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The Surrender Of Red Cloud

March 2023
1min read

When news of the destruction of Big Foot’s band at Wounded Knee reached the Pine Ridge Reservation, the Sioux under Red Cloud—after Sitting Bull the most influential of the Dakota chiefs—immediately fled into the Bad Lands. What follows is an excerpt from the memoirs of Lieutenant Charles W. Taylor, who commanded a company of Indian scouts during the final negotiations.

Additional troops had been hurried from a distance and a cordon practically established around the Bad Lands. … Through the scouts, daily touch was kept with the hostile camp and all that transpired there. Messages began to come but all were ignored except those directly or indirectly from Red Cloud. This wily, experienced warrior recognized the uselessness of further resistance, and acted accordingly. …

Red Cloud sent word that he was ready to come as soon as he could escape from camp unnoticed. He made two or three ineffectual attempts. … [After some two weeks] a message was received saying another attempt would be made that night which promised to be successful. … It was a miserable night following a wet snow storm—cold, raw, with a heavy damp mist prevailing. About dawn a scout reported that Red Cloud was coming and soon a stealthily moving figure could be distinguished against the skyline. In course of time the old chief, assisted by scouts, staggered into camp. He was placed on a box in my tent close by a Sibley stove in which a fire burned.

A squaw and a young girl had accompanied him, as his eyesight was failing him and he experienced difficulty in walking alone. Certainly he was a wreck, all in a tremble, cold, wet, exhausted, hardly able to articulate. It struck me at the time, “how art the mighty fallen”—a rap under the chin, the toe of a boot at the base of the spine would have launched one more brave into the “Happy Hunting Ground.” … I gave him a drink of good whiskey. That drink was magical in its effects. In a few minutes a wonderful change took place; the old man put his hands toward the fire, rubbed them feebly, loosened the woolen scarf around his head, opened his coat, began to straighten up. Light came into his eyes and quickly he began to talk, his voice increasing in strength. …

Red Cloud … proceeded to describe the situation among the hostiles in full, giving as his opinion that they would give up and come into the agency. … After a thorough warming and some breakfast, the revived oldtime warrior was taken to General Miles, who was pleased to see him.

After some further delay and exchange of messages, those from this side being for complete surrender only, the hostile camp broke up and moved in near the agency. It was up to me to go to a big pow wow at this camp arranged by the friendly chiefs. … Short Bull and Kicking Bear held out sullenly, but finally were prevailed upon to quit, return to the reservations and be good forever more.

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