the charge of crazy horse
fort laramie, 1864
2013, oil, 44"h x 68"w
The Sioux were angry and up in arms at the advance of the American hunters, miners and emigrants who left the Oregon Trail and followed the more recently blazed Bozeman Trail, north through Sioux hunting grounds and sacred homelands. The continuous incursions by the advancing American population that began in the early 1860s caused a rising conflict with the Sioux tribes that would last for over fifteen years and culminate with Little Bighorn and Wounded Knee.
Crazy Horse's Oglala branch had been embroiled in clashes around Fort Laramie since 1862. Frustration and resentment, provoked by the failures of "talk and treaties," was the basis for an incident that took place in the summer of 1864. With a band of forty warriors, Crazy Horse, emblazoned with painted hail stones, lightening streaks and the body of a sparrow hawk on his head, led a daring surprise charge right through the Parade Grounds at Fort Laramie!
This completely unexpected rush of thundering horses and screaming war cries sent the fort into utter bedlam. The unnerved soldiers were incapable of action in this momentary chaos as men bolted, and horses and pack mules broke free from their restraints. These animals, and all the loose stock that had been grazing nearby, were driven off by the advancing Sioux and claimed as haughty trophies of war.
Zhuo's composition is a symphony of carefully selected components that are eloquently emblematic of the event. The cannon directs the eye and symbolizes the explosiveness of the charge. The warriors seem to ride directly out of the storm clouds behind them and into the storm of their own making. A military cap lies of the grounds as a symbol of confusion and haste as soldiers scramble for horses and weapons, as the flag flies over this wild scene