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Indian War Battles, Skirmishes & Massacres

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Wyoming Indian Wars Map

Wyoming Indian Wars Map



Fetterman Massacre


Wyoming Battles & Massacres:


Fort Laramie Skirmish (June 15, 1853)

Grattan Fight (August 19, 1854)

Horse Creek Skirmish (November 13, 1854)

Pass Creek Skirmish (February 20, 1863)

Townsend Wagon Train (July 7, 1864)

Kelly Wagon Train (July 12, 1864)

Deer Creek Station (May 20, 1865)

Dry Creek (June 3, 1865)

Sage Creek Station (June 8, 1865)

Battle of Platte Bridge Station (July 26, 1865)

Red Buttes/Custard's Wagon Train (July 26, 1865)

Powder River Expedition (August-September, 1865)

Crazy Woman's Fork (August 13, 1865)

Battle of Bone Pile Creek (August 13-15, 1865)

Powder River (August 16, 1865)

Battle of Tongue River (August 29, 1865)

Sawyers Fight (August 31, 1865)

Red Cloud's War (1866-1868)

Cazeau Wagon Train (July 17, 1866)

Crazy Woman Creek  (July 20, 1866)




Clear Creek (July 24, 1866)

Peno Creek (December 6, 1866)

Fetterman Massacre (December 21, 1866)

Travel Route Attacks (Summer, 1867)

Wagon Box Fight (August 2, 1867)

Bozeman Trail (Fall, 1867)

Attacks on the Plains (1868-69)

Sweetwater Mining District (1868-70)

Three Crossings (August 9, 1868)

Raids on the Wind River (Summer, 1869)

Army Skirmishes (September 14-17, 1869)

Miners Delight (September 29, 1869)

Raid on the Arapaho (April 7, 1870)

Atlantic City (May 4, 1870

Depredations Continue (1872-73)

Bates Battle (July 4, 1874)

Great Sioux War of 1876-77

Dull Knife Fight (1876)

More Indian Resistance (1876-77)

Isolated Incidents (1978-1882)

The Last Indian Battle (October 24, 1903)




Wyoming Skirmishes, Battles & Massacres:

As more and more emigrants began to pass through Wyoming on their way west, the Native Americans who called the region home or used it as hunting grounds, began to resent the traffic through their lands, especially after the California Gold Rush. As a result, the U.S. government began to negotiate with the Plains tribes living between the Arkansas and Missouri Rivers to ensure a protected right-of-way for the many travelers. To accomplish this the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1851 was signed with  representatives of the Cheyenne Sioux, Arapaho, Crow, Assiniboine, Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara nations on September 17, 1851. The treaty set forth the Indians' traditional territorial claims, guaranteed safe passage for settlers, and allowed the government to build forts and road across the territories. In return, the government was to provide annuities of $50,000 for fifty years to the tribes. Later, the U.S. Senate ratified the treaty, adding Article 5, which adjusted the compensation from fifty to ten years, if the tribes accepted the changes. All tribes accepted the change with the exception of the Crow.   


The treaty produced a brief period of peace; but, as several tribes did not receive the commodities promised as payments and the government chose not to enforce the treaty to keep out the emigrants, especially during the Pike's Peak Gold Rush of 1858, the tribes began to retaliate. As attacks began on settlers intruding upon their lands, the military presence along the trails was increased and a number of forts were established. When the Bozeman Trail was blazed in 1864, yet more emigrants intruded on Indian lands  resulting in more attacks. As a result, Major General Grenville M. Dodge ordered the first Powder River Expedition to attempt to quell the violence in 1865. The expedition ended in a battle against the Arapaho in the Battle of Tongue River. However, the fighting escalated again the very next year in what has become known as Red Cloud's War which was the first major military conflict between the United States and the Wyoming Indian tribes. The second Treaty of Fort Laramie in 1868 ended the war by closing the Powder River Country to white settlers.


This treaty was also broken by miners who flocked to the Black Hills after gold was discovered. This land, sacred to the Sioux, led to the Black Hills War, which was fought mainly along the border of Wyoming and Montana.

A number of skirmishes, battles, and massacres occurred during these turbulent years. Fort Phil Kearny saw some of the most dramatic incidents such as the Wagon Box Fight and the Fetterman Massacre.


Old Fort LaramieFort Laramie Skirmish (June 15, 1853) - During a gathering of Lakota Sioux and Cheyenne near Fort Laramie, Wyoming, who were waiting to receive their annual annual treaty goods, an argument occurred in which a Sioux warrior fired a shot at a soldier who was operating a ferry on the Platte River. Lieutenant Richard B. Garnett, who was in command at Fort Laramie responded by sending 23 men under Lieutenant to arrest the shooter.

In spite of the approximately 600 Sioux and Cheyenne lodges with over 1,000 warriors nearby, Fleming boldly demanded his prisoner. The discussion grew heated and the soldiers fired, killing three Indians, wounding three others, and taking two prisoner. Fleming was extremely lucky to retreat with no losses. Only great exertion on the part of the chiefs prevented a massive retaliation, as they correctly proclaimed that the soldiers had been "the first to make the ground bloody."

Grattan Massacre, Wyoming MarkerGrattan Fight (August 19, 1854) - The Grattan Fight marked the beginning of decades of intermittent warfare on the northern Plains. On a August 19, 1854 a young lieutenant, belligerently seeking to arrest a Sioux Indian for a trivial offense, forced a fight. By sundown, all the troops but one were dead. An enraged American public, unaware of the actual circumstances, demanded action. The Sioux and other northern tribes, with whom relations rapidly deteriorated, made numerous raids along the Oregon-California Trail. The next year General William S. Harney led a punitive expedition (1855-56) onto the Plains from Fort Kearny, Nebraska. The Indian wars, a bitter, generation-long struggle, had begun. See Full Article HERE!


Horse Creek Skirmish (November 13, 1854) - After Brule Sioux Chief Brave Bear died from wound received in the Grattan Fight, a number of young warriors wanted to retaliate. Brave Bear's oldest surviving brother, Red Leaf; his half-brother, Long Chin; Spotted Tail, and two younger braves headed for the Overland Trail with vengeance on their minds. About 12 miles west of Horse Creek, near present-day Torrington, Wyoming, they waylaid a mail stage headed for Salt Lake City, Utah, killed three men, and robbed the coach of a metal box containing $20,000 in gold. The gold was never recovered.

Pass Creek Skirmish (February 20, 1863) - Ute Indians attacked a stage station, near the junction of Pass Creek and the North Platte River, driving off stock and destroying equipment. In response, Lieutenant Henry Brandley, along with 20 soldiers rode out from Fort H.W. Halleck to find the raiders. Picking up their trail, the troops overtook the warriors, killing several of them. However, Lieutenant Brandly was wounded by a ball through the left arm. The skirmish site is near Walcott, Wyoming.


Grand Pass (July 7, 1863) - After the raid on Pass Creek in February, 1863, the Ute Indians continued to raid the mail line west of Fort H.W. Halleck stealing some 173 horses and 34 mules from Ben Holliday's Overland Stage Company. Once again, troops from Fort H.W. Halleck were sent to search for the Indians and on the early morning of July 7th they came upon them in a pass in the Medicine Bow Mountains about 25 miles south of the fort. When Lieutenants Henry Brandley and Hugh W. Williams, along with their troops, rode towards the Ute, the warriors opened fire on them from the timber and underbrush. Undaunted, the soldiers dismounted and charged up the slope.

The Ute, well-armed with Hawkins rifles, would likely have killed a great many more soldiers; but, according to Captain Asaph Allen, commander at Fort Halleck, "in firing down the steep hill-side they invariably fired too high. It was a perfect hail-storm of lead over the heads of the troops". The fight continued for two hours until the soldiers reached the top of the pass and the Ute fled. One soldier was killed and six wounded. The Ute left 20 dead on the field and were said to have carried off another 40 dead and wounded. Afterwards, the area was left in comparative peace. The battle site is near Ryan Park, Wyoming.


Corralled wagonsTownsend Wagon Train (July 7, 1864) - In June,1864, several emigrant wagons were gathered near Richard's Bridge on the North Platte River about six miles east of old Fort Caspar, Wyoming. The travelers were trying to decide whether to take the Bridger Trail or the Bozeman Trail to the gold fields 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 backwards over the trail looking for a man named Mills who had left the trail looking 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.


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.


Mary Hurley Kelly Grave, WyomingKelly Wagon Train (July 12, 1864) - In May, 1864 the Kelly family from eastern Kansas began the long trek to Montana. In this group were Josiah and Fanny Kelly and their niece and adopted 5-year old daughter, Mary Hurley; two black employees of the Kelly's, one known only as Franklin and, their hired driver, Andrew Sullivan; and a single man named Gardner Wakefield. Along the way, another Kansas couple, William and Sarah Larimer, with their 8-year old son, Frank joined them. The small wagon train arrived at Fort Laramie, Wyoming in early July. After a short rest the Kellys and the Larimers were ready to continue on to Montana and were assured by people at the fort that the road ahead was safe and that the Indians were friendly. A few more wagons joined them when they left the fort, which included the Reverend Sharp and a man named Noah Taylor. Late on the afternoon of July 12, 1864, after the five wagons crossed Little Box Elder Creek, about four miles west of LaPrele Station, more than 200 Oglala Sioux swept in. Professing friendship, the Indians asked for food and supplies, and the emigrants fed them. They also expressed interest in Josiah's best horse, which was given to them. However, after the meal, the warriors attacked with guns and arrows. Josiah Kelly, William Larimer, and Andrew Sullivan were wounded but escaped. The four other men, Noah Taylor, Reverend Sharp, Gardner Wakefield, and Kelly's employee Franklin were killed. Fanny Kelly, Sarah Larimer and the two children were captured, and the Indians looted the wagons and took the horses.


That night, Fanny Kelly encouraged her ward, Mary Hurley to escape, hoping that she might be rescued. Instead, Josiah would later find her body filled with arrows and scalped. The next night, Sarah Larimer and her son managed to steal away and made it to safety. Fanny Kelly would be forced to remain with the Indians until she was finally surrendered at Fort Sully, South Dakota in December. The Sioux returned Mrs. Kelly to Fort Sully in December, she was reunited with her husband, and the pair returned to Kansas. The Larimers settled in Wyoming. Mary Hurley was buried where she was found. The other men who were killed were buried in a common grave some distance away. However, when that grave was threatened by a reservoir in 1954, the four other victims were moved to a new gravesite next to Mary’s. Mary's grave and the massacre site are located about 14 miles west of Douglas, Wyoming.




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