Mr. Sedivy's History
Historical Figures Architecture



US Flag

Mr. Sedivy's
History Classes:

More Features:

Site Search
History QuotesHumor
Submit Links/Info
LinksWhat's New?
Shop for Stuff



Highlands Ranch High School - Mr. Sedivy
Highlands Ranch, Colorado

Colorado History

- Colorado History -
The Cheyenne Social Club

Cheyenne War Parties and Battle Tactics

Raiding Parties
Small private raiding parties were out either to take horses or to get a scalp for revenge for the death of a friend or relative. If the main objective was horses they would sneak into camp at night. If its scalps they were after, they prefered to come across lone travelers.

Battle Tactics
It has been often said that Indians at war are a howling, unorganized mob, each man for himself. This is not true in general, and certainly not true of the Cheyennes. The tactics for battle were carefully planned by the leaders, and when faithfully carried out often resulted in success. The Cheyennes did not aim for total victory, but for glory. Set battles were therefore avoided, and the tactics were those of stealth, surprise, and maneuver. If the enemy was alerted, they withdraw and tried another time.

Horse Raids
When the enemy camp was found for the purpose of a horse raid and circumstances were favorable, at night when the camp was asleep, they crept down and took whatever horses they could. It was the work of the older men to go through camp, cut loose the more valuable horses which were tied in front of the lodges and lead them out. The horses taken by each man belonged to him.

When the people of the plundered camp discovered that their horses had been taken, a force of perusers set out to overtake the raiders. Sometimes they succeeded in doing this; more often they failed. Those who were driving the horses had so many fresh animals to choose from that they had the distinct advantage over those following them, each of whom had only a single horse to ride in pursuit.

Upon their return, a man who had preformed a deed of noteworthy bravery would be sent out to ride ahead of the line. The whole camp would come out a short way from the village and welcome them. They would most likely dance all night, and perhaps keep dancing for two days and two nights.

Death of a Cheyenne Warrior
When a war party lost men and came in sight of the village, they would signal their loss by waving robes the same number of robes as men that had been killed. If a member of the war party was killed, his companions left him on the ground on the battlefield unburied. The Cheyenne warrior wished to be killed, if at all, on the broad level plains, where everyone could see him. When he died he did not wish to be covered by earth, but preferred to lie on the ground where the birds and animals would devour his body, and his remains might be scattered far and wide.

The quality most highly esteemed among the Indians of the plains was courage. It has been said the most notable achievement of an Indian was the taking of the scalp. This simply is not true. Among the Plains tribes, to kill an enemy was good so far as it reduced the numbers of the hostile party, but otherwise the act was regarded as relatively unimportant.

Hunter scalped by the Cheyenne
A US officer and a frontiersman examine the corpse of a hunter scalped by Cheyennes. (The Indian revenge for Sand Creek was so bloody that 8,000 troops were pulled from the Civil War and sent west.)

Likewise to scalp an enemy was not a notable feat and in no sense especially creditable. If scalped, the skin of the head was taken merely as a trophy, something to show, something to dance over, a good thing, but no great importance. However, to touch the enemy with something held in the hand, or with the bare hand, was proof of bravery - a feat which entitled the man or boy who did it to the greatest credit.

When an enemy was killed, each of those nearest to him tried to be the one to reach and touch him, usually by striking the body with something held in the hand. Those who followed raced up and struck the body. Anyone who wanted could take the scalp.

Count Coup
The biggest credit was to the man who could first touch a fallen enemy. The Cheyennes bravest act was to count coup on - to touch or strike - a living, unhurt man and to leave him alive. This was frequently done.

Cases are often told of where, when the lines of two opposing tribes faced each other in battle, some brave man rode out in front of his people, charge upon his enemy, ran through their line, struck one of them, and then turning and riding back, joined his own party.

It was evidence of bravery for a man to go into battle carrying no weapon that could harm at a distance. It was more creditable to carry a lance than a bow and arrows; a hatchet or war club than a lance; and the bravest thing of all was to go into a fight with nothing more than a whip, or a long twig- called a coup stick.

The Cheyennes counted coup on an enemy three times; that is to say, three men might touch the body and receive credit, according to the order in which this was done. The Arapahoes touched four times. When the Cheyennes were allied with the Arapahoes (which they often were) during a fight a total of seven coups could be counted, causing great confusion during the battle.

Yellow Shirt
Odd things happened in conjunction with the practice of counting coup. The case of Yellow Shirt is a good example:

In the great battle that took place on Wolf Creek in 1838, between the allied Kiowa, Comanches, and Apaches, on the one hand, and the Cheyennes and Arapaho on the other, coup was counted on Yellow Shirt, a Kiowa, nine times. When the charge was made on the Kiowa camp, Yellow shirt was fighting on foot and was touched three times, but not seriously injured.

Later, he reached his village, mounted a horse, came out to fight, and was touched three times on horseback. Almost immediately afterward his horse was killed and his leg broken, and he sat on the ground still fighting by shooting arrows, and was again touched three times and killed.

Pawnee Ghost Dancer's Shirt
Pawnee Ghost Dancer's Shirt

Pawnee Warrior
A Pawnee warrior after a victory, with hands painted on his chest as a sign that he
had killed an enemy in hand-to-hand combat.

So in all coup was counted nine times on Yellow Shirt, all of which were allowed. In another case coup was counted nine times on a Pawnee, who was not killed and finally got away.

The Cheyenne Social Club:
| A Cheyenne War Story: Wolf Road, the Runner |
| Cheyenne Traditions and Beliefs, Sacred Stories |
| Horses, Warriors, War Pipe, Sweatlodge Ceremony |
| Cheyenne War Parties and Battle Tactics |
| The Scalp Dance and Other Cheyenne Dances |

Back to the top of page

- Colorado History In Depth -
Lecture Notes, Reading, and Information:

| The Cheyenne Migration to Colorado |
| The Gratlan Affair, Massacre, Fort Laramie Treaty |

Fort Union
| The Sante Fe Trail and Fort Union |
| Sumner - Ninth Military Department / The First Fort Union |
| Early Arrivals to Fort Union, Daily Life at Fort Union |
| Captain Grover - The New Fort Union, the Confederate Threat |
| Fort Union Arsenal, William Shoemaker, End of Fort Union |

Americans from the East
| Thomas Jefferson, the Louisiana Purchase |
| The Expedition of Zebulon Pike |
| Pikes Peak or Bust / Colorado Gold Rush |

Colorado's Role in the US Civil War
| The Civil War, Fort Wise / Fort Lyon |
| Mace's Hole, Colonel Canby, F.C.V.R. | Fort Weld |
| The Pet Lambs, John Chivington |
| General Henry Sibly, Battle of Valverde, Fort Union |

Cripple Creek District Labor Strikes
| The Western Federation of Miners / State Militia |
| The 1893 - 1894 Strike | The Strike of 1903 - 1904 |
| The Mine Owners Association |
| Crimes and Military Rule in the Cripple Creek District |
| Marshall Law in Cripple Creek District / End of the Strike |
Early Cripple Creek District
| Photos, Fire, and Life in Cripple Creek |
| Other Colorful Towns in the Cripple Creek District:
Gillett - Colorado's Only Bullfight, Victor, Independence
| A Guide to the Miners' Gritty Lingo |

More Colorado History Information
| Bent's Fort Photos, Personalities, Plans, and More |

| What Was Easter Like at Bent's Fort? |
| Colorado Trivia, Miscellaneous Old Photos,
Western Personalities, Forts, and More

| Lullabies for Jittery Cows - Cowboy Ballads |
| Heraldry of the Branding Iron |
| Project Aims to Clear Infamous Cannibal, Alferd Packer |
Lead Gives Alferd Packer's Story More Weight |
| Legendary Colorado Love Stories: Baby Doe Tabor & More |
| Colorado Pioneer Women: Elizabeth Byers |
| Early Denver Jokes / The History of April Fools' Day |

Back to the top of page



Highlands Ranch High School 9375 South Cresthill Lane Highlands Ranch, Colorado 80126 303-471-7000

Mr. Sedivy's History Classes
| Colorado History | American Government | Advanced Placement Modern European History | Rise of Nation State England | World History |
| Home | Back to the top of page | Site Contents |