Beginning in the early 18th
century and ending with the conclusion of the
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
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
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.
Though 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.
Civil War many regular
troops were withdrawn from Plains military posts to fight in
the east. The Sioux,
Arapaho, seizing this
opportunity, attempted to drive white settlers from their
Beginning on August 7, 1864, the Indians made concerted
attacks on stage stations and ranches along the
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
previous year, the Army sent out Colonel William S. Harney and an expedition of
600 men from
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.
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
Wyoming and marched over the
Fort Laramie-Fort Pierre Road through the heart of Sioux
country to Fort Pierre, South Dakota on the
River. There, they joined part of the
expedition that had come up the
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
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.
In the meantime, Cheyenne
Dog Soldiers and
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,
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,
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
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