12 Things to Know About Crazy Horse

Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Crazy Horse, or Ta-Sunko-Witko, was a legendary warrior and Lakota Oglala leader who defended Oglala land and helped defeat General George Armstrong Custer at the Battle of the Little Bighorn. “We preferred our own way of living,” Crazy Horse reportedly said. “We were no expense to the government. All we wanted was peace and to be left alone.” Learn more about the Lakota war chief.

1. “CRAZY HORSE” WAS NOT HIS FIRST GIVEN NAME.

Born around 1840 to Lakota parents, Crazy Horse was originally named Cha-O-Ha, or Among the Trees. (His mother, however, insisted on calling him “Curly.”) When Cha-O-Ha reached maturity, he was given the name held by his father and grandfather—Ta-Sunko-Witko, or Crazy Horse.

2. HE RAN AWAY WITH A MAN’S WIFE AND WAS SHOT IN THE FACE ...

In the 1860s, Crazy Horse fell in love with a married woman named Black Buffalo Woman and convinced her to run away with him. When her husband found out, he chased down the lovers and attempted to shoot Crazy Horse. Thankfully, just before the man pulled the trigger, Crazy Horse’s close friend, Touch the Clouds, knocked the gun upward. Instead of hitting Crazy Horse in the chest, the errant bullet hit him in the jaw.

3. ... AND THEN PROMPTLY FELL IN LOVE WITH ANOTHER WOMAN.

After Crazy Horse was shot, a woman named Black Shawl was sent to help him heal. Once again, Crazy Horse fell in love. They married and had a daughter, who died when she was a toddler.

4. HE GOT HIS FIRST TASTE OF BATTLE THANKS TO A WANDERING COW.

In 1854, a loose cow wandered into a Lakota camp in present-day Wyoming. The cow did not last there long: Somebody killed it, butchered it, and shared the meat among the community. Shortly after, Lieutenant John Lawrence Grattan and 29 U.S. troops arrived at the camp with the intention of arresting whoever “stole” the cow. Eventually, they shot and killed the Lakota chief, Conquering Bear. In response, the Lakota killed all 30 soldiers. A young Crazy Horse saw it all, and the event stoked his distrust of white people.

5. AFTER THE MASSACRE, CRAZY HORSE WENT ON A VISION QUEST.

It was common for young men of the plains tribes to seek visions, which were something like instructions to fulfilling one’s destiny. After refusing to eat or drink for four days, Crazy Horse began to see visions from another world: He learned that if he lived simply and refused war trophies, and adopted an ethos of simplicity, he would never be harmed in battle. With only one exception, it’s said that Crazy Horse was never injured in ensuing wars.

6. CRAZY HORSE'S GREATEST BATTLES WERE PROMPTED BY AMERICA'S LUST FOR GOLD.

The U.S. government broke many of the treaties it signed with Native Americans because it was hungry for gold. In 1863, explorer John Bozeman blazed a trail to Montana's gold fields through Sioux, Cheyenne, and Arapahoe territory that an 1851 treaty made off-limits to whites. Tensions rose. In 1864, Colorado militiamen murdered more than 200 peaceful Cheyenne, the majority of whom were women and children. In the years following, Native American tribes began seeking revenge against white soldiers who failed to respect treaties.

On December 21, 1866, Captain William Fetterman led about 80 men from Wyoming's Fort Phil Kearny, a large garrison built to protect white emigrants and gold seekers. Crazy Horse planted decoys along their route. Fetterman’s men followed—and rushed into the grips of 1000 hiding warriors. All of the U.S. soldiers were killed. (The Americans called it the Fetterman Massacre, but the Lakota called it the Battle of the Hundred-in-the-Hands.)

7. A BROKEN TREATY BROUGHT CRAZY HORSE AND CUSTER INTO CONFLICT.

The 1868 Treaty of Fort Laramie declared that the Black Hills of South Dakota belonged to the Sioux, but the agreement was broken just six years after it was signed—all because prospectors had discovered gold in the region. In 1874, the government sent General George Armstrong Custer to lead a surveying party there. When the Sioux wouldn't sell these lands, the government ordered them onto smaller reservations, which the Native Americans refused. These events would lead to Crazy Horse’s greatest battles.

8. HIS LEADERSHIP AT THE BATTLE OF ROSEBUD SPELLED CUSTER'S DOOM.

In 1876, the U.S. Department of War ordered all Lakota onto reservations. Crazy Horse refused. Instead, he led 1500 Lakota and Cheyenne warriors in a battle against Brigadier General George Crook, whose men were attempting to approach Hunkpapa Lakota chief Sitting Bull’s encampment at Little Bighorn. The battle was a strategic victory for Crazy Horse: It sent Crook's army packing and deprived George Custer’s Seventh Cavalry of much-needed reinforcements. Had Crazy Horse failed, the Battle of the Little Bighorn, which followed shortly after, may have turned out differently.

9. HIS PERFORMANCE AT THE BATTLE OF THE LITTLE BIGHORN WAS LEGENDARY.

And we mean legendary—nobody is sure what, exactly, Crazy Horse did. But there are rumors. An Arapaho warrior named Water Man said Crazy Horse “was the bravest man I ever saw. He rode closest to the soldiers, yelling to his warriors. All the soldiers were shooting at him, but he was never hit.” Another Native American soldier said, “The greatest fighter in the whole battle was Crazy Horse.”

10. HE WAS STARVED INTO SURRENDERING.

After the Battle of the Little Bighorn, two of the battle’s primary leaders—Sitting Bull and Gall—left for Canada. Crazy Horse remained in America. It was a life-changing decision. At the time, Colonel Nelson A. Miles was hellbent on forcing all Native Americans onto reservations, and through the winter of 1876 and 1877, Miles hit the Lakota where it hurt: Buffalo herds were decimated, and the winter became especially hard for Crazy Horse’s people. After a long period of cold and hunger, Crazy Horse surrendered. He was sent to a reservation at Fort Robinson, Nebraska.

11. HE WAS STABBED TO DEATH.

In September 1877, Crazy Horse left the reservation without permission. (His wife had become ill and he had attempted to take her to her parents.) Fearing that the warrior might return to battle, General Crook ordered him arrested. During his arrest, Crazy Horse struggled, and a soldier thrust a bayonet into his body. It was a fatal blow. As Crazy Horse bled, he was offered a cot, but he turned it down. He died on the floor.

12. IF COMPLETED, THE CRAZY HORSE MEMORIAL COULD BE THE WORLD'S LARGEST SCULPTURE.

Under construction since 1948, the Crazy Horse Memorial was commissioned by Henry Standing Bear, the Oglala Lakota chief in the late 1930s, as a response to Mount Rushmore. Today, the memorial—built by a non-profit that refuses government funding—is still incomplete. When it is finished, the monument carved into the side of South Dakota’s Thunderhead Mountain will stand 563 feet high.

Take Advantage of Amazon's Early Black Friday Deals on Tech, Kitchen Appliances, and More

Amazon
Amazon

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

Even though Black Friday is still a few days away, Amazon is offering early deals on kitchen appliances, tech, video games, and plenty more. We will keep updating this page as sales come in, but for now, here are the best Amazon Black Friday sales to check out.

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Instant Pot/Amazon

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Apple/Amazon

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9 Things Invented By Accident

These sugary summer treats were an accidental invention.
These sugary summer treats were an accidental invention.
Daniel Öberg, Unsplash

Not every great invention was created according to plan. Some, in fact, were the result of a happy accident. In November 2020, the pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca announced that the COVID-19 vaccine it had developed in partnership with Oxford University was 90 percent effective when administered in a dosing regimen they had discovered thanks to some “serendipity.” This wasn't the only unintentional discovery in history, of course. From penicillin to artificial sweeteners, all nine of the everyday items below were invented entirely by accident.

1. Penicillin

On September 28, 1928, Scottish scientist Alexander Fleming discovered that a petri dish of staphylococcus bacteria that had been inadvertently left out on the windowsill of his London laboratory had become contaminated by a greenish-colored mold—and encircling the mold was a halo of inhibited bacterial growth. After taking a sample and developing a culture, Fleming discovered that the mold was a member of the Penicillium genus, and the rest, as they say, is history.

2. Corn Flakes

The two Kellogg brothers—Dr. John Harvey Kellogg and his younger brother (and former broom salesman) Will Keith Kellogg—worked at Battle Creek Sanitarium in Michigan, where John was physician-in-chief. Both were strict Seventh-day Adventists, who used their work at the sanitarium to promote the austere dietary and moralist principles of their religion (including strict vegetarianism and a lifelong restraint from excessive sex and alcohol) and to carry out research into nutrition, and the impact of diet on their patients. It was during one of these experiments in 1894 that, while in the process of making dough from boiled wheat, one of the Kelloggs left the mash to dry for too long and when it came time to be rolled out, it splintered into dozens of individual flakes. Curious as to what these flakes tasted like, he baked them in the oven—and in the process, produced a cereal called Granose. Some later tinkering switched out the wheat for corn, and gave us corn flakes.

3. Teflon

Polytetrafluoroethylene—better known as PTFE, or Teflon—was invented by accident at a DuPont laboratory in New Jersey in 1938. Roy Plunkett, an Ohio-born chemist, was attempting to make a new CFC refrigerant when he noticed that a canister of tetrafluoroethylene, despite appearing to be empty, weighed as much as if it were full. Cutting the canister open with a saw, Plunkett found that the gas had reacted with the iron in the canister’s shell and had coated its insides with polymerized polytetrafluoroethylene—a waxy, water-repellent, non-stick substance. Du Pont soon saw the potential of Plunkett’s discovery and began mass producing PTFE, but it wasn’t until 1954, when the wife of French engineer Marc Grégoire asked her husband to use the same substance to coat her cookware to stop food sticking to her pans, that the true usefulness of Plunkett’s discovery was finally realized.

4. Slinky

In 1943, naval engineer Richard T. James was working at a shipyard in Philadelphia when he accidentally knocked a spring (that he had been trying to modify into a stabilizer for sensitive maritime equipment) from a high shelf. To his surprise, the spring neatly uncoiled itself and stepped its way down from the shelf and onto a pile of books, and from there onto a tabletop, and then onto the floor. After two years of development, the first batch of 400 “Slinky” toys sold out in just 90 minutes when they were demonstrated in the toy department of a local Gimbels store in 1945.

5. Silly Putty

At the height of World War II, rubber was rationed across the United States after Japan invaded a number of rubber-producing countries across southeast Asia and hampered production. The race was on to find a suitable replacement—a synthetic rubber that could be produced inside the U.S. without the need of overseas imports, which eventually led to the entirely unexpected invention of Silly Putty. There are at least two rival claims to the invention of Silly Putty (chiefly from chemist Earl L. Warrick and Scottish-born engineer James Wright), both of whom found that mixing boric acid with silicone oil produced a stretchy, bouncy rubber-like substance that also had the unusual ability of leaching newspaper print from a page (an ability that changing technology has now eliminated).

6. Post-It Notes

Pexels, Pixabay

In 1968, a 3M chemist named Dr. Spencer Silver was attempting to create a super-strong adhesive when instead he accidentally invented a super-weak adhesive, which could be used to only temporarily stick things together. The seemingly limited application of Silver’s product meant that it sat unused at 3M (then technically known as Minnesota Mining & Manufacturing) for another five years, until, in 1973, a colleague named Art Fry attended one of Silver’s seminars and struck upon the idea that his impermanent glue could be used to stick bookmarks into the pages of his hymnbook. It took another few years for 3M to be convinced both of Fry and Silver’s idea and of the salability of their product, but eventually they came up with a unique design that worked perfectly: a thin film of Spencer’s adhesive was applied along just one edge of a piece of paper. After a failed test-market push in 1977 as Press ’N Peel, the product went national as the Post-It note in 1980.

7. Saccharin

In 1878 or '79 (sources differ), Constantin Fahlberg, a chemist studying the properties of oxidized coal tar at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, discoveredwhile eating his meal one evening that food he picked up with this fingers tasted sweeter than normal. He traced the sweetening effect back to the chemical he had been working with that day (Ortho-sulfobenzoic Acid Imide, no less) and, noting its potential salability, quickly set up a business mass producing his sweetener under the name Saccharin. Although quickly popular (and equally quickly controversial), it would take the sugar shortages of two World Wars to make the discovery truly universal.

8. Popsicles

The first popsicle was reportedly invented by 11-year-old Frank Epperson in 1905, when he accidentally left a container of powdered soda and water, with its mixing stick still inside, on his porch overnight. One unexpectedly cold night later, and the popsicle—which Epperson originally marketed 20 years later as an Epsicle—was born.

9. Safety glass

Safety glass—or rather, laminated glass—was accidentally discovered by the French chemist Édouard Bénédictus when he knocked a glass beaker from a high shelf in his laboratory and found, to his surprise, that it shattered but did not break. His assistant informed him that the beaker had contained cellulose nitrate, a type of clear natural plastic, that had left a film on the inside of the glass. He filed a patent for his discovery in 1909, and it has been in production (albeit in various different forms) ever since.