The U.S. Army's Sioux Campaign of 1876: Identifying the Horse as the Center of Gravity of the Sioux
ARMY COMMAND AND GENERAL STAFF COLL FORT LEAVENWORTH KS
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During the first half of 1876 the Army conducted three expeditions against the Sioux and Cheyenne Indians. The results of these three expeditions were the first expedition destroying a small village, the second expedition being defeated in a meeting engagement, and the third expedition suffering the annihilation of five companies. The results lead to questioning the Armys focus on attacking and destroying villages as the primary target of their expeditions. If the Army had a complete understanding of the Sioux they would have realized that the hub of all power or center of gravity of the Sioux was the horse, which every major aspect of Sioux life was augmented and dependent upon. The first three expeditions of the Sioux Campaign of 1876 demonstrate that senior Army commanders planned their campaigns, expeditions, and organizations around their knowledge of Sioux mobility, the primary source of power for the Sioux warrior was mobility gained from the horse, Army forces could not bring their advantage in firepower to bear on Sioux warriors. Army commanders understood the mobility of the Sioux village and their warriors, but they failed to take the next step--challenging the old assumption that attacking villages and using a strategy of exhaustion was the correct way to subdue the Sioux. Instead, Army forces should have concentrated their attacks on center of gravity of the Sioux--the horse.
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