This Cheyenne war chief was a contemporary of Dull Knife. He was
not so strong a character as the other, and was inclined to be
pompous and boastful; but with all this he was a true type of
native American in spirit and bravery.
While Dull Knife was noted in warfare among Indians, Roman
Nose made his record against the whites, in defense of territory
embracing the Republican and Arickaree rivers. He was killed on
the latter river in 1868, in the celebrated battle with General Forsythe.
Save Chief Gall and Washakie in the prime of their manhood,
this chief had no peer in bodily perfection and masterful
personality. No Greek or Roman gymnast was ever a finer model of
physical beauty and power. He thrilled his men to frenzied action
when he came upon the field. It was said of him that he sacrificed
more youths by his personal influence in battle than any other
leader, being very reckless himself in grand-stand charges. He was
killed needlessly in this manner.
Roman Nose always rode an uncommonly fine, spirited horse, and
with his war bonnet and other paraphernalia gave a wonderful
exhibition. The Indians used to say that the soldiers must gaze at
him rather than aim at him, as they so seldom hit him even when
running the gantlet before a firing line.
He did a remarkable thing once when on a one-arrow-to-kill
buffalo hunt with his brother-in-law. His companion had selected
his animal and drew so powerfully on his sinew bowstring that it
broke. Roman Nose had killed his own cow and was whipping up close
to the other when the misfortune occurred. Both horses were going
at full speed and the arrow jerked up in the air. Roman Nose
caught it and shot the cow for him.
Another curious story told of him is to the effect that he had
an intimate Sioux friend who was courting a Cheyenne girl, but
without success. As the wooing of both Sioux and Cheyennes was
pretty much all effected in the night time, Roman Nose told his
friend to let him do the courting for him. He arranged with the
young woman to elope the next night and to spend the honeymoon
among his Sioux friends. He then told his friend what to do. The
Sioux followed instructions and carried off the Cheyenne maid, and
not until morning did she discover her mistake. It is said she
never admitted it, and that the two lived happily together to a
good old age, so perhaps there was no mistake after all.
Perhaps no other chief attacked more emigrants going west on
the Oregon Trail between 1860 and 1868. He once made an attack on
a large party of Mormons, and in this instance the Mormons had time
to form a corral with their wagons and shelter their women,
children, and horses. The men stood outside and met the Indians
with well-aimed volleys, but they circled the wagons with whirlwind
speed, and whenever a white man fell, it was the signal for Roman
Nose to charge and count the "coup." The hat of one of the dead
men was off, and although he had heavy hair and beard, the top of
his head was bald from the forehead up. As custom required such a
deed to be announced on the spot, the chief yelled at the top of
"Your Roman Nose has counted the first coup on the
longest-faced white man who was ever killed!"
When the Northern Cheyennes under this daring leader attacked
a body of scouting troops under the brilliant officer General
Forsythe, Roman Nose thought that he had a comparatively easy task.
The first onset failed, and the command entrenched itself on a
little island. The wily chief thought he could stampede them and
urged on his braves with the declaration that the first to reach
the island should be entitled to wear a trailing war bonnet.
Nevertheless he was disappointed, and his men received such a warm
reception that none succeeded in reaching it. In order to inspire
them to desperate deeds he had led them in person, and with him
that meant victory or death. According to the army accounts, it
was a thrilling moment, and might well have proved disastrous to
the Forsythe command, whose leader was wounded and helpless. The
danger was acute until Roman Nose fell, and even then his
lieutenants were bent upon crossing at any cost, but some of the
older chiefs prevailed upon them to withdraw.
Thus the brilliant war chief of the Cheyennes came to his
death. If he had lived until 1876, Sitting Bull would have had
another bold ally.
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Room | Indian
Heroes And Great Chieftains