Monday, February 22, 2010
For this we are soldiers...
"Bvt. Col. Guy Henry took a bullet in the head which pierced both cheekbones, smashed his nose, and destroyed one eye, according to journalist John F. Finerty. Nevertheless he somehow remained upright in the saddle with blood gushing from his mouth while he tried to encourage the troops. He was spurring his horse forward to lead a charge when he fainted and toppled to the ground. Finerty saw him later, more or less alive, with a blood-saturated cloth shielding his face from a cloud of flies, and tried to cheer him up.
'It is nothing,' the colonel replied. 'For this we are soldiers.'
Nobody thought he could last the night, and as Col. Henry listened to the mass grave being dug he might have thought the same. If so, he refused to admit it. Capt. Anson Mills, learning that he had been shot, went to visit and inquired if he were badly hurt.
'The doctors have just told me that I must die,' said Col. Henry, 'but I will not.'
They carried him out of the valley feet first on a mule litter, but the poles were too short and occasionally the second mule's head bumped Henry's head. Then they turned him around, which was more comfortable, although at any instant the front mule might kick his brains out.
Capt. Azor Nickerson states that during the retreat one of the litter poles struck a boulder on a mountainside and pitched Col. Henry into some rocks twenty feet below. When they reached him he was unable to speak. They wiped off the fresh blood and dirt and gave him a sip of water. And just how was he feeling? 'Bully!' whispered the half-dead colonel. He insisted he never had felt better and he thanked them all for being so kind.
Plenty Coups thought this was no way to carry a wounded man. A travois would not cause such pain. 'I should have liked to tell the soldiers how to handle their chief, but they did not ask me...'
The colonel's personal account of being shot in the head and his subsequent agony is depreciated to the extent that it sounds ludicrous. The bullet stung, as though he had been slapped, and he did not realize he fell to the ground like a shotgunned mallard - he thought he dismounted and lay down. He must have been dimly conscious because he could remember Sioux warriors charging by, and had it not been for the valiant Shoshone Chief Washakie fighting above his prostrate body he would have been finished off and scalped.
Concerning the trip back, he mentions a detail Finerty missed: a mule did kick him in the face."
- Evan S. Connell
Son of the Morning Star