Old West History Archives

Crook’s Starvation March

George Crook's Starvation MarchIt was June of 1876. About 1,000 Sioux and Cheyenne attacked General George Crook and 1,400 soldiers in what was to be called the Battle of the Rosebud. Although the battle ended in a tie, the Indians fled, and Crook, licking his wounds, chose not to immediately follow them. Finally, after a month and a half, Crook took out after them toward the Black Hills. Thus began what is now called Crook’s Starvation March.
       
In order to make up time, they abandon all wagons, tents and extra clothes. With the extra speed that light travel afforded, Crook expected to meet up with the hostile Indians the later part of August. But it didn’t happen. They traveled for weeks through Wyoming, Montana and finally the Dakota Territory. Weather turned bad, and it hailed. It even rained for 11 straight days, adding even more to the soldier’s misery. 
               
With no tents, the soldiers took their blankets, and stretched them over bent branches, and slept in the mud. Famished soldiers collapsed on the trail and horses fell dead of exhaustion. With only wild onions and berries to eat, the desperate soldiers had to resort to eating horseflesh. During one week more than 500 horses died or were abandoned. A soldier, remarking on their having to resort to eating their mounts, said, “It seemed like cannibalism.” As an added note, the mules, loaded with supplies and ammunition did far better than the horses.       
Then on September 16 a supply train finally reached the soldiers, finally ending Crook’s Starvation March. It took a month for the soldiers to get their strength back. Although they captured some Indians on the way, and disarmed other Indians on reservations, they never caught up with the ones they were chasing. Once again the innovative fighting style of the plains Indians outmaneuvered that of the military.   

Edward Cash – Cattle Rustler

Hangman's NooseEdward Cash was a hard working rancher with a wife who lived in Coryell County, in the southeastern part of Texas. Although he wasn’t necessarily handy with a gun, he was handy with his fists. And his ability to intimidate people was an asset to his ranching business. This was because Cash worked hard at acquired cattle one at a time… from his neighbor’s stock. It was virtually impossible to prove Cash as the thief because he was successful at getting rid of the stolen cattle. And, his neighbors didn’t really want to confront Cash and call him a cattle rustler based on just their suspicions. 
 
That is, they didn’t want to confront Cash until the evening of April 9, 1894. On this particular evening Cash’s wife was in labor, and the doctor and a couple of women were at his home assisting with the delivery, when the door crashed open, and seven armed and masked men entered the room.     
 
The masked men tied up Cash, and led him outside to an oak tree in his front yard. A rope was thrown over the limb. One end was put around Cash’s neck, and they pulled him off the ground.   
 
When properly done hanging a man breaks his neck. When improperly done the rope strangles him. And Cash was improperly hanged. Showing their lack of compassion, Cash’s neighbors waited until he had died of strangulation, and then each of them put a bullet in him.
 
It’s not known what happened to his wife, the doctor or the two mid-wives. But evidentially they chose not to pursue the matter because no one was ever arrested for the lynching.
 
Oh, yes. The event caused an end to the stolen cattle in the area.  

Doniphan’s Thousand

Doniphan's ThousandAs a young man Colonel Alexander W. Doniphan had no plans on being a military man. Born in Kentucky, Alexander went to college to be a lawyer, later practicing in Missouri. A far cry from what would become Doniphan’s Thousand.
           
But, the courtroom wasn’t enough excitement for Alexander. When the war with Mexico broke out in 1846 the 1st Missouri Mounted Volunteers were formed, and Alexander was voted their colonel. Now, the Missouri Mounted didn’t comprise of professional military men. They were a rag-tag group of men who looked more like tramps than spit and polish soldiers of the regular military. And Alexander wasn’t a strict disciplinarian as an officer. But “Doniphan’s Thousand” as they were known were impressive in battle.
               
In December of 1846 Alexander and 500 of his men assisted General Wool in his invasion of the Mexican state of Chihuahua. On their way to Chihuahua, Alexander and his men ran into a force of 1,200 Mexican soldiers just outside of El Paso, Texas. Although outnumbered more than 2 to 1, they took on the Mexican forces, and on December 27 occupied El Paso.
 
Continuing on to Chihuahua, Alexander discovered that General Wool had retreated back. Rather than turning back also, Alexander summoned the other half of his “Thousand” and proceeded to attack Chihuahua unassisted. This time he was completely outnumbered 4 to 1. But, once again they quickly overcame their opponent. Within six months Alexander and his men reached the Gulf Coast. At the coast they were picked up by boat, and transported to New Orleans, where they returned to Missouri and their normal occupations.
 
Within a few months U. S. troops occupied Mexico City, and the war was over. Although the professional military got the credit for the victory, were it not for rag-tag volunteers like Doniphan’s Thousand, it surely wouldn’t have happened when it did.

Crazy Horse’s Final Battle

Crazy Horse's Final BattleIt was the end of June of 1876. Crazy Horse, along with Sitting Bull, had just completed the greatest victory of the Indians over the U. S. military with the defeat of George Custer at Little Big Horn. The American people demanded revenge. These were the events that lead to Crazy Horse’s Final Battle.
           
So, General Nelson Miles mounted a winter campaign. It was thought that by keeping the Indians on the run throughout the winter would be devastating to them. General Miles convinced a number of Indians to return to their reservations. Meanwhile, Sitting Bull took his people into Canada.
               
Crazy Horse along with his over 1,000 Sioux and Cheyenne also refused to surrender. But he stayed in Montana. Being constantly pushed, Crazy Horse and his people were suffering from starvation and sickness.
 
Then on January 8, 1877, in the last battle Crazy Horse was ever to be engaged, General Miles came across his camp on the Tongue River. Miles opened up with howitzers, forcing the Indians to retreat to the hills in a snowstorm. With ammunition gone for their rifles, they were using only bows and arrows to defend themselves.
 
Using the blinding snowstorm as shelter, Crazy Horse’s people were able to escape. With their shelters, food and winter clothes left behind, they spent a miserable winter.
 
Although Crazy Horse wasn’t ever defeated in battle, he realized that General Miles would eventually hunt his people down and destroy them. So, in May of 1877, less than a year from his great victory at Little Big Horn, Crazy Horse along with his rag-tag group of 217 men and 672 women surrendered to the military.
In September 1877, four months after surrendering to U.S. troops under General George Crook, Crazy Horse was fatally wounded by a bayonet-wielding military guard while allegedly resisting imprisonment at Camp Robinson in present-day Nebraska.

Nathan Meeker of Horace Greeley’s New York Herald

Nathan Meeker of Horace Greeley’s New York HeraldNathan E. Meeker started out as an agricultural writer for Horace Greeley’s New York Herald. He had a particular interest in cooperative farming and living. So Horace Greeley sent him to study what the Mormons were doing in this area. On January 6, 1870 Nathan headed west. But, when he got to Colorado, Meeker decided Colorado was a good place to start his own communal colony. So he started the temperance colony of Greeley, Colorado.
           
Things didn’t progress well, and in a few years Nathan was penniless. To generate income, and pay off debts, he became the Indian agent for the White River Ute Reservation.
               
Nathan Meeker not only believed that work was fun; he was passionate in spreading his message. He decided that the Ute Indians should be farmers.
 
This didn’t sit well with the free-spirited Ute who traditionally were nomadic teepee-dwellers following the buffalo herds. In addition, what Nathan didn’t know about Indian culture, was more than exceeded by his lack of tact. One of his policies was that any Indian who didn’t work the fields wouldn’t eat.
 
Within a year things were so out of hand that Meeker called for troops to quiet the Ute Indians. Knowing the military was on its way, the Ute struck first. They went after the symbol of their hatred, the Indian Agency.
 
All of the agency male staff was killed with Nathan Meeker, impaled to the ground in his own back yard.
 
This wasn’t the first, or the last attempt to make hunter tribes into agricultural Indians. But, it sure was the biggest failure.
Nathan Meeker of Horace Greeley’s New York Herald
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