Attacks on the Plains (1868-69)
- Early in the year 1868, the Indians showed a determination to keep up
hostilities. The desire of the government to hold a big peace conference
Laramie in April had been communicated to all the Indian tribes
during the winter. The hostile bands had signified their willingness to
come to the conference; however, they were in no hurry to do so, and
events proved that they were not acting in good faith. A condensation of
the records of the War Department for the month of March that year
showed the real condition up to the time
the peace commissioners arrived at Fort Laramie.
On March 12, 1868 a mail
party from Fort Reno attacked on the Dry Fork of the Cheyenne River. The
next day, warriors captured a wagon train between Fort Fetterman and the
Laramie Peak sawmill. On the 18th, they captured 29 mules of the sawmill
train and killed one man. The same day they also attacked the camp of a
man named Brace near Box Elder and ran of 60 head of cattle. On the 24th
of March, several ranches were burned and men were killed between Forts
Laramie and Fetterman.
Yet another attack was made
against four men who were herding stock on Lone Tree Creek, some 25
Cheyenne. The men, including W.E. Talbott, George Spurr, a
man named Morse and a Mexican called Joe all survived but, Morse was hit
and had an arm broken. Though word was quickly sent to Fort Russell and
a detachment of
soldiers sent after the Indians, they could not be
By all appearances, the
Indians were not anxious to conclude a treaty of peace. However, the
peace commission arrived at Fort Laramie on April 7, 1868 and proceeded
at once to invite the Indians. The commissioners waited at
three months, while a number of bands came in, signed the treaty, and received a supply of
provisions, clothing, blankets, firearms and ammunition. However,
several chiefs including
Red Cloud and Man-Afraid-of-His-Horses, while
promising to come in, did not. Red Cloud waited, for the withdrawal of
the troops from the Bozeman Road and did not sign the treaty until
November 6, 1868. As soon as it was known among the Indians that
Chief Red Cloud had agreed to make peace, 600 warriors withdrew from his camp in
the Powder River country.
In the summer of 1869, those
warriors who had withdrawn from Red Cloud's group made several attacks.
On August 22, 1869, a man named Edmond M. Pratt was killed about a mile
and a half east of Cheyenne and 34 head of stock were stolen. B. J. Evert, Pratt's companion, escaped and reached Cheyenne. Though a
soldiers was sent out from Fort D.A. Russell to pursue the
Indians, they were not found.
On July 28th, the warriors
attacked a paymaster wagon traveling between Forts Reno and Fetterman.
There were 60 soldiers in the escort, and in the first attack, two of
them were killed. A sharp battle took place and the Indians were finally
repulsed after a number of them had been killed. The paymaster and his
escort passed on without further molestation.
Exactly one month later, on
August 28, 1869, the warriors attacked a detachment from the band
attacked Laycock's camp of wood choppers. The men fell back and opened
fire on the Indians, killing one of them, before they fled. None of the
wood choppers were injured. On the same day, it was reported at Fort
Sanders that three white men were killed on the Big Thompson River.
On September 15th, a band of Indians made an attack on a group encamped
at Cooper Lake, killed one man, and captured two men and a woman. The
hostiles went in the direction of Laramie Peak. The commanders at Forts
Laramie and Fetterman were notified and detachments were sent out from
both places to head them off, but, the Indians slipped through and went
into the Sweetwater Country and thus escaped.
On the same day as the attack
at Cooper Lake, Lieutenant J.H. Spencer, leading Company B, Fourth
Infantry, was attacked by 300 Indians near Whiskey Gap,
soldier was captured and presumed dead.