Skip to main content Skip to Search Box
Summary Article: Crook, George
from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

US general. He served under the Union general Philip Sheridan in the American Civil War (1861–65), and took part in the destruction of the Shenandoah Valley, Virginia. Made a major general, Crook played an active part in the Plains Wars, defeating the American Indian Paiute in Oregon and the Apaches in Arizona 1865–71. During the US Army campaign in Montana that culminated in the Battle of the Little Bighorn on 25 June 1876, he was one of the three generals ordered to converge on the Plains Indians, but was defeated by the Sioux chief Crazy Horse at the Battle of the Rosebud on 17 June and forced to withdraw. He later fought the Apache chief Geronimo in Arizona from 1882, accepting Geronimo's short-lived surrender in March 1886, but was forced to resign when the Apache renewed their campaigns.

Early career Crook was born in Ohio and was a military officer for the whole of his adult life. He graduated from West Point Military Academy in 1852 at the age of 23. He served under Sheridan in the Union army of the northern USA in the Civil War, rising from captain in 1861 to major general by 1865. Crook was involved in the wholesale destruction of the Shenandoah Valley when the entire valley was laid waste as a warning to the Confederates. By the end of the war Crook was already a well-known general. He went on to establish a fearsome reputation as a fighter against the American Indians in the Plains Wars. Between 1865 and 1871 Crook was sent on missions against the American Indians. First he defeated the Paiute in the Northwest around Oregon, and then went to Arizona where he defeated the Apaches.

Battle of the Rosebud, 1876 In 1876 General Sheridan planned his campaign against the Sioux, Cheyenne, and Arapaho camped in the old hunting grounds of the Powder River country, west of the Black Hills of South Dakota. Gold had been discovered in the Black Hills in 1874, and the US government had ordered the Plains Indians of the area back to their reservations in order to protect the gold miners. Generals Crook and Alfred Terry and Col John Gibbon were each given command of a column and ordered to converge on the Powder River country. Crook led his 1,000 soldiers out of Fort Fetterman in Wyoming Territory northwards towards the American Indians who were camped at the time on Rosebud Creek. On 17 June 1876 Crook's column was attacked on the upper Rosebud by 1,500 American Indian warriors led by the Oglala Sioux chief Crazy Horse. Crook lost 90 men killed or wounded, and was forced to retreat back towards Fort Fetterman. His role in the campaign was over. Gibbon and Terry, unaware of Crook's defeat, moved towards the American Indian encampment, now on the Little Bighorn River, but Terry's 7th Cavalry, under the command of Lt-Col George Custer, reached the camp first and fought alone at the Battle of the Little Bighorn on 25 June.

Later action Crook's military reputation was not badly damaged by the defeat on Rosebud Creek, and he continued to receive major commands. His last important command was from 1882 in the war against the Apache chief Geronimo in Arizona and New Mexico. He inflicted regular military victories on the Apache and in March 1886 Geronimo surrendered briefly to Crook. However, Crook was unable to contain the Apaches from relaunching their campaigns from the mountains and was forced to resign his command to General Nelson ‘Bear Coat’ Miles. Geronimo was finally captured in August 1886.

© RM, 2018. All rights reserved.