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Indian War Battles & Massacres


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Indian War



Nebraska Battles & Massacres:


Blue Water/Ash Hollow Battle (1855)

Cheyenne War of 1864

Little Blue River Raid (August 7-9, 1864)

Eubank Homestead (August 7, 1864)

Plum Creek Massacre (August 8, 1864)

Little Blue/Oak Grove Station (August 9-10, 1864)

Kiowa Ranch Station (August 10, 1864)

Battle of Mud Springs (February 4-6, 1865)

Battle of Rush Creek (February 8-9, 1865)

Battle at Warbonnet Creek (1876)



Beginning in the early 18th century and ending with the conclusion of the Plains Indian wars of the 19th Century, Nebraska would see a number of  bloody clashes between whites and Indians. Some of the first whites to visit what would later become the state of Nebraska were fur traders and explorers in the early 1820's. A decade later, more would come, including mountain men, traders, missionaries, and military expeditions. As the Oregon, California, and Mormon Trails developed, emigrants began to cross Nebraska in great numbers, especially after gold was discovered in California in 1849.


Even before it was legal to do so, a number of white settlers began to make their homes in Nebraska, which was officially reserved for Indians. Naturally, this resulted in resentment from the many Plains tribes who called Nebraska home. There soon were demands that the federal government organize Nebraska as a territory in order to legalize the settlements already there and in 1854 the U.S. Congress passed the Kansas-Nebraska Act. This act created the Territory of Nebraska, which included Nebraska, as well as parts of Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, and North and South Dakota. New towns were soon established, including Nebraska City, Plattsmouth, and Omaha. When Nebraska became a territory, there were an estimated 10,000 Indians living there, most in permanent villages, along the Missouri and Platte Rivers, and their tributaries. However there were several roving bands of Sioux in western Nebraska, and the Pawnee, who had ceded most of their lands to the government, were accustomed to utilizing the frontier as their hunting grounds.


Nebraska TerritoryThough settlement was slow in the beginning, the pioneers continued to push in, leading to more and more conflicts with the Indians. One of the first major clashes to take place was the Battle of Ash Hollow, fought in western Nebraska in 1855. More skirmishes followed and troops were sent in to subdue the Indians in 1859. The Homestead Act in 1862 brought yet more settlers. During the Civil War many regular troops were withdrawn from Plains military posts to fight in the east. The Sioux, Cheyenne and Arapaho, seizing this opportunity, attempted to drive white settlers from their land.

Beginning on August 7, 1864, the Indians made concerted attacks on stage stations and ranches along the Oregon Trail, hitting nearly every settlement for 400 miles from Julesburg, Colorado to Big Sandy, Nebraska. Travel ceased for two months. Troops and local militia companies attacked and drove back the Indians in the battle of the Little Blue on August 17, 1864. Major raids ceased but skirmishes continued through the fall.

Throughout the next several decades, a number of skirmishes would take place between the Indians and the settlers as the Native tribes recognized that encroaching white men were killing their buffalo and transforming their homeland into sprawling settlements. The last Indian troubles on the Nebraska border ended with the Wounded Knee Massacre at the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota on December 29, 1890.


Nebraska Battles & Massacres:


Blue Water/Ash Hollow Battle (1855) - Called the Blue Water Battle or the Ash Hollow Battle, it was the first major clash between U.S. soldiers and the Sioux Indians. In 1855, to punish the Sioux for their depredations following the Grattan Fight near Fort Laramie, Wyoming the previous year, the Army sent out Colonel William S. Harney and an expedition of 600 men from Fort Leavenworth, Kansas Sioux village of Little Thunder in Blue Water Creek Valley, just above the creek's junction with the North Platte River. By a circuitous route dragoons entered the valley and advanced downstream, while Harney and a force of infantrymen marched up the valley from the Platte. Attacked from two directions on September 3, 1855, the Indians scattered, but not before the troops killed 80 warriors, wounded five, and captured 70 women and children. Four soldiers met death and seven suffered wounds.


The rest of the Sioux and Northern Cheyenne in the vicinity managed to avoid the troops. The latter moved northwestward to Fort Laramie, Wyoming and marched over the Fort Laramie-Fort Pierre Road through the heart of Sioux country to Fort Pierre, South Dakota on the Missouri River. There, they joined part of the expedition that had come up the Missouri River and spent the winter of 1855-56. For almost a decade most of the Sioux gave no further serious trouble. The site is in privately owned, but the 40-acre Ash Hollow State Historical Park overlooks the battlefield. It is located in Garden County on U.S. Highway 26, 1 ˝ miles west of Lewellen, Nebraska.


Cheyenne War of 1864 - In the early 1860's, the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes were suffering terrible conditions on their reservation and in 1864 began to retaliate by attacking stagecoaches and settlements along the Oregon Trail. Sometimes aided by the powerful Sioux, the most severe attacks were along the upper Little Blue River in Nebraska, where about 100 people were killed. Several died at Oak Grove; but, others escaped and Pawnee Ranch was successfully defended. At "the Narrows" the Eubanks families were attacked and seven killed. Mrs. Eubanks, two children, and Miss Laura Roper were taken prisoner and held captive for months. Teamsters were killed, wagon trains burned and ranches were smashed or burned. Settlers fled east to Beatrice and Marysville or northwest to Fort Kearny on the Platte River for protection.




Vintage Native American Photo Prints


The warriors were eventually subdued following the Sand Creek Massacre of November 29, 1864, when a 700-man force of Colorado Territory militia attacked and destroyed a village of friendly Cheyenne and Arapaho encamped in southeastern Colorado Territory.


The massacre resulted in the killing and mutilation of an estimated 70–163 Indians, about two-thirds of whom were women and children. They eventually accepted a reservation in the Indian Territory, but not before a large band was caught bypassing the reservation, by Colonel George A. Custer in 1866, and subdued near the Washita River in Oklahoma.


June/July, 1864 - On June 3, 1864, the post office agent at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas complains to General Samuel Curtis of westbound mail train robberies by the Cheyenne. On the same date, Colorado Governor John Evans sends a second request for troops to General Curtis, stating: “It will be destruction and death to Colorado if our lines of communication are cut off, or if they are not kept so securely guarded as that freighters will not be afraid to cross the plains, especially by the Platte River, by which our subsistence comes.”


Cheyenne Warriors

Cheyenne Warriors by Edward Sheriff Curtis.

This image available for photographic prints HERE!

In the meantime, Cheyenne Dog Soldiers and Sioux warriors consolidated and on July 17th, began running raids along the Republican and Platte River routes. Eight vicious attacks left a half-dozen white settlers dead and several hundred head of horses and cattle were stolen. The Platte Route, Denver’s primary source of supplies, was cut off as the warriors continued to move toward unprotected Denver. Though Governor Evans continued to plead to Washington for help, the Civil War in the east preoccupied General Curtis and the War Department.


Little Blue River Raid (August 7-9, 1864) - Settlements along Little Blue River in Nebraska and Kansas are attacked by Cheyenne Dog Soldiers, Arapaho and Sioux warriors. The Indians rampaged along the Overland Trail. Particularly hard-hit were ranches along a 60-mile stretch of the Little Blue River between present-day Fairbury and Hastings, Nebraska. When the raids were over, Indians had killed 38 settlers, wounded nine, and captured five. Today, roadside historical signs tell of the events that occurred in the vicinity; but, exact locations are mostly unmarked and inaccessible on private farmlands.



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