Indian Wars of Kansas

He dismounted his men and assumed the defensive. The Indians were led by Arapaho warrior, Little Raven, Kiowa Chief Satanta, and Cheyenne Chief Little Rock. The ammunition ran low, but the quartermaster, Major Bell, charged the line and brought in a wagon loaded with a fresh supply, after which, the Indians grew more wary and finally began to retreat.

Custer threw out flankers and followed, his object being to make the Indians think his command was but the advance of a large army until he could withdraw with safety. The ruse succeeded, and as soon as the Indians were in full retreat George Armstrong Custer started for Camp Supply, where he arrived on December 1st, two days after the Nineteenth Kansas Volunteer Cavalry. Official reports give the number of officers, soldiers, and citizens killed during the year 1868 as 353.

Fort Cobb, Oklahoma, 1859

Fort Cobb, Oklahoma, 1859

From December 18, 1868, to January 6, 1869, the Nineteenth Kansas Cavalry was in camp at Fort Cobb, Oklahoma. It then moved 28 miles southward to Fort Sill. Colonel Samuel Crawford resigned on February 12th, and on March 23rd Lieutenant-Colonel Moore was made colonel, Major W. C. Jones at the same time being promoted to lieutenant-colonel. On March 2, 1869, the command left camp at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, dismounted, and moved along the southern base of the Wichita range “to stir up the Cheyenne.” The Salt Fork was crossed on the 6th, and after a hard march, the Indians were overtaken on the 20th. The men of the Nineteenth were ready to open fire when Colonel Moore received an order from General Custer not to fire. For a short time, there was almost mutiny in the ranks. The men begged, argued, swore, and some even shed tears in their disappointment, but the principal object was to recover the two women (Mrs. Morgan and Miss White) who had been captured in Kansas the year before. A parley was held, which resulted in the chiefs Dull Knife, Big Head, Fat Bear and Medicine Arrow being left with Custer as hostages until the women were safely delivered to their friends, which was done on the 22nd. No battles were fought by the Nineteenth and the regiment was mustered out at Fort Hays, Kansas on April 18, 1869.

Early in May 1869, predatory bands of Indians began to lurk around the settlements on the frontier. On the 21st they attacked a party of hunters on the Republican River and drove them and the settlers on White Rock Creek, in Republican County, down to Lake Sibley. Five days later B.C. Sanders of Lake Sibley wrote to Adjutant-General W.S. Morehouse that six men had been killed and that one woman and two boys were missing. On the 30th the Indians made a raid on the settlements along the Saline River, killed and wounded 13 people, and carried Mrs. Allerdice, Mrs. Weichell, and a child into captivity. Mrs. Weichell was recaptured, but the other prisoners were killed during a fight between the Indians and the white troops under General E.A. Carr.

For the protection of the settlers, the adjutant-general mustered a battalion of four companies — 311 men and officers, who were dispatched to Plum Creek, near the mouth of Spillman Creek, near the forks of the Republican River and Beaver Creek. The expense of this battalion was a little over $83,800, but its presence in the menaced districts held the Indians at bay and no doubt saved several times the cost in property, to say nothing of the preservation of human life.

The year 1870 was comparatively quiet. According to the report of the adjutant-general, some 20-30 Indians early in May attacked the settlements on Limestone Creek in Mitchell County and killed three unarmed men. These were the only people killed in Kansas by Indians during the year.

Osage Chief Black Dog

Osage Chief Black Dog

No further Indian troubles of consequence occurred in Kansas until 1874. In the spring of that year, some roving bands began to molest the settlers in Ford, Barber and Comanche Counties, and Governor Thomas Osborn sent a small body of state troops into that section. In August, about 20-30 Osage Indians belonging to Black Dog’s and Big Chief’s bands came into Kansas, under the pretense of hunting on their old hunting grounds. Captain Ricker, with some 40 men, was occupying a stockade near Kiowa, Kansas. Knowing that the Indians were off their reservation without permission or authority, he marched out to their camp to learn their intentions. The chief came out and met him a short distance from the camp. When Ricker told him to order the others to come up, the chief gave orders in the Osage language to fire upon the whites.

Lieutenant Mosely understood the order. He promptly seized the chief and informed him that any more evidence of treachery would result in his having the top of his head blown off. The action of the leader probably incensed Ricker’s men to a degree that made them more vindictive than they would otherwise have been in dealing with the Indians. The camp was broken up, the ponies and camp equipage carried off by the whites, and in the fight that ensued, four of the Osage were killed. Edward P. Smith, Indian Commissioner, wrote to the interior department that Ricker acted without authority, but that after the outrage, as he called it, Governor Thomas Osborn had the company mustered as militia and the order of muster antedated, in order to make it appear the act was committed by authority of the state. Governor Osborn commissioned Captain Lewis Hanback to investigate the affair and report. The conclusion reached by Captain Hanback was that “The attempt made by the Indian authorities to fasten the charge of murder and robbery on the whites, is wholly and utterly without foundation. It arises either from a misconception of the facts, or a willful desire to malign and misrepresent.”

Following this event came four years of peace, and then came the last Indian raid in Kansas — the Cheyenne Raid in September, 1878, when Dull Knife’s band of northern Cheyenne, dissatisfied with the rations furnished by the government, decided to leave their reservation in Oklahoma and return to their former home in the Black Hills of South Dakota. The last battle to take place was the Battle of Punished Woman Fork in Scott County, Kansas on September 27, 1878.


Indian Attack on a Wagon Train by Charles Marion Russell

Indian Attack on a Wagon Train by Charles Marion Russell

Compiled and edited by Kathy Weiser/Legends of Kansas, updated November 2019.

Also See:

Indian Battles in Kansas

Indian Terrors on the Santa Fe Trail

Indian Wars, Battles & Massacres

Indian Wars of the Frontier West


Blackmar, William; Kansas: A Cyclopedia of State History, Standard Publishing Co., Chicago, IL,1912.
Cutler, William; History of the State of Kansas, A.T. Andreas, Chicago, IL, 1883.

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