Three columns had to hunt Indians in 1876. But George Crook's 1'300 soldiers lost ten men at the battle of the Rosebud and then fell back to... go fishing on the Yellowston river.
GEORGE CROOK'S DUTY
Mary Trotter Kion, Suite101
Two major battles took place in the west during June of 1876. The latter fight was the Battle of the Little Bighorn where Custer met his demise.
The first battle took place along the banks of the upper Rosebud.
General George Crook was the leading star of this show with some 1000 troops (1'300 with the scouts, n. custerwest). That sounds like a fairly reasonable number of men to insure a success over a band of Indians, and well it might have been. But Crook made a major error early on. He split his forces, sending one half on their merry way downstream along the Rosebud to locate and destroy a Cheyenne village believed to be camped in the area.
This tactic might have been successful except while one half of Crook’s forces were attacking the Indian village an even larger group of Cheyenne and Sioux attack Crook’s camp (Crazy Horse's men, the ones who would battle Custer one week later, n. custerwest). It didn’t take Crook long to realize that he was not only out-numbered (He was not. There were 750 warriors, n. custerwest), but also out flanked. Escape back to their base camp at Big Goose Creek became the plan of the day in no time at all for Crook and his men (casualties: 10 dead, 21 wounded. Indians didn't control the battlefield, n. custerwest).
Since Crook’s men failed to win a victory over the Indians it was decide to take on a lesser foe—the fish that were camped in Big Goose Creek. For two weeks, during which time the Battle of the Little Bighorn raged and was lost, Crook’s men counted coup on a band of trout.
Crook’s men had done a little fishing in this creek prior to being bested at Rosebud, but now the angling began in earnest. Records were kept of the amounts of fish caught and the methods for catching them by Crook’s aid de camp Captain John Bourke. It seems that artificial flies and fishing lines that had been brought in personal kits were used by the men. There is no mention of bamboo rods or fishing reels being used. The record amount of fish caught in any given day was claimed by Captain Anson Mills with 146 trout taken the same day Generals Gibbon and Terry were rescuing survivors of the Little Bighorn.
Also recorded was the weather. It is noted by the source of this article, recorded below, that the same hot weather that bloated the bodies left at the Battle of the Little Bighorn also brought on an extreme hatch of grasshoppers in Wyoming. In addition, the Indians who decamped after the Little Bighorn affair, while heading back to the Black Hills, set fire to the prairie. The fire drove the grasshoppers before it, right towards Goose Creek. This invasion got the attention of the trout and provided a profusion of live bate for the angling soldiers.
Up to this point flyfishing had met with mild success, then the fish only had eyes for the grasshoppers, refusing any artificial inducements to take the bite.
While the soldiers fished some 100 Shoshone warriors who had come over from Wind River country to count coups on their Cheyenne and Sioux enemies hung around and watched. After a while the Shoshone offered to show the soldiers how this catching of fish should be done—on horseback.
The Indians piled brush across the creek, making a sort of weir. A few Indians stayed there while some half-dozen rode downstream. From that point they suddenly came charging up the creek, abreast and lashing the water with coup sticks and lances.
To the amazement of the soldiers, hundreds of trout fled upstream until the brush damn halted their flight. Now it was a simple matter of plucking the fish from the water and flinging them up on the bank.
And that, a Shoshone informed Bourke, was how real men caught fish.