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NEWS | Feb. 12, 2024

First Native American Medal of Honor recipient served in the Nebraska National Guard

By Staff Sgt. Sherri Maberry 105th Military History Detachment

Throughout the settling of the western half of the United States, there were many conflicts with the indigenous people of certain areas. In the summers of 1868 and 1869, hostile native tribes of the Cheyenne, Sioux and Arapaho began a series of raids on the settlements of Kansas and Nebraska.  Of these, the Cheyenne "Dog Soldiers" were the most active in the region. Many homes and goods were destroyed or captured. Captives were also taken, often as war trophies and for forced labor.

The United States Army was called upon for help. As the Dog Soldiers were in the territory of the Department of the Platte, it was up to Nebraska and Gen. Christopher C. Augur to respond. Augur issued orders to create the Republican River Expedition comprising the 5th Cavalry under the leadership of Gen. Eugene Carr. Three companies of Pawnee Scouts were included in the expedition. The Pawnee Scouts were volunteer citizen soldiers and are part of what is now known as the Nebraska National Guard.

At first, Carr was reluctant to have the Pawnees serving under his command, but he soon realized the knowledge and experiences that they brought to the expedition. One such Pawnee was Co-rux-te-chod-ish, or Mad Bear, who holds the distinction of being the first Native American recipient of the Medal of Honor and the second Nebraska National Guard member to receive one. The Medal of Honor is the highest award a soldier can receive in the Army as well as the oldest.

According to the muster rolls of that time, Co-rux-te-chod-ish was 28 years old when he joined the Republican River Expedition which means he was born circa 1841. However, his gravestone says that he was born in 1847 which would have made him about 22 upon enlistment. Either way, he enlisted in Columbus, Nebraska, on June 10, 1869, as a sergeant for a five-year enlistment.

His main duties as a Pawnee Scout were to scout ahead of the main body looking for fresh trails or sightings of hostile Dog Soldiers. On July 5, while on such a scouting mission, Maj. William Royall, the officer in charge, and a group of scouts, including Co-rux-te-chod-ish, spotted twelve Dog Soldiers. Without waiting for orders, the Pawnees immediately attacked. Co-rux-te-chod-ish killed two of the Dog Soldiers. Three nights later, on July 8, the soldiers were camped when they were attacked by Dog Soldiers. Co-rux-te-chod-ish, ran out in front of the rest of the cavalry as well as many other Pawnee Scouts, attempting to overtake a Dog Soldier who had been thrown from his horse.

Because he was so far ahead of the rest of the troops, he was accidentally shot and wounded by a fellow soldier. The wound was not serious, but he would be convalescing in an ambulance when the rest of the expedition discovered and attacked the main body of Dog Soldiers at what is now called the Battle of Summit Springs.

Carr wrote in his final report that Co-rux-te-chod-ish deserved special mention for his actions both the night he was wounded and “also for killing two of those killed by [Major] Royall’s command.”

Augur mentions him specifically in General Order No. 48: “Gen. Carr commends the cheerful readiness and good conduct generally of all the officers and men of the 5th Cavalry, and also of the Pawnee Scouts, under Maj. North. He mentions especially the bravery and gallant conduct of Corporal John Kyle, Co. M, 5th Cavalry, and of Sergeant Co-rux-te-chod-ish (Mad Bear) of the Pawnee Scouts.” Congress awarded Co-rux-te-chod-ish the Medal of Honor on August 24, 1869. The official citation reads, “Ran out from command in pursuit of a dismounted Indian; was shot down and badly wounded by a bullet from his own command.”
After the Battle of Summit Springs, the men scouted the area for more hostile Dog Soldiers, but as the summer turned to fall, there was little activity, so the expedition received orders on Oct. 23, 1869, to return to Fort McPherson. Maj. Frank North, commander of the Pawnee Scouts, received orders to return to the Pawnee reservation. The Pawnees were mustered out of service at the Pawnee Agency on Nov. 10, 1869.

On Feb. 28, 1870, the State of Nebraska adopted a resolution thanking Carr and the 5th Cavalry, but specially thanked the Pawnee Scouts: “RESOLVED, That the thanks of this body and the people of the state of Nebraska, are hereby also tendered to Major Frank J. North and the officers and soldiers under his command of the ‘Pawnee scouts’ for the manner in which they have assisted in driving hostile Indians from our frontier settlements.”
The Indian Wars lasted from 1865 to 1877, but there is no known record that Co-rux-te-chod-ish joined the Army again, though there were numerous other campaigns involving Pawnee Scouts. He died on Feb. 12, 1913, at around 65-70 years of age, and is buried in Oklahoma. It is believed that his Medal of Honor was buried with him.