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SPANISH LANCE POINT CAPTURED FROM THE LAKOTA SIOUX IN THE MONTHS FOLLOWING THE LITTLE BIG HORN BY GENERAL OSCAR LONG – RECIPIENT OF THE CONGRESSIONAL MEDAL OF HONOR FOR HIS ACTIONS AT THE BATTLE OF BEAR PAW MOUNTAIN:  This large iron lance point is a classic example of the edged weapons brought to the New World by the Spanish explorers, settlers and traders as early as the 1500’s, and these impressive, utilitarian blades continued to be a popular trade item, provided to the Indians on the North American plains in exchange for hides and furs.  While the Sioux remained considerably north of the primary Spanish trading and exploration routes, durable goods such as this point regularly moved north through the trading relationships maintained by the Indians. 

The lance point measures 19” long overall.  The blade measures 12 ½” long and 1 ½” at its widest point.  The socket measures 7 ¼” long, featuring a 1 ½” long brass socket tip.  The socket is 1 ¼” in diameter at the opening, and remnants of the original wooden shaft remain lodged in the socket.  Attached to the lance point is very archaic typed paper tag which reads, 

        “THE SPANISH LANCE.  About the year 1870, Gen’l Oscar Long who was serving with the regular army on the western plains presented the Corps with a head which had been taken from a bison he had killed, and this Sioux Indian Lance, the so called Spanish lance the type used so cruelly by the Sioux and their allies against our troops.” 

I received the lance point with the paper card stack tag attached, as described above.  Due to the wear on the tag, and the degree to which the typing on the tag was beginning to fade, I transcribed the text on the tag for easier reading and enclosed the original tag and the transcription in a plastic protector.  The original tag was manufactured by the Dennison Tag Company.  Research revealed this company obtained a patent in 1863 for a reinforced shipping tag – probably the same type of tag as is attached to the lance point.  

Through the Alumni Association of the United States Military Academy at West Point I was able to obtain a considerable amount of biographical material covering the life of General Long.  

Oscar Fizalan Long was born June 16, 1852 in Utica, New York and entered the Military Academy at West Point in 1872.  During his tenure there, Long’s artistic ability was recognized and in addition to being appointed as an assistant instructor of free hand drawing, he was also responsible for designing the class ring for his Class of 1876.   Long’s artistic talent would surface again later in his career when he designed the now familiar Wagon Wheel, Quill and Key insignia of the Quartermaster Department, still in use today. 

Coinciding with the disaster at the Little Big Horn, the graduation of the Class of 1876 was moved up two weeks and upon graduation, Long waived the furlough to which he was entitled and immediately joined the 5TH Infantry Regiment, then in the field against the Sioux and Cheyenne in the Montana Territory.  Long participated in the battles of Wolf Mountain and Lame Deer Creek against the Sioux as well as numerous scouting expeditions.  In 1877 while participating in the Battle of Bear Paw Mountain, 2ND Lt. Long was “directed to order a troop of cavalry to advance, and finding both its officers killed, he voluntarily assumed command, and under heavy fire from the Indians advanced the troop to its proper position” (CMH citation).  For this act, Lt. Long was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.   

Long enjoyed a long and varied career that included assignments as the 1st Aide-de-camp to General Miles, the Adjutant General of the D.C. Militia, and General Superintendent of the Army Transport Service during the Spanish American War, and registered such accomplishments as making the first official map of Montana, authoring the army’s bicycle drill tactics (although he never learned to ride a bicycle himself), and designing the Quartermaster Department insignia.  General Long retired in July of 1904 and pursued a second career as an executive in the steel and railroad industries.  He died in December of 1928 and is buried in Oakland, California.  

The West Point Museum staff made a concerted effort on my behalf to locate any acquisition files in the archives of the library and museum regarding the items donated by Gen. Long, as is indicated on the tag attached to the lance point.  No records could be located, however during this search the staff informed me that the West Point Museum was relocated in 1988 and in preparation for that move, a considerable amount of material was deassessed from their collections to facilitate the move and the records of that material were purged from their files.  It is likely that it was during this deassession process that the lance point moved into the modern collectors market.  

It is worth noting that the choice of wording in the text typed on the attached tag offers some validation of the stated origin of this lance point.  The text includes, “…presented to the Corps…” rather than referring to West Point.  This reference to the persons, i.e. the “Corps”, rather than the place, i.e. “the Point”, is characteristic of the pre-World War One graduates of the Military Academy.  This unique reference style is poignantly illustrated in the closing words of General Douglas MacArthur’s farewell address at West Point to the Corps of Cadets delivered on May 12, 1962:

    “Today marks my final roll call with you.  But I want you to know that when I cross       the river, my last conscious thoughts will be of the Corps, and the Corps, and the      Corps.”  (Italics added)

Whoever wrote the text on the tag was very familiar with West Point and the Corps of Cadets, and was probably affiliated with the institution in some capacity.   

There is no doubt that General Long was in a position to have collected this lance point during his early assignments in the Montana Territory during any one of the many engagements against the Sioux in which he participated.  The value of this lance point – having originated from the Spanish trade enterprises in the southwest and having been collected from the Sioux in the 1870’s – stands on its own as a significant piece of Western Frontier history.  That it was collected in the months following the Battle of the Little Big Horn from the Sioux who were massed against Custer is documented as well as any artifact from that period to the satisfaction of a reasonable mind.  That it might very well have been carried that fateful day by one of the warriors present as he moved against the soldiers of the 7Th Cavalry is a possibility that ignites the imagination as you hold this massive blade in your hands.  There is no question it is a unique and iconic relic of the American West and one that should reside in a very special collection.  SOLD


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