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    Historic Autograph Letter Signed by Luther P. Bradley, 5pp., 5" x 7.75", dated September 8, 1877 - just three days after Crazy Horse's death - and is without question the finest and most historically accurate account of the controversial events surrounding his tragic death. An eloquent writer, Bradley pens in full: "My dear sweet Mother, I have had it in mind ever so long to write to you, but have been pretty busy all along with the care and troubles of my Indians. The last week has been a little bit like old times with the collecting of troops and preparation for fighting: but fortunately we were spared the fighting and only two have come to grief, two poor Indians, the famous warrior and Chief Crazy Horse and one of his men. Today is the first one in this month that hasn't been loaded with care and apprehensions and I feel now a good deal as I used to after one of our big battles, very much fatigued and very much relieved too. When Crazy Horse came in last spring he surrendered. Said he had got through fighting and even kneeled at Gen. Crook's feet in token of submission. He had not been here long though before he manifested ill humour and discontent and as the summer progressed he has shown hostile feelings though he had been treated fairly and justly and with uniform kindness. After the rumor was published that Sitting Bull had returned to our territory Crazy Horse became more uneasy than ever and told us he did not intend to stay with us, that he had never agreed to stay at any Agency and that he intended to take his band away. This led to the movements of troops and friendly Indians that caused the breaking up of his village and it led to his own death. After he was captured at Spotted-Tail and brought here I told him and his friends that no harm would be done to him, but that he was a prisoner and would be confined and it was in resisting confinement that he got his wound. As soon as it was reported to me that he was badly hurt, I ordered him placed in the Adjutant's Office and the surgeons took care of him till he died. So ended the life of a noted Indian. He was not a great man in any sense, he was a distinguished warrior, but he was a blood-thirsty wily savage. His Father said to the Doctor after his death that he had killed thirty seven men and women besides what he had killed in battle and this is Indian glory. Crazy Horse's death will be regretted by many of his people of course, but the Chiefs are glad of it for they say he was a fire-brand. Personally I am sorry that he should have come to his death in this way, for it would have been more fitting for a warrior and a man of war to meet his death in battle. He was sure to die a violent death though, at sometime for I don't believe he could have lived without the excitement of war. Singularly enough, he always told his people that he should never die while the sun shown, meaning that he should not be killed in battle and he was right for he died at mid-night. Everything is quiet here now, indeed, more quiet that it was last week. Don't let Jane be anxious. I don't' think we shall have any more trouble. Kiss my dear Wife for me and give love to Charlie. Your loving Son, General."

    Celebrated for his ferocity in battle, Crazy Horse was recognized among his own people as a visionary leader committed to preserving the traditions and values of the Lakota way of life. When the War Department ordered all Lakota bands onto their reservations in 1876, Crazy Horse became the most visible leader of the resistance. Closely allied to the Cheyenne through his first marriage to a Cheyenne woman, he gathered a force of 1,200 Oglala and Cheyenne at his village and turned back General George Crook on June 17, 1876, as Crook tried to advance up Rosebud Creek toward Sitting Bull's encampment on the Little Bighorn. After this victory, Crazy Horse joined forces with Sitting Bull and on June 25 led his band in the counterattack that destroyed Custer's Seventh Cavalry, flanking the Americans from the north and west as Hunkpapa warriors led by chief Gall charged from the south and east.

    Following the Lakota victory at the Little Bighorn, Sitting Bull and Gall retreated to Canada, but Crazy Horse remained to battle General Nelson Miles as he pursued the Lakota and their allies relentlessly throughout the winter of 1876-77. This constant military harassment and the decline of the buffalo population eventually forced Crazy Horse to surrender on May 6, 1877; except for Gall and Sitting Bull, he was the last important chief to yield.

    Even in defeat, Crazy Horse remained an independent spirit, and in September 1877, when he left the reservation without authorization to take his sick wife to her parents, General George Crook ordered Bradley to have him arrested, fearing that he was plotting a return to battle. Crazy Horse did not resist arrest at first, but when he realized that he was being led to a guardhouse, he began to struggle, and while his arms were held by another Lakota (reportedly Little Big Man), a soldier ran Crazy Horse through with a bayonet. He died later that evening, as Bradley states in this important, contemporary account of his capture and death.

    Despite Bradley's biased view of Crazy Horse's stature, his own words suggest the conspiracy among his own people that led to his death at the hands of a lowly U.S. army private, who bayoneted him in the kidneys.

    In this letter, Bradley relates that Worm [Crazy Horse's father] had stated to the post doctor that his son killed "thirty-seven men and women besides what he had killed in battle", to which Bradley remarks with a tinge of sarcasm, "and this is Indian glory." Yet the assistant post surgeon, Dr. V.T. McGillycuddy, said of the ill-fated Sioux leader "In him everything was made a second to patriotism and love of his people. Modest, fearless, a mystic, a believer in destiny, and much of a recluse, he was held in veneration and admiration by the younger warriors who would follow him anywhere... I could not but regard him as the greatest leader of his people in modern times."

    Also included with this piece is a companion A.L.S. by Bradley, written to his mother and dated December 7, 1874, regarding his meeting with a number of Sioux and Cheyenne leaders on the plains in 1874. "Dear Mother Your letter came just before I got back from my trip to the Agencies, and has been resting on my desk 'till I got over a little _____. I judge from your letters that your winter house is not very gay, but I hope it will be comfortable, and reasonably pleasant... I returned from the agencies on the 19 of Nov., was away about a fortnight. Prof. Marsh went over with me as far as Red Cloud, where he left for the fossil beds in the Red Sands, and I went on to Spotted-Tail. We had a pleasant time, altogether, but it was very cold, just before reaching home, between White-River and the Platte, it was so cold that I froze my toes slightly. Capt. Mix froze his face, and Lieut. Hay his ears, though we were all well clad. Travelling over these high divides with the necessary belonging, and one of our western winds blowing in your face is about as trying word as I want to do. I saw lots of the Sioux and Cheyennes at the Agencies, and had long and interesting talks with the Chiefs. Among the men of note who came to see me were 'Spotted-Tail' - 'Red-Cloud' - 'Man-Afraid-of-his-Horses' - 'Red-Leaf' - 'Pretty-Bird' - 'Sitting-Bull' - 'Horse-Rears' - 'Red-Dog' - 'Yellow-Leg' - 'Two-Strike' - 'Little-Wound' - 'Smoke' - and 'Boy-Chief'... Red-Cloud remembered me and spoke of the time we were righting each other on the Big-Horse in /67 & 8. Spotted-Tail is the smartest of any of these Sioux Chiefs, and a man of undoubted ability, he equals any of Coopers Indians in appearance and character. I have great respect for him, for he maintains his self respect and authority like a Chief. When I was returning from Camp Sheridan, Spotted-Tail sent work to me from his village and asked that I would meet him with some of his principal men on the Bordeaux. We had a smoke and an hours talk about Indian matters, the old Chief said he was the friend of the whites and wanted to live in peace with him, and that if we would help his people they would like to settle down and live like the whites, he asked my advice about a good many things, and said he would do as I told him. We parted very good friends, and he said he was glad to see me, for I didn't threaten to fight him, but talked like a friend..."

    An excellent pairing of letters dating from the Plains Indian wars in the late 1870s, with an important contemporary account of the death of the great Sioux leader, Crazy Horse. Both in fine condition.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    April, 2007
    16th-17th Monday-Tuesday
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