Montana Indian Battles

 

Big Hole Battlefield

Big Hole Battlefield

Big Hole Battlefield (1877) – The Battle of Big Hole is one of a series of engagements between U.S. troops and the fleeing Nez Perce under Chief Joseph and other leaders. Colonel John Gibbon attacked the sleeping Nez Perce camp at dawn on August 9, 1877. He inflicted severe casualties before a vigorous counterattack drove him back and allowed the Nez Perce to escape. In the conflict, 29 soldiers were killed and 40 wounded; 89 Indians were killed. Located in southwestern Montana, the National Park Service operates this site.

Contact Information:

Big Hole National Battlefield
P.O. Box 237
Wisdom, Montana 59761
(406) 689-3155

Battle of the Little Bighorn by C.M. Russell

Battle of the Little Bighorn by C.M. Russell

Little Bighorn Battlefield (1876) – Here on June 25, 1876, a large force made up mostly of Sioux and Southern Cheyenne warriors under Sitting Bull, Gall, and Crazy Horse overwhelmed Lieutenant Colonel George Custer’s 7th Cavalry in one of the most complete defeats in American military history. Custer and approximately 210 men were slain in the famous “Custer’s Last Stand.” Four miles away, up the Little Bighorn, along the bluffs overlooking the river, Major Marcus A. Reno and the rest of the regiment remained for two days until help arrived. Reno lost about 70 soldiers and Crow guides. The Indian victory was of short duration. By the spring of 1877, most of the Sioux and Cheyenne, including Crazy Horse, facing starvation and constant military pressure, finally surrendered and accepted reservation confinement. The National Park Service operates the site. More …

Contact Information:

Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument
P.O. Box 39
Exit 510 Off I-90 Hwy 212
Crow Agency, Montana  59022-0039
406-638-3204

Hayfield Fight (1867) – Fought on August 1, 1867, three miles from Fort C.F. Smith, Montana, Territory, the battle pitted a determined stand of 31 soldiers and civilians against more than 700 Sioux and Cheyenne warriors. Fortified behind a barrier of a low log corral, the combined soldier/civilian force withstood six hours of attacks before relief finally arrived to disperse the warriors. Known as the Hayfield Fight, the site is located about three miles from Fort C. F. Smith, Montana. The site is on private land, marked by a monument and plaque.

Lame Deer Battlefield (1877) – One of the final struggles in the Army’s conquest of the Sioux took place at this site on May 7, 1877. Colonel Nelson A. Miles’ troops, from the Tongue River Cantonment, defeated Lame Deer’s band of Miniconjou Sioux, except for Sitting Bull’s Hunkpapa group the last remnant of the coalition that the year before had overwhelmed Custer at the Battle of the Little Bighorn. Surprised and surrounded in his camp, Lame Deer at first attempted to surrender but a scuffle broke out in which the chief, his son, 12 warriors, and four soldiers died. The subdued Indian survivors reported to the reservation.

The battlefield, indicated by a marker, is located along Lame Deer Creek, a tributary of Rosebud Creek, on a privately owned ranch near the Northern Cheyenne Agency. Except for the unimproved road running up the valley from Lame Deer, the site is not marked by any significant modern intrusions. It is surrounded by rugged hills dotted with scrub pine. The site is located in Rosebud County, a short distance off an unimproved road, about 1-1/3 miles southwest of Lame Deer, Montana.

Powder River

Powder River

Battle of Powder River  (1876) – The opening battle of the Black Hills War, between the U.S. Army and the  Sioux and Cheyenne, the skirmish occurred in March, 1876 when Brigadier General George Crook advanced north from Fort Fetterman in present-day Wyoming. Discovering an Indian trail, he sent Colonel Joseph J. Reynolds and six troops of the 2d and 3d Cavalry to find a village he suspected to be at the end of the trail. At dawn on March 17th, in the Powder River Valley, Reynolds located and charged the village. The surprised inhabitants fled from their lodges to the bluffs above the valley, occupied the commanding heights, and poured a deadly fire at the troops below. After burning most of the village, Reynolds captured the Indian ponies and hastily retreated. That night the warriors surprised him and recaptured all their ponies. Crook reunited his forces but, discouraged by the setback, the shortage of supplies, and the bitter cold and deep snow, he returned to Fort Fetterman to refit. If anything, he had succeeded only in stiffening Indian resistance.

Today, the battle site is a privately owned ranch. The Indian village was situated on the west side of the Powder River. In 1923 the river overflowed and covered the bottom land with about a foot of silt. The mesa and bluffs from which the Indians counterattacked are unchanged. A marker is located near the northern edge of Moorhead. The battle site is accessible via an unimproved road, about four miles northeast of Moorhead, Montana.

Battle of Rosebud

Battle of Rosebud

Rosebud Battlefield (1876) – On the morning of June 17, 1876, Brigadier General George Crook, his 1,050 soldiers and 260 Crow and Shoshone scouts were attacked by a nearly equal combined force of Sioux and Cheyenne along Rosebud Creek, Montana Territory. Crook’s column represented one of three military prongs placed in the field in the summer to seek out and force the Sioux to accept reservation confinement. Under the leadership of Crazy Horse, the warriors fought. Crook’s men to a standstill. Crook suffered 10 killed and 21 wounded in the six-hour fight. The warriors suffered similar casualties. Crook returned to his supply base near present-day Sheridan,  Wyoming. Eight days later, these same warriors defeated Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer’s column at the Battle of the Little Bighorn. The site is operated by Montana State Parks.

Contact Information:

Rosebud Battlefield State Park
P.O. Box 1630
Miles City, Montana 59301
406-234-0900

Wolf Mountain (Tongue River) Battlefield (1877) – The battle fought at this site climaxed Colonel Nelson A. Miles’ winter drive of 1876-77 in pursuit of the Sioux under Crazy Horse who had annihilated the Custer command the preceding summer on the Little Bighorn. In October, Miles captured and sent 2,000 of them back to the reservation. Despite blizzards and extreme cold, he remained in the field. On January 7, 1877, he camped beside the Tongue River on the southern flank of the Wolf Mountains. The next morning Crazy Horse and 800 braves made a surprise attack. Miles, his howitzers disguised as wagons, quickly repulsed it. The Indians took refuge on bluffs overlooking the camp. When the troops assaulted the bluffs, the warriors withdrew under cover of a snowstorm. Many of them surrendered with Crazy Horse and Dull Knife’s Cheyenne in the spring at Fort Robinson, Nebraska.

The battlefield is on the east side of the Tongue River, beneath Pyramid Butte, a spur of the Wolf Mountains. A gravel road bridges the river from the west, crosses the valley where Miles camped; ascends the bluffs just south of Pyramid Butte, the final Indian position; and continues toward the town of Birney. Except for the road, the site is unchanged since 1877. The site is located in Rosebud County, on an unimproved road, about 15 miles southwest of Birney, Montana.

 

Compiled by Kathy Weiser-Alexander, updated December 2017.

Also See:

Indian War Timeline

Indian Wars, Battles & Massacres

Military Campaigns of the Indian Wars

Three Indian Campaigns

Indian Wars of the Frontier West by Emerson Hough

Winning The West: The Army In The Indian Wars

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