War I broke out, the nearly 70-year old McGillycuddy unsuccessfully tried to volunteer in the army. When the Swine Flu epidemic hit in 1918, however, the government accepted his help and he traveled around the West and then to Alaska treating victims. In 1926 he was invited back to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Great Sioux War, but he declined, saying, “I would meet too many ghosts of my old comrades.” He seemed at peace with what he had done as an agent, saying “I suppose I made some mistakes as agent, for I was young, but I did what I at the time thought was best.” After hearing the stories of his event-filled life that had brought him in contact with so many legendary figures of the American West for so long, Julia decided to write his biography. It was titled “McGillycuddy, Agent,” and was published in 1941.

He did not live to see the book published. Valentine Trant McGillycuddy passed away on June 7, 1939, at the age of 90. When word of his death reached Pine Ridge, the flags were lowered to half-mast. Though he had lived the last four decades of his life in California, his heart remained in the Black Hills.

As often seems true with historical memory, those who die young, like "Wild Bill" Hickok or George Armstrong Custer, are remembered, while others who may have contributed as much or more to their times, but lived long enough to pass away peacefully in old age, are not. Valentine's cremated remains were returned to the Black Hills and buried in a crypt cut into a boulder on Harney Peak, at the bottom of a stone stairway up to a fire watch tower.

On a plaque there, it simply states, "Valentine T. McGillycuddy, ′Wasicu Wakan′, 1849–1939.” Probably few who see it know the story of his life, which is unfortunate. Valentine McGillycuddy served his country courageously in war and faithfully in peace and tried his best to alleviate the suffering of a people who deserved much better treatment from the nation he served. 


“Valentine T. McGillycuddy: Army Surgeon, Agent to the Sioux” by Candy Moulton

“McGillycuddy Agent, A Biography of Dr. Valentine T. McGillycuddy” by Julia B. McGillycuddy

“Blood on the Moon: Valentine McGillycuddy and the Sioux” by Julia B. McGillycuddy

"On the Border with Crook: General George Crook, the American Indian Wars, and Life on the American Frontier" by John Gregory Bourke

“The Killing of Crazy Horse” by Thomas Powers

Crazy Horse biography PBS - Video

Wild West Legendary Women: Calamity Jane

"California Joe" - True West Magazine

The Horsemeat March of 1876 - Wikipedia

Battle of Slim Buttes - Wikipedia

(Right: Some officers of the 3rd Cavalry in front of the 7th Cavalry Regiment guidon found at Slim Buttes fastened to the lodge of Chief American Horse. On the far right, seated, is Lt. Joesph Lawson, who was promoted from 1st Lt. to Captain during the 1876 campain. Behind Lawson is scout Frank Grouard and on the left, seated, is Lt. Col. William Royall, commander of the 3rd Cavalry. In the center of the photo is Maj. Anson Mills, Lawson’s battalion commander. - Denver Public Library)

The Ghost Dance - A Promise of Fulfillment

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Valentine Trant McGillycuddy: "Ta-sunka Witko Kola", Crazy Horse's ...

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Tags: Battle of Slim Buttes, Crazy Horse, Great Sioux War, McGillycuddy, Pine Ridge, Red Cloud, Valentine Trant McGillycuddy

Comment by Joe Gannon on August 7, 2017 at 11:24pm

Frank Grouard, who was Crook’s chief scout during the campaign that ended with the Battle of Slim Buttes during the Horsemeat March, was one of the more interesting figures of the Great Sioux War. It was his translation of the chief’s words to Crook that played a key role in the death of Crazy Horse.

Grouard was born in the Society Islands in the south Pacific Ocean, the son of a Mormon missionary and a Polynesian woman. Frank returned to the U.S. with his parents and stay there when the marriage broke up and his mother returned to the South Pacific. At the age of just 15 he was living on his own in Helena, Montana and working as a mail carrier when he was captured by a band of Sioux led by Crazy Horse around 1869. His dark skin and hair may have fooled them into thinking he had Indian blood.

He became a virtual member of the tribe, being named “Sitting-with-Upraised-Hands,” becoming fluent in their language, and marrying a Sioux woman. He became very familiar the northern plains region and became acquainted with many of the leaders of the tribe, including Sitting Bull, living with them until just before the Great Sioux War began.

In 1875 he came into the Red Cloud agency with a group of Sioux and then left the reservation to reenter the white world. He was recruited as a scout for Crook by Robert Strahorn a war correspondent for the New York Times, according to Strahorn, though Grouard says it was through some officer of the 2nd Cavalry that he had met. Grouard understood how this would be viewed by Crazy Horse and the Sioux. He told Crook, “You know what would happen if I turned against the Indians and Crazy Horse ever got sight of me,” but Crook convinced him to do it.

As a former member of the tribe who was intimately familiar with region and with the leaders of the tribe, and who spoke their language, he was an ideal scout. He was part of Crook’s late spring expedition and the famous summer campaign that culminated with the Horsemeat March, eventually becoming Crook’s head scout. He also claimed to be the first member of the U.S. armed forces to see the 7th Cavalry dead at the Little Bighorn, in the early morning hours of the 26th.

Crook used Grouard as an interpreter in his meeting with Crazy Horse after he came into the Red Cloud agency. Perhaps Crook should have realized that Grouard was not a good choice for that job, given what Grouard had told him before Crook hired him. When Crook pressed Crazy Horse to join his scouts to help in the fight against Chief Joseph and his Nez Perce he had first refused. Then in a meeting Crook, with Grouard interpreting, other Sioux who were there say Crazy Horse finally relented, saying he would fight “he would fight until every last Nez Perce was killed.” But Grouard translated it as “until every last white man was killed.” Grouard later denied any mistranslation, but there was no doubt that by his own admission, he had reason to fear Crazy Horse.

This set in motion the series of events in which Crazy Horse was arrested at the Spotted Tail agency in Nebraska, where he had taken his sick wife to be with her parents. After the tragic bayonetting at the Camp Robinson guardhouse, as he was looking for help, McGillycuddy claims he saw Grouard peering around the corner of another building but refusing to come to help him by interpreting for him. Given that the government's plan was apparently to send him to a prison in Florida, Crazy Horse may have favored dying there that day had he known.

Grouard was present at the Wounded Knee Massacre in 1890. Later he served as a U.S. Marshal in Wyoming and was involved in the Johnson County War. He died in St. Louis in 1905. 

Comment by Joe Gannon on August 8, 2017 at 12:50pm

Film footage of the 50th Anniversary ceremonies at the Little Bighorn

Comment by Joe Gannon on August 8, 2017 at 12:55pm

Custer's Last Trooper

Comment by Joe Gannon on August 8, 2017 at 1:13pm

Battle of Slim Buttes

Comment by Joe Gannon on August 9, 2017 at 7:36pm

Members of the 7th Cavalry ride across the Little Bighorn battlefield during the 50th Anniversary ceremonies.

Comment by Joe Gannon on August 9, 2017 at 7:41pm

A group of Sioux warriors who fought at 
the Little Bighorn during the 50th Anniversary

Comment by Joe Gannon on August 9, 2017 at 7:42pm

The town of Deadwood, taken sometime in 1876.

Comment by Joe Gannon on August 9, 2017 at 7:45pm

Pine Ridge School in June 1884.

Comment by Joe Gannon on August 9, 2017 at 7:55pm

The inside of the Episcopal Church at Pine Ridge after the Wounded Knee Massacre, while it was being used as a hospital. 


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