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Death of Crazy Horse


T
his letter, written by Episcopal missionary William J. Cleveland in 1877, describes the death of Crazy Horse and subsequent unrest at the mission station. Cleveland did not witness the events that led up to Crazy Horse's demise, he learned the details of the event second-hand while stationed near by at Spotted Tail Agency in Nebraska. Even though he was not a witness to that historic event, he was directly involved in some of the upheaval that occurred after Crazy Horse's death. This letter describes what Cleveland learned about the death of Crazy Horse and some of the situations that occurred in the proximity of the Red Cloud and Spotted Tail agencies. This letter is part of the Episcopal Dioceses Archives, William Hobart Hare Collection at the Center for Western Studies.

Letter to William Hobart Hare

Spotted Tail Agency Neb.
Sep.7th 1877

Dear Bishop,

Your kind letter in pencil rec'd with the time table. I hope Mrs. C. will still be able to go as arranged when you were here but since receiving you letter both this and the Red Cloud Agency have been thrown into the greatest fever of excitement by the death of Crazy Horse which occurred night before last through mismanagement on the part of the military in trying to lock him up in the guard house and his own folly in attempting to resist. He had been suspected for some time of hostile intentions and Gen. Crook was sent for. He came and went leaving for extra companies of cavalry and instructions to surround and disarm C.H.'s band. This was quietly and successfully done except that C.H. himself escaped and fled to this Agency. Here he took refuge in the Miniconjou Camp but was finally brought to the post and induced to return to Red Cloud with out Agent and several Chiefs being assured by the Comdg [Commanding] Officers here that no harm would be done his person if he quietly gave up his arms. On reaching R.C.[Red Cloud Agency] however a long council was held at the post and it was decided to put him in the guard house. He was no sooner in than he sprang out again and attempted to stab the officer of the day. Little Big Man (now friendly) in warding off the blow got cut badly and C.H. in attempting to wrest the gun from a soldier was run through probably by the bayonet of another of the guard receiving a wound of which he died that night. He had said that he was misunderstood at R.C. and asked that his band might be transferred to this Agency and that his body should be buried here where all were at peace. His people were allowed to come down here at once which they did yesterday and his body was brought down and buried here today. It was unfortunate that a white soldier killed him and some one will doubtless have to suffer in consequence. His people came down here too before they fully understood how his death came about some of them having the idea that it had all been planned between the Officers here who sent him back to R.C. and those there who pretended to put him in the guard house as the following incident will show. Maj. Burk's little girl spent the day with us day before yesterday-the day C.H.'s people came down- and her mother being unwilling that she should go home alone I took her back toward evening. While I was sitting with Maj. Burk and Lieut. Goodwin at the former's house, none of us armed, no soldiers within call and no Interpreter at the post one of C.H.'s men who had just arrived rushed in, having thrown a cartridge into his gun before entering the house, and refusing to sit down or shake hands demanded who was the Chief soldier. Fortunately we kept him talking so long that he lost his opportunity to do mischief. He said in brief that he was of one blood, one mind and one heart with C.H. that he believed all the white men were alike in wishing and planning his death and that he had come to avenge it. When he saw he had lost his opportunity to kill Maj. B. and escape unhurt himself-as some relief for us came fortunately while he was talking, he said that he had come in with no other thoughts but to kill Maj. Burk but that our talk and manner had convinced him that we were not of the same mind as those who had killed C.H. at R.C. and so his purpose was changed for the present. This he said just as Spotted Tail entered the room with others who came for a council. He still refused to shake hands but hurried out and the Chiefs followed him but he hastened away to the camp and no attempt was made to arrest him as (you know) our garrison here is a mere handful. Trouble was feared when C.H.'s body reached here, between the friendly and hostile Indians but the camps have moved up near the Agency and all is quiet so far though all are much excited. Several lodges ran off last night fearing the military were following them up from R.C. The rest of the hostiles, Lame Deer's band, are daily expected in here-some 50 or 60 lodges. Maj. Lee has not returned fr [from] R.C. yet though an escort was sent to meet his as it was supposed he would be on the road today. A teamster was attacked between here and R.C. today, one of his mules was shot but his own life was saved by some friendly Indians. The mail is delayed for the present on account of this excitement. Mrs. C. and the babies are well. Trusting that I can give you better news next time. I remain
         Sincerely yours in [Christ] XT

         Wm.J.Cleveland

If this excitement keeps up Mrs. C. will not venture to Sidney until I go.