Arrow's Elk Society Ledger

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Ethnographic Notes

On June 26, 1867, exactly nine years before the Battle of the Little Bighorn, units of the 7th U.S. Cavalry had one of their first skirmishes with Southern Cheyennes, near Fort Wallace, Kansas. The officer in command was Capt. Albert Barnitz:

"Going to the summit of a ridge, I took a deliberate look at the [foe], who were drawn up in fine order upon the summit of another ridge beyond, busily engaged in reloading their arms...With my glass I was able to distinguish...the barbaric magnificence of their array, as they sat with their plumed lances, their bows and shields, and their gleaming weapons...All were admirably mounted and armed; many had repeating rifles or carbines, and every Indian appeared to have at least one revolver, in addition to his powerful bow and arrows...The ponies...were of remarkable size, very fleet and powerful. Our own horses were generally no match for them, either in speed or endurance" (Utley, 1977: 68).

It is not certain that this drawing represents a self-portrait by Arrow, but most likely it does. The leggings, breechcloth, moccasins and saddle pad repeat those in Plates 1, 2 & 9; and the otterskin hairwraps, holster and Elk Society sabre repeat those of Plates 2 & 3. As Capt. Barnitz lamented, the Army mount at the right, even with its iron shoes, appears no match for the Cheyenne's charger.

There are two differences, here, from Arrow's prior appearance, if this in fact is he. The hairpipe breastplate is of the style with two vertical panels, made of longer hairpipes than those used for the breastplate in Plate 2. And the Cheyenne is distinguished by a crown-style, eagle feather headdress, with beaded browband, and ermine skin pendants painted or dyed yellow. Yellow ermine pendants on headdresses is a Cheyenne characteristic---literally hundreds of examples are shown in Cheyenne drawings. In this collection alone, other examples appear in PLates 17, 19 21, 27, 65, 94, 163, 164 & 165.

In 1872, the Army introduced a new fatigue cap, or "kepi", which had a lower and more square profile than the forage caps issued earlier. Compare Woodhead, 1996: 182-83, for pictures of the earlier style worn during the Civil War; and Afton, et. al., 1997: Plates 78, 85, 92 & 94, for Cheyenne depictions of this older, higher style of headgear. The infantry kepis depicted here by Arrow have a very low profile, which suggests a date post-1872. For a photo of such hats see Reedstrom, 1977: 286.

The carbines carried by these soldiers are characterized by a square-sided, solid-metal sideplate, single-barrel, wooden forestock, and a small, round triggerguard directly below the hammer. The only firearm of this period which displayed these features was the Remington rolling-block carbine. For a comparison photo, see Reedstrom, 1977: 7. When the 7th Cavalry was moved to Dakota Territory in 1873, several companies suddenly were issued more than 100 single barrel, .50 caliber Remington carbines. They did not keep them long. By September, only 27 remained in the inventory; and a year later all had been replaced by Sharps carbines (Reedstrom, 1977: 281-82).

While Dakota Territory was a long way from the Southern Plains, nonetheless this specifies the period when Army units were experimenting with the Remington. Significantly, 1873-74 coincides with the brief period when Cheyennes were actively fighting Army units on the Southern Plains during the 1870's.

1873 was also the year the Winchester Arms Company discontinued its 1866 model carbine, with brass sideplates, and substituted an improved model that featured blued-steel sideplates on the receiver. This 1873 model Winchester appears in Plates 64 & 65, so again a period post-1873 is indicated for these drawings (Watrous, 1966: 17).

In wild career, Arrow shows himself riding over the first soldier, and directly into the guns of the others. He might be singing one of the favorite Cheyenne war songs: "Take courage; do not be frightened; follow where you see me riding my white horse" (Grinnell, 1903: 314). The lack of muzzle blasts from any of these weapons (compare Plate 70) indicates that the soldiers are too over-awed to fire at the Cheyenne. In passing, Arrow has stabbed the first man through the lungs, as indicated by the blood spurting from his mouth. Many small skirmishes with troops occurred throughout the summer and autumn of 1874. Lacking further details, we are unlikely to discover the specific occasion which Arrow has pictured here.

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Various owners (dispersed). Collected in 1882 at Darlington, Indian Territory (Oklahoma) by Sallie C. Maffet....

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Document Info
Plate No: 4
Page No: 5
Dimensions: 8.5 * 14 inches
Various Private Owners
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