Townsend Wagon Train Attack, Wyoming


A wagon train comes through Cheyenne, Wyoming by Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper.

A wagon train comes through Wyoming by Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper.

When the Townsend Wagon Train traveled along the Bozeman Trail in the summer of 1864, they were attacked by Indians.

In June 1864, several emigrant wagons were gathered near Richard’s Bridge on the North Platte River about six miles east of  Fort Caspar, Wyoming. The travelers were trying to decide whether to take the Bridger Trail or the Bozeman Trail to the goldfields of Montana. Many of them chose the Bozeman route, which was led by Captain A. A. Townsend and guides John Boyer and Raphael Gallegos. In the train were primarily emigrants from Wisconsin, Illinois, and Iowa. On July 3, 1864, 150 wagons, comprised of 375 men, 36 women, 56 children and hundreds of oxen, horses, mules, and livestock departed northward.

On July 7, 1864, after having camped along the Powder River they continued northward when a number Cheyenne and Sioux Indians came upon them demanding food and telling them to return to the North Platte River. Though the warriors were belligerent, they left without incident. In the meantime, six men rode back over the trail looking for a man named Mills who had left the main group to look for a stray cow. The larger train continued north. When the six men were about two miles east of the trail, they heard a shot and began to make their way back to the wagon train, but, were kept back by shots from the Indians. The wagon train circled into a corral and posted men on a hilltop overlooking the wagons.

Corralled wagons

Corralled wagons

Of the men who were trying to get back to the wagon train, Asher Newby was hit by an arrow but would survive. In the meantime, the Indians set fire to the prairie around the corralled wagons. The women and children helped to dig a trench around the corral and carried buckets of water from the river while the men were keeping the Indians at bay with a volley of rifle shots. Though the emigrant men were mostly successful, one man named A. Warren was hit and would die the next day. In the morning, another man named Frank Hudelmeyer, who had foolishly left the train to go hunting, was also killed. Another man was missing and presumed dead. The warriors kept up their attack on the wagon train until the afternoon before they finally departed. Captain Townsend then led the wagons about two miles upstream before they camped for the night. Of the man named Mills, who the wounded Asher Newby and five other men had gone to look for — his scalp was found hanging on a bush, with his horse and cow nearby, by the next emigrants coming up the trail. The emigrants believed they had killed about 12 of the warriors and wounded several more.

By Kathy Weiser-Alexander, updated February 2020.

Also See:

Indian War Campaigns and Battles

Ute Tribe – Roaming the Rockies

Wyoming – The Cowboy State

Wyoming Indian Battles