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Bloody Knife




There are several photos of Bloody Knife, this one from Wyoming Trails I like the best:

— Dietmar Schulte-Möhring

Bloody Knife was born in 1840[1837] to an Hunkpapa Sioux father and a Ree mother. He spent his first 16 years with his father but was frequently taunted, beaten, and abused for being a "half-breed." At age 16, he left the Sioux camp with his mother but returned in 1860 to visit his father. Bloody Knife was still despised by the Sioux and was almost killed during his visit. Chief Gall, a leader of the Hunkpapa, killed Bloody Knife's two brothers in 1862. Bloody Knife was married to She Owl in 1866.

In 1868, Bloody Knife enlisted as a scout in the U.S. Army and was assigned to the 7th Cavalry. He quickly became George Armstrong Custer's favorite scout. He was insolent toward whites and ridiculed them. He often amused Custer by ridiculing his marksmanship. Custer never got angry and often gave gifts to Bloody Knife.

In 1874, Bloody Knife guided the 7th through the Black Hills. He was with Custer in the Little Bighorn campaign and told Custer there were too many Indians to fight, a warning Custer ignored. Bloody Knife, in turn, ignored Custer's plea for him to stay out of the battle. Bloody Knife was assigned to Major Marcus Reno during the Battle of the Little Bighorn and was killed by a shot to the head as he was standing beside Reno in the battle. Reno was attempting to ask him what the Indians were doing when he was shot and his blood splattered Reno's face. Reno then lost all inhibition and barked out orders that did not make sense before fleeing. It has been speculated that Bloody Knife's blood splattering put Major Reno in a state of shock.

Bloody Knife was beheaded by the Sioux, who took the head to their camp.

From one of Libbie Custerís books:

Bloody Knife was naturally mournful; his face still looked sad when he put on the presents given him. He was a perfect child about gifts, and the general studied to bring him something from the East that no other Indian had.

He had proved himself such an invaluable scout to the general that they often had long interviews. Seated on the grass, the dogs lying about them, they talked over portions of the country that the general had never seen, the scout drawing excellent maps in the sand with a pointed stick. He was sometimes petulant, often moody, and it required the utmost patience on my husbandís part to submit to his humors; but his fidelity and cleverness [sic] made it worthwhile to yield to his tempers.

— Crzhrs

Bloody Knife was not "assigned to the 7th Cavalry" in 1868. His first enlistment as a scout was at Ft. Stevenson, Dakota. The Seventh Cavalry was in Kansas then. BK's first scouting duties were likely with one of the infantry regiments, such as the 22nd. He worked as a mail runner prior to this, carrying the mail between the Missouri River posts. Bloody Knife didn't hook up with Custer until Ft. Lincoln was built in 1872. — stevewilk


The following publications contain information about Bloody Knife:

Article: "Custer's Fighting Rees" by Dale T. Schoenberger Frontier Times, Vol. 40, No. 1, New Series No. 39, December-January 1966.

Illustration: "Custer and Bloody Knife" by Lisle Reedstrom Little Big Horn Associates Newsletter, Vol. 1, No. 8, August 1967.

Book: Bloody Knife: Custer's Favorite Scout [paid link] by Ben Innis Old Army Press, 1973.

Cover Illustration: "Bloody Knife Scouting for Custer, 1876" by Lisle Reedstrom Little Big Horn Associates Newsletter, Vol. X, No. 2, February 1976.

Cover Photograph: "Custer's Black Hills Grizzly: Bloody Knife, Custer, Noonan, Ludlow" Little Big Horn Associates Newsletter, Vol. XXVI, No. 2, March 1992.

Article: "Bloody Knife's Last Stand: The scout and his friend Custer shared the same enemies and fate" by J. Daniel Rogers National History Magazine, June 1992.

Cover Illustration: "Bloody Knife on Scout" by E. Lisle Reedstrom Research Review, Vol. 8, No. 2, June 1994.

Article: "Bloody Knife: Custer's Favorite Scout" by Richard E. Collin Bloody Knife was invaluable to George Armstrong Custer. Greasy Grass, Journal of the Custer Battlefield Historical & Museum Association, Vol. 13, May 1997.

Article: "Custer's Favorite Scout" by Mike Cowdrey The author identifies what may be the earliest known photo of scout Bloody Knife. Greasy Grass, Journal of the Custer Battlefield Historical & Museum Association, Vol. 14, May 1998.

Cover Photograph: "Bloody Knife" Little Big Horn Associates Newsletter, Vol. XXVII (should be XXXII), No. 9, November 1998.

Article: "The Story of Bloody Knife" by Richard E. Collin Little Big Horn Associates Newsletter, Vol. XXVII (should be XXXII), No. 9, November 1998.

Article: "Fate, feuds led Bloody Knife, Custer's close friend, to Battle of the Little Bighorn" by Lorna Thackeray • Billings Gazette • Accessed June 25, 2020.

Article: "Haunted by history: Tragedy followed Bighorn battle survivors" by Lorna Thackeray • The Billings Gazette • June 21, 2009 • Pages E1 and E3.



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