Although they could be tenacious in defense, Plains Native American warriors took the offensive mostly for material gain and individual prestige. The highest military honors were for "counting coup"—touching a live enemy. Battles between Indians often consisted of opposing warriors demonstrating their bravery rather than attempting to achieve concrete military objectives. The emphasis was on ambush and hit and run actions rather than closing with an enemy. Success was often counted by the number of horses or property obtained in the raid. Casualties were usually light. "Indians consider it foolhardiness to make an attack where it is certain some of them will be killed. " Given their smaller numbers, the loss of even a few men in battle could be catastrophic for a band, and notably at the battles of Adobe Walls in Texas in 1874 and Rosebud in Montana in 1876, the Indians broke off battle despite the fact that they were winning as the casualties were not considered worth a victory. : 20 Decisions whether to fight or not were based on a cost-benefit ratio; even the loss of one warrior was not considered to be worth taking a few scalps, but if a herd of horses could be obtained, the loss of a warrior or two was considered acceptable. : 20 Generally speaking, given the small sizes of the bands and the vast population of the United States, the Plains Indians sought to avoid casualties in battle, and would avoid fighting if it meant losses. : 20
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