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The George Armstrong Custer Collection of the
Monroe County Library System

Custer in the News
In Monroe County and throughout the United States

"SITTING BULL'S OWN NARRATIVE OF THE CUSTER FIGHT"

During the summer previous to the one in which Custer attacked us, he sent a letter to tell me that if I did not go on an agency he would fight me, and I sent word back to him that if he wanted to fight to go and fight others who wanted to fight him. Custer then sent me another letter (this was in the winter) saying "You would not take my former offer, now I am going to fight you this winter". I sent word back to him by the same messenger and I said what I had said before, that I did not want to fight, I only wanted to be left alone, and I told him also that mine was the only camp that had not fought with him. Custer sent back word to me again and said that he was fitting up his wagons and soldiers and that he would fight me whether or not in the spring.

I thought again that I would try and keep peace, so I sent word to him in answer to his last message, that I did not want to fight and that I wanted to go first of all to British Territory, and if when I came back again that he was bent upon fighting me, that then I would fight him. Custer sent word back "I will fight you in eight days". I then saw it was no use and that I would have to fight him, so I sent him word "Alright, get all your men mounted and I will get all my men mounted and we will have a fight, and the Great Spirit will watch us and whoever is in the wrong will lose the battle".

I began to get ready now and sent twenty of my young men out to watch for the soldiers' coming, five of them soon returned and said to me that Custer was really coming, the other fifteen stopped to watch Custer's movements. When Custer was quite close, ten of my young men came in, when he got still closer, two more of them came in, leaving three to still watch his movements.

We had got up a medicine dance for war and as we were just getting through the dance two of the young men came in and said that Custer was quite close and would be upon us in the morning.

That night I began to prepare for battle, and all my young men buckled on their ammunition belts and kept themselves busy putting strong sticks in their coup sticks. Early in the morning just as the sun was rising, two of my men who had been out some way came in and told me that from the top of a high butte, they had seen Custer coming in two divisions. I then had all the horses driven into camp and had them corralled between the hedges.

About noon the Americans came up and the whole command rushed upon the camp. They rushed upon the camp at the same time in two divisions. One of the divisions attacked the upper end of the camp while the other burst in near the middle. The division that attacked the middle of the camp came right upon the "Uncapapa" lodges of which my own lodge was one, and just as they came upon the camp I as in the lodge making medicine and praying the Great Spirit to be on our side and fight for us. As I came out of my lodge the Americans stopped suddenly and then they sounded the bugle and the soldiers fired upon the camp. (Here "Sitting Bull" made a peculiar noise with his mouth and slapped his hands excitedly to imitate the rapid firing of the Americans.) I then put my wife on my best horse and put my war bonnet on her and she ran away with all the other women, but my wife in her hurry had forgot her little girl, and she came back for her baby. I gave the girl to her and she went off again. I now put a flag upon a pole and lifted it up high and in a loud voice I shouted out so as every one could hear me "I am 'Sitting Bull' follow me", and I rushed up to where I thought Custer was amongst the Americans. Just as I got close up to the Americans they fired again. ("Sitting Bull" again imitated with his mouth and hands the firing of the Americans.) When I saw that the Americans only fired from their horses and did little damage to us I ordered all my men to rush through their ranks and break them. They all rushed upon the Americans (who were still keeping up a fast fire but doing little harm) and tried to break the ranks. My young men tried hard but could not break their ranks of the Americans, so I shouted to them to come on and try again, and I put myself in the lead and we rushed upon them again. This time we broke their ranks and killed a great many and lost only one man.

Then the Americans seemed to give way and we forced this division back for nearly half a mile killing them all the time while they killed only a few of my young men. After forcing them back about half a mile we had killed all in this division but five and the Interpreter who the Indians called "The White". The Interpreter shouted out in Sioux "Custer was not in this division, he is in the other". I then told my men to leave the five soldiers and the Interpreter and let them live.

We then turned to attack the other division which was coming down from the end of the camp. Just as we met them a great thunder storm came on and the lightning killed some men and horses. I then called out that the Great Spirit was fighting for us (here the chief imitated to Major Crozier by signs how the lightning flashed and the thunder roared) and we attacked the second division. About forty of the soldiers had been dismounted and were trampled to death in a short time. After the thunder storm the soldiers fired very little and we knocked most of them from their horses with our coup sticks and they were killed immediately.

The Americans fired very wild and did not do us much harm. There were only twenty-five Sioux killed in the battle. After we had nearly disposed of the second division there were five soldiers living and I told my men to let them go. We did not kill the Interpreter.

I did not recognize Custer in the fight but only thought I did but could not tell for certain. There is no truth in the story that Custer was the last man to die and that he killed himself. I saw two soldiers shoot themselves. The Sioux were following them and in a few moments would have killed them but they killed themselves by putting their pistols to their heads and firing.

I believe that General Custer was killed in the first attack. We found what all of us thought was his body and it was in the middle of the camp. He had his hair cut short. There were seven hundred and nine Americans killed. We counted them by putting a stick upon each body and then taking up the sticks and counting them. We found seven hundred and seven carbines and two might have been lost in the river.

Here Major Crozier asked Bull if he knew where Major Reno was and Bull said that he had no idea, that he had not seen Reno at all.

The above account was related to Major Crozier by "Sitting Bull" who after giving the foregoing story of this memorable battle concluded by telling the Major that "There I have fought the fight all over for you and this I have never done since the time I fought it in reality with the Americans".

The above is, as it purports to be, "Sitting Bull's" own narrative of the Custer fight on the Little Big Horn. I got access to the original document as it was written down from "Sitting Bull's" own lips and thought you might like to see it so made this copy. The word "Coup" stick that I mentioned once or twice is the stick on which the scalps of the slain are fastened.

[Signed] WILLIAM

Preserve this as there are but a few copies in existence.

(This is William Black, my old friend of Fort Macleod, Alberta, and this was sent to his wife, now a widow in Vancouver, B.C. August, 1924.[Signed] John Maclean, Librarian, Wesley College, Winnipeg.)

(The Canadian Historical Review, June 1935, page 170)

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