Crazy Horse


Crazy Horse was a Lakota Indian who would later lead his people against the U.S. government to fight off encroaching settlers. His first taste of battle occurred during the Grattan massacre of 1854, during which the camp was attacked and the Lakota leader Conquering Bear killed. Soon after witnessing the death, Crazy Horse began to receive visions that told him he would be protector of his people.

Throughout the late 1850s, Crazy Horse’s reputation as a warrior grew; after his first kill, a Shoshone raider, he took part in numerous battles against such tribes as the Crow, Pawnee, and Blackfeet. In 1865, he fought against the Third Colorado Cavalry in the Platte River Bridge Station Battle, earning for himself the title of “shirt wearer,” or war leader, among his tribe. He later participated with several other tribes in the Fetterman Massacre, an ambush that killed 80 soldiers and marked the U.S. Army’s worst defeat on the Plains territory at that time. Later, the Wagon Box Fight would turn the tide in favor of the settlers, this time equipped with new breech-loading rifles that did not have the delay of older musket models. The Lakota suffered many casualties during the battle. That same year, Crazy Horse was stripped of his military titles after taking the wife of another man into his home. The offended husband tracked down Crazy Horse and shot him in the jaw before retreating to his own village. He later gave him three horses and his wife in recompense, and Crazy Horse married twice more, to Black Shawl Woman and Helena “Nellie” Laravie.

In June 1876, Crazy Horse led a group of 1500 Lakota and Cheyenne in a surprise attack against General George Crook, culminating in the Battle of the Rosebud. The battle delayed Crook’s joining with General George Custer, and contributed to the latter’s defeat a week later at the Battle of Little Bighorn. Crazy Horse participated in this battle as well, though his exact actions are unknown. Finally, seven month later, Crazy Horse surrendered his people and went to Camp Robinson in Nebraska. Tensions quickly grew between the various bands living in the camp. George Crook was asked to stop by the reservation, but he believed Crazy Horse to be dangerous and ordered his arrest. The Lakota leader escaped and fled to a nearby agency before being returned to Camp Robinson, where he was led to the guardhouse for arrest. Realizing his fate, Crazy Horse struggled against his captors, and one of the guards stabbed him with a bayonet. Although his wounds were tended immediately, he died later that night. His body was turned over to his parents, who buried him in South Dakota.

Key events during the life of Crazy Horse:

Grattan massacre.
Platte River Bridge Station Battle.
Named a ‘shirt wearer’ by his tribe for his bravery.
  Fetterman Massacre.
Wagon Box Fight.
  Stripped of his title of shirt wearer following a controversy with another tribesman’s wife.
Great Sioux War.
Stabbed with a bayonet and died from resulting injuries.

Other Resources

Story Links
Book Links
Indian Wars  in  Indian History for Young Folks  by  Francis S. Drake
Crazy Horse  in  Indian Heroes and the Great Chieftains  by  Charles A. Eastman
White Against Red at the Rosebud  in  Boys' Book of Border Battles  by  Edwin L. Sabin
The Yellow Hair's Last Fight  in  Boys' Book of Border Battles  by  Edwin L. Sabin

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