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Battles & Massacres of the Indian Wars - Page 2

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Beecher Island BattleBeecher's Island (1868) - Major George Forsyth, at the head of 50 frontiersmen, in pursuit of raiding Cheyenne, was attacked by a large party of Cheyenne on the morning of September 17, 1868. Forsyth’s party took refuge on a sandbar in the Republican River located in eastern Colorado. The Indians organized several mass charges, only to be blunted each time. By the afternoon of the 17th, more than 600 Indians participated in the assaults; however, the attacks decreased following the death of Roman Nose, one of the leading Cheyenne. Lieutenant Frederick Beecher, for whom the battle site is named, and 21 other defenders were killed. The remaining defenders were rescued on September 25 when Captain Louis Carpenter’s company of 10th Cavalry troops came to their aid.


Today a monument has been established at the site of the Beecher Island Battle but the original site has washed away. The Beecher Island Battlefield Monument is a joint Colorado-Kansas historical site established in 1905. The memorial is located 20 miles south of Wray, Colorado.



Meeker Massacre (1879) - With the possible exception of the Ghost Dance outbreak of the Sioux in 1890, the massacre was probably the most violent expression of Indian resentment toward the reservation system. Occurring in what is now Rio Blanca County, Colorado, at the White River Agency, the Ute Indians were fed up with with Nathan C. Meeker, the Indian Agent, and his brand of "management."


Native America: Voices From the Land DVDThe White River Agency was founded in 1873 for several bands of Ute, who had agreed in a treaty to settle on a reservation there. Five years later Nathan C. Meeker, founder of the city of Greeley, assumed the duties of Indian agent. Resisting his undiplomatic and stubborn efforts to make them farm, raise stock, discontinue their pony racing and hunting forays, and send their children to school, as well as resenting settler encroachment on their reservation and Indian Bureau mismanagement, the nomadic Ute revolted. Assaulted by a subchief during a petty quarrel, Meeker called for troops. On September 29, 1879, before they arrived, the Indians attacked the agency, burned the buildings, and killed Meeker and nine of his employees. Meeker's wife, daughter, and another girl were held as captives for 23 days. After the massacre, relief columns from Forts Fred Steele and D. A. Russell, Wyoming, defeated the Ute in the Battle of Milk Creek, Colorado, and ended the uprising.


The site, Colorado Highway 64, about three miles west of Meeker, is indicated by a wooden marker on the south side of the highway, but is actually located in a privately owned meadow on the north side of the White River. A few traces of building foundations reveal the location of the Indianagency. A monument indicates the spot where Meeker died.



Milk Creek (1879) - Following the Meeker Massacre, the Ute ambushed a column of 150 troops under Major Thomas T. Thornburgh on the northern edge of the White River Reservation, approximately 18 miles from the Indian agency. The soldiers had marched south from Fort Fred Steele, Wyoming in answer to Meeker's plea for help. Forming a wagon corral and sending out a messenger with a call for aid, they held out from September 29 until October 5, 1879. During that time, 35 black cavalrymen, based at Fort Lewis, Colorado, broke through the Indian line to reinforce their comrades-in-arms. A relief expedition of 350 men led by Colonel Wesley Merritt from Fort D. A. Russell, Wyoming finally lifted the siege and rounded up the hostiles. Army casualties were 13 dead, including Major Thornburgh, and 43 wounded. The Government imprisoned several of the Ute leaders, and placed the tribe on a new reservation in Utah. The battlefield site is in Moffat County, Colorado on an unimproved road, about 20 miles northeast of Meeker. The battlefield, situated in a brush-lined canyon, appears today much as it did in 1879. A monument bears the names of the dead soldier.



Sand Creek Massacre

Sand Creek Massacre (1864) - The Sand Creek Massacre was one of the most sordid affairs between the white settlers and American Indians in U.S. history. The massacre, occurring on November 29, 1864, was led by Colorado Territory Commander, John M. Chivington, was made upon Black Kettle's Southern Cheyenne village, nestled along Sand Creek in southeastern Colorado. Though the Cheyenne were flying an American flag over their village and had already surrendered, Chivington, who was a known "Indian hater" attacked anyway, leaving more than 200 Cheyenne, mainly women and children, dead.


The massacre site was authorized as a National Historic site on August, 2, 2005. However, it will not be established until the National Park Service acquires enough land to provide for the preservation, commemoration, and interpretation of the Sand Creek Massacre and is not yet open to the public. See full article HERE.





Summit Springs (1869) - The Battle of Summit Springs, fought on July 11, 1869 near Sterling, Colorado, broke for all time the power of the Cheyenne Dog Soldiers on the central Plains. The battle, in response to a series of Indian raids in north-central Kansas was led by Colonel Eugene Carr, commanding the U.S. Fifth Cavalry. During the conflict, Cheyenne leader, Tall Bull, was killed (some say by Buffalo Bill Cody), the Dog Soldiers fragmented into two groups, one drifting north to join the Northern Cheyenne and the other joining the Southern Cheyenne. Carr reported killing 52 Indians and capturing 15; however, only one soldier was wounded in the fighting. The site, located about 14 miles southeast of Sterling, Colorado is marked, but is on private property.





Battle of Pierre's Hole, Idaho (1832) - Taking place after the 1832 trapper’s rendezvous, much of the hostilities seem to have been initiated by Antoine Godin and Baptiste Dorian, trappers who had attended the rendezvous. See full article HERE.



Kansas - See Kansas battles HERE.



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.


Big Hole National Battlefield
P.O. Box 237
Wisdom, Montana 59761

(406) 689-3155  



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.


Contact Information: 


Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument

P.O. Box 39
Exit 510 Off I-90 Hwy 212
Crow Agency, Montana  59022-0039


The Battle of the Little Bighorn

The Battle of the Little Bighorn, painting by Charles Russell, 1903

This image is available for photographic prints HERE.



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.



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.



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




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.


Continued Next Page

Cheyenne Warriors

Cheyenne Warriors by Edward Sheriff Curtis.

This image available for photographic prints HERE!

Ogalala Sioux at an oasis in the Badlands of South Dakota

Ogalala Sioux at an oasis in the Badlands.

This image available for photographic prints HERE!

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