Red Cloud was born in 1822. At the age of 16 he took his first scalp during a raid on the Pawnee tribe. Soon afterwards he killed a Crow chief. He developed a reputation as a courageous but cruel warrior and in one raid on a Pawnee village killed four men. He also scalped a member of the Ute tribe in another raid. Red Cloud also killed Bull Bear, a notorious leader of Koya tribe. In 1854 Red Cloud took part in the Grattan Massacre near Fort Laramie.
In 1865 Red Cloud played a major role in the Plains War. This included the attack at Platte Bridge in July, 1865. After a series of such attacks Red Cloud, now the chief of the Oglala Sioux, began negotiating with the army based at Fort Laramie about the decision to allow emigrants to settle on the last of the great Sioux hunting grounds. When he was unable to reach agreement with the army negotiators he resorted to sending out war parties that attacked emigrants and army patrols. These hit and run tactics were difficult for the army to deal with and be the time they arrived on the scene of the attack the war parties had disappeared.
On 21st December, 1866, Captain W. J. Fetterman and an army column of 80 men, were involved in protecting a team taking wood to Fort Phil Kearny. Although under orders not to "engage or pursue Indians" Fetterman gave the orders to attack a group of Sioux warriors. The warriors ran away and drew the soldiers into a clearing surrounded by a much larger force. All the soldiers were killed in what became known as the Fetterman Massacre. Later that day the stripped and mutilated bodies of the soldiers were found by a patrol led by Captain Ten Eyck.
Red Cloud and his men continued to attack soldiers trying to protect the Bozeman Trail. On 2nd August, 1867, several thousand Sioux and Cheyennes attacked a wood-cutting party led by Captain James W. Powell. The soldiers had recently been issued with Springfield rifles and this enabled them to inflict heavy casualties on the warriors. After a battle that lasted four and a half hours, the Native Americans withdrew. Six soldiers died during the fighting and Powell claimed that his men had killed about 60 warriors.
Despite this victory the army was unable to successfully protect the Bozeman Trail and on 4th November, 1868, Red Cloud and 125 chiefs were invited to Fort Laramie to discuss the conflict. As a result of these negotiations the American government withdrew the garrisons protecting the emigrants travelling along the trail to Montana. Red Cloud and his warriors then burnt down the forts.
The following year Red Cloud arrived at Fort Laramie and demanded his people should be given food. He also became involved in trading with the people living in the fort.
In May 1870 Red Cloud was taken to Washington to talk to senior members of the American government. However, at these meetings he refused to accept the proposal for his people to live on a reservation in Missouri. He also visited New York. Eventually he agreed to live at Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.
Red Cloud died on the Pine Ridge on 10th December, 1909.