Battle at Warbonnet Creek, Nebraska


Indian Attack by Charles Marion Russell

Indian Attack by Charles Marion Russell

The Battle at Warbonnet Creek, Nebraska was an encounter between the 5th U.S. Calvary and a group of Cheyenne Indians that took place on July 17, 1876.

Three weeks after Custer’s defeat at the Battle of the Little Bighorn, the Fifth U.S. Cavalry, commanded by Colonel Wesley Merritt, skirmished with Cheyenne Indians from the Red Cloud Agency on July 17, 1876, in northwest Nebraska. The cavalry’s purpose was to block an Indian supply trail from the Red Cloud and Spotted Tail agencies in Nebraska to the Powder River country of northeastern Wyoming and southeastern Montana. When the Cavalry learned that 1,000 Cheyenne had left the Spotted Tail and Red Cloud Agencies to join the triumphant Sioux, and were encamped at Warbonnet Creek, the Cavalry attacked and forced them back to the reservations.

Fighting in the skirmish was none other than William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody who was working as a scout. He claimed to have taken “the first scalp for Custer” by killing a warrior named Yellow Hair, an episode that novelists and Cody publicity agents later turned into a legend. However, Cody’s claim has long been disputed. The battle signaled the army’s ultimate victory in the Great Sioux War of 1876-77.

Buffalo Bill Cody, 1872

Buffalo Bill Cody, 1872

The battle site, located in Sioux County, Nebraska is on an unimproved road, about 17 miles northeast of Harrison, on privately owned land. According to a helpful Legends’ reader, there are two monument markers here, one to the right inside the gate and another on a roundtop ‘hill’.


By Kathy Weiser-Alexander, updated July 2020.

Also See:

Indian Wars, Battles & Massacres

Indian Wars of the Frontier West by Emerson Hough 

Nebraska Indian War Battles & Massacres

Winning The West: The Army In The Indian Wars