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Gall

Chief Gall was born in South Dakota around 1840 and died December 5, 1895. Gall was a large man, well over six feet tall and weighing close to 300 pounds, an accomplished warrior by his teens, and was a chief in his twenties. He obtained his unusual name when, as an orphan, he ate the gall of a slaughtered animal.

Gall had an amiable disposition but was often quick tempered when insulted or when he felt personal injustice. Occasionally this led him to some difficulties, but he usually fought with good cause and was well liked by his people. Gall possessed a keen ability to organize, and this was a leading factor in his leadership abilities while directing actions of others. A prime example of this is when he saved many young inexperienced brave’s lives in the initial stages of the Battle of the Little Big Horn. As Major Reno’s attack almost totally surprised the Sioux on the Little Big Horn, many of the youths were rushing virtually unarmed to meet the attacking troopers. Gall, also caught off guard, rode his horse ahead of the young men and stopped them. As Major Reno’s men fired their powerful Springfield carbines toward them, Gall commanded the anxious young braves to "Hold hard, men! Steady, we are not ready yet! Wait for more guns, more horses, and the day is yours!" Fortunately for the Indian encampments, Gall was obeyed. An organized advance was made shortly afterwards and Major Reno was routed back across the river in an extremely disorganized "retreat" (I think it was a rout but it’s commonly known as Reno’s Retreat so I’ll stick with retreat). Gall's two wives and several children were on the southeast end of the camp, where Major Reno attacked, and were killed. Gall later stated, "My heart was very bad that day.". Chief Gall suspected that the Army’s attack was probably a multi-pronged one (a usual tactic for attacking Indian camps in that era, yet General Custer is frequently singled out for making such a grave "error") and that the other half of the village would be attacked soon. Crazy Horse hearing this, led forces north across the river and engaged General Custer's companies, along with forces led by Chief Gall. In the past two decades Chief Gall has been given increased credit for some of the tactical decisions that helped seal the fate of General Custer at the Battle of Little Big Horn.

Following the crushing defeat of the 7th Cavalry, at the Little Big Horn on June 25, 1876, Gall chose to flee with Sitting Bull into Canada. A feud erupted between the two great leaders and Chief Gall brought his followers back south across the border late in 1880. Gall eventually surrendered on January 3, 1881 at Fort Peck, Montana. Although a US Indian Agent had promised in Canada, they would not be punished when they returned, in the spring they were held as military prisoners (POW’s) at Fort Randall. Gall was finally settled on the Standing Rock reservation in Dakota Territory, and became warm friends with Indian Agent James McLaughlin. Agent McLaughlin believed Gall, along with Red Cloud, were the truly great leaders of their nation. Chief Gall did pose a challenge to Sitting Bull's leadership at the Standing Rock reservation, however he never reached his influence and authority.

Chief Gall became Judge of the Court of Indian Affairs at the reservation, and became friendly toward the white settlers late in life. Gall encouraged his people to assimilate into the white man’s world once they were hopelessly confined on reservations. He lent prestige to the reservation farming programs and was an active supporter of educating Indian children in special schools.

Buffalo Bill made a very determined effort to land Sitting Bull and Gall for his leading attraction. Sitting Bull grudgingly agreed, to the dismay of the Army who remained suspicious of the two great leaders of their nation. Gall refused saying: "I am not an animal to be exhibited before the crowd.". A few years later Chief Gall died on December 5, 1895 at his home on Oak Creek in South Dakota.

 

 

Sketch of Chief Gall

Chief Gall

Chief Gall's gravesite

 

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