The Battle Of Wounded Knee: Myth Versus Reality

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Arts (D.A.)


The Battle of Wounded Knee was fought on December 29, 1890, between the Seventh United States Cavalry and a band of Miniconjou Sioux Indians. Beginning as early as 1891, accounts of the conflict began to appear in print, and since that time books and articles discussing Wounded Knee in some manner have continued to be published on a regular basis. Much of the information contained in these writings over the past ninety years is contradictory as well as inaccurate.In drawing any conclusions about the Battle of Wounded Knee, one needs to understand and appreciate the nature of the perpetuated myth. Most writers have taken liberties with their interpretation of the events surrounding the battle, and some of these have presented total fiction. The majority of the writings deals in half-truths and misinformation gleaned from earlier accounts believed to be reliable. Among the major misconceptions of the battle that have become standard assumptions are: (1) The Indians were unarmed or virtually unarmed; (2) The Hotchkiss guns immediately opened fire on the Indian camp at the beginning of the battle; (3) The Seventh Cavalry was seeking revenge for Custer and the Little Bighorn; (4) Many, most, or all of the Seventh Cavalry's casualties were the result of their own crossfire; (5) Wounded Knee was a massacre involving the wanton killing of innocent women and children.Only a handful of authors on Wounded Knee conducted any systematic research. Second and third-hand accounts are of questionable reliability, as are first-hand accounts that have been tempered by thirty, forty, or fifty years. The purpose of this treatise is to analyze the voluminous amount of written sources on Wounded Knee in order to illustrate the development of nearly a century of misconceptions. While it would be inaccurate to say that all published material on the battle is discussed, my extensive research has provided me with at least ninety-five per cent of all the material published on the battle between 1891 and 1980.


History, United States

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