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Cabinet Card of Edward Casey, KIA, the final casualty of the Indian Wars
Cabinet Card of Edward Casey, KIA, the final casualty of the Indian Wars! Shot in the head by Lakota Indian "Plenty Horses" on January 7, 1891. Pach Bros. NY photographers b/m.

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On January 7, 1891, Lt. Edward Casey and a small detachment of his Cheyenne scouts rode up to the outskirts of the main Lakota encampment along the White River in the Pine Ridge Sioux Reservation. Four thousand Lakota were in the camp, including 1,000 warriors, and Casey had gone there to begin the process toward peace. Plenty Horses, as a Lakota who spoke perfect English, was sent out, with a group of warriors, to meet with him. They spoke amicably for nearly an hour and Casey then asked if he could enter the camp and speak with Red Cloud, the group’s principal chief and leader. A messenger was sent to Red Cloud and he returned saying that the chief advised against it, and indeed told Casey to leave immediately as his life was in danger from angry young warriors.

Accounts differ as to what happened next; Plenty Horses insisting that Casey said he would leave but be back with many soldiers to capture Red Cloud, and others saying that Casey only said he would leave as asked and come back later. Regardless, as Casey, a man beloved by the Cheyenne nation, turned to go, Plenty Horses raised his Springfield rifle and fired a bullet that ran straight and true right through Casey’s skull. One wonders what went through his mind as he fell from his horse and hit the hard Dakota prairie.

In the aftermath, Plenty Horses was tracked down and arrested by a group commanded by Gen. Nelson Miles. He was placed on trial and skillfully defended with a strategy that focused on whether he was any more guilty than the U.S. soldiers who had gunned down hundreds of Lakota at Wounded Knee. Rather than admit their own culpability, they allowed Plenty Horses to be acquitted.

Lt. Edward Wanton Casey was escorted home as a fallen hero by Cpl. John B. Murray, who had been stationed with him at Fort Keogh. A detachment from the “General Silas Casey Camp #7, Sons of Veterans of Wickford” attended the funeral given at the Casey Farm graveyard.