Skip to main content
Select Source:

Crazy Horse

Crazy Horse c. 1842-1877

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Crazy Horse (a translation of his Lakotan name, Tasunke Witko) achieved notoriety while he was alive for his skill as a military leader and his defiant attempt to resist Westernizing influences. Since his death, his actions have taken on further meaning, and he is highly regarded as a symbol of Lakota resistance, oftentimes considered wakan (spiritually powerful), and he continues to be emblematic of a traditional past.

Crazy Horse was born in 1841 or 1842 near the Black Hills (South Dakota). He apparently had yellow-brown hair and was initially called Light Hair and Curly. His father was a medicine man; but less is known about his mother, who died young; his father later remarried. He was reportedly good with horses, and this garnered him the name His Horses Looking. His interest in a married woman, Black Buffalo Woman, led to a shooting that left Crazy Horse with a scar. Later, he married Black Shawl and they had a daughter, They Are Afraid of Her, who died at age 2. In 1877 he also married Nellie Laravie, an 18-year-old mixed-blood woman.

His father and grandfather both were named Crazy Horse, and he himself finally earned this name in his teen years. Around this time, Crazy Horse had a vision that involved a horseman who is plainly dressed and riding untouched through a storm. Crazy Horse himself began to dress plainly, with a red-tailed hawk feather, and it was assumed that he and his horse were invulnerable. There are also reports that he would throw dust over his horse before battle and that he wore a small stone, or wotawe (sacred charm), for protection. He was a quiet and introspective man who seldom joined in public events.

In an effort to resolve the conflicts following from Western expansion, Red Cloud and Spotted Tail agreed to settle at agencies, camps associated with government Indian agents that later became reservations, with the signing of the 1868 Fort Laramie treaty. Crazy Horse alone resolved to stay on his own lands in the Black Hills, until several events led to his surrender. Gold was discovered in the Black Hills and battles commenced against those who resisted the order to reservation land. Crazy Horse fought his best in the last two great battles, Rosebud and Little Bighorn. On June 17, 1876, assaults forced Brigadier General George Crooks troops to retreat at the Battle of the Rosebud. Days later (June 25), Crazy Horse and others led the victory against Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer at the Battle of Little Bighorn.

These victories led to increased military pressure and famine. Supplies and morale diminished at Crazy Horses camp with the dwindling of buffalo, restricted trade, and a cold winter. Given the promise of an agency in the northern country, Crazy Horse led 889 followers to Fort Robinson in May 1877, but the promised agency fell through, and Crazy Horse was given a campsite near Red Clouds agency close to the White River (Nebraska). There was concern on the part of those trying to maintain stable relationsboth Indian agents and Lakota leadersthat Crazy Horse would continue to hunt, given his refusal of rations, and that he would weaken the elders efforts to maintain peace at the agency. Also, there might have been concern from the Lakota leaders of Red Clouds and Spotted Tails agencies that Crazy Horse was gaining too much favor from the Indian agents and unsettling the status of existing agencies.

After four months in the camps, General Crook issued an order for Crazy Horses arrest. Crazy Horse at first assumed he was going to a council meeting, but resisted when he realized he might be imprisoned. It seems that his ally Little Big Man restrained him, either to placate him, in order to protect himself from Crazy Horses knife, or to serve questionable political interests. A low-ranking cavalry soldier named William Gentiles is credited with stabbing Crazy Horse with a bayonet, intentionally or not. Crazy Horse died September 5, 1877, at Fort Robinson, and his father buried his son at an undisclosed site with the agreement of those in attendance that they smoke a pipe and pledge not to reveal its location.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Kadlecek, Edward, and Mabell Kadlecek. 1981. To Kill an Eagle: Indian Views on the Last Days of Crazy Horse. Boulder, CO: Johnson Books.

Marshall, Joseph M. 2004. The Journey of Crazy Horse: A Lakota History. New York: Viking.

McMurtry, Larry. 1999. Crazy Horse: A Penguin Life. New York: Viking.

Larissa Petrillo

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Crazy Horse." International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. . Encyclopedia.com. 18 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Crazy Horse." International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 18, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/social-sciences/applied-and-social-sciences-magazines/crazy-horse

"Crazy Horse." International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. . Retrieved August 18, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/social-sciences/applied-and-social-sciences-magazines/crazy-horse

Crazy Horse

Crazy Horse

The Native American Crazy Horse (ca. 1842-1877), Oglala Sioux war chief, is best known as the leader of the Sioux and Cheyenne renegades who won the Battle of the Little Bighorn, where Gen. Custer died.

Born on Rapid Creek, S. Dak., near the present Rapid City, Crazy Horse (Tashunca-Uitco) was a strange, quiet Sioux youth, serious and thoughtful. His skin and hair were so light that he was mistaken for a captive white child and was called "Light-Haired Boy" and "Curly."

Crazy Horse grew to manhood wild and adventurous, implacably hating the reservations and the encroaching whites. He married a Cheyenne girl and thus had close ties with that tribe. After he came to prominence as a warrior, many Cheyenne followed him.

Crazy Horse probably participated in the Sioux wars of 1865-1868 but as a warrior, not a leader. By the last of these wars, in 1876, however, he had risen to prominence. He and his followers refused to return to the reservation by Jan. 1, 1876, as had been ordered by the U.S. Army following the outbreak occasioned by the Black Hills gold rush. Crazy Horse and his followers bore the first burden of this campaign. Their village of 105 lodges was destroyed by Col. J. J. Reynolds on March 17. The Native Americans' horses were captured, but Crazy Horse rallied his braves, trailed the soldiers 20 miles, and recaptured most of the horses. On June 17 he and 1,200 warriors defeated Gen. George Crook and 1,300 soldiers, turning them away from a rendezvous with the forces of Gen. Alfred Terry.

Crazy Horse next moved north, where he joined with Sitting Bull's followers on the Little Bighorn River. On June 25 he was in command of the warriors who massacred Gen. George Custer and 264 soldiers. Then, with 800 warriors he went into winter quarters in the Wolf Mountains near the headwaters of the Rosebud River. On Jan. 8, 1877, the village was destroyed in an attack led by Col. N. A. Miles. Crazy Horse continued to fight for 4 months before surrendering on May 6 with 1,100 men, women, and children at Red Cloud Agency near Camp Robinson, Nebr. An army officer there described Crazy Horse as 5 feet 8 inches tall, lithe and sinewy, with a weathered visage; wrote Capt. John G. Bourke: "The expression of his countenance was one of great dignity, but morose, dogged, tenacious and melancholy. … He was one of the great soldiers of his day and generation."

On Sept. 5, 1877, the officers at the post, convinced that Crazy Horse was plotting an outbreak, ordered him locked up. Crazy Horse drew his knife and began fighting. In the struggle he was mortally wounded in the abdomen, either by a soldier's bayonet or his own knife. His death deprived the Oglala Sioux of one of their most able leaders.

Further Reading

Details on Crazy Horse's life are in Mari Sandoz, Crazy Horse: The Strange Man of the Oglalas (1942), and Earl A. Brininstool, Crazy Horse (1949). A good, condensed version of his life is in Alvin M. Josephy, The Patriot Chiefs (1961). John G. Bourke, On the Border with Crook (1891), gives a contemporary assessment. □

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Crazy Horse." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. 18 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Crazy Horse." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 18, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/crazy-horse-0

"Crazy Horse." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Retrieved August 18, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/crazy-horse-0

Crazy Horse

Crazy Horse (1840?–1877), war leader of the Oglala Lakota Sioux.Crazy Horse achieved renown in intertribal warfare on the northern Great Plains and in conflict with the U.S. Army. Introverted, mystical, and eccentric in dress and deportment, he excelled at hit‐and‐run tactics. Between 1866 and 1876, he gained distinction in combat with U.S. soldiers. On 21 December 1866, he led the decoy party that enticed Capt. William J. Fetterman and eighty soldiers to their destruction near Fort Phil Kearny, Wyoming. He also participated in the Wagon Box Fight nearby on 2 August 1867. His greatest fame, however, arose from his role in the Battle of the Little Bighorn, 25 June 1876, when he and other warriors wiped out an entire unit of Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer's 7th Cavalry Regiment. The Indian victory prompted decisive military reaction, and on 6 May 1877, Crazy Horse surrendered at Camp Robinson, Nebraska. On 7 September, resisting confinement in the post guardhouse, he received a fatal wound from a soldier's bayonet. His people buried him at an unknown spot on the plains. He is remembered as the greatest of all Sioux war leaders.

Bibliography

Mari Sandoz , Crazy Horse, Strange Man of the Oglalas, 1942.

Robert M. Utley

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Crazy Horse." The Oxford Companion to American Military History. . Encyclopedia.com. 18 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Crazy Horse." The Oxford Companion to American Military History. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 18, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/crazy-horse

"Crazy Horse." The Oxford Companion to American Military History. . Retrieved August 18, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/crazy-horse

Crazy Horse

Crazy Horse, d. 1877, war chief of the Oglala Sioux. He was a prominent leader in the Sioux resistance to white encroachment in the mineral-rich Black Hills. When Crazy Horse and his people refused to go on a reservation, troops attacked (Mar. 17, 1876) their camp on Powder River. Crazy Horse was victorious in that battle as well as in his encounter with Gen. George Crook on the Rosebud River (June 17). He joined Sitting Bull and Gall in defeating George Armstrong Custer at the battle of the Little Bighorn (June 25). In Jan., 1877, Gen. Nelson Miles attacked his camp, and Crazy Horse and his followers spent the rest of that winter in a state of near starvation. Numbering about 1,000, they surrendered at the Red Cloud agency in May. Imprisoned because he was rumored to be planning a revolt, Crazy Horse was killed while reportedly attempting to escape. His bravery and skill were generally acknowledged, and he is revered by the Sioux as their greatest leader. Near Custer, S.Dak., the Crazy Horse Memorial, depicting the chief mounted on horseback, has been under construction since 1948.

See biographies by M. Sandoz (1942, repr. 2004), E. A. Brininstool (1949), L. McMurtry (1998), and K. M. Bray (2006); T. Powers, The Killing of Crazy Horse (2010).

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Crazy Horse." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 18 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Crazy Horse." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 18, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/crazy-horse

"Crazy Horse." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved August 18, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/crazy-horse

Crazy Horse

Crazy Horse (1842–77) Chief of the Oglala Sioux. He was a leader of Sioux resistance to the advance of white settlers in the Black Hills, and assisted Sitting Bull in the destruction of General Custer at the Battle of Little Bighorn in 1876. Persuaded to surrender, he was killed a few months later, allegedly while trying to escape.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Crazy Horse." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. 18 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Crazy Horse." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 18, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/crazy-horse

"Crazy Horse." World Encyclopedia. . Retrieved August 18, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/crazy-horse