Born in 1840, Gall rose to become a Hunkpapa Sioux war chief. He, along with Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse, and others fought and defeated the US 7th Cavalry under Lt. Colonel George Armstrong Custer at the Battle of Little Big Horn on June 25-26, 1876.
Born to conflict
The early life of Gall found him occupied as a fearless warrior. He became a factor in the politics of war as early as the 1863-64 Minnesota Uprising. The Minnesota Sioux were defeated and routed from their homelands, then pursued westward by Brig. Gen. Henry H. Sibley and Brig. Gen. Alfred Sully. Upon entering the western lands of their kinsmen, the Sioux of that area took up the cause of their brethren. Battle was joined by Sitting Bull and Gall in the Battle of Kildeer Mountain (1864), followed by an attack on a wagon train a few weeks later. Gall continued his resistance when he refused to accept the Treaty of 1868, requiring his confinement to a reservation. He had become a chief lieutenant of Sitting Bull, a senior Sioux war chief.
Gall was instrumental in evicting encroaching US business interests from the Powder River territory in 1872. He, along with Sitting Bull, attacked a military group providing protection to surveyors for the Northern Pacific Railroad seeking to map a route through the territory. The detachment, under the leadership of Colonel David S. Stanley, repulsed the force with their Gatling guns. The military force along with their surveyor charges retreated to Fort Rice on the Missouri river. Gall, far from being defeated, followed the column and picked off 3 members who foolishly went off to hunt on their own. One of the victims was 2nd Lt. Lewis Dent Adair, a first cousin to the wife of President Ulysses S. Grant. Gall taunted the occupants of the fort, prominently displaying 2 of the scalps on a nearby hillock.
The following year Lt. General Philip H. Sheridan mounted a force of over 1,500 troops to answer the audacity of Gall and Sitting Bull. It was these and other conflicts which led up to the Battle of Little Bighorn.
In large part due to the resistance of Sitting Bull, the Sioux had been ceded a large part of western South Dakota, including the Black Hills which were regarded as sacred ground by the Sioux. Also part of the land cession was the Powder River territory in Wyoming. In 1874 gold was discovered in the Black Hills, creating immediate pressure upon the government to force the eviction of the Sioux. The natives were given until January 31, 1876 to retreat to their respective Indian agencies, no other options being extended. Most of the Indians did not comply with the government ultimatum.
General Philip Sheridan organized a three pronged attack on the Indian forces, who had assembled near the Little Bighorn River in present day eastern Montana. Gall and his encampment were the first group attacked by a force under Major Marcus Reno. Gall's family was killed in the assault. Learning of the death of his family, Gall set out for revenge. He led a counter assault on Reno, forcing their retreat. Continuing to lead the Indians, Gall eventually won the day with the utter and complete annihilation of Custer and his detachment of the 7th Cavalry. The battle was the last great Indian victory in the long running war against the encroachment of American settlers.
The list of dead at the Battle of Little Bighorn included 242 enlisted men and 16 officers. Some Army units retreated and survived, most notably those under Major Reno and Captain Benteen.
Following Little Bighorn
Following the battle of Little Bighorn, the US government increased pressure on the Sioux and other native American tribes to surrender and move onto the reservations. Sitting Bull and Gall crossed into Canada, escaping the wrath of the Army. The Canadian government was not hostile initially to their presence. After 4 years of their exile the herds of buffalo were diminishing. These same herds was also the sustenance for tribes native to Canada. This forced friction between the Canadian tribes and the interloping Sioux.
Gall and Sitting Bull were in conflict, with Gall wishing to return to the US and surrender while Sitting Bull insisted on continued resistance. Sitting Bull denounced Gall, thus enraging his long time lieutenant. Gall defected, taking a major portion of the Sioux along with him. He surrendered in January 1881 at Poplar Creek, Montana.
Gall became a spokesman for his people, helping them to understand and assimilate into their circumstances. In 1889 he became a judge in the Court of Indian Offenses at the Standing Rock Agency. He also occupied himself with farming. Gall died in 1894 at the age of 56 at Oak Creek, near the Standing Rock Agency.