One of the best known military expeditions led by General George Crook was none other than the Horsemeat March, taking place in 1876. It was sometimes known as the “Mud March” or “Starvation March” because of the treacherous conditions that weren’t limited to the grueling muddy landscape. In addition, the soldiers under Crook’s command were so poorly fed during the march that they were forced to slaughter their own horses in order to find sustenance.
It didn’t stop them from their mission, which was to hunt down a group of Sioux Native Americans who expected fierce fighting in response to the slaughter at the Battle of Little Bighorn, an embarrassing U.S. defeat. It took a full two months before the Sioux were even followed, and they had made up a lot of ground during that time. When Custer and many of his men were killed, the Native Americans took everything they could find. The U.S. army needed a win, and they were hoping that this march–the Horsemeat March–would lead them to that victory. They couldn’t slow down for a single second, or the hunted Native Americans might escape.
A surgeon of the United States Army, Dr. Bennett A. Clements, took the opportunity during the Horsemeat March and Battle of Slim Buttes to report everything he experienced by writing it all down in the form of a diary. It was through this diary that we know what the conditions were like. General Crook was considered peerless among U.S. generals, but in his quest to track down the Native American Sioux, he lost a huge number of his own troops to disease and starvation, a form of medical malpractice.
The march finally ended by September 8th, when troops stumbled upon an Oglala encampment in Slim Buttes, South Dakota.
They didn’t hesitate to strike.
At daybreak on September 9th, about 150 men trampled through the encampment under the command of Captain Anson Mills. This Battle of Slim Buttes resulted in a stunning Native American rout, and resulted in the long-sought American victory.
Crook was able to resupply with an enormous amount of Native American stockpiled dried meat. In addition, about 37 Oglala warriors were either captured and killed.
It wasn’t until later that Crook and his forces finally found the supply train they so desperately needed, but even so, when they found the Lakota they opted to leave them be–the dreaded Horsemeat March had left them far too physically and mentally exhausted to continue the chase.