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A Hair-raising Experience

March 2023
1min read

The following account, written by an anonymous soldier, appeared m the Army-Navy Journal on June 26, 1869. It is reprinted here through the courtesy of the Armed Forces Journal.

I was in the Infantry. Custer had command of the troops. There was quite a force of cavalry with us. … Some of the troops had been sent around so as to attack from the other side. The reds were encamped in a sort of valley, and we were within eighty rods of them for half an hour before daybreak. Just in the gray of morning the firing commenced on both sides, and we had it all our own way for a few minutes. … At length they rallied, and we could hear Black Kettle shouting and ordering.

The vermin got into holes and behind rocks—anywhere they could find a place, and began to fight back with a will. We fired wherever we could see a top-knot, and shot squaws—there were lots of them—just as quick as Indians. When it was fully daylight we all gave a big yell, and charged right down into camp. … As we ran through the alleys, a big red jumped out at me from behind a tent, and before I could shorten up enough to run him through with my bayonet, a squaw grabbed me around the legs and twisted me down. … When I fell, I went over backward, dropping my gun, and I had just got part way up again, the squaw yanking me by the hair, when the Indian clubbed my gun and struck me across the neck. The blow stunned me. … The Indian stepped one foot on my chest, and with his hand gathered up the hair near the crown of my head. He wasn’t very tender about it, but jerked my head this way and that, like Satan.

My eyes were partially open, and I could see the beadwork and trimming on his leggings. Suddenly I felt the awfullest biting, cutting flash go round my head, and then it seemed to me just as if my whole head had been jerked clean off. I never felt such pain in all my life; it was like pulling your brains right out; I didn’t know any more for two or three days, and when I came to I had the sorest head of any human being that ever lived. If the boys killed the viper they didn’t get back my scalp; perhaps it got lost in the snow. I was shipped down to Laramie after a bit, and all the nursing I got Hain’t made the hair grow out on this spot yet.

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