Frontier battles between the U.S. Army and the Native Americans of the Great Plains were generally fought by men. However, at the battle of the Rosebud which took place on June 17, 1876 in Montana Territory did have some women who were present – and some who participated.
I won’t go into the detail behind the conflict other than to say it involved General Crook of the U.S. Army with his Crow and Shoshoni allies on one side, and the Sioux and Northern Cheyenne and some of their allies on the other. The Cheyenne know the battle as "The Fight Where the Girl Saved Her Brother".
Buffalo Calf Road Woman, or Brave Woman (b. c. 1850s? -d. 1878)
Buffalo Calf Road Woman was a Northern Cheyenne woman who saved her wounded warrior brother Chief Comes in Sight.
During the advance of Captain Mills on the Northern Cheyenne and Lakota Sioux forces, allied under the leadership of Crazy Horse, had been retreating. The horse of a Cheyenne warrior, Comes in Sight, was shot. The retreating Cheyenne and Sioux left the wounded Chief, now on foot, on the battlefield. His sister, Buffalo Calf Road Woman, rode out onto the battlefield at full speed and grabbed up her brother, carrying him to safety. Her courageous rescue caused the Cheyenne to rally, and they defeated General George Crook and his forces.
In honor of Buffalo Calf Road Woman, the Cheyenne called the Battle of Rosebud "The Fight Where the Girl Saved Her Brother".
Buffalo Calf Road Woman fought next to her husband in the Battle of the Little Big Horn that same year. In 2005 Northern Cheyenne storytellers broke more than 100 years of silence about the battle, and they credited Buffalo Calf Road Woman with striking the blow that knocked General George Armstrong Custer off his horse before he died.
To see a short You-Tube video about this Northern Cheyenne heroine, please CLICK HERE.
The Other Magpie
The Other Magpie was a Crow woman who fought in the Battle of the Rosebud on the side of General Crook against the Sioux and Cheyenne. Pretty Shield, a Crow author and medicine woman, described her as being “a wild one who had no man of her own…both bad and brave.”
Much of the account involving her and another Crow woman came from Pretty Shield (1856–1944) who was a medicine woman of the Crow Nation. Her biography, perhaps the first record of female Native American life, was written by Frank B. Linderman, who interviewed her using an interpreter and sign language.
According to Pretty Shield, The Other Magpie fought because her brother had recently been killed by the Sioux and she sought revenge against them. Most of the Crow carried rifles, but The Other Magpie carried only her belt knife and her coup stick. She counted coup on a Sioux warrior.
Counting coup was the winning of prestige against an enemy by the Plains Indians of North America. Warriors won prestige by acts of bravery in the face of the enemy, which could be recorded in various ways and retold as stories. To read more details of what was involved in Counting Coup, please CLICK HERE.
Some sources credit The Other Magpie for eventually killing and scalping the Sioux warrior she counted coup against. The scalp that she took was one of only eleven taken in the battle.
Other sources say, according to Pretty Shield, who stayed away from that battle,
but later told the history of her people, that there was another woman involved who actually killed the Lakota on whom The Other Magpie counted coup. That other Crow’s name was Finds-Them-and-Kills-Them. This other “woman,” however, may have been a transvestite. Pretty Shield affirmed that The Other Magpie was all girl and dressed that way, but she claims Finds-Them-and-Kills-Them was “neither a man nor a woman.” According to Pretty Shield”
Finds-Them-and-Kills-Them, afraid to have the Lakota find her dead with woman clothing on her, changed them to a man’s before the fighting commenced, so that if killed, the Lakota would not laugh at her, lying there with a woman’s clothes on her. She did not want the Lakota to believe that she was a Crow man hiding in a woman’s dress, you see.
Working in tandem, the two woman warriors had rescued a fallen Crow named Bull Snake earlier in the battle, and when other Lakotas charged down on the rescuers, The Other Magpie countercharged. “She spat at them,” said Pretty Shield. “‘See,’ she called out, ‘my spit is my arrows!’” The Other Magpie then crashed her black horse into a Lakota warrior’s horse and struck him with her coup stick. As the Lakota horse and rider staggered, Finds-Them-and-Kills-Them shot the man dead with a revolver.
The Other Magpie took his scalp.
This was too much for the other Lakota warriors, who quickly backed off.
The two woman warriors, tending the wounded Bull Snake, returned to the village ahead of Crook’s other Crows. “I felt proud of the two women, even of the wild one, because she was brave,” recalled Pretty Shield. “Of course we had a big scalp dance. I think that the party had taken 10 scalps besides the one that The Other Magpie cut into so many pieces, so there were enough for many dancers.”
Pretty Shield described The Other Magpie as having tied a feather on the end of her coup stick to symbolize her achievement.
Another woman at the scene of the battle did not participate. It was, Martha Jane Cannary, better known Calamity Jane, who, disguised as a man, worked as a teamster. Many blog posts and other information about her is available, so I will simply point out she was there serving as part of the support for General Crook and his men.
As part of my backstory for my hero, Quentin Thompson, in my latest book, A Bride for Quentin, I include a chapter about the Battle of the Rosebud. To find the book description and purchase link, please CLICK HERE.