Indian method of attack

Indian method of attack
THE INTRUDERS – Frederic Remington

Statement in question:

“One of the greatest fallacies concerning Indian resistance to white advancement across the Great Plains involves the methods of Indian warfare. Hollywood and television have always depicted wagon trains or dismounted cavalry with Indians riding around them in circles. There is not a single recorded instance in Western American History where Indians maintained their attack using such tactics.”

In response there are a number of incidents that come to mind: One is the Buffalo Wallow Fight in the Texas Panhandle in 1874 when scouts Billy Dixon and Amos Chapman along with four enlisted men were sent to deliver dispatches to Fort Supply. They were attacked by Kiowa and Comanche and forted up in a buffalo wallow while the Indians rode around them.1

Another attack happened in 1867 north of Fort Wallace, Kansas, when Indians attacked and circled a wagon train sent for supplies by Lt. Col. George Custer. According to Custer’s account the Indians did ride around the column and fire upon it. “The attack of the Indians . . . was continued without cessation for three hours.”2

THE ATTACK UPON THE TRAIN

An additional account is found in Cozzens’ Eyewitnesses to the Indian Wars: “I heard shots from the direction of the train, and glancing that way, saw the wagons corralling while swarms of warriors circled them.”3

Robert G. Carter of the 4th Cavalry gives a vivid account of this manner of warfare as practiced by the Plains Indians: “Their safety as to casualties urged them to always keep mounted, moving and circling like a swarm of bees and never ‘bunching’ . . . Their rapid swing out or rush into a V-shape formation, and then fanning out to the front from these two wings into an irregular line of swirling warriors, all rapidly moving in right and left hand circles.”4

George Bent provides two accounts of Indian warriors circling a wagon train. “They [Indian leaders] called out for everyone to get ready for a charge. ‘We are going to empty the soldiers’ guns,’ they said. These men all had war bonnets and shields. They rode out and began to circle around the wagons, riding very fast.”5

TWENTY-FIVE TO ONE – Frederic Remington

A second incident is given by Bent: “The Cheyennes rushed up and circled around them [soldiers], riding fast and shooting as they rode.”6

This is one time when Hollywood got it right.

ENDNOTES

  1. Olive K. Dixon,Life of “Billy” Dixon: Plainsman, Scout and Pioneer(1914; reprint, Dallas: P.L. Turner Company, 1927), 199-204.
  2. George Armstrong Custer, intro. by Edgar I. Stewart, My Life on the Plains or, personal Experiences with Indians (1874; reprint, Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1962), 93-95.
  3. Peter Cozzens, ed. Eyewitnesses to the Indian Wars, 1865-1890: Conquering the Southern Plains (Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2003), vol 3, 415.
  4. Robert G. Carter, On the Border with Mackenzie or Winning West Texas from the Comanches (1935; reprint, Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 2007), 289-290.
  5. George E. Hyde, Life of George Bent Written From His Letters (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1968), 221.
  6. George E. Hyde, Life of George Bent Written From His Letters (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1968), 275.
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