Battle of Red Buttes, Wyoming

Army Train on the Santa Fe Trail

Army Wagon Train

The Battle of Red Buttes, Wyoming, also referred to as the Battle of Custard’s Wagon Train, occurred on  July 26, 1865, between U.S. Soldiers and the Cheyenne and Sioux.

After the Battle of Platte Bridge Station, where the Cheyenne and Sioux had successfully chased the soldiers back into the post, they turned their eyes to the approaching wagon train. The five supply wagons, guarded by Sergeant Amos J. Custard and 25 Kansas Cavalry soldiers, left Sweetwater Station on July 25, 1865, and camped for the night at Willow Springs, which was about the halfway point to Platte Bridge. That evening Lieutenant Henry C. Bretney and Captain A. Smith Lybe, with their detachments, also on their way to Platte Bridge, stopped at Custard’s camp and suggested he join them; however, Custard declined.

The next morning, the army supply train began moving eastward down the telegraph road near the North Platte River. Custard met a detachment of the Ohio Cavalry, past Red Buttes, who warned him that thousands of Indians were besieging the station just ahead and urged him to turn back. But, the sergeant refused, replying:

“No, sir, we don’t stop here. We are going to Platte Bridge in spite of all the redskins this side of hell”.

A replica of Guinard's Bridge at Fort Caspar, Wyoming today by Kathy Alexander.

A replica of Guinard’s Bridge at Fort Caspar, Wyoming today by Kathy Alexander.

It would prove to be a deadly error. As the wagons continued, they heard gunfire, and five men were sent to scout ahead. No sooner had they left than they were attacked. Two of the soldiers were killed, but three others were able to make it to the Platte Bridge Station, killing the Cheyenne warrior, Left Hand, the brother of the famous war leader Roman Nose.

In the meantime, Custard and his remaining troops found themselves overwhelmed by Indians. The sergeant ordered the wagons corralled and fired upon the attacking Indians. Though hopelessly outnumbered, Custard and his men held out for four hours. In the end, however, every one of them would die. The estimated losses to the Indians were 12 killed and 18 wounded. Of the 26 soldiers, only the three scouts who made it to the Platte Bridge Station survived.


By Kathy Alexander/Legends of America, updated April 2022.

Also See:

The Army in the Indian Wars

Indian War Campaigns and Battles

Indian Wars Timeline

Wyoming Indian Battles