Title: General Miles' Diplomacy and Military Skill Ended Three Centuries of War Between Red Men and White

More metadata

General Miles' Diplomacy and Military Skill Ended Three Centuries of War Between Red Men and White


General Miles and Staff in Headquarters at Pine Ridge. Left to Right — Major Baldwin, Major Ewing, Surgeon Bache, Captain M. P. Maus, General Miles, Colonel Kent, Colonel H. C. Corbin, and Colonel C. F. Humphrey. Insert Shows General Miles as He Is Today. This Photograph Was Made by a Member of General Miles' Staff in the Headquarters Mess Tent at Pine Ridge, in 1890, During the Height of the Campaign. Colonel Corbin Later Became Adjutant-General, and After Serving in the War with Spain He Died. Captain Maus Is Now Brigadier General. Colonel Humphrey Is Now Retired as Major General, Having Served as Quartermaster-General.

Great Leader's Tact and Experience Needed to Cope With Indians' Belief That Palefaces Never Were Known to Keep a Treaty.

Pine Ridge, S. D., Oct. 15. — The remark of old General Dumas in the drama of "The Lady of Lyons" about Claude Melnotte that "a man never knows how highly he can respect another until after he has fought with him" is borne out by the old-time Westerners here, when one hears their expressed appreciation of some of the brighter qualities shown by the redmen whom they fought so desperately.

It is astonishing considering the peculiar character of the context, it being the most implacably savage war of any era in world history — a fight to the death, of torture. No prisoners were taken by the redmen and only under exceptional circumstances by their white opponents. Not only admiration, but even sympathy for the redman's patience is daily expressed by those who were forced by duty to meet the situation with a severity of reprisal to the limit.

One learns from the campfire chats of these experienced men that "Who struck Billy Patterson?" was not the greatest of standard conundrums of the olden days, but it was "When did the white men or the government ever keep a treaty with the Indians?" No matter how often or how loudly propounded by generations of questioners since the Mayflower days, no listener for an answer has heard the faintest response or echo from the walls of time. It will be a problem that some future perfected atmospheric wireless wave may record, to render its discoverer famed in historic Indian research.


In this camp, filled with aged redmen wise in Indian lore, noted generals and scouts with records in frontier history, agents and friends, all memories fail ( [...?] to a few late years) to bring forth the data and location of "a square deal."

Maj. Gen. Jesse M. Lee, first permanent military agent of Brule Sioux (after the war of 1876, and never forgotten by them for his fair treatment) remarked, "There may have been some such, and I have heard it so asserted, but I never had a definite answer to the query, although it is possible a biased jury might pass a verdict of fulfillment, and then it would only be justified by the rule of law giving the 'defendant the benefit of the doubt.'"

As per example, years ago when a certain commission was debating a treaty the tribal spokesman alluded to another treaty of exchange of territory, when they were told the perpetuity of the government's fulfillment of promises was assured, as "this treaty is made to last as long as grass grows, the sun shines and rivers run."


As many clauses were violated, the Indians thought the white men knew the future, as their new territory encountered several seasons of drought, a total eclipse of the sun and they suffered through the deal as "in the drought our rivers ran dry, sinking out of sight in the sand, and as no rain came, so no grass grew," so the white man's obligation was ended.

So when the leading commissioner repeatedly declared that this was a cinch for them, as he had the ear of the great Father, an old chieftain arose and said "You have the ear of the great Father, you say?" "Yes," came the reply. "Then open your bag and let us see it." On the commissioner's delay to comply, pointing his finger, the chief scornfully said, "If you cannot show us you are a forked tongued liar."

General Crook is on record as stating, when officially testifying once, that he knew of "thirty-three treaties between the government and the Indians, thirty of which were grossly violated and the other three are still unsettled and under discussion."


Though the Messiah craze was a religious one, creating a continental conspiracy, the actual ghost dance war was precipitated by a forced state of almost starvation among the Northern Sioux.

Their rations were overdue; their dependence on them rendered them helpless. Their game was all gone, their crops a failure and the rations and [...?] annuities, due in the early fall of 1890 arrived not, in fact, were delivered after the war in the winter of 1891. The money due from the sale of lands long occupied by settlers near White River had been overdue several years on account of congress' failure to appropriate.

The Indians at Pine Ridge had a new political appointee, an agent whose lack of tact irritated them, and there was a row; the agent was panicky and called for troops while the philanthropists urged the suppression of the ghost dances. Rendered desperate, a great portion of the Ogallallas rounded up all cattle in sight, including the government herd and, joined by recalcitrants from the Rosebud agency, retreated to a stronghold in the Bad Lands. They claimed that they preferred to die on the warpath with stomachs full than endure the tortures of a lingering death by starvation. Thus the general conspiracy intended for the following spring, when the sun shone and the grass was plenty, was prematurely launched in the fall of 1890.

The Argus eye of one of the best posted and astute of the army's Indian fighters, General Nelson A. Miles, was fortunately overseeing conditions; his ear was on the ground as commander of the division, and the season suited him admirably, and with rare strategic skill he started to nip the plants of discontent ere they fully ripened.

Colonel Cody, "Buffalo Bill," a great friend of "Sitting Bull," came all the way from Strasburg, Alsace-Lorraine, in Germany, to visit the old chief, under commission of General Miles, to convince him of the futility of rebellion, even if he had to prove to one of his best warriors the vulnerability of the ghost shirt. The well-intended, but misguided philanthropic influence at Washington caused the recall of Scout Cody when near the old chief's camp. This disarranged the pacific measure, intended by General Miles, and resulted in the tragic end of the great statesmen and medicine man of the Uncapappas, caused the "Big Foot" band to scatter, trecking [sic] south to join the defying warriors "out" in the Bad Lands.

To further explain the reason for the intensity of the redmen's feelings, it may be well to refer to the violated government promises of rations and annuities.


Beside the land to be theirs when transferred beyond the Missouri, the treaty of 1868 at Laramie by General Harney guaranteed every buck, squaw and papoose $10 a head and if of the producing industrial class, $30 a head each year for thirty years. In addition, for the forced occupation of the Black Hills (which had been overflowed with gold seekers, to an extent the government felt itself powerless to rectify by any means the public would sanction) the treaty of 1877 promised the following rations to each, every day: one and one-half pounds of beef, one-half pound of flour, one-half pound of corn, [...?] pounds of sugar, four pounds of coffee, three pounds of beans, clothing and blankets. These promises were not always fulfilled and, on this occasion, not at all, this creating an incentive to fan the flames of discontent like wind upon a prairie fire.

Had the busy American public paid attention to the important events of almost contemporary history, it would have seen that the foresight, judgment and sagacity of General Nelson A. Miles saved in lives and money and prevention of check to Western settlement a loss so incalculable as to deserve the nation's gratitude.


He was a soldier in the Civil war, practically rising from the ranks to a major generalship (commanding the Department of Virginia at the finish) with a record under fire possibly equaled, but most certainly not surpassed, in army annals.

The Messiah move was silently working as a grand conspiracy exceeding in scope that of the great Tecumseh and the Six Nations from the fact that sixteen nations and their component tribes, including former foes as well as friendly clans, were secretly bound in alliance by a death vow to stand shoulder to shoulder with a certainty of recruits, from the Blackfeet on the North to the Taquis on the South, and from tribes on every land that racial sympathies could band together. These were the complicated conditions that General Miles saw, but others who should have done so, could not comprehend.

The belligerent chieftains grasped at this failure of supplies to push their people to conflict. General Miles (Bear Coat) quickly decided these men like Sitting Bull, Two Strikes, Kicking Bear, Short Bull (the Apostle Peter of the Messiah) were to be checkmated in snow time and by peaceful means if possible.

On Miles' arrival in a blinding snow storm, he grasped the situation of the foodless Indians, and using the unwritten law of 'military necessity' as authority, he gave immediate orders to issue a soldier's rations to all the friendly, all the neutral ones, and to any of the bad men in the Bad Lands that would "come in and be good."

Quick action for a trial of strength on military lines was used to perfection, and a great point gained by throwing General E. A. Carr's command across the entrance to the inaccessible stronghold in Bad Lands, and preventing Kicking Bear, who came down to join the combined force of more than 4,000 Indians getting back after the last stand of the redmen, the battle of the Mission.


In this the Nebraska militia, with Brig. Gen. W. F. Cody ("Buffalo Bill") acting with Brigadier General Colby of the National guard, were effective factors in carrying out the successful plan of encircling in a [190?] -mile military cordon around the Indians in the field, awaiting the deep snows, the lack of commissary, the guns "that shoot today and kill tomorrow" (Hotchkisses), the effect of persuasion and peace overtures to bring about a surrender.

A few weeks of communion under frigid conditions brought about a request for consultation with white men.

A grand powwow was held in the hills, resulting in a restoration of confidence that completed full terms of surrender. Gen. Nelson A. Miles' combination of military skill and diplomacy thus ended forever three centuries of racial wars between the red men and the white.