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The battle of the Wounded Knee took place on 29th December 1890. The battle involved thousands of US soldiers and Lakota Sioux Indians, and it occurred in an area known as the Wounded Knee Creek located in South Western Dakota (Gitlin, 2011). It happened on the eve of Chief Sitting Bull's death after an attempted arrest.
Battle of the Wounded Knee is one of the most irrational wars in history because it involved a troop of US military against native Indians living in one of the most impoverished communities of America at the time (Roscigno, et al., 2015). It was an ambush because Sioux Indians were performing the ghost dance, which was a religious practice and the Americans felt threatened and took the action to massacre them for an unjust cause.
Areas of operation (water, terrain)
There was a stable river through which clean water flew. It provided a natural division between the bison on the west and the eastern woodlands. There are signs of grazing land on the flat ground where US soldiers and Indians camped, and the hill where the massacred Indians were buried after the battle is still a dominant part of the scene (Gitlin, 2011). Moreover, there is a cemetery behind a church present on the scene, and it is operational up to date.
Comparing the antagonists
As mentioned earlier, the battle involved Lakota Sioux Indians and the United States' military troops. The US army troops consisted of over five thousand army officers that were equivalent to almost a quarter of the fighting strength of the entire US army. They were up against an unarmed and untrained group of Indian religious dancers (Anderson, 2016).
The US military was more organized due to the exemplary leadership skills possessed by their leaders, and they also had better command, control and communication techniques thus they were able to corner the Sioux to agree and turn themselves in at Pine Ridge, a US agency in South Dakota. At this agency, the 7th cavalry disarmed them ensuring they complied by their imposed rules. In the process of disarming the Sioux, a deaf tribesman was reluctant to surrender his rifle because he could not hear and this is where the battle began (Gitlin, 2011). The few Sioux warriors who had not abandoned their weapons started shooting but since the cavalry was well equipped, more trained and had more advanced technology, thy fired haphazardly killing men, women and their children including some of their troop members. In the process, some Sioux survived, and they tied to flee, but the more advanced logistical system utilized by the cavalry helped them to pursue the Sioux and killed most of them.
The battle characterized the poor condition and morale of Indians as compared to the US because so many Sioux members were killed because they were not in a capacity to fight considering there were thousands of women and children. Also, before the conflict could be controlled, over 450 men and women died, and substantial property had been destroyed in Minnesota because the Sioux were not as well organized as their opponents (Anderson, 2016). The numerous Dakota casualties were also a result of Lakota's low intelligence in battle because they followed their custom of withdrawing the dead and wounded warriors from the battlefield.
Mission and disposition of the opposing forces
By 1890, Indians in Wounded Knee were desperate because they had no food thus they embraced the ghost dance, a spiritual restoration intended to revive them. This is a clear indication that their sole mission was to bring revival to their distressed community (Anderson, 2016). However, the US authorities felt threatened by this movement as they interpreted it to be a war dance; thus they decided to end it. The US authorities arrested chief sitting Bull of Lakota Sioux with a mission of cracking down the ghost dancers.
Description of the action
On 29th December 1890, US military troops cornered the Sioux to turn themselves in and surrender their weapons, but the 7th Cavalry ambushed them with the intention of disarming them to ensure they complied with their rules (Gitlin, 2011). In the process, a deaf man did not surrender his weapon thus angering the cavalry, and amidst the confusion, someone fired a shot. To defend themselves, Sioux members who still had their guns started firing, and the chaos escalated fast as the cavalry began firing in all directions killing women, men, and children as well as some of their men. In the end, 25 US troopers and more than 300 men, women and children the Sioux had died (Anderson, 2016).
Significance of action
Cause and effects
The Lakota Sioux members had already surrendered to the US military at Knee Creek when someone fired a shot and broke the entire war. Nobody knows who fired the shot for sure, but at the end of it, all over 300 Lakota Sioux had been killed (Anderson, 2016). The effects of this battle include: burned Catholic Church foundation, more than 16,000 Indians are against AIM, law and order breakdown in Dakota and an increased murder rate among others.
The main lesson derived from this battle is that it was not a battle but a massacre because a robust United States army went against untrained and unarmed men, women, children and the elderly (Gitlin, 2011). The US government illegally ambushed Lakota Sioux for exercising their religious rights just because they could quickly get away with it.
Anderson, G. C. (2016). American Carnage: Wounded Knee, 1890 by Jerome A. Greene.
Gitlin, M. (2011). Wounded Knee Massacre. ABC-CLIO.
Roscigno, V., Cantzler, J., Restifo, S., & Guetzkow, J. (2015). Legitimation, state repression, and the Sioux Massacre at Wounded Knee. Mobilization: An International Quarterly, 20(1), 17-40.
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