Wyoming Indian Encounters: The Unfriendly Kind


June 15, 1853 Fort Laramie (Fort Laramie, Wyoming)

During a gathering of Lakotas and Cheyennes near Fort Laramie to receive their annual treaty goods, an argument occurred in which a Minneconjou fired a shot at a soldier operating a ferry on the Platte River.  Lt. Richard B. Garnett, in command at the fort, sent out 23 men of the 6th. Infantry under Lt. Hugh Fleming to arrest the offender.

In spite of the approximately 600 Lakota and Cheyenne lodges with over 1,000 warriors nearby, Fleming boldly demanded his prisoner in the Minneconjou camp of 40 lodges.   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."

August 19, 1854 Grattan's Fight (Torrington, Wyoming)

While the Lakotas and Cheyennes waited at their camps in the Fort Laramie area for their yearly annuities, emigrants were traveling close by along the Oregon Trail.   When a Minneconjou (Lakota) named High Forehead shot an old, lame cow belonging to a Mormon emigrant, the angry owner reported it at the post.

In charge at Laramie, Lt. Hugh Fleming advised caution, perhaps wiser from his experience with the Indians the year before (see Fort Laramie, June 15, 1853).   However, young Lt. John L. Grattan, eager to show his Indian fighting prowess, insisted that he be allowed to make an arrest.  The next morning, Grattan led 30 men of Company G, 6th. Infantry, plus two artillery pieces to the Indian camp, about eight miles east of the fort.

High Forehead was visiting in the Brule (Lakota) village of Brave (or Conquering) Bear when Grattan marched up to them and demanded the culprit who had shot the cow.  Brave Bear could not order the minneconjou to submit, and a tense 45-minute talk only hardened High Forehead's resolve to die right there.  The interpreter, Auguste Lucien, hated the Indians and may have made matters worse by twisting each party's words.

Finally Grattan lost his patience, and his men leveled their muskets.  No one knows who fired first, but the killing started in a flash.  Brave Bear was wounded in the crossfire.  The cannons roared, blowing off tipi tops, then fell silent.   Grattan went down, and several hundred warriors engulfed the soldiers.  About 18 fought their way out of the camp but were killed as they fled to the fort.  One soldier made it to the trading post of James Bordeaux, then to Fort Laramie, where he soon died from his wounds.

Bordeaux spent a harried night giving away his stock to appease the Indians and trying to convince them not to attack the fort.  Eventually, he and the older chiefs calmed the excited warriors, but not before they had pillaged another company's warehouse.

Grattan and his 30 men were killed.  Brave Bear's brother and a few more Indians were wounded.  Brave Bear lingered, but died in November.

November 13, 1854 Horse Creek (Torrington, Wyoming)

After the Brule chief Brave Bear died from injuries received in the fight with Lt. John L. Grattan (see Grattan's Fight, August 19th.), many 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.

About 12 miles west of Horse Creek, near present-day Torrington, Wyoming, they waylaid a mail stage headed for Salt Lake City, killed three men, and robbed the coach of a metal box containing $20,000 in gold, which was never recovered.

February 20, 1863 Pass Creek (Walcott, Wyoming)

Ute Indians attacked the Pass Creek stage station, near the junction of Pass Creek and the North Platte River, driving off stock and destroying equipment.  In response, Lt. Henry Brandley and a 20-man detachment of Company B, 9th. Kansas Cavalry, rode out from Fort Halleck.  They overtook and killed a few of the raiders, but Brandley was badly wounded by a ball through the left arm.

July 7, 1863 Grand Pass (Ryan Park, Wyoming)

Since February 1863, Grand River and Uinta Utes had been raiding the mail line west of Fort Halleck and had stolen 173 horses and 34 miles from Ben Holladay's company.  to stop this, about 70 men from a detachment of 1st. Colorado Cavalry and from Company B, 9th. Kansas Cavalry, left Fort Halleck in July in search if the Utes.

At sunrise on July 7th., in a pass in the Medicine Bow Mountains about 25 miles south of the fort, Lts. Henry Brandley and Hugh W. Williams and their men overtook the Indians.   When the troopers rode up, 250 Utes opened fire from the timber and underbrush.   Undaunted Brandley and Williams dismounted the men and charged up the slope.

The Utes, well-armed with Hawkins rifles, would likely have killed a great many more soldiers, but, according to Capt. 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 lasted two hours.  When the soldiers achieved the crest of the pass, the Utes broke and fled.

One soldier, Sgt. S.N. Waugh of Company B, was killed in the charge, and 6 were wounded.  The Utes left 20 dead on the field; they carried off another 40 dead and wounded.  The fight left the Fort Halleck region in comparative peace.

July 12, 1864 Kelly Wagon Train (LaPrele, Wyoming)

When a wagon train from Kansas consisting of ten emigrants, including the Josiah S. Kelly family, the Larimer family, and others, reached Fort Laramie, people at the fort assured them that the road ahead was safe and that the Indians were friendly.  A few more wagons joined them when they left the fort.

As the train was crossing 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.  After the meal, the warriors attacked with guns and arrows.  Kelly, Larimer, and a servant were wounded but escaped.  The four other men--Gardner Wakefield, a Mr. Taylor, a Mr. Sharp, and a servant named Franklin, were killed.  The Indians tore through the wagons, looting and destroying, and captured Kelly's and Larimer's wives and the two children.

It was dark when they rode away, and Mrs. Kelly let her little daughter slide off the horse, hoping she would be rescued.  Instead, the girl's father found her body later, filled with arrows and scalped.  The next night, Mrs. Larimer and her son managed to steal away and made it to safety.  The Sioux returned Mrs. Kelly to Fort Sully in December.

May 20, 1865 Dear Creek Station (Glenrock, Wyoming)

In May 1865 Companies D and L of the 11th. Kansas Cavalry were garrisoned at Dear Creek Station, about 28 miles east of Platte Bridge Station and just east of present-day Glenrock, Wyoming.  Several Indian battles occurred near the post on the same day.

Three miles above their camp on Deer Creek, 25 Indians assaulted Lt. W.B. Godfrey of Company D and 3 soldiers.  After a brisk two-hour fight the men succeeded in repulsing their attackers without suffering casualties.  Godfrey estimated they killed 2 Indians and wounded 4.

At the same time, 50 Indians besieged the camp of a Sgt. Smythe and 6 men of Company L, 11th. Kansas.  After two and a half hours the Indians withdrew abut ran off with 26 cavalry horses.  The Indians lost 3 warriors and 5 were wounded.  One soldier was killed.

After the attacks, at Camp Plumb on Mud Creek, about ten miles west of Deer Creek Station, Lt. Col. Preston B. Plumb of the 11th. Kansas Cavalry directed Lt. Jacob Van Antwerp of Company L to take 24 men in pursuit of the Indian raiders.  Antwerp tracked them southeast to Deer Creek, then to Box Elder Creek, and down to the North Platte River.  About seven miles east of Deer Creek Station, he found 100 warriors, but they were on the opposite bank and the river was running too high to ford.   Antwerp returned to Camp Plumb empty-handed on May 22nd.

June 3, 1865 Dry Creek (Casper, Wyoming)

Lt. Col. Preston B. Plumb, in command of the 11th. Kansas Cavalry, made his headquarters at Camp Dodge, about seven miles southeast of Platte Bridge Station, which was guarded by soldiers from Company G of the 11th. Ohio Cavalry.  At about 3 P.M. on June 3rd., a band of ten Indians fired on Platte Bridge Station from across the North Platte River.  When a messenger brought Plumb the news, he took ten men of Company B and rode to the station.  There he gathered ten more men from the 11th. Ohio Cavalry and a few more from Companies A and F, 11th. Kansas Cavalry, and headed west after the raiders.

A chase of five miles had half the cavalry's horses dropping back in exhaustion, but Plumb's men were close enough to fire on and hit two Indians.  The warriors abruptly turned and charged at Plumb, who did not turn away.  The Indians then broke off, at a considerably faster speed than they had been going before.  These Indians, Plumb discovered, were a decoy.  "This purpose quite apparent immediately after," Plumb later said, "as a party of about sixty Indians came charging down the bottom of Dry Creek half a mile to our left, with the apparent purpose of getting between us and the station and cutting off the stragglers".

At this time another 20 men from Companies A and F of the 11th. Kansas Cavalry showed up, and the Indians turned around.  The soldiers chased the warriors for two miles.   Six men of A and F Companies and one of Company G, 11th. Ohio, pursuing a party considerably in advance, were ambushed by about 30 Indians, front and rear.  Before assistance arrived two privates were killed.  One was scalped after his horse fell on him and pinned him to the ground; the other's body was saved from mutilation when a Pvt. Martin of Company A, taking cover in a ravine, drove the Indians off with his carbine.

Plumb reported one Indian killed and about five wounded.  The two soldiers killed were the only army casualties.

June 8, 1865 Sage Creek Station (Saratoga, Wyoming)

Just a few days after Lt. James A. Brown detached five men of Company K, 11th. Ohio Cavalry, to guard the Sage Creek Station on the Overland Road west of Fort Halleck, they were attacked by about 100 Lakotas and Cheyennes.  After one hour's fighting and with dwindling ammunition, they were compelled to evacuate with two civilians.

Though well mounted, the fleeing men faced a desperate eight-mile run west to reach Pine Grove Station, with the Indians in pursuit.  During the chase, Pvts. George Bodine and Perry Stewart were killed, Cpl. W. H. Caldwell and Pvt. William Wilson were wounded, and Pvt. Orlando Ducket was wounded and captured.  The two civilians were presumed killed.  Caldwell and Wilson made it to Pine Grove Station, where they joined a detachment of ten men of their own company, commanded by a Sgt. McFaddin, as they retreated to Sulphur Springs.

The next morning, the soldiers found the bodies of Stewart and Bodine lying in the road horribly mutilated, the latter scalped.  They also found the body of one of the civilians, but the other civilian and Pvt. Ducket were not found.  It was thought that the Indians burned their bodies at Sage Creek Station.

July 26, 1865 Platte Bridge (Casper, Wyoming)

After their winter raids (January 7th., Julesburg, Colorado), the Cheyennes and Lakotas who had left Colorado and Kansas for the Powder River country in February joined with the Lakotas who had escaped from the army during a relocation march (June 14th., Horse Creek/Fouts's fight, Morrill, Nebraska) to form a great force.  Together they planned a major attack of about 2,500 warriors against Plate Bridge Station, commanded by Maj. Martin Anderson of the 11th. Kansas Cavalry.  The garrison consisted of about 120 men of Companies C, I, and K of the 11th. Kansas Cavalry, detachments of Company G, 11th. Ohio Cavalry, and some 3rd. U.S. volunteers under Capt. A Smith Lybe.

Among the officers at the Platte Bridge post was Lt. Caspar Collins, son of the retired colonel of the 11th. Ohio Cavalry.  On July 26th., solders saw numerous Indians north of the North Platte River; this posed a threat to a wagon train expected soon from the west.  When Collins was ordered to take some men out to help guard the train, he fully expected to die.  Turning to  his friend, he said, "Jim, I know I shall never get back alive.  Here is my cap that you  have admired so much.   Keep it to remember me by."  With that, he led out 25 men from Companies I and K.

Collins and his men crossed the long wooden bridge across the river and turned west.   Riding along the banks near the bluffs, they were jumped by about 1,000 warriors.   The soldiers spun around and tried to cut their way back to the bridge.  There were so many Indians on both sides that they shot and hit more of their own warriors than cavalrymen.

Meanwhile, Lt. Henry C. Bretney of the 11th. Ohio was crossing the bridge with 40 men to help Collins in case there was trouble.  Concealed near the bridge were about 200 Arapahos, but when they jumped out, some well-placed volleys drove them back.  The path was open for Collins if he could break through.

Collin's fight was so close that the troopers could almost touch the warriors riding alongside them.  Collins was wounded in the hip, but he continued riding until he saw a trooper go down and stopped to help him.  As he tried to get the man up on his horse, they were both overwhelmed.  Bretney held off the Indians until the retreating troopers galloped back across the bridge.  Four other men died with Collins, and eight more were wounded.

Later that day, Lt. George M. Walker, 11th. Kansas Cavalry, led 15 men out to repair a telegraph line the Indians had cut in their raid.  Capt. Lybe posted a small force to their rear for support.  Walker had barely reached the broken line when Lybe signaled that Indians were coming.  The men fell back pell-mell as the Indians closed in.   The warriors caught four troopers and speared two of them, killing Pvt. James A. Porter and seriously wounding farrier Joseph Hilty, whose horse carried him to safety.   Sgt. Duncan McDougal placed his revolver against the ribs of an Indian riding next to  him and fired his last cartridge into him.  The howitzer at the station held the Indians long enough for the soldiers to retreat behind its walls.

Six soldiers were killed and nine wounded in the second fight.  Indian casualties were difficult to separate from the additional losses they took later in the day (next entry).  It seems probable that five were killed and ten wounded.

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

After the Cheyennes and Lakotas chased the soldiers at Platte Bridge Station back into the post (previous entry), they were distracted from pursuing the fight by word of a wagon train approaching from the west.  Sgt. Amos J. Custard of Company H, 11th. Kansas Cavalry, was in charge of the 14 teams, 5 wagons, and about 25 men of Companies H and D.   Custard left Sweetwater Station on July 25th. and camped for the night at Willow Springs, halfway to Platte Bridge.  That evening Lt. Henry C. Bretney and Capt. A Smith Lybe with their detachments, also on their way to Platte Bridge, stopped at Custard's camp and suggested he join them, but the sergeant thought the mules were too tired.

The next morning Custard took his train down the telegraph road near the North Platte River.  Past Red Buttes, he met a 30-man patrol of the 11th. Ohio Cavalry, who warned him that thousands of Indians were besieging the station just ahead and urged him to turn back.  "No sir", said Custard, "we don't stop here.  We are going to Platte Bridge in spite of all the redskins this side of hell".

Farther on, Custard heard the gunfire and sent five men to scout ahead.  The scouts were soon attacked and dashed to the river for safety.  Two of them were shot at the river, but three others eventually made it to the station.  On the way they killed the Cheyenne Left Hand, brother of the famous war leader Roman Nose.

Shortly after the scouts left, the Indians swarmed on Custard.  He hurriedly corralled his wagons, and the remaining 20 men fired from beneath or inside the wagons.   The warriors got in close, some rolling logs and rocks in for cover as they tightened the circle.  Though hopelessly outnumbered, Custard and his men held out for four hours.  When Roman Nose finally directed the warriors to rush in for the final combat, there were only a handful of soldiers still alive.  The few they captured were subjected to horrible tortures, for the soldiers had shot a substantial number of Indians.  The Cheyennes threw away the scalps they took, for too many warriors had died to celebrate the battle.

Killed were Custard, 19 soldiers at the wagons, and the 2 shot at the river.  The Cheyennes lost 6 warriors, with another 6 wounded.  The Lakotas lost about 6 killed and 12 wounded.

August 13, 1865 Crazy Woman's Fork (Buffalo, Wyoming)

The Powder River campaign against the Cheyenne and Lakota had been in the planning stages all spring and early summer, and after interminable supply delays, it finally got under way.  Brig. Gen. Patrick E. Connor led the "Left Column" out of Fort Laramie on July 30th.  It consisted of 90 men each of the 7th. Iowa and 11th. Ohio Cavalries, 116 of the 2nd. California Cavalry, 95 Pawnee scouts under Capt. Frank North, and 84 Omaha scouts.  Accompanying them were 200 men of Col. James H. Kidd's 6th. Michigan Cavalry, who were to build a garrison a new fort on the Powder River.

While the troops looked for a place to build a post, North led a scout of Pawnees down the Powder River, north of the main command.  On August 13th., near Crazy Woman's Fork, North chased a war party until he became separated from his support.  The warriors shot North's horse, and things looked grim for him when one of his scouts, Bob White, rode up.  North ordered White to go for help.  The scout stated, according to teamster Finn Burnett, "Me heap brave, me no run, you and me killem plenty Sioux, that better".

After possibly wounding a few warriors, other Pawnee scouts arrived to end the action.

August 13-15, 1865 Bone Pile Creek (Gillette, Wyoming)

Hoping to pioneer and publicize a shorter route to Montana, prominent Iowa merchant James Sawyers organized an expedition to build a road along the proposed route.  He left the mouth of the Niobrara River, in northern Nebraska, on June 13th. with 53 men and 15 wagons pulled by 45 yoke of oxen.  His escort was a rather unwilling Capt. George Williford leading 143 men of the 5th. U.S. Volunteers and a detachment of Dakota Cavalry.   Joining them was an emigrant train of 5 wagons and 36 freight wagons owned by C.E. Hedges & Company of Sioux City, Iowa.

The party traveled slowly up the Niobrara, at times struggling through sand hills with temperatures climbing over 100 degrees.  by the time they reached the badlands of the upper White River, Williford was running out of provisions.  On July 21st. he sent 15 men to Fort Laramie, about 75 miles southwest, for needed supplies.

By August 9th., the expedition had reached the Belle Fourche River and decided to strike northwest to the Powder River.  A nearly waterless 32-mile trek over the next two days convinced Sawyers that it was not the place for a wagon road, and he retraced his steps.  On August 13th. the party camped on Bone Pile Creek, about ten miles southwest of present-day Gillette, Wyoming.  About a mile and a half form camp, a band of Cheyennes jumped Nathaniel D. Hedges, a 19-year-old partner in the freighting firm.  They killed him and ran off eight horses.

The distressed expedition moved a few miles down Bone Pile Creek, corralled, and placed a strict guard.  They buried Hedges in the center of the corral and concealed his grave.  On the 14th. the Indians appeared in force and made a dash at the camp's herd, but the group drive them off.  The next day over 500 warriors appeared on the bluffs.  They swept onto the plain and circled around shooting, but the camp repelled them again.  At noon the Indians asked for a parley.  Sawyer gave them a wagonload of sugar, bacon, coffee, flour, and tobacco to buy his way out.

Williford objected to the gift, doubting it would work, and he proved correct.  No sooner had the expedition started to get under way again then a melee erupted.  Some Lakota had come in after the gifts were distributed.  Two Dakota cavalrymen of Company B, John Rawze and Anthony Nelson, were shot down.  Finally the Indians left, and Nelson's body was recovered and buried in the corral as Hedges had been.  Rawze's body could not be found.  The expedition turned south to Fort Connor.

The two soldiers and one civilian killed were the whites' total casualties.  Five Lakotas were wounded, two of them mortally.

August 16, 1865 Powder River (Northeastern Wyoming)

While construction began on Fort Connor, near present-day Sussex, Wyoming, Frank North's Pawnee scouts kept up a vigilant search for Cheyennes and Sioux.  They trailed a band of Cheyennes who had been raiding along the Platte River and were heading north.  The signs showed about 40 horses and mules and 1 travois.  North, with 48 Pawnees and a number of white soldiers and civilians, caught up with the raiders on the Powder River about 50 miles north of Fort Connor.

The Cheyennes assumed the approaching Indians were Cheyennes or Lakotas, for they made a friendly sign.  Suddenly the Pawnees charged in, shouting.  The fight was one-sided, the exuberant Pawnees killing 27 Cheyennes, including Yellow Woman, stepmother of George Bent.  A wounded Cheyenne in the travois rolled himself over a steep cutbank, but a Pawnee saw him, climbed down, and killed him with a saber.

North's scouts lost 4 horses but captured 18 horses and 17 miles, many with government brands showing they had been taken in the Platte Bridge fight.  Back at Fort Connor, the Pawnees held a great scalp dance long into the night.  North was praised after the battle, which earned him the name "Pawnee Chief" from his scouts.

August 29, 1865 Tongue River (Ranchester, Wyoming)

Launching the Powder River campaign (see Crazy Woman's Fork, August 13th.), Brig. Gen. Patrick E. Connor led his Left Column north from Fort Laramie on July 30th.  They moved up the Bozeman Trail to the Powder River, where the 6th. Michigan Cavalry, who had accompanied the column to build a new post on the river, began construction of Fort Connor.

Connor continued north with his column on August 22nd., trailing along the east edge of the Bighorn Mountains to the Tongue River and moving downstream toward the planned meeting place with other columns under Col. Nelson Cole and Col. Samuel Walker.  On the 28th., scouts brought word of an Indian village 40 miles upstream at the head of the Tongue.  Conner prepared to backtrack and attack.

Leaving part of the command with the 184-wagon train, Connor led 125 cavalrymen and 90 scouts in a night march to Black Bear and David's Arapaho village, a mile south of present-day Ranchester, Wyoming.  There were nearly 300 lodges with about 700 Indians.  Though it was early in the morning, the Indians were dismantling the camp.   Connor lined up his men, who fired a volley then barreled into them.  The soldiers fought with the warriors while the women and children fled.  A battery of howitzers under Maj. Nelson O'Brien of the 7th. Iowa Cavalry blasted the village.

Capt. Henry E. Palmer of the 11th. Kansas Cavalry said of the fight: "I was in the village in the midst of a hand to hand fight with warriors and their squaws, for many of the female portion of this band did as brave fighting as their savage lords.   Unfortunately for the women and children, our men had no time to direct their aim. . .squaws and children, as well as warriors, fell among the dad and wounded".

Conner led a pursuit up the valley for ten miles.  At about 11 A.M., at the edge of a canyon, he turned around and found he had outdistanced most of his support and now had only about 13 men with him.  He retreated to the Indians village site and spend the rest of the day destroying the lodges and burning tons of buffalo robes, blankets, furs, and meat.  The number of horses Connor captured was estimated between 500 and 1,100.  In the late afternoon, Connor marched his men the 40 miles back to the wagon train.  The soldiers had been in the saddle for 100 miles and without rest for 40 hours.

Connor lost 2 soldiers and 3 scouts, and 7 soldiers were wounded.  He captured 7 women and 11 children, but later freed them.  Connor estimated that 35 Indians were killed, while Palmer said 63 were slain.

July 17, 1866 Cazeau Wagon Train (Banner, Wyoming)

Traders Peter Cazeau and Henry Arrison were traveling along the Bozeman Trail in two wagons with three employees, Cazeau's Oglala wife Mary, and their four children.  On July 16th. they were camped on Peno Creek, six miles north of Fort Phil Kearny, when a group of Northern Cheyennes joined them.  Later, some angry Oglalas appeared, demanding that the Cheyennes join them in a war against the soldiers at the fort.   When the Cheyennes refused, the Oglalas called them cowards, whipped them, and drove them from the camp.

Early the next morning, the Oglalas returned and killed Cazeau, Arrison, and the three hired men.  Mary and the children escaped into the brush and safely reached the fort.

July 20, 1866 Crazy Woman Creek (Buffalo, Wyoming)

A small 18th. U.S. Infantry detachment of 29 soldiers under Lt. George Templeton was heading north to Fort Phil Kearny as escort for the wives of Lt. Alexander Wands and Sgt. F.M. Fessenden, a servant, and several children.  After passing Fort Reno (formerly Fort Connor), they party went down Dry Creek to its junction with Crazy Woman Creek.   Scouting ahead, Templeton and Lt. Napoleon H. Daniels were jumped by over 50 warriors, probably Lakotas, perhaps with some Cheyennes.  Daniels was killed.   The Indians chased Templeton back to the train with an arrow in his back and a wound on his face.  He ordered the train corralled and organized the defense.   Several men were wounded and a few mules were shot down.

At sunset, two men volunteered to ride back to Fort Reno for help.  Just then, another train of 34 wagons and 47 men, under Capt. Thomas B. Burrowes, approached from the northwest.  Burrowes was unaware that anything was wrong until he saw Templeton's corralled train, then came across the body of Pvt. Terrence Callery, one of his own men who had gone out to hunt.  Burrowes's train forted up with Templeton's.

The next morning the soldiers found the body of Lt. Daniels stripped, scalped, and pierced with 22 arrows.  Responding to the call for help, Lt. Thaddeus S. Kirtland and 13 men rode in on July 21st., but the Indians had gone by then.  The entire party went back to Fort Reno the next day.

Two men were killed in the siege and six were wounded.  Indian casualties are unknown.

July 24, 1866 Clear Creek (Buffalo, Wyoming)

At Fort Reno, after the siege at Crazy Woman Creek (previous entry), the soldiers buried Lt. Daniels, then Capt. Burrowes and his train joined the Templeton party to Fort Phil Kearny.  On July 23rd. the train caught up with two large civilian wagon trains that had left the fort the day before, led by High Kirkendall and William Dillon.   The conglomeration consisted of about 200 wagons and stretched for 6 miles across the plains.

The first wagons reached Clear Creek, at present-day Buffalo, Wyoming, on the afternoon of the 24th. and corralled.  Kirkendall's train, 6 miles south, had to corral on their own when 25 Indians tried to run off their mules.  In the meantime, William Dillon and five other men had left camp to see what was holding Kirkendall up, when they were attacked.  The six men shot their horses and made a small circle to hold off the Indians.  After four hours of fighting, they tried to make a run for Kirkendall's corral.  Dillon was critically wounded, and one of the men carried him while three others walked backward, shooting at their pursuers.  Kirkendall recognized what was happening and sent a party out to rescue them.

At the first corral, at Clear Creek, Burrowes heard of the attack and sent couriers to Fort Phil Kearny for help.  He also dispatched 16 men to assist Kirkendall and Dillon, and Kirkendall was able to move his wagons to Clear Creek.  Dillon died that night.  The next morning, 60 men and a howitzer arrived from Fort Phil Kearny, and they all proceeded to that post.

Dillon was the only casualty from the wagon trains.  Two Lakotas were killed in the fight.

December 6, 1866 Peno Creek (Banner, Wyoming)

After Indians (probably Lakotas) attacked a wood-cutting detail about four miles from Fort Phil Kearny, post commander Col. Henry B. Carrington, 18th. Infantry, led 25 mounted infantrymen under Lt. George W. Grummond north of Lodge Trail Ridge, and sent Capt. William J. Fetterman and Lt. Horatio S. Bingham with a squad of mounted infantry and about 30 troopers of Company C, 2nd. Cavalry, northwest toward the wood wagons.  The idea was for Fetterman to drive the Indians from the west side of Lodge Trail Ridge to the east side, where Carrington would be waiting for them.

The plan quickly came unraveled either through miscommunication or from deliberately disobeyed orders.  Bingham rode ahead of Fetterman, fair in advance of the command.   Likewise, Grummond rode out ahead of Carrington.  On his way to Lodge Trail Ridge, Carrington had a skirmish with 100 warriors, delaying him.  Fetterman arrived in time only to check Bingham's fleeing troopers, who had gone chasing after a few Indians along Peno Creek and were nearly annihilated by a large force of warriors--the first Indians had been decoys.  The green soldiers stopped their flight only after Lt. Alexander Wands threatened to have them shot by their own comrades.  Bingham, however, did not stop.  He continued on with a handful of troopers toward Carrington, whom he saw on the ridge.  He never made it.  Carrington and Fetterman pulled back to the fort.

Carrington killed one Indian himself and estimated that ten warriors were killed.   Bingham and Sgt. G.R. Bowers were killed, and another sergeant and four privates were wounded.  Bingham's body was found lying over a stump with more than 50 arrows in it.

December 21, 1866 Fort Phil Kearny/Fetterman Massacre (Buffalo, Wyoming)

In a near repeat of the December 6th. incident (previous entry), a train of wood wagons came under attack outside Fort Phil Kearny, and Col. Henry B. Carrington sent Capt. William J. Fetterman out with 80 men, including 27 horsemen of Company C, 2nd. Cavalry; detachments of Companies A, C, E, and H of the 18th. Infantry; and 2 civilians, James S. Wheatley and Isaac Fisher.

"Under no circumstances", ordered Carrington, "pursue over. . .Lodge Trail Ridge".  Fetterman, however, was pulled into a chase by a decoy party that included the Lakotas Crazy Horse, Black Shield, and White Bull.  Fetterman and his command followed the Indians over the ridge.  As soon as the soldiers were out of sight of the fort, the concealed warriors struck.

On the north-south ridge that would become known as Massacre Hill, perhaps 1,000 warriors, perfectly following the plan of the Minneconjou chief High Back Bone, rose up from the valley of Peno Creek and charged up the hill.  The cavalrymen under Lt. George W. Grummond, who were farthest north, fell back toward the infantry along the trail as they all tried desperately to find a place to make a stand.  The two civilians, behind a pile of rocks at the north end of the ridge, put up one of the best fights with their Henry rifles.

The battle lasted only about half an hour.  All 81 soldiers and civilians were killed; Fetterman and Capt. Frederick H. Brown reportedly shot each other in the head simultaneously at the end of the battle.  The Cheyennes lost 2 men, the Arapahos 1, and the Lakotas about 60.  Perhaps 100 were wounded.

August 2, 1867 Wagon Box Fight (Story, Wyoming)

A crew of civilian woodcutters ere camped on Little Piney Creek, about five miles northwest of Fort Phil Kearny, with their military escort, Capt. James W. Powell and Lt. John C. Jenness, 27th. Infantry, and 51 men of Company C, who had just relieved Company A.   Early in the morning of August 2nd., nearly 1,000 Sioux warriors, mainly Oglalas, Minneconjous, and Sans Arcs, under Red Cloud and High Back Bone, struck the camp.

Some soldiers and civilians were caught outside the camp or in transit between the camp and the fort, and they had their own fights or escaped.  All Powell could muster to his wagon coral were Jenness, 24 enlisted men, and 6 civilians.  Perhaps 800 warriors concentrated on the wagons.  A mounted charge from the southwest was beaten back by judicious fire from the soldier's new Springfield-Allin breech-loading rifles.  When the initial charge failed, the warriors dismounted and crept close to the north and east side of the corral, where the terrain provided cover.

In the second attack, Lt. Jenness remained standing, ignoring the entreaties of his men.  "I know how to fight Indians", he said.  Just then a bullet him him square in the forehead.  Also killed were Pvts. Henry Haggerty and Tommy Doyle.   A Minneconjou named Jipala brazenly advanced with a spear and a buffalo hide, challenging the soldiers to shoot him.  He remained unscathed for a long time, but Pvt. Max Littman finally brought him down.  The defenders repulsed eight charges between 7 A.M. and 1:30 P.M.

Eventually survivors outside the corral brought word to Phil Kearny.  Maj. Benjamin Smith took 100 men and a mountain howitzer to their relief.  The howitzer's boom announced the rescue, and the Sioux, tired and frustrated at their inability to overrun the corral, pulled back.  About 4 woodcutters and 14 soldiers hiding in the woods came back when the fight was over.

Three men in the corral were killed and two were wounded; four more defenders were killed outside the enclosure.  Historian George Hyde wrote that six Indians were killed and six were wounded.  Some estimates of Sioux casualties were as high as an absurd 1,500.  Powell estimated 60 Indians killed and 120 wounded; the real figure was like half that.

September 14, 1869 Popo Agie (Lander, Wyoming)

On the Shoshone reservation near the Little Wind River, civilian James Camp and Pvt. John Holt, Company K, 7th. Infantry, were killed, possibly by Shoshone or Bannocks, who shared the reservation, but more likely by wandering Lakotas in the vicinity.  The same day, at Camp ?Augur, to the southeast on the Popo Agie River, soldiers spotted hostile Lakotas within three miles of the post.  Lt. Charles B. Stambaugh, with a 28-man detachment of Company D, 2nd. Cavalry, rode out to investigate.

After following a trail for 14 miles, Stambaugh ran into 200 Lakotas and engaged them in battle.  In a three-hour fight, two soldiers were wounded, two Indians killed, and ten Indians were wounded.  Stambaugh also had eight horses killed and four injured, so he could not pursue the retreating Lakotas.

December 1, 1869 Horseshoe Creek (Glendo, Wyoming)

At Horseshoe Creek near present-day Glendo, Wyoming, about 150 Lakotas attacked the mail stage heading from Fort Fetterman to Fort Laramie.  Riding escort were ten soldiers of the 4th. Infantry under Sgt. Conrad Bahr, Company E.  The Indians sought to overwhelm the escort, but the men fought back, hitting several attackers.  Three soldiers were wounded.  The mail got through.

May 4, 1870 Miner's Delight (South Pass City, Wyoming)

When the Shoshone Reservation was placed beside mines in the Sweetwater District, near South Pass in the Wind River Range, miners demanded protection from the army.   Responding to a report of alleged depredations, Capt. David S. Gordon and Lt. Charles B. Stambaugh, Company D, 2nd. Cavalry, moved out of Camp Auger, in the Popo Agie Valley near present-day Lander, Wyoming.

Early in the morning the troopers charged some Araphahos driving stolen stock, killing two of the Indians and wounding one.  Later, near Twin Creek, Stambaugh and 10 soldiers fought sharply with more than 60 Arapahos.  The soldiers killed five warriors and wounded one.  The Araphahos wounded a Sgt. Brown and killed Stambaugh.

July 4, 1874 Snake Mountain (Lysite, Wyoming)

After the Sun Dance in June, the Lakotas, along with the Cheyennes and Arapahos, agreed to make a great raid on the Shoshones of Wind River.  After they crossed the Bighorns, the Indians disagreed as to whether the raid was for war and spoils, or just for horses.  The Arapahos broke off and moved their camp into the mountains between the eastern Owl Creek Range and the southern Bighorns.

Shoshone scouts reported the Arapahos' location to authorities at Camp Brown.   Capt. Alfred E. Bates was chosen to take his 60 men of Company B, 2nd. Cavalry, with 20 Shoshone scouts under Lt. Robert H. Young, 4th. Infantry; 167 Shoshones under Chief Washakie; and several civilians to hunt them down.  Bates left on the evening of July 1st. and headed northeast.  The Arapahos, in the meantime, had moved their camp, and it was not until July 4th. that Bates found them--112 lodges along a deep ravine and creek branching off the had of Nowood Creek below Snake Mountain (now called Bates Creek and Battle Mountain).

In the early light, Bates saw that he needed to get around to the other side of the valley to surround the camp, but he knew he had little chance of surprise when the Shoshone scouts began singing battle songs.  "Their howls were terrific", Bates reported.

The captain ordered the Shoshones to follow him down the ravine and charge through at his rear.  Because of the rough ground, he left men behind with the broken-down horses and the packs.  He had only 35 men to carry out the charge.  The Arapahos, having been alerted, fired from the ravine, which was 15 feet wide and 10 feet deep.  Bates drove them out and down the gully.

In less than half an hour, the Arapahos had taken refuge in the cliffs above.   Firing from the rocks, the Arapahos killed two soldiers and wounded three in just a few minutes.  Lt. Young, wounded, was in danger of being captured when a civilian named Cosgrove pulled him to safety.  Meanwhile, Bates had seen nothing of his Shoshones, and he ordered his men to pull back.  The Shoshones, however, were in the thick of the fight.  Pe-a-quite fought his way into the village and was killed, and another brave died in a hand-to-hand fight in front of a lodge.

When Bates moved out, the Arapahos could not chase after them, having lost too may horses.  The command's medical supplies were lost during the battle, and the surgeon had nothing with which to treat the wounded.  Washakie lost a sack of scalps when his captured gray horse got away from him and returned to the Arapahos.

Bates lost Pvts. James M. Walker and Peter Engall, and Lt. Young and Pvts. French, Gable, and Pearson were wounded.  The Shoshones lost two and three were wounded, including Chief Black Coal, who was hit in the chest and hand and later got the name Tag-ge-tha-the (Shot-off Fingers).  Still believing that the Shoshones had failed him, Bates lamented that with more men, he could have completely destroyed the village.

November 25, 1876 Red Fork of the Powder River (Mayoworth, Wyoming)

In the fall of 1876, the army organized anther huge force to round up the last of the recalcitrant bands who had fought Crook and Custer in June (see Rosebud Creek, Decker, Montana, June 17th. and Little Bighorn, Crow Agency, Montana, June 25th.).  The Powder River Expedition consisted of 11 companies of the 2nd., 3rd., 4th., and 5th. Cavalry, under Col. Ranald S. Mackenzie; 15 companies of the 4th., 9th., 14th., and 23rd. Infantry, plus four companies of the 4th. Artillery, under Lt. Col. Richard I Dodge; and about 400 Bannock, Shoshone, Pawnee, and Lakota allies.  Including civilian packers and volunteers, there were almost 2,200 men and 168 wagons.

The command marched to old Fort Reno on the Powder, where Mackenzie split off with the cavalry.  On November 25th., scouts guided him to a large Cheyenne camp on the canyon on the Red Fork of the Powder, west of Present-day Kaycee, Wyoming.  There were 200 lodges under Dull Knife and Little Wolf, with 400 warriors.  Mackenzie's 1,100 horsemen burst upon the village, driving the surprised Indians out onto the frozen ridges.   A deadly fire ensued.  The fight was hand-to-hand at times, the defenders knowing that if they lost their homes and supplies at the onset of winter, they would perish.

When the Cheyennes seemed about to recapture their pony herd, Mackenzie sent Lt. John A. McKinney with Company A, 4th. Cavalry, to stop them.  Caught in a high-walled ravine and ambushed, McKinney went down with six bullets in him.  Capt. John M. Hamilton's company of 5th. Cavalry helped extricate the company.  Finally, the soldiers secured the village, though the Cheyennes continued to pour in harassing fire from the rocks above.

During the fight, the Cheyennes suffered 40 killed and perhaps another 40 wounded.   Mackenzie's casualties were 6 men killed and 26 wounded.  The soldiers took more than 600 horses and burned all the lodges, leaving the Cheyennes to face the long winter without food and shelter.  The night after the battle, the temperature dropped to 30 below zero, and 11 babies froze to death.

September 12, 1878 Snake River (Jackson Hole, Wyoming)

Fugitive Bannock Indians who had escaped from the September 4th. Fight with Col. Nelson Miles (see Clark's Fork, Belfry, Montana) were caught on a tributary of the Snake River near Jackson Hole, Wyoming.  Lt. Hoel S. Bishop with a 30-man detachment of Company G, 5th. Cavalry, and some Shoshone scouts struck them, killing one and capturing seven.

April 29, 1882 Fort Washakie (Fort Washakie, Wyoming)

"Ute Jack", a white River Ute at the Shoshone Agency in Wyoming, was supposedly stirring up trouble.  Lt. George H. Morgan took six men of Company K, 3rd. Cavalry, to investigate.  When Morgan went to arrest Jack, the Ute resisted, wielding a knife, and attempted to escape.  The soldiers shot him in the arm, but he ducked into a tipi and grabbed a carbine, then killed a sergeant of the detachment.  When Maj. Julius W. Mason, 3rd. Cavalry, arrived with more soldiers, Jack was finally captured and killed.


Michino, Gregory F., Encyclopedia of Indian Wars, Western Battles and Skirmishes, 1850 - 1890, Mountain Press Publishing Company, Missoula Montana, Copyright 2003.