January Moon: The Northern Cheyenne Breakout from Fort Robinson, 1878–1879

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University of Oklahoma Press, Apr 16, 2020 - History - 352 pages
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Historian Jerome A. Greene is renowned for his memorable chronicles of egregious events involving American Indians and the U.S. military, including Sand Creek, Washita, and Wounded Knee. Now, in January Moon, Greene draws from extensive research and fieldwork to explore a signal—and appallingly brutal—event in American history: the desperate flight of Chief Dull Knife’s Northern Cheyenne Indians from imprisonment at Fort Robinson, Nebraska.

In the wake of the Great Sioux War of 1876–77, the U.S. government expelled most Northern Cheyennes from their northern plains homeland to Indian Territory, in present-day Oklahoma. Following mounting hardships, many of those people, under Chiefs Dull Knife and Little Wolf, broke away, seeking to return north. While Little Wolf’s band managed initially to elude pursuing U.S. troops, Dull Knife’s people were captured in 1878 and ushered into a makeshift barrack prison at Camp (later Fort) Robinson, where they spent months waiting for government officials to decide their fate. It is here that Greene’s riveting narrative edges toward its climax.

On the night of January 9, 1879, in a bloody struggle with troops, Dull Knife’s people staged a massive breakout from their barrack prison in a last-ditch bid for freedom. Greene paints a vivid picture of their frantic escape, which took place under an unusually brilliant moon that doomed many of those fleeing by silhouetting them against the snow. A climactic engagement at Antelope Creek proved especially devastating, and the helpless people were nearly annihilated.

In gripping detail, Greene follows the survivors’ dreadful experiences into their aftermath, including creation of the Northern Cheyenne Reservation. Carrying the story to the present day, he describes Cheyenne tribal events commemorating the breakout—all designed to ensure that the injustices of nineteenth-century U.S. government policy will never be forgotten.

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List of Illustrations
Coming Home
Northern Cheyenne Homecoming Trail 18781879
Time Place and the River
Fort Robinson in 1879
Long Nose
Illustrations Figures 1 Northern Cheyenne leaders Little Wolf and Dull Knife 2 President Rutherford B Hayes
Captain Emmet Crawford Company G Third Cavalry
Major Andrew W Evans Third Cavalry
Newspaper drawing of the fight at Antelope Creek
Second Lieutenant George W Baxter Company F Third Cavalry
Northern Cheyenne breakout survivors held prisoner at Dodge City Kansas 1879
Through the Smoke Sprang the Daring Soldier by Frederic Remington 1897
Violent Night
Northern Cheyenne Breakout January 9 1879

Secretary of the Interior Carl Schurz
Secretary of War George W McCrary
Lieutenant General Philip H Sheridan
Brigadier General George Crook
Red Cloud Agency Nebraska
Major Caleb H Carlton Third Cavalry 9 Captain John B Johnson Company B Third Cavalry
Plat of Camp Robinson Nebraska 1876
Seven officers quarters Camp Robinson 1877
Modern drawing of the 1874 cavalry barrack at Fort Robinson 17 Artistic rendering of the Northern Cheyennes readying their escape
Newspaper drawing showing the initial escape of the Northern Cheyennes from the prison barrack
James R OBeirne field correspondent for the New York Herald
Army Pursuit along Hat Creek Road and Environs January 1022 1879
Antelope Creek January 22 1879 First Army Positions
Antelope Creek January 22 1879 Final Army Assault
Pine Ridge Interlude
Appendix A List of Indians Wounded
Appendix F Northern Cheyenne Guns Surrendered or Captured 18781879

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About the author (2020)

Jerome A. Greene is retired as Research Historian for the National Park Service. He is the author of numerous books, including Stricken Field: The Little Bighorn since 1876, Battles and Skirmishes of the Great Sioux War, 1876–1877: The Military View; Lakota and Cheyenne: Indian Views of the Great Sioux War, 1876–1877; and Morning Star Dawn: The Powder River Expedition and the Northern Cheyennes, 1876, all published by the University of Oklahoma Press.

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