Category Archives: Blood

What Was The Battle of Wolf Mountain?

The Battle of Wolf Mountain was fought with perhaps equal numbers on both sides, but the U.S. army is considered the victor in their engagement with the Lakota Sioux and Cheyenne Native American warriors they faced on January 8, 1877, when the facts are presented by most historians. There were few casualties on either side, but after the battle ended the Native Americans who remained would have had little hope of evading capture or death during the winter. They surrendered instead.

Had the campaign against the Native Americans been fought according to traditional standards of war from the century past (according to Albany historians), the engagement may have been avoided altogether. Historically, winter was a time to dig in and resupply. This usually helped reduce the number of dead due to disease, hypothermia or malnourishment in the harsh conditions. General Nelson A. Miles would not apply these same rules of war in his hunting of the Native American forces that remained and so the Great Sioux War finally ended as a result.

After Miles had defeated the forces of Sitting Bull and Ranald S. Mackenzie had won the Dull Knife Fight, the Sioux and Cheyenne were all but routed. At this point it was relatively impossible for the tribes to regroup or reunite in enough force to launch an effective counter-offensive. After these conflicts were lost by the Native Americans, it was simply a mopping up effort on the part of the U.S. army until the inevitable surrender was obtained.

The Battle of Wolf Mountain was an attempt to track down Sioux Chief Crazy Horse and around 500 Native Americans he led. With 436 men under his command, Miles marched along the Tongue River valley until he managed came upon the Native American forces. A series of attacks were launched every other day, starting on January 1, 1877 and continuing through January 7. On that night, a massive snowstorm pounded the area. On January 8, Miles launched a five-hour battle that would end the conflict once and for all, using the snow to his advantage.

The Native Americans were tactically outmatched during the battle. There was three feet of snow on the ground, and two pieces of heavy artillery pounded them from a ridgeline above the field of battle. Their horses were starving and unable to carry the warriors into battle, forcing them to march on foot. Unsurprisingly, their attempts to outmaneuver and outflank the U.S. soldiers proved completely unsuccessful.

For all purposes, though, the U.S. side wasn’t in a position to overwhelm the Native Americans either, and so they didn’t. Eventually, the Native Americans agreed to terms of surrender after being promised they would be treated fairly upon return to Fort Robinson. Crazy Horse led them there in the coming days.

Those that went there were not treated well, in reality, and another massacre would soon play out not far from Fort Robinson after some Native Americans who had gone there managed to escape.

The Battle of Wolf Mountain may not have led to significant loss of life for either side of the military engagement, but it was a strategic loss for the Lakota Sioux and Northern Cheyenne who were already devastated by the Great Sioux War, and an obvious precursor to their surrender at Camp Robinson in May. The historical significance of the conflict hasn’t been forgotten over time, and the site of the battle was part of the National Register of Historic Places for a long time before the Wolf Mountains Battlefield was elevated to a National Historic Landmark in 2008.

What Was The Fort Robinson Massacre?

After a series of crushing defeats during the Great Sioux War, the Northern Cheyenne were forced to give up more and more territory in the years thereafter. Although the U.S. demanded most of them relocate to the Darlington Agency of the Southern Cheyenne Reservation, many could not tolerate the conditions of that relocation and so they fled back home, to the north. This September 1878 migration was the precursor to the Fort Robinson Massacre, a series of terrible events that would transpire during the coming winter months.

A number of Cheyenne were caught during this migration and 150 were sent to Fort Robinson in Nebraska.

The U.S. escalated its poor treatment of the Cheyenne that remained in the northern region in an effort to push them back south. They essentially imprisoned a large number without food or heat, the conditions that led them to attempt escape in January. In typical U.S. form, the Cheyenne were tracked by the army so they could be recaptured or killed. 65 Cheyenne Native Americans were caught and returned to Fort Robinson, while most of the remaining 32 were slaughtered by a much greater force of 150 men.

If that sounds bad, then know that the reality was even worse.

Those 32 Cheyenne were a group of 18 men and 14 women and children. On January 22, 1879, they were trapped among the Hat Creek Bluffs, 35 miles away from their escape at Fort Robinson. After they were surrounded, they decided to entrench themselves in an effort to survive the coming attack. They chose a dry creek bed which would thereafter be named “The Pit” by those who studied the battle.

Although the Cheyenne were apparently given the opportunity to surrender themselves, they chose instead to fight. They fired upon the U.S. soldiers who came at them from all directions, managing to kill several. All the Cheyenne warriors were casualties of the skirmish, while four women and two children also fell victim to the U.S. rush. Eight Cheyenne survived by hiding amongst the dead, but were soon captured.

Of all those who had fled Fort Robinson, only about 10 survived made their way to the Sioux reservation. Up to 64 wound up dead, 23 wounded, and dozens of others back in the hands of the U.S. military.

After the events at the Pit, General George Crook began an investigation into the Fort Robinson Massacre. Command of the garrison at Fort Robinson shifted to Major Andrew W. Evans. Eventually, the remaining prisoners were released so they could make the journey to a Montana reservation. The investigation did little to ease the suffering that had been endured over the long winter months by the Cheyenne.

Many of those who survived the ordeal were charged with murder, and the U.S. government later maintained that it was not liable for the loss of life incurred by the Native Americans. It wasn’t until 1994 that members of the Northern Cheyenne tribe were able to obtain the remains of those who died during the Fort Robinson Massacre. Today, they are now buried at the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation in Montana.

You might say remember the Alamo in Texas, and I say remember Fort Robinson!

What Was The Dull Knife Fight in Wyoming Territory?

Although the Great Sioux War began and ended as a series of skirmishes, the U.S. public was greatly attentive toward those battles, especially after the seemingly inconceivable disaster and defeat that was the Battle of Little Bighorn. After Custer and hundreds of his men were slaughtered, the people of the U.S. couldn’t get enough of the news related to the war, and everyone was on the lookout for a big U.S. victory.

As it turned out, the Battle of Slim Buttes would set the stage for a quick Sioux and Cheyenne rout, and the Dull Knife Fight would quickly end the war that had long been waged in the Black Hills region of South Dakota–a war that began with an obviously illegal expedition embarked upon by Custer after he was commissioned to do so by the U.S. army. It ended what were short-lived peace treaties and resulted in at least another decade of violence.

Slim Buttes allowed the U.S. to find its footing with the slaughter of the men, women and children of the Sioux, Minneconjou, Cheyenne, and Brules Native Americans. Not long after, on November 25, 1876, Colonel Ranald S. Mackenzie, a rising star in the U.S. military after his service in the Civil War and earlier conflicts with the Native Americans, and the fourth cavalry under his command set upon yet another Native American village in what was to be known as the Dull Knife Fight.

This was the battle that would decimate any chance the Northern Cheyenne had of holding the U.S. military at bay for an extended period of time.

Mackenzie left Camp Robinson, Nebraska with a 1,000 men spread across eleven companies under his command. Complementing that force was a group of 400 Native American scouts who knew the basic lay of the land. A number of tribes were among them: Pawnee, Bannocks, Sioux, Shoshone, Arapaho, and Cheyenne.

While at first glance one might be surprised to notice Sioux and Cheyenne aiding the war effort against their own people, it is important to acknowledge that these tribes were greatly divided between those who acknowledged defeat and sought only peace, and those who wished to continue to fight back to keep their traditions and way of life intact after decades of being pushed farther and farther back.

When the force came upon the Cheyenne Dull Knife camp, it was in the midst of a celebration. That didn’t stop Mackenzie. At dawn on November 25, his force set upon the village and drove out the inhabitants.

As far as battles go, it was not a particularly gruesome one. On the U.S. side, only seven were confirmed dead. The Cheyenne lost at least forty, and many more were wounded. 200 lodges were torched, and Mackenzie’s forces recovered more U.S. property taken after the Battle of Little Bighorn.

More importantly, the battle left hundreds of Cheyenne Native Americans without clothing, food, or practical shelter as they were pushed north just before the onset of winter. This virtually guaranteed the end of any effective Cheyenne resistance, and propelled the sense of pride felt by the U.S. military and public.

Red Cloud’s War

The Fort Laramie Treaty of 1851 was a piece of legislation signed by representatives of several different Native American tribes in the Midwest and overseen by the lawyers of the United States government. Its purpose was to ensure a lasting peace between the disputing Native American nations as well as ensure safe passage for European American pioneers along the Oregon Trail into Montana, and it allowed the United States to build roads, forts and trading posts in Native American territory in exchange for annual recompense in the amount of $50,000 each year over the course of 50 years.

Due to a consistent unrest among Native American tribes, wars and conflicts shifted the positions and land claims of various peoples in the American Midwest. Apart from providing a dramatic theater for the Native American peoples themselves, it also made for a harrowing passageway by which European Americans would travel westward due to the California Gold Rush of 1848. In response to avoiding possible conflict between the United States and the Native American peoples, the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1851 was ratified to settle several land claims with many of the tribes agreeing to terms.

However, the treaty was broken almost immediately. Lakota and Cheyenne tribes attacked the Crow tribe over the course of the next two years. American emigrants settled Native American territory in the Pike’s Peak Gold Rush of 1858, causing further conflict as well as a strain of natural resources. Many tribes were displaced, most notably by the Lakota: the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara tribes all were driven out of treaty-shared territory by 1862. Beyond all the intertribal fighting, the United States did little to intervene in any of the conflict, nor did they ever honor many their pledges of the money that was promised to the Native American people.

One of the conflicts that arose involved Lakota expansion while hunting for natural resources near the Powder River area in Crow territory as was dictated by the treaty. Hostilities waged between the Crow and the Lakota until the Crow were eventually displaced from their lands and the Lakota assumed control of Powder River in 1859.

Four years later, European Americans had blazed the Bozeman Trail as a shortcut from Fort Laramie to the gold fields of Montana. This trail cut through territory belonging to Cheyenne, Arapaho and Lakota, according to the Treaty of 1851. The emigration through the Bozeman Trail as well as the consistent competition of diminishing resources sparked what would become known as Red Cloud’s War, named so after an Oglala Lakota chief allied with both Arapaho and Cheyenne in an effort to drive the Europeans out.

Consisting mostly of skirmishes on US forts along the Powder River, Red Cloud’s War waged from 1866 to 1868 with the Lakota effectively claiming victory as well as the lands once appropriated to the Crow in the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1851. In 1868, a second treaty was ratified that established the Great Sioux Reservation and made official the inclusion of the western Powder River and Black Hills as Lakota lands, permanently displacing the Crow.
However, this peace would be short-lived, as the United States would impede on Sioux lands less than 10 years later in the prospect for gold within the Black Hills. The Lakota, along with their established allies in the Cheyenne and Arapaho, would see war with the United States military again by 1876 in the Great Sioux War, only this time with less than favorable results.

Participants of the Great Sioux War

Between 1876 and 1877, the United States waged war with a portion of the Native American population known as the Sioux, in a conflict aptly named the Great Sioux War. Some may also know it as the Black Hills War, given the precedence for conflict involved the claim over the Black Hills in South Dakota and Wyoming. Despite the name, however, the Great Sioux War also included other Native American tribes such as the Cheyenne and the Arapaho as well as the various factions within the Lakota Sioux tribe itself, most predominantly the Oglala and Hunkpapa.

Despite the unity of common purpose in the Great Sioux War, many of the tribes who participated wavered between friendly allies and bitter rivals before the conflict took place. In fact, the Lakota Sioux had crossed the Missouri River after a smallpox epidemic and claimed the Black Hills from the Cheyenne in 1776, several years after the Cheyenne had introduced horses into Lakota society.

Originally hailing from the Great Lakes region, the Arapaho tribes ventured southward from present-day Minnesota and Manitoba and established a strong presence in the Midwest from Montana and Wyoming into the western regions of Oklahoma and Kansas. By 1811, they had allied themselves with the Cheyenne to expand their hunting territories, and by 1826 the alliance had come to include Lakota Sioux in an effort to repel Kiowa and Comanche forces from the south. The Arapaho managed peaceful relations with the Cheyenne and the Lakota, and they even dealt frequently with immigrant trading posts hosted by European Americans up until conflict arose with the United States. Expanding in all directions, the Arapaho eventually came to peaceful relations with the Comanche as well, the very tribe they once fought to stop from entering their lands, and even grew so close that a portion of the population assimilated with them, adopting the Comanche language and even coming to be known as their own individual Comanche tribe in the Texas Panhandle.

The Cheyenne and the Lakota have the more storied past, venturing between war allies and bitter enemies at different points in time. Hailing from similar lands in the Great Lakes region, the Cheyenne had ventured westward into present-day Minnesota and North Dakota. While crossing the Missouri River, they associated with the Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara and eventually Lakota, the latter to whom they introduced horses. However, due to rising conflict between Lakota and another tribe known as Ojibwe, the Cheyenne were forced to continue migrating westward, eventually entering into conflict with the Kiowa as a result. The warring Lakota eventually crossed the Missouri River and overtook the Cheyenne, claiming their territory in the Black Hills. Forced to continue west and south, the Cheyenne eventually came into an alliance with the Arapaho as well as the opportunity to expand upon their own territory, territory that would encompass southern Montana through Wyoming and Colorado, into the western reaches of Nebraska and Kansas.

Despite past territorial disputes between the Lakota and the Cheyenne, however, they would find a common enemy in the United States military with the advent of the Great Sioux War in an effort to keep American prospectors and traders from trespassing into the Black Hills, considered sacred land by both the Cheyenne and Lakota, in search of the promise of gold. Still strongly allied with the Cheyenne, the Arapaho joined in their effort to defend the Black Hills as well in the conflict that would later be known as the Great Sioux War.

The Battle of Powder River

It is said the love of money is the root of all evil.

When it comes to the Great Sioux War between Lakota Sioux, Cheyenne and the U.S. military, this could reasonably be seen as the cause for all of the harm that an 18-month war brought to bear on both sides.

All over a bunch of gold rocks.

Negotiations Gone South

As the Black Hills Gold Rush was on in 1875, white settlers from the East were flowing into the area to find their piece of prosperity, but they were broaching Sioux and Cheyenne lands around the Black Hills. The U.S. government had negotiated land for the Sioux people with the Treaty of Fort Laramie in 1868, which included the Black Hills, considered highly sacred ground to the American Indians in the area.

Settlers and prospectors were not part of the original deal, and the Sioux were not real happy. The government wanted to buy the Black Hills from the Sioux in order to mine the gold. The government asked the tribes to meet at their local agencies by January 31, 1876, to negotiate sales terms. Several bands of Lakota Sioux and Cheyenne did not comply with the request, and the order was given to the military to “enforce” an order that would drive the “hostile” American Indians away from the Black Hills and onto reservations.

The Powder (River) Keg

By March of that year, events were coming to a head with the first major confrontation of the Great Sioux War. Lakota Sioux and Cheyenne were in a village near the Powder River, where U.S. military scouts spotted them. After a long trek through winter blizzards and chilling cold, the U.S. military had finally caught up to a camp of these “hostiles.”

The attack plan of the U.S. forces was to split up into two groups, one to attack the village and the other to secure about 1,000 horses belonging to those in the village. The group that attacked the village was split up, with part of the group going into the village itself and the other meant to stay on the ridge to prevent escape.

Poor Execution

But at the time that attack was commenced, fewer than 50 soldiers (out of about 300) made it to the camp; the rest were delayed by terrain and weather as the village was a full mile farther than initially reported. The key group delayed was the one meant to be on the ridge; the ridge was captured by the Indians. The village and all the supplies were burned while the Indians had a raid party take back most of its animals.

No Winner?

The U.S. military had twice as many men in the battle as the Lakota and Cheyenne did but one could argue that the battle was a draw, if not a win by the Indians. Despite losing the entire village, the Indians had one killed and one wounded in the battle, while the military had four deaths and six wounded, and ultimately gained only about 100 horses – and ended up killing them anyway. The military withdrew to base rather than chasing the Indians to where Crazy Horse was located – one of the military’s primary targets, along with Sitting Bull.

Having that attack executed poorly essentially prolonged the Great Sioux War, as the Sioux and Cheyenne warriors were able to survive and keep fighting for 18 months, when most of the “resistance” could have been subdued by that one encounter along the banks of the Powder River. The Powder River, in effect, caused Custer’s Last Stand three months later.

You can watch a famous movie about it here or view various websites:

The Battle of Slim Buttes And Its Aftermath

 

After the embarrassing massacre that occurred at the Battle of Little Bighorn on June 25, 1876, the U.S. army was on the prowl for a quick and decisive victory against the Native American tribes that had successfully gained a momentary upper hand. That victory was finally found during the Battle of Slim Buttes on September 9 and 10 of the same year, after months of searching for the opposing forces of the Sioux.

An expedition led by Brigadier General George Crook and Captain Anson Mills was at the breaking point, running low on food and supplies and exhausted from a months-long march that many historians count as one of toughest ever ventured. It was to be called the “Horsemeat March.”

When Crook couldn’t push his 2,200 men any further, he decided to stop for rest and resupply. He sent 150 of his soldiers riding on horseback to the Black Hills mining camps. Completely by accident, a group of Native Americans were spotted hunting. This group turned out to be part of a village comprised of 37 lodges and 260 people from a number of tribes–Lakota Sioux, Minneconjou, Cheyenne, and Brules. Only 30 or 40 of those were warriors.

Captain Mills was the man who decided to fight that day, although Crook would later become infuriated that he had.

After Mills sent one of his scouts to conduct a survey of the village, it was determined that the U.S. forces could flood the area and make quick work of the Native Americans who resided there. Their enemy would be quickly surrounded, and their warriors slain as soon as they exited their homes.

The plan was not a complete success.

Just before they could complete positioning their men for the assault, the Native Americans were alerted to their presence. A U.S. attack was carried out immediately, albeit hastily put together with fewer numbers than originally planned. It came from north and south, and many accounts suggest that women and children were slaughtered along with the men. The Native Americans fought back as fiercely as they could, managing to wound a U.S. army lieutenant in the process.

The army was unable to set up an effective perimeter around the village because of the poor timing, and many Native Americans managed to scatter and escape, eventually informing surrounding villages of the threat.

Afterward, a small team of men went into the village to find what spoils of war it had to offer. Immediately after a pack mule was discovered, it was shot–the men were being fired upon by a group of Native Americans hidden along the bluffs surrounding most of the village. The men were able to hide while more riflemen slowly trickled into the village, finding dried meat, furs, horses, weapons, ammunition, letters, jewelry, and blankets. What they found most rewarding, though, were the many items from the Battle of Little Bighorn. They found gauntlets, saddles, officers’ clothing and other equipment. Supposedly, someone was lucky enough to find 11,000 dollars in a teepee. 

They took what they could, and torched the rest.

After a long night of skirmishing, General Crook arrived on September 9 with his much larger force. Eventually, Chief American Horse was able to help the remaining Native Americans surrender–but only after he was fatally wounded. With only three men dead and a phenomenal bounty, the battle was considered a great success for the U.S. forces, marking the beginning of the end of the Great Sioux War.

The Great Importance of The Battle of Rosebud Creek, 1876

The Great Sioux War of 1876 was short, but it was destined to provide a bitter aftertaste to Native American and U.S. relations for decades to come. Even after the war was ended, skirmishes broke out for years. The conflict itself was less of a war set between two massive forces, and more of a long-lasting series of short engagements between adversaries competing for control over lands that had previously been held by the Native American tribes.

Although the war would eventually be won by the United States military, the Native American tribes would fight to the bitter end and held their own throughout the contest. During one such engagement, called the Battle of Rosebud Creek, the Sioux and Cheyenne would rally their forces to a miraculous win in the face of what were likely superior numbers and a better-armed force of trained U.S. soldiers.

Were it not for the persistence of younger tribe members, this victory–and subsequent ones–may never have come to pass. The Sioux and Cheyenne chiefs had a policy by which they would neither seek out nor engage the U.S. forces preemptively. Instead, they would muster their fighters and prepare for battles that might take place at a moment’s notice. Were a surprise attack to occur, then, they were ready.

Younger members of both tribes disagreed, and actively disobeyed the wishes of their chiefs. They periodically stole horses and other supplies from the U.S. army and shuttled important information about enemy position and movement back to their tribes.

This was why policy shifted toward more aggressive action on the part of the Native Americans. When those young warriors learned of the likelihood of a surprise attack on their village, they were able to use that knowledge to convince their respective tribe chiefs to launch an attack of their own.

On June 17, 1876, the two tribes successfully halted the advance of the U.S. army at the Battle of Rosebud Creek. Even though the battle would hardly be decisive, it would temporarily shift the outcome in crucial battles during the coming weeks.

General George Crook, who was in charge of the U.S. military might that day, would claim he had won. Historians dismiss his odd claim for an obvious reason. He commanded around a thousand troops during the six hour engagement and, while fewer of his men were killed or wounded than those on the opposing side, he was compelled to retreat so his force could seek required medical care and nourishment.

Meanwhile, the Sioux and Cheyenne warriors were provided a brief period of respite before another attack could be mounted against them. During this time, a fighting force of nearly two thousand warriors gathered to defend the region from further encroachment. The reinforcements paved the way for Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer’s blunder at the Battle of Little Bighorn only a week later on June 25. Although Custer made tactical error after tactical error, effectively giving up every strategic advantage held, his defeat–and the slaughter of he and his men–was made possible by the Native American victory at the Battle of Rosebud Creek.

Common War Injuries During The 1800s

Whereas the modern battlefield is marked by high explosives, whether manufactured in an industrialized factory or crudely built out of whatever is at hand, a mere century and a half ago, the most common war injury in the 1800s was bullet wounds. However, the nineteenth century was a major historical development period in the history of firearms, as well as a major period in the development of battlefield surgery, both of which would prove pivotal in the history of that century’s battlefields.

The 1800s started off with the then advanced musket rifle as a standard battlefield weapon. Though these rifles were fast evolving for the time (particularly since the Napoleonic wars and the beginning of modern colonialism made improvements in firearm technology a very in demand feat of engineering), these devices were still quite simple. They fired a small ball of lead, slow-moving by today’s standards, but still more than fast enough to shred flesh and shatter bone.

Later advancements in the century saw the birth repeating firearms that fired more bullets in less time than ever before, though the speed these bullets flew at and the rate at which they were still slow compared to today’s guns. Still, it was more than fast enough to create an upsurge in the number of war injuries and casualties of the wars of the era.

Explosion injuries, typically those of the cannons of the era, were common as well, but the bulk of war injuries of the era came from bullet wounds of faster and more powerful firearms. For those soldiers who didn’t die of their bullet injuries, treatments of the day were risky. Amputation was common, though it is unfair to describe the surgeons of the era as butchers. It was the best they had and many injured soldiers who survived the initial survived what would have been fatal a century earlier.