Custer, Smoke Signals and Hollywood

At the time of the massacre of Custer and the 7th Frank Grouard read smoke signals in the sky and reported a battle was going on and the Indians were winning.

General Crook had sent Lt. F. W. Sibley and twenty-five men to locate the Indians. Frank Grouard and Big Bat Puerrier led the troopers. Sibley, recently out of West Point, was told by Crook  to do whatever Grouard said, but Sibley still would not believe a group of Indians could win a battle against the army.

So did Smoke Signals really convey messages or was it something Hollywood made up?

Maybe more Hollywood than fact. But if you can see much smoke from an Indian campfire it would indicate they were not worried about anyone seeing it-therefore all is well. I have books in my personal library that explain how to build a smoke signal box to send real, American Indian smoke signals. I think this may be more modern day Boy Scouts than Indians. Smoke may have been used as a predetermined signal, such as, If you see smoke keep away or come on in, but I doubt any tribes had any real Morse code of smoke signals.

This means when Grouard saw the big smoke he knew the Indians were celebrating, a guess, maybe, but an educated and correct one by a truly great scout.

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