Wooden Leg - Cheyenne Warrior Who Fought Custer

November 27, 2017

Wooden Leg - Cheyenne Warrior Who Fought Custer

Wooden Leg, of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe, was born in 1858 in the area of the Black Hills and the Cheyenne River in Dakota Territory.

Wooden Leg Cheyenne Warior in 1913
See page for author [Public domain],
via Wikimedia Commons
Quick Facts:

His father was Many Bullet Wounds. He also went by the preferred name White Buffalo Shaking off the Dust. His birth date and death date are not known.

His mother was Eagle Feather on the Forehead. Her birth and death dates are also unknown.

His two older brothers were Strong Wind Blowing and the other's name was Yellow Hair. His younger brother was named Twin.

His older sister was named Crooked Nose and his younger sister was Fingers Woman.

As a child, Wooden Leg went by Eats from His Hand. He received the name Wooden Leg from his uncle. He received the name since he was able to walk farther than his peers when it came to long travels.

The first time that he saw white men involved in a large battle was the Wagon Box Fight of 1866. His older brother, Strong Wind Blowing, was killed in this battle during Red Cloud's War. Wooden Leg was too young to have taken part in the battle.

Wooden Leg became a part of the Elkhorn Scrapers some time in 1872. It is said that they were one (of three) warrior societies made up of Cheyenne and perhaps members from other tribes.

The morning of March 17, 1876 Wooden Leg was encamped at Powder River near modern-day Moorhead, Montana along with a few hundred of his own tribe, the Northern Cheyenne, and some Oglala Sioux. Around 9 in the morning, Colonel Joseph J. Reynolds, with US soldiers under his command, carried out a surprise attack on the camp. The warriors were quick to get their women and children to safety. They also set up a defense to slow the US soldiers. The federal soldiers burned the village and their food supplies to effect federal policy, in an effort to cause tribes to move on to different lands. US forces also captured around 700 of the Cheyenne's horses. The tribes counterattack, which caused the army to retreat and leave most of the horses behind. The next morning, the Cheyenne took back the horses left behind, which was most of their previous 700 recovered, with little resistance from army soldiers still present. Despite this, their resources were devastated and members of both tribes, Cheyenne and Oglala,  men, women, and children, to the Oglala Sioux village of Crazy Horse. Relocating to the village, which was also along Powder River, took them three days of walking north. Many Cheyenne succumbed to the elements, freezing to death, while making their way to the village.

On June 17, 1876, Wooden Leg fought in the Battle of the Rosebud. Most of the cavalries from the Powder River attack were present at this battle. The allied tribes won this battle.

The morning of June 25, 1876, Wooden Leg and his older brother Yellow Hair were awakened by a warning about the arrival of US soldiers. The two of them quickly prepared for the battle alongside the rest of the warriors. It was a defeat for the US forces at the Battle of Little Bighorn.

In the latter months of 1876, General Crook held a force, at Cantonment Reno, further north up the Powder River. Indian scouts under his guidance, comprised mainly of Pawnee, Shoshone, and Sioux, discovered the Cheyenne camp near Little Bighorn River. The 4th U.S. Cavalry carried out an attack on Chief Morning Star's camp on November 25, 1876. Soldiers and scouts attacked the camp, killing many of the inhabitants and causing the rest to flee. Two individuals amongst those who fled were Wooden Leg and one of the Elk Horn Scrapers leaders, Little Wolf. The camp was burned by US soldiers and their food was taken by the soldiers.

After this attack, the Northern Cheyenne moved north, yet again, and met up with Oglala Sioux. Numerous tribes allied there and they moved on to the valley of Little Bighorn and then to the Tongue River. They were again involved in battle with the US forces at the Battle of Wolf Mountain.

Later in life, Wooden Leg, his brother Yellow Hair, and 34 Cheyenne refused to relocate to reservation land stayed in the region of the Tongue and Powder Rivers. Though much of the tribe did agree to relocate due to hunger. They stayed in the region until they too were experiencing hardship, mainly hunger, and moved on to the reservation. They settled at the White River Reservation.

Dull Knife and Little Wolf, along with a group they led, refused to obey unjust rules enforced by soldiers. They defied the forces and left the reservation, heading north to settle somewhere near the Tongue River. Wooden Leg refused to follow them and remained behind. Wooden Leg was then married to a Southern Cheyenne woman in 1878 and decided to meet up with Little Wolf at their camp, leaving the reservation.

In 1889, Wooden Leg joined up at Fort Keogh as a scout. Which he and other scouts guided US forces in the Ghost Dance campaign. Which would also lead to the Wounded Knee Massacre.

In 1906, he spoke about the Battle of Little Bighorn at the location where the battle took place. It was during a memorial for the battle.

In 1908, he was baptized on by a priest on the reservation.

In 1913, Wooden Leg, Two Moons, Black Wolf, and Little Wolf were a part of delegation headed to Washington to speak about the Cheyenne tribe, their experiences, and his experiences. He had also traveled to New York around this time. When he headed back to the reservation he became a judge on the reservation. He declined to become a chief of the Elkhorn Scrapers. Despite this, whites that he worked with called him a chief.

Wooden Leg did have two daughter but they died at a young age. He and his wife adopted a son from his sister. The boy was John White Wolf.

A lot of Wooden Leg's experiences prior to living on the reservation and his experiences at the Battle of Little Bighorn can be found in the book Wooden Leg: A Warrior Who Fought Custer. The book contains information told in interviews and conversations by Thomas B. Marquis, with Wooden Leg, in 1903. The book was first published in 1931 as a first person autobiography.

Wooden Leg lived until 1940, aged 81 or 82.

Learn More:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wooden_Leg
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wooden_Leg:_A_Warrior_Who_Fought_Custer

Full Book:
https://archive.org/details/warriorwhofought027166mbp