James Kennington – Captain, United States Army

James Kennington of Ireland

  • Private, Corporal, Sergeant and First Sergeant, Company K, 2nd United States Infantry and Commissary Sergeant, 1st Battalion, 11th United States Infantry, 20 October 1851 to 3 December 1862
  • Second Lieutenant, 11th United States Infantry, 26 November 1862
  • First Lieutenant, 5 May 1864
  • Unassigned 14 April 1869
  • Assigned to 14th United States Infantry, 31 December 1870
  • Captain, 10 December 1873
  • Retired 15 June 1887
  • Brevetted First Lieutenant, 13 December 1862 for gallant and meritorious services in the Battle of Fredericksburg, Virginia, and Captain, 13 March 1864 for general good conduct in the field.
  • Died 22 April 1897

Henry Rowan Lemly was serving as officer of the guard and in command of Troop E of his regiment on the fatal day of September 5, 1877. He was thus in close proximity to all that transpired in the crowded parade ground area of Camp Robinson as plans unfolded to lock Crazy Horse in the guard-house, prior to transporting him east. Just days after the event, Lemly's anonymous report of what happened appeared in the New York Sun of September 14, 1877:

Taking Crazy Horse by the hand, Captain [James] Kennington led him unresistingly from the adjutant's office into the guardhouse, followed by Little Big Man, [who] now became his chief's worst enemy. The door of the prison room was reached in safety, when, discovering his fate in the barred grating of the high windows, the liberty-loving savage suddenly planted his hands against the upright casing, and with great force thrust himself back among the guards, whose gleaming bayonets instantly turned against him. With great dexterity he drew a concealed knife from the folds of his blanket, and snatched another from the belt of Little Big Man, turning them upon Captain Kennington, who drew his sword and would have run him through but for another Indian who interposed. Crazy Horse had advanced recklessly through the presented steel, the soldiers fearing to fire, and gaining the entrance he made a leap to gain the open air. But he was grappled by Little Big Man.

A struggle between the powerful Little Big Man and Crazy Horse followed, with the knife accidentally piercing Crazy Horse “who sank in a doubled-up posture upon the ground outside the door.”

Writing of this event in 1914, Lemly revised the cause of the great warrior's death: “Crazy Horse gained the door of the building and, with another leap, fell upon the ground outside, pierced through the groin and abdomen by the bayonet of one of the guard.


This cause of death is in conformity with the generally accepted view of most historians as to how Crazy Horse died. The earlier account differed from this since, as Lemly recalled in 1914, it was “unofficially sought to be conveyed; but while I did not actually see the stroke, the conversation by members of the guard, which I overheard, convinced me that Crazy Horse was killed by a thrust from a bayonet.” There then followed an occurrence every bit as harrowing as the Rosebud battle, when, “as if with a single click, thirty carbines were cocked and aimed at us by as many mounted Indians, who had formed a semi-circle around the entrance to the guard-house.(17) Fortunately for all concerned, the soldiers were able to diffuse the situation, partially by assuring the Sioux that Crazy Horse was “ill” since most had not actually seen what proved to be the fatal bayonet thrust. Later, they spread the story that he had accidentally stabbed himself, a deception echoed by Lemly in his newspaper article. In the aftermath of the stabbing, Lemly was in charge of the dying prisoner and could only watch as the efforts of Dr. Valentine McGillycuddy proved futile in saving his life. The tragic occurrence ended with death of Crazy Horse in the adjutant's office, when, “in a weak and tremulous voice, he broke into the weird and now famous Sioux death-song.


  • DATE OF DEATH: 04/22/1897
  • BURIED AT:   SITE 728

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