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"Rosebud Battle." Topic

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Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP17 Aug 2012 9:50 p.m. PST

While I was reading this article.


Took my atention these sentence:

"The team has already identified several soldier and Indian positions and raised some doubts about a commander's claim that he was under heavy fire"

But… how it would be possible?. If there were 2 to 2.500 indians and 1.300 soldiers fighting for a whole day, there would be a heavy fire!.

So, I decided to search for more info and after reading some links I pick up these article.


There, you can read that Crook and his men were saved by the Crows and Shoshones in a number of 262 which fought hard and made a brave stand against the atack of the thousand (?) sioux indians. Then Crook began to send "… soldiers forward to support his Indian allies. The fighting continued until noon, when the Sioux-perhaps hoping to draw Crook's army into an ambush—retreated from the field"
More than 25.000 rounds were spending from the US soldiers that day.

But… ". Crazy Horse had lost only 13 men and his warriors were emboldened by their successful attack on the American soldiers"

And the two or more thousand indian sioux warriors under the guidance of Crazy Horse caused: "…28 men were killed and 56 were seriously wounded" to the US troops.
Don't understand well if these amount included or not the Shoshone and Crow casualties too.

So, how it was possible a battle between 4 thousand men during a whole day expending thousands of ammo and with so few casualties?
If we compare this with Custer defeat and casualties it's very strange.

If the Indians under the command of Crazy Horse fought during this long hours sending bullet after bullet, how they managed to resuply they ammo to fought again a week later exterminating Custer and his men?

Many questions as you can see, which send me again to the first sentence "some doubts about a commander's claim"

Can you help me to understand better Rosebud battle?

Many thanks in advance for your guidance.


PS: Sorry but I had another two questions.
a) Anybody had wargame this battle?
b) Are there any movie about this battle?

Personal logo Wolfshanza Supporting Member of TMP18 Aug 2012 1:36 a.m. PST

Well, this will open almost as big a can of worms as the Custer threads before <lol> I had read that it may have been as few as 600-700 hostiles that hit Crook in the morning ? The crow blunted the initial assault and bought time for the troops (possibly saving it from being comparable to the Little Big Horn fiasco). The word of this never got to the other commands, as I understand ?

solosam Inactive Member18 Aug 2012 6:03 a.m. PST

It's been documented elsewhere ("On Killing") that most armies expend many thousands of rounds ineffectually. The problem first came to light in WWII. Other researchers have looked at battles in the Civil War and concluded that casualties logically should have been much higher than they were.

Coupled with this is the fact that most American army units of the time did not emphasize marksmanship until training reforms were implemented in the 1880's ("Forty Miles a Day on Beans and Hay"). Very few Indians understood marksmanship at all.

The idea of trying to exterminate the enemy was literally a foreign concept to the Indians. For them, battle was an opportunity to demonstrate personal bravery. They were not very keen on committing to a decisive battle, and there are compartively few instances of Indians actually wiping out an opposing force. ("Counting Coup and Cutting Horses") I would not try to compare any battle to Little Bighorn. The reason people remember Little Bighorn is because it was an aberration.

Lastly, I do not know if the fighting really was continuous. Many battles that took hours or days to fight only had a few minutes of actual battle followed by hours of maneuvering, regrouping, and waiting for the enemy to do something. My experience in the Army has been that someone at one point of the perimeter will be engaged with the enemy, while the rest of the perimeter stands their ground and wonders what the hell is going on. It is unlikely that they were literally pulling the trigger as fast as possible for hours on end.

- Solo Sam

John Leahy18 Aug 2012 7:36 a.m. PST

I agree with a lot that Sam said. However, Both the Rosebud and LBH had the Indians pretty serious about fighting the Army. They were defending their camp and took it seriously. Even reading accounts of the battle show that it had ebbs and flow on various parts of the field. The Indians possibly suffered more casualties than at the LBH. Indian marksmanship was pretty poor mainly due to substandard ammo, lack on practice and mutilation of their firearms for personal customization.

The only real reason the battle ended was due to the Indians thinking the Army was advancing again towards their village and general exhaustion of both sides.

Crook's advance stopped due to his logistics. He had expended a large amount of ammo and had no immediate resupply. He also had wounded. My main problem with him is his complete absence of providing any other column information on his engagement. He should have been courtmartialed.



Personal logo The Virtual Armchair General Sponsoring Member of TMP18 Aug 2012 8:21 a.m. PST

No vanity like quoting one's self, but this paragraph in the Designers' Notes for "John Company," written almost 20 years ago, should sound familiar.

"We were also influenced by the fact that for most of our lives we had read accounts of battle in all periods and places where units were described as being the targets of "withering," "blistering," "concentrated," "accurate," or simply "heavy" fire, and being "pinned down" or "held up" for hours, then having the account finish with a remark like, "…and Private Smith was wounded." From skirmishes to full scale battles, descriptions abounded of actions with plenty of shooting, but few or even no casualties incurred. In traditional war games, such outcomes are virtually impossible, so many of the game systems depending on casualties inflicted to determine when one side or the other just runs away."

Of course, the article goes on to explain our model of combat that attempts to demonstrate why this true.

The basic facts are that FEAR drives battles, not BLOOD, that no weapon improves in combat, and its user's ability to effectively apply it is a downward slope as all the effects of battle multiply and persist.

The rule of thumb has been at least since the English Civil War (where General Hughes starts his analysis in "Firepower") is that it takes a man's weight in bullets to cause one casualty, and this seems to hold to the present. Of course, it's possible to throw a great many more rounds in a shorter period of time now, but this does not equate to higher casualties in practice.

I could go on, but what moved me to post was our friend Armand's apparent surprise at the small casualties cited for the number of rounds expended over much of a long day.
It's not all exceptional, and perhaps demonstrates the flaws in most game systems that make us expect heaps of dead and lakes of blood.


David Gray Inactive Member18 Aug 2012 9:48 a.m. PST

>>The idea of trying to exterminate the enemy was literally a foreign concept to the Indians.

That would be news to anyone studying the Sioux Uprising of 1862…

Inkpaduta Inactive Member18 Aug 2012 10:32 a.m. PST


To your other questions. I have never seen or heard of someone gaming this battle, not to say they haven't. However, people really should. This was a far better balanced battle than Little Big Horn and has a number of what ifs. Second, no there are no movies that deal with this battle. Totally over shadowed by the LBH.

Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP18 Aug 2012 10:58 a.m. PST

Many, many thanks for your great guidance boys!! (big smile).
I understand now much more about that battle.

It seems that the US column had also a part of infantry, not all cavalry and that each soldier had only 100 rounds.
I also understand why Crook decided to retired with his wounded men and low ammo.

But still ask me how the indians had so many ammo to fight again a week later so hard?.

It would be amazing to see a wargame about this battle.

Thanks again.

cavcrazy18 Aug 2012 11:05 a.m. PST

I gamed the Rosebud, and it was a great game, the Indian allies made all the difference.
I think if Crook had been goaded into chasing the Indians more it could have been much worse for him. We have to remember that unlike Custer who was moving quicker with no infantry and wagons that Crook could'nt chase down the Indians, so as far out as he ventured was about as far as he was going to go, and the Indians didn't want to get dragged into a standing fight.

Personal logo Wolfshanza Supporting Member of TMP18 Aug 2012 3:51 p.m. PST

"Second, no there are no movies that deal with this battle. "

Well, sorta. I disremember a movie dealing with a cav troop dispatched to tell Terry/Custer that Crook got his butt beat and Crazy Horse had gotten real serious about the war ? The name of the movie was 'Last Command' or something like that. I saw it as a wee bairn so it's pretty old.
Spmething else that I had read was that there was a restrictive pass or gulch to get to the village and CH was ready to fight there sorta of ala Fort Apaches ending ? He was a brilliant tactition ! thumbs up

Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP18 Aug 2012 10:59 p.m. PST

Had found this little video were they show that a indian woman saved his wounded brother from the battlefield and with his courage action move the indians to atack and defeat the US troops.
Man!. How nobody made this movie??.

See "Native American: Cheyenne Fast War Dance ( Buffalo Calf Road…" video



vtsaogames Inactive Member19 Aug 2012 5:23 a.m. PST

Another comment about lots of lead and few hits: I recall various reports during the Vietnam War of US infantry companies engaging in long firefights with NVA troops. The fights would last several hours and end with two guys hit.

Of course, there were other fights where the casualty list was way higher. But lots of lead/few hits was a common event.

deephorse19 Aug 2012 12:41 p.m. PST

I have never seen or heard of someone gaming this battle, not to say they haven't. However, people really should.

I was going to do the Rosebud this November as part of my group's annual extravaganza. However, since we did LBH last year I thought I'd save it until next and do Du Pont's abortive assault on Fort Sumter in April 1863 instead.

So if you can wait a year and a bit ……..

Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP19 Aug 2012 12:46 p.m. PST

I can wait…
For your wargame and the movie. (smile).


DJCoaltrain19 Aug 2012 11:12 p.m. PST

At the time of the Battle of the Rosebud, Crook had 15 companies of cav and 5 of infantry mounted on mules. So he was not slowed by marching infantry. Still, as noted, he did run low on ammo. A lack of fire discipline will cause that. Still, he could have left the infantry behind and pursued with just his cavalry force. By withdrawing he allowed the Indians to fully concentrate at the LBH. Even a lackluster pursuit would have forced the Indians to divert forces from the LBH, and forced them to consider his force in their calculations.

As to the large amount of ammo used, shooting wildly at shadows will have that effect. It's not unusual for soldiers to shoot a lot and hit very little. Also, they would have most likely been using the trapdoor .45-70, a decent rifle/carbine when properly sighted and aimed. However, just putting lead down range won't hurt much of anything important, except by accident.

As to the Indians, research at the LBH has revealed they weren't particularly careful about using the correct caliber ammo in their firearms.

My point being that a lot of shooting could happen w/o a lot of casualties.

Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP20 Aug 2012 11:45 a.m. PST

What about the officers at charge of the soldiers musketry?

Didn't they managed with their orders to keep save the ammo?
(Knowing that each soldier had 100 rounds)

It seems that that battle was "free fire" for all of the US troops?


M C MonkeyDew20 Aug 2012 12:20 p.m. PST

Much of this battle was fought at ranges that would make wargamers cringe. Fire was often being exchanged at 300 yards plus…needless to say without doing much damage to either side.

This was a much more typical "Indian" fight than LBH in every detail but size of the engagement.

Personal logo Ironwolf Supporting Member of TMP20 Aug 2012 2:05 p.m. PST

If your behind a rock and someone a 100 yards away shoots at you a dozen times or less over an hour. More than likely that person is going to report they were under heavy fire.

Also while that person is being shot at, they are not going to spend a lot of time aiming when they shoot back.

So as someone posted above, a man needs to shoot his weight in bullets to hit one person, is more correct than not.

DJCoaltrain20 Aug 2012 4:59 p.m. PST

Tango01 20 Aug 2012 11:45 a.m. PST

What about the officers at charge of the soldiers musketry?

The Indian Wars were not fought using the same tactics as the ACW. Skirmish lines were often used, and what natural cover could be found. The officers were probably just as happy as the troops to keep the Indians as far away as possible.

Didn't they managed with their orders to keep save the ammo?

Using just five rounds per minute means a fire-fight lasting only 20 minutes. One round per minute gets you one hour and forty minutes. When I speak of fire discipline, I refer to the need to shoot only when there is a high probability of hitting the target. Of course, as Ironwolf says, some folks might take it real personal, if someone keeps shooting at your rock. And you might just want to shoot back every so often to let them know you're not dead.

It seems that that battle was "free fire" for all of the US troops?

Considerable freedom was necessary under the fighting circumstances.

Given Crook's understanding of the Indians, I find it incredibly short-sighted to bring only 100 rounds per man.

Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP21 Aug 2012 11:14 a.m. PST

Thanks for your guidance DJCoaltrain!

So, now the only question which remain for me is how the indians managed to had so many ammo for two full battle days!.


John Leahy21 Aug 2012 2:01 p.m. PST

Because the Indian threat was to engage in close combat not firing a lot.

Crook really was subpar on this campaign. Poor scouting, not enough ammo, no attempt at communication with the other columns. Although Gibbon wasn't much better.

The US Army certainly didn't have its A game going.



solosam Inactive Member28 Sep 2012 8:02 a.m. PST

Apologies for reviving a dead thread, but I read something that supports my earlier position that Indians rarely fought with the intent of decisive, "annihilation" battles. Referring to a battle in 1875,

"… Only two soldiers were slightly wounded. Hundreds of shots were fired by both sides, wrote John E. Cox. 'Many people,' explained Cox, 'then and since, did not understand the slight casualties that usually accompanied Indian fighting,' because they did not understand the Indians' concepts and methods of warfare."

Forty Miles a Day on Beans and Hay, Don Rickey Jr. Original citation, "Soldiering," North Dakota History, Vol VI, NO 1 (1931), 64.

-Solo Sam

John Leahy28 Sep 2012 11:02 a.m. PST

Your point is valid. It was the fact that the LBH Campaign was so different in this respect that was a game changer. Crazy horse in particular did his best to make combat focus on killing and not coup counting.



Nasty Canasta Inactive Member19 Oct 2012 5:27 p.m. PST

Read Neil Mangum's "Battle of the Rosebud." Stay away from JW Vaughn. Crook's command brought 150 rounds/man, both cavalry and infantry.

Fire discipline under the screen of black powder smoke will not allow for five-rounds per minute…you won't see squat to adjust your sights, and the Sioux did not sit there in order to accommodate you. If your firing mission allows for two rounds per minute with a clear line of sight then consider yourself fortunate.

As M C LeSingeDew stated on 20 Aug 2012 12:20 p.m. PST
"Much of this battle was fought at ranges that would make wargamers cringe. Fire was often being exchanged at 300 yards plus…needless to say without doing much damage to either side.

This was a much more typical "Indian" fight than LBH in every detail but size of the engagement." He is completely on the mark. You've gotta see it up close.

Crook fought Apache's well but a large scale action on the northern plains seemingly dumbfounded him. His actions on 17 June were reactive, and his Mud and Starvation marches in August/September should have got him booted in the corn-shoot.

The Sioux and Cheyenne may have mustered between 660-750 warriors max, as this is before the bulk of the summer roamers arrived. The talk of more warriors involved at the Rosebud had a two-fold purpose: It exonerates Crook from culpability because he was outnumbered and therefore held his own against them (and the field…for what that's worth), secondly it corresponded with the number of warriors present at LBH. In reality Crook with twice the number of troops that Custer had, could not do what Custer had with half the troops against twice as many Indians.

Look at the quotes from Private Louis Zinzer Company C/2nd Cavalry. Their command was issued with 150 rounds of 45/55 and most of the men in his five-company battalion were down to a "few" rounds each. Crook would claim the loss of 25K in ammunition (the scouts fired that much), but extrapolating Zinzer's company usgaes battalion multiplied by the heaviest battalions engaged equals approximately 80,000 expended in a six-hour engagement. Custer's command fired off or lost approximately 53,000 rounds at LBH. Commands routinely stripped down prior to combat to load themselves down with more ammunition.

Secondly, the Sioux had witnessed the withdrawal of Royall's five company battalion of the 3rd Cavalry mid-morning when Peter Vroom's company was nearly overrun, Custer's five company battalion retreated northwest across similar terrain eight days later at LBH.

Captain Moyles Moylan observed that some of the men of L/7th Cavalry had expended 40 rounds on Calhoun Hill. Many of these rounds were fired at extreme ranges under heavy smoke but many were not. This position put up the most resistance yet fell very quickly.

The five-company battalion of the 4th and 9th Infantry saved Crook's bacon at the Rosebud with their 45/70 rounds which the Sioux just hated. Furrowing the prairie with bullets at 1000 yards still keeps the Sioux 1000 yards away. But the 660-750 kept the strongest column out of the way of the women and children. It did however allow Crook a tremendous ammount of trout fishing northwest of modern-day Sheridan, WY at the same time Custer was getting licked.

Nasty Canasta Inactive Member20 Oct 2012 10:39 a.m. PST

My mistake. not Vroom's company but that of Guy V. Henry.

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