Knife was born in 1840 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 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.
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.
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 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 Thackery • Billings Gazette • June 23, 2007 • Accessed June 25, 2020.