Not every great military hero was at the top of their class at military school. George Crook graduated 38th out of a class of 43 from the United States Military Academy in 1852. Crook was born to Thomas and Elizabeth Matthews Crook on a farm near Taylorsville, Montgomery County, Ohio (near Dayton). While his classroom career was not exemplary, he was a career United States Army officer, most noted for his distinguished service during the American Civil War and the Indian Wars. During the 1880s, the Apache nicknamed Crook Nantan Lupan, which means “Chief Wolf.”
Crook was commissioned in the 4th Infantry and was first stationed in Northern California, until the outbreak of the Civil War. He was appointed colonel of the 36th Ohio Infantry and they were sent immediately to western Virginia, on September 12, 1861. He was promoted to brigadier general on September 7, 1862…less than a year later. He was put in command of a brigade of regiments from Ohio during the battles of South Mountain and Antietam, both part of the Maryland Campaign. Following that campaign, Crook was given command of a cavalry division in the Army of the Cumberland under General George H Thomas. He commanded that division through the Battle of Chickamauga. Crook was sent back to western Virginia and took part in General Ulysses S Grant’s spring campaign in the spring of 1864. During the campaign, Crook successfully commanded his brigade to victory against Confederate General A G Jenkins at the Battle of Cloyd’s Mountain. Crook was given command of the Department of Western Virginia which later became the VIII Corps under General Philip Sheridan, in August of 1864. Crook commanded his men throughout many of the battles of the Valley Campaign of 1864, including the battles of Third Winchester, Fisher’s Hill, and Cedar Creek. Crook was promoted to major general on October 21, 1864 and returned to the command of his department in Cumberland, Maryland. On February 21, 1865, while located in Cumberland Maryland, General Crook along with General Benjamin F Kelley were captured by a group of Confederate partisans under the command of Captain Jesse McNeill. On March 20, 1865, Crook was freed and placed in charge of a division of cavalry in the Army of the Potomac. He commanded his division until the surrender at Appomattox Court House.
Crook fought successful campaigns during the Indian wars, against several tribes, but later went on to speak out against the unjust treatment of his former Indian adversaries. Crook was considered the Army’s preeminent Indian fighter during the Indian Wars. Even the Indians respected him. He was known to use two Apache scouts, Dutchy and Alchesay in his travels during the Indian Wars as well as his favorite mule, Apache. He died suddenly in Chicago in 1890 while serving as commander of the Military Division of the Missouri. Crook was originally buried in Oakland, Maryland, but in 1898, his remains were transported to Arlington National Cemetery, where he was reinterred. Red Cloud, a war chief of the Oglala Lakota (Sioux), said of him, “He, at least, never lied to us. His words gave us hope.” It was a great tribute.