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Nebraska Indian Battles & Massacres - Page 3

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Mud Springs, NebraskaBattle of Mud Springs (February 4-6, 1865) - After the Sand Creek Massacre, which occurred in Colorado on November 29, 1864, the Sioux, Cheyenne, and Arapaho tribes decided to move northward into the more-isolated Powder River country of Wyoming. However, along the way, many of the warriors would take their vengeance for the earlier massacre. Raiding along the South Platte River, the Battle of Julesburg, Colorado was fought on February 2, 1865, and the next day, the warriors burned a telegraph station on Lodgepole Creek in Nebraska. On February 4, 1865, and advance party of warriors appeared at Mud Springs, a stage and telegraph station. Behind the sod and log walls of the station were 14 men, including 9 soldiers. The warriors stole 18 horses and a large herd of cattle. In the meantime, the telegraph operator was sending messages to Fort Mitchell, Nebraska, 55 miles west, and to Fort Laramie, Wyoming, 105 miles west. After an all-night ride from Fort Mitchell, Lieutenant William Ellsworth and 36 men reached Mud Springs. Just a short time later, some 500-1000 warriors also arrived. Sixteen soldiers occupied a nearby bluff to try to keep the Indians from getting too close; but suffering heavy attacks by the warriors, they retreated to the station, with one man dead and another wounded. That afternoon, the soldiers opened the corrals and let their horses run loose, which dispersed the Indians as they attempted to capture the animals. The warriors then retreated to their camp about 10 miles east of the station.


Early the next morning on February 6th, Colonel William O. Collins and his troops arrived from Fort Laramie bringing the total at the station up to 170 men. The exhausted Wyoming soldiers took shelter in a makeshift corral formed by four wagons. However, the warriors soon returned, showering the men and horses with arrows. Two groups of soldiers were sent out to drive the Indians back, which was successful. Fifty additional troop arrived that evening along with a 12-pounder mountain howitzer. Colonel Collins prepared to take the offensive the next day, February 7, but the Indians did not return. Casualties of the soldiers were one man dead and eight wounded. Colonel Collins estimated the Indian casualties at 30; however, Cheyenne warrior, George Bent, said no Indians were killed.


In the meantime, the Sioux, Cheyenne, and Arapaho camp, which was comprised of up to 5,000 men, women, and children, continued their trek northward. But, Colonel Collins and his troops would pursue them resulting in the Battle of Rush Creek on February 8th and 9th.


The battle was inconclusive although the Indians succeeded in capturing some Army horses and a herd of several hundred cattle. Mud Springs is located eight miles northwest of Dalton, Nebraska and is today a National Historic Site.


Battle of Rush Creek (February 8-9, 1865) - Following the Battle of Mud Springs, the large group of Sioux, Cheyenne, and Arapaho, numbering as many as 5,000 moved leisurely to the North Platte River on February 6, 1865. They crossed the frozen river and camped among the bluffs about five miles north of the river. Joined by the warriors returning from the battle, the Indians planned to remain there for several days to rest their horses, not anticipating that the outnumbered soldiers would follow them.

Lieutenant Colonel William O. Collins, however, left a small garrison of soldiers at Mud Springs and, along with 140-185 troops  and soon picked up the Indian trail. They first came upon their previous camp which was littered with spoils of their plunder and from there, followed their trail to the North Platte River. Coming close to the Indian camp in the early afternoon of February 8th, a Sioux warrior signaled the other warriors that the soldiers were approaching. Within no time, some 1,000 warriors mounted their horses and crossed the flat Platte Valley to engage the soldiers.




Sioux AttackSeeing the Indians approach, Collins formed a "corral" with wagon and horses and ordered hid men to dig pits and establish defense lines among the sandy ridges on the plain. As the warriors approached, along-distance shooting match ensued and shots from a howitzer kept the Indians at a distance. As some of the Indians crept closer, Collins ordered a detail of 17 men to charge and disperse them, which was successful, though two of the men were killed. The Indians withdrew in the late afternoon and Collins remained in his defensive position overnight. The next morning several hundred Indian warriors returned to resume the attack on Collins and attempted to capture the horses. After long-distance sniping for several hours, the warriors broke off the battle. The Indians broke camp the same day and began moving northward while the warriors were keeping the soldiers pinned down. The Indians crossed the Sand Hills in two long days and westward toward the Powder River.


Collins did not continue the pursuit of the Indians, and on February 10, began the journey back to Fort Laramie. Collins reported two men killed and nine wounded with another 10 men suffering frostbite. He estimated the Indian casualties at Mud Springs and Rush Creek at 100 to 150. However, Cheyenne warrior, George Bent, would later say that only two Indians were wounded, and one killed. The inconclusive battle took place four miles southeast of present-day Broadwater, Nebraska along both banks of the North Platte River.


Battle at Warbonnet Creek (1876) - Three weeks after Custer's defeat at the Battle of the Little Bighorn, the Fifth U.S. Cavalry, commanded by Colonel Wesley Merritt, skirmished with Cheyenne Indians from the Red Cloud Agency on July 17, 1876 at in northwest Nebraska. The cavalry's purpose was to block an Indian supply trail from the Red Cloud and Spotted Tail agencies in Nebraska to the Powder River country of northeastern Wyoming and southeastern Montana. When the Cavalry learned that 1,000 Cheyenne had left the Spotted Tail and Red Cloud Agencies to join the triumphant Sioux, and were encamped at Warbonnet Creek, the Cavalry attacked and forced them back to the reservations. Fighting in the skirmish was William F. "Buffalo Bill" Cody who was working as a scout. He claimed to have taken "the first scalp for Custer" by killing a warrior named Yellow Hair, an episode that novelists and Cody publicity agents later turned into a legend. However, Cody's claim has long been disputed. The battle signaled the army's ultimate victory in the Great Sioux War of 1876-77. The battle site, located in Sioux County, Nebraska is on an unimproved road, about 17 miles northeast of Harrison, on privately owned land. According to a helpful Legends' reader, there are two monument markers here, one to the right inside the gate and another on a roundtop 'hill'.



Compiled by Kathy Weiser/Legends of America, updated March, 2017.


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