The Man who Fought against Forty

by James Mallory (Wacet’įmąnįga, "Surly Walker")

"Man-cho-sep-ka [Mącosepka] (Black [Grizzly] Bear) was one of the leaders of the Winnebago scouts in the United States service during the Civil War. In the Black Hills he fought alone against forty Dakota braves and received many wounds. This song was sung in honor of him. Eagle-feathers are worn by braves, and each feather is a war honor given for some valorous deed."

Warrior Song

Howire, giwąwire!
Follow him, call to them!
Rohą t'ehiga,
Many since he killed,
Mąšų wonįjeną!
Feathers he hunts!
Howire, giwąwire!
Follow him, call to them!1

Commentary. "Mącosepka" — this actually means "Black Grizzly Bear," the word mąco referring specifically to grizzlies.

  Gen. Alfred Sully
"the Civil War" — an early expedition by Gen. Sully in Sept. of 1863, mentions no scouts, and left from what is now North Dakota.2 The campaign to which our incident pertains was conducted in 1864. As Lt. Kingsbury, a participant in these events, says in his memoir,

The object of the expedition led by Gen. Alfred Sully in 1864, designated in official orders as the "Northwestern Indian Expedition," but more commonly called Sully's expedition or campaign, was to further chastise the Sioux who had massacred the white immigrants of southwestern Minnesota, and, if possible, to compel their complete submission.3

They had 45 scouts in a total force of 2100 men. Among them were a contingent of Hocąk scouts, as we know from a pictographic record made by one of them showing the fight at Killdeer Mountain.4

"the Black Hills" — an area in South Dakota sacred to a number of plains tribes, but most particularly to the Lakota. After the battle at Killdeer Mountain, the expedition headed through the Badlands.

On the 5th of August we came to the Bad Lands of the Little Missouri river. Gen. Sully had been told by all the guides, excepting one, that it would be impossible to pass through this tract even if we had no wagons. To go around it would require more days than we had rations for. One of the guides, a young Blackfoot, said that a passage could be made, and it was undertaken. ... A brief general description will, perhaps, be necessary to enable those who have not seen these Bad Lands, to understand the difficulties and hardships encountered in passing through them. They consist of a depression or basin,covering an extent of about forty miles, having an average depth of some six hundred feet below the level of the surrounding country, interspersed with buttes whose tops reach the level of the table-lands surrounding the depression. There are many deep and narrow cañons, having no confirmed general direction and forming a bewildering labyrinth, in which one not familiar with the country must inevitably soon be lost. Gen. Sully described these lands in very terse language as "hell with the fires put out."5

The guide who led them through the Badlands is called "Blackfoot," although it is remotely possible that he was not a Siksika, but a member of the Blackfoot (Sihasapa) band of the Lakota. The Sioux were re enforced, and engaged in guerilla warfare, but without much effect. The expedition was now nearly at the foot of the Black Hills.

On arriving at the Little Missouri river, which runs through the Bad Lands, dividing them about equally, we found a narrow valley in which were frequent thickets and meadows. The latter were covered with plentiful grass, and the water in the river was excellent. Altogether this valley seemed to us a veritable paradise, and men and animals made the most of it. However, we were not to enjoy it long, for the Indians, having been reinforced, became more bold and in fact, through the guides, dared us to fight. They confined their operations to endeavors to pick off men who were out grazing their horses, and to stampeding our stock. A few horses were lost.6

The force then moved into the hills, which we now call the "Black Hills." Here they had quite a fight.

On our leaving the valley and entering the hills beyond, the Indians made an attack in force, but with the same results as previously, notwithstanding that they had the advantage of position on the buttes above us, while we were often in single file, extending our column for miles. The attacks continued until we were well out of the hills, when the Indians suddenly disappeared and were not seen again. In this fight it was afterward learned from the Indians that there were from seven to eight thousand braves. The number of the Indians killed, as was estimated, exceeded three hundred, with about seven hundred wounded. Our loss was nine killed, and one hundred wounded.7

For a scout, the chances of getting into a fight with a large force were a great deal higher than they were for soldiers in the main column, since the scout were no doubt dispersed into the hills to establish the disposition and strength of the enemy. It was no doubt in this context that Mącosepka found himself alone and surrounded by a large force of Sioux (Dakota/Lakota). Such incidents were the ill-fortune that a lone scout might well expect to suffer.

"forty" — 40 is a very round number, four being the number of completion, and ten being the base, decimal number. What is meant is merely that he fought against a great many enemy warriors, not that forty is a precise count. It should be noted that the same was said of Little Priest in his fight against the Lakota.

"Dakota" — it is not perfectly clear that these were (Santee) Dakota; they may have been Teton Lakota.

"Howire, giwąwire" — this is the best sense that I can make out of Ho-wi lo-ki-wa-wi-le, which Curtis has translated as, "Follow him, mount your horses."

For more on the Sully Campaign, see The Heart River Fight as Recorded in a Pictograph by One of the Hocąk Scouts.

Comparative Material. ...

Links: ...

Stories: about famous Hocąk warriors and warleaders: How Little Priest went out as a Soldier, Little Priest's Game, The Masaxe War (Hogimasąga), Wazųka, Great Walker's Warpath (Great Walker), Great Walker's Medicine (Great Walker, Smoke Walker, Dog Head, Small Snake), Šųgepaga (Dog Head), The Warbundle Maker (Dog Head), Black Otter's Warpath (Dog Head, Black Otter), The Shawnee Prophet — What He Told the Hocągara (Smoke Walker, Dog Head, Small Snake), Big Thunder Teaches Cap’ósgaga the Warpath (Big Thunder, Cap’ósgaga), The Osage Massacre (Big Thunder, Cap’ósgaga), The Fox-Hocąk War (Cap’ósgaga), The Origin of Big Canoe's Name, White Thunder's Warpath, Four Legs, Yellow Thunder and the Lore of Lost Canyon, The Hills of La Crosse (Yellow Thunder), The Blessings of the Buffalo Spirits, Fighting Retreat, Mitchell Red Cloud, jr. Wins the Medal of Honor (Mitchell Red Cloud, jr.), How Jarrot Got His Name, Jerrot's Temperance Pledge — A Poem, Jarrot's Aborted Raid, Jarrot and His Friends Saved from Starvation, They Owe a Bullet (Pawnee Shooter); about the (post-Columbian) history of the Hocągara: The Cosmic Ages of the Hocągara, The Hocągara Migrate South, The Annihilation of the Hocągara I, Annihilation of the Hocągara II, First Contact, Origin of the Decorah Family, The Glory of the Morning, The First Fox and Sauk War, The Fox-Hocąk War, The Masaxe War, The Shawnee Prophet and His Ascension, The Shawnee Prophet — What He Told the Hocągara, Black Otter's Warpath, Great Walker's Medicine, Great Walker's Warpath, The Chief Who Shot His Own Daughter, How Little Priest went out as a Soldier, Little Priest's Game, The Spanish Fight, The Origin of Big Canoe's Name, Jarrot's Aborted Raid, They Owe a Bullet, Origin of the Name "Milwaukee," A Waterspirit Blesses Mąnį́xete’ų́ga, Origin of the Hocąk Name for "Chicago"; mentioning the Sioux (Šąhą): The Sioux Warparty and the Waterspirit of Green Lake, Origin of the Name "Milwaukee," Little Priest's Game, Berdache Origin Myth, Great Walker's Warpath, Potato Magic, The Masaxe War, White Flower, First Contact (vv. 2-3), The Omahas who turned into Snakes, The Love Blessing, Run for Your Life, The Scalping Knife of Wakąšucka, Introduction.

Themes: a Hocąk warrior single handedly fights an overwhelming enemy force (taking at least one enemy head or scalp): The Warbundle Maker, How Little Priest went out as a Soldier (Arapaho), Little Priest's Game (Sioux), Big Thunder Teaches Cap’ósgaga the Warpath (Osage), The Osage Massacre (Osage), Fighting Retreat, The Scalping Knife of Wakąšucka.

Songs: Bladder, Song about the Older Brother (v. 2), Bladder, Song about the Older Brother (v. 3), Buffalo Dance Songs, Clan Songs, Bear Clan, Clan Songs, Bear Clan, Song for Returning, Clan Songs, Bear Clan, Song for Starting Out, Clan Song, Bear Clan, Song of the Youngest, Clan Songs, Buffalo Clan, Clan Songs, Buffalo Clan, The Four Songs of Hojanoka, Clan Songs—Deer Clan, Clan Songs—Wolf Clan, Clan Songs—Wonáǧire Wąkšik Clan, The Crawfish's Song, Duck Song, Farewell Songs, The Four Services Songs, Grandfather Sparrow's Rain Songs, Grizzly Bear Songs, Hare's Song to Grasshopper, Hare's Song to the Wągepanįgera, Hare's Song to Wildcat, Hawk's Song, Heroka Songs, Holy Song, Holy Song II, Little Fox's Death Song, Little Fox's Death Song (for the Warpath), Little Fox's Tail Song, Love Song (female), The Mouse Song, Nightspirit Songs, The Quail's Song, Redman's Song, Slow Song of the Heroka, Soldier Dance Songs, Song for Calling the Buffalo, Song from the Water, Song from the Water (King Bird), The Song of Bluehorn's Sister, Hocąk Text — The Song of Sun Caught in a Net, The Song of the Boy Transformed into a Robin, Song of the Frog to Hare, Song of the Thunder Nestlings, The Song of Trickster's Baby, Song to Earthmaker, The Song to the Elephant, The Sun's Song to Hare, Three Warrior Songs, Turtle's Call for a Warparty (v. 1), Turtle's Call for a Warparty (v. 2), Turtle's Four Death Dance Songs, Twins, Ghost's Song (v. 1), Twins, Ghost's Song (v. 2), Twins, Ghost's Song (The Two Brothers), Twins, the Songs of Ghost and Flesh, Twins, Song of the Father-in-Law, Victory Song, Wailing Song, What a Turtle Sang in His Sleep, Wolf-Teasing Song of the Deer Spirits.


1 Natalie Curtis Burlin, The Indians' Book: an Offering by the American Indians of Indian Lore, Musical and Narrative, to Form a Record of the Songs and Legends of Their Race (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1907) 259.

2 "Further Details of Gen. Sully's Battle with the Sioux," dateline, Winnebago Agency, Dacotah Territory, Sept. 11, 1863. New York Times, Oct. 18, 1863.

3 Lieutenant David L. Kinsbury (1842-1913), "Sully's Expedition against the Sioux in 1864." Read at the monthly meeting of the Executive Council, December 14, 1896. Minnesota Historical Society Collections. 449-462 [449].

4 "Pictographic History of Battle of Hard River Showing General Sully's Soldiers and Winnebago Scouts Fighting Sioux's Battle; Horses, and Topography Depicted 1864 Drawing/Pictograph," in "Battle between General Sully's company of soldiers and Winnebago scouts, and the Sioux (Dakota), at "Hard River" (Heart River?), 1864." Manuscript 5967, National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution.

5 Kinsbury, "Sully's Expedition against the Sioux in 1864," 457.

6 Kinsbury, "Sully's Expedition against the Sioux in 1864," 458.

7 Kinsbury, "Sully's Expedition against the Sioux in 1864," 458.