Indian Wars Campaigns

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Miami January 1790-August 1795
Tippecanoe 21 September-18 November 1811
Creeks 27 July 1813-9 August 1814 and February 1836-July 1837
Seminoles 20 November 1817 - 31 October 1818, 28 December 1835 - 14 August 1842 and 15 December 1855 - May 1858
Black Hawk 26 April-30 September 1832
Comanches 1867-1875
Modocs 1872-1873
Apaches 1873 and 1885-1886
Little Big Horn 1876-1877
Nez Perces 1877
Bannocks 1878
Cheyennes 1878-1879
Utes September 1879-November 1880
Pine Ridge November 1890-January 1891

Miami, January 1790 - August 1795. In the late 1780's a confederacy of hostile Indians, chiefly Miamis, in the northern part of present-day Ohio and Indiana restricted settlement largely to the Ohio Valley. Three separate expeditions were required to remove this obstacle to expansion.

Late in 1790 a force of 320 Regulars and 1,000 Kentucky and Pennsylvania militiamen under Brig. Gen. Josiah Harmar moved north from Fort Washington (Cincinnati) and was badly defeated in two separate engagements on 18 and 22 October 1790 in the vicinity of present-day Fort Wayne, Indiana. Congress then commissioned Governor Arthur St. Clair of the Northwest Territory as a major general, and he collected a force of about 2,000 men consisting of two regiments of Regulars (300 men each), 800 levies, and 600 militiamen. This force advanced slowly north from Fort Washington in September 1791, building a road and forts as it progressed. On the night of 3 - 4 November 1791 some 1,000 Indians surrounded 1,400 of St. Clair's men (one Regular regiment was in the rear) near the headwaters of the Wabash. The force was routed, and St. Clair, having lost 637 killed and 263 wounded, returned to Fort Washington.

Congress reacted to these disasters by doubling the authorized strength of the Regular Army in 1792 and appointing Anthony Wayne to succeed St. Clair. Maj. Gen. Wayne joined his troops near Pittsburgh in June 1792 and reorganized his Regulars to form a "Legion" composed of four sub-legions, each a "combat team" consisting of two battalions of infantry, a battalion of rifles, a troop of dragoons, and a company of artillery. After intensive training the Legion moved to Fort Washington in the spring of 1793 where it joined a force of mounted riflemen, Kentucky levies.

Early in October 1793, after peace negotiations had failed, Wayne's troops advanced slowly along St. Clair's route toward Fort Miami, a new British post on the present site of Toledo. They built fortifications along the way and wintered at Greenville. In the spring of 1794 a detachment of 150 men under Capt. Alexander Gibson was sent to the site of St. Clair's defeat where they built Fort Recovery. At the end of June, more than 1,000 warriors assaulted this fort for ten days, but the Indians were effectively beaten and forced to retreat. Wayne moved forward in July with a force of some 3,000 men, including 1,400 levies from Kentucky, paused to build Fort Defiance at the junction of the Glaize and Maumee, and resumed pursuit of the Indians on 15 August. At Fallen Timbers, an area near Fort Miami where a tornado had uprooted trees, the Indians made a stand. On 20 August 1794 the Indians were thoroughly defeated in a two-hour fight that was characterized by Wayne's excellent tactics and the able performance of his well-trained troops. Wayne's men destroyed the Indian villages, including some within sight of the British guns of Fort Miami.

Jay's Treaty (1794) resulted in the evacuation of frontier posts by the British. By the Treaty of Greenville, 3 August 1795, the western tribes of the region ceded their lands in southern and eastern Ohio, and the way was opened for rapid settlement of the Northwest Territory.

Tippecanoe, 21 September - 18 November 1811. In 1804 Tecumseh, a Shawnee, and his medicine man brother, the Prophet, with British backing, began serious efforts to form a new Indian confederacy in the Northwest. Governor William Henry Harrison of the Indiana Territory rejected Tecumseh's demand that settlers be kept out of the region. In the summer of 1811 Harrison, with the approval of the War Department, undertook to break up the confederacy before it could organize a mayor attack against the settlements.

In September 1811 Harrison moved from Vincennes up the Wabash with a well-trained force of 320 Regular infantry and 650 militia. After building Fort Harrison at Terre Haute as an advanced base, Harrison marched with 800 men toward the main Indian village on Tippecanoe Creek, bivouacking in battle order on the north bank of the Wabash within sight of the village on 6 November. Tecumseh being absent, Harrison conferred with the Prophet who gave the impression that he would not attack while a peace proposal was under consideration. Nevertheless, just before dawn on 7 November 1811, the Indians attacked Harrison's forces. In a wild hand-to-hand encounter the Indians were routed and their village destroyed. Harrison lost 39 killed and missing, 151 wounded; the Indians suffered a similar loss. This indecisive victory did not solve the Indian problems in the Northwest. The tribes of the area were to make common cause with the British in the War of 1812.

Creeks, 27 July 1813- 9 August 1814 and February 1836 - July 1837. The first of the Creek campaigns constitutes a phase of the War of 1812. The Upper Creeks, siding with the English, sacked Fort Mims in the summer of 1813, massacring more than 500 men, women, and children. These same Indians, grown to a force of about 900 warriors, were decisively beaten at Horseshoe Bend (Alabama) late in March 1814 by Andrew Jackson and his force of about 2,000 Regulars, militia, and volunteers, plus several hundred friendly Indians. In 1832 many Creeks were sent to the Indian Territory, and most of those remaining in the Southeast were removed there in 1836-37 when they went on the warpath during the Second Seminole War.

Seminoles, 20 November 1817 - 31 October 1818, 28 December 1835 - 14 August 1842 and 15 December 1855 - May 1858. This conflict began with the massacre of about 50 Americans near an army post in Georgia-climax to a series of raids against American settlements by Seminoles based in Spanish Florida. Brig. Gen. Edmund P. Gaines, Indian commissioner of the area, attempted countermeasures but soon found himself and his force of 600 Regulars confined to Fort Scott (Alabama) by the Seminoles. War Department instructions to Gaines had permitted the pursuit of Indians into Florida but had forbidden interference if the Indians took refuge in Spanish posts. Maj. Gen. Andrew Jackson, who was ordered to take over the operation, chose to interpret Gaines' instructions as sanctioning a full-scale invasion of the Spanish colony. He organized a force of about 7,500 volunteers, militia, subsidized Creeks, and Regulars (4th and 7th Infantry and a battalion of the 4th Artillery), and invaded Florida with part of thin force in the spring of 1818. Jackson destroyed Seminole camps, captured Pensacola (capital of Spanish Florida) and other Spanish strongholds, and executed two British subjects, Alexander Arbuthnot and Robert Ambrister, accused of inciting and arming the Indians. These activities threatened American relations with Great Britain and jeopardized negotiations with Spain pertinent to cession of Florida (Adams-Onis Treaty, 1819). Eventually the British were mollified and a compromise agreement was reached with the Spanish under which American forces were withdrawn from Florida without repudiating the politically popular Jackson. As for the Seminole problem, it was temporarily allayed but by no means solved.

In the Treaties of Payne's Landing (1832) and Fort Gibson (1833) the Seminoles had agreed to give up their lands, but they refused to move out. Following the arrest and release of Osceola, their leader, in 1835 Seminole depredations rapidly increased. These culminated 28 December in the massacre of Capt. Francis L. Dade's detachment of 330 Regulars (elements of the 2d and 4th Artillery and 4th Infantry) enroute from Fort Brooke (Tampa) to Fort King (Ocala)-a disastrous loss for the small, Regular force of 600 men in Florida. Brig. Gen. Duncan L. Clinch, commanding Fort King, took the offensive immediately with 200 men and on 31 December 1835 defeated the Indians on the Withlacoochee River.

The War Department, meanwhile, had ordered Brig. Gen. Winfield Scott, commander of the Eastern Department, to Florida to direct operations against the Seminoles. Most of the hostilities had occurred in General Gaines' Western Department, but the War Department expected impending troubles in Texas to keep Gaines occupied. Nevertheless, Gaines had quickly raised about 1,000 men in New Orleans and, acting on his own authority, embarked for Florida in February 1836. Even after learning of Scott's appointment, Gaines seized supplies collected by Scott at Fort Drane and pressed forward until heavily attacked by Seminoles. He succeeded in extricating his force only with help from Scott's troops. Shortly thereafter Gaines returned to New Orleans.

Completion of preparations for Scott's proposed three-pronged offensive converging on the Withlacoochee were delayed by Gaines' use of Scott's supplies, expiration of volunteer enlistments, and temporary diversion of troops to deal with the Creeks who were then on the warpath in Georgia and Alabama. (See Creek Campaigns.) Before the campaign could get underway, Scott was recalled to Washington to face charges of dilatoriness and of casting slurs on the fighting qualities of volunteers. Beginning in December 1836, Maj. Gen. Thomas S. Jesup carried out a series of small actions against the Seminoles, and in September 1837 Osceola was captured. Colonel Zachary Taylor decisively defeated a sizeable Indian force near Lake Okeechobee in December 1837.

After Taylor's expedition no more large forces were assembled on either side. Numerous small expeditions were carried out chiefly by Regular troops commanded successively by Jesup, Taylor, and Brig. Gen. Walker A. Armistead, and many posts and roads were constructed. Col. William J. Worth finally conceived a plan which consisted of campaigning during the enervating summer seasons with the object of destroying the Indian's crops. This plan was successful in driving a sufficient number of Seminoles from their swampy retreats to permit official termination of the war on 10 May 1842.

During the long and difficult campaign some 5,000 Regulars had been employed (including elements of the 1st, 2d, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th Infantry) with a loss of nearly 1,500 killed. Nearly 20,000 volunteers also participated in the war which cost some thirty-five million dollars and resulted in the removal of some 3,500 Seminoles to the Indian Territory.

The final campaign against the remnants of the Seminoles in Florida consisted mainly of a series of skirmishes between small, roving Indian bands and the 4th Artillery which was stationed at Fort Brooke.

Black Hawk, 26 April - 30 September 1832. A faction of Sauk and Fox Indians, living in eastern Iowa and led by Black Hawk, threatened to go on the warpath in 1832 when squatters began to preempt Illinois lands formerly occupied by the two tribes. The faction held that cession of these lands to the Federal Government in 1804 had been illegal. Black Hawk asserted he would remove the squatters forcibly and attempted without success to organize a confederacy and make an alliance with the British. Finally, when Black Hawk's followers, including some 500 warriors, crossed the Mississippi into Illinois in early 1832 and refused to return, the 1st and 6th Infantry under Brig. Gen. Henry Atkinson, together with Illinois militia, set out in pursuit up the Rock River. A volunteer detachment suffered heavy losses in a skirmish on 14 May 1832 near present-day Dixon, Illinois, and Atkinson had to pause to recruit new militia. On 21 July a volunteer force severely chastised Black Hawk's band at Madison, Wisconsin, and Atkinson completely defeated what remained of it at the confluence of the Mississippi and Bad Axe on 2 August 1832, capturing Black Hawk and killing 150 of his braves.

Comanches, 1867-1875. Maj. Gen. Philip Sheridan, commander of the Department of the Missouri, instituted winter campaigning in 1868 as a means of locating the elusive Indian bands of the region. Notable incidents in the campaigns from then until 1875 against the Indians in the border regions of Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico, and Texas were the nine-day defense of Beecher's Island against Roman Nose's band in September 1868 by Maj. George A. Forsyth's detachment; the defeat of Black Kettle on the Washita (Oklahoma) on 27 November 1868 by Lt. Col. Custer and the 7th Cavalry; the crushing of the Cheyennes under Tall Bull at Summit Spring (Colorado) on 13 May 1869; the assault on the Kiowa-Comanche camp in Palo Duro Canyon on 27 September 1875 by Col. Ranald S. Mackenzie; and the attack and rout of Greybeard's big Cheyenne encampment in the Texas Panhandle on 8 November 1875 by 1st Lt. Frank Baldwin's detachment, spearheaded by infantry loaded in mule wagons.

Modocs, 1872-1873. The Bloc Campaign of 1872-73 was the last Indian war of consequence on the Pacific Coast. When the Modocs, a small and restless tribe, were placed on a reservation with the Klamaths, their traditional enemies, they soon found the situation intolerable. A majority of the Modocs soon left the reservation, led by a chief known as "Captain Jack," and returned to their old lands. A detail of 1st Cavalry troops under Capt. James Jackson became involved in a skirmish with these Modocs on Lost River on 29 November 1872 when the troops sought to disarm then and arrest the leaders.

Following the skirmish, Captain Jack and about 120 warriors with ample supplies retreated to a naturally fortified area in the Lava Beds east of Mount Shasta. On 17 January 1873 Col. Alvan Gillem's detachment of some 400 men, half of them Regulars from the 1st Cavalry and 21st Infantry, attacked the Modoc positions, but the troops could make no progress in the almost impassable terrain, suffering a loss of 10 killed and 28 wounded.

By spring of 1873 Brig. Gen. Edward R. S. Canby, commander of the Department of the Pacific, had collected about 1,000 men (elements of the 1st Cavalry, 12th and 21st Infantry, and 4th Artillery) to besiege the Modocs. Indian Bureau officials failed in attempts at negotiation, but General Canby and three civilian commissioners were able to arrange a parley with an equal number of Modoc representatives on 11 April. The Indians treacherously violated the truce. Captain Jack, himself, killed General Canby while others killed one commissioner, Eleazer Thomas, and wounded another. The siege was resumed.

Brig. Gen. Jefferson C. Davis, who arrived in May to replace Canby pushed columns deep into the Lava Beds, hurrying the Indians day and night with mortar and rifle fire. When their source of water was cut off, the Indians were finally forced into the open, and all were captured by 1 June 1873. Captain Jack and two others were hanged, and the rest of the tribe was removed to the Indian Territory. During the course of the siege some 80 white men were killed.

Apaches, 1873 and 1885-1866. After Brig. Gen. George Crook became commander of the Department of Arizona in 1871 he undertook a series of winter campaigns by small detachments which pacified the region by 1874. In the years that followed, the Indian Bureau's policy of frequent removal created new dissatisfaction among the Apaches. Dissident elements went off the reservations, led by Chato, Victorio, Geronimo, and other chiefs, and raided settlements along both aides of the border, escaping into Mexico or the United States as circumstances dictated. To combat this practice the two nations agreed in 1882 to permit reasonable pursuit of Indian raiders by the troops of each country across the international boundary.

Victorio was killed by Mexican troops in 1880, but Chato and Geronimo remained at large until May 1883 when they surrendered to General Crook and elements of the 6th Cavalry, reinforced by Apache scouts, at a point some 200 miles inside Mexico. Two years later Geronimo and about 150 Chiricahua Apaches again left their White Mountain reservation (Arizona) and once more terrorized the border region. Elements of the 4th Cavalry and Apache scouts immediately took up pursuit of the Chiricahua renegades. In January 1886 Capt. Emmet Crawford and 80 Apache scouts attacked Geronimo's main band some 200 miles south of the border, but the Indians escaped into the mountains. Although Crawford was killed by Mexican irregulars shortly thereafter, his second in command, 1st Lt. M. P. Maus, was able to negotiate Geronimo's surrender to General Crook in late March 1886. But Geronimo and part of his band escaped within a few days (29 March). Capt. Henry W. Lawton's column (elements of the 4th Cavalry, 8th Infantry, and Apache scouts) surprised Geronimo's camp in the mountains of Mexico on 20 July. Although the Chiricahuas again fled, by the end of August they indicated a willingness to surrender. On 4 September 1886, 1st Lt. Charles B. Gatewood of Lawton's command negotiated the formal surrender to Brig. Gen. Nelson Miles who had relieved General Crook in April. Geronimo sad his band were removed to Florida and finally to the Fort Sill military reservation.

Little Big Horn, 1876-1877. Discovery of gold in the Black Hills in 1874, bringing an influx of miners, and extension of railroads into the area renewed unrest among the Indians, and many left their reservations. When the Indians would not comply with orders from the Interior Department to return to the reservations by the end of January 1876, the Army was requested to take action.

A small expedition into the Powder River country in March 1876 produced negligible results. Thereafter, a much larger operation, based on a War Department plan, was carried out in the early Sumner months. As implemented by Lt. Gen. Philip Sheridan, commander of the Division of the Missouri (which included the Departments of the Missouri, Platte, and Dakota), the plan was to converge several columns simultaneously on the Yellowstone River where the Indians would be trapped and then forced to return to their reservations.

In pursuance of this plan, Maj. Gen. George Crook, commander of the Department of the Platte, moved north from Fort Fetterman (Wyoming) in late May 1876 with about 1,000 men (elements of the 2d and 3d Cavalry and 4th and 9th Infantry). At the same time two columns marched south up the Yellowstone under Brig. Gen. Alfred H. Terry, commander of the Department of Dakota. One column of more than 1,000 men (7th Cavalry and elements or the 6th, 17th, and 20th Infantry), under Terry's direct commend, moved from Fort Abraham Lincoln (North Dakota) to the mouth of Powder River. The second of Terry's columns, numbering about 450 men (elements of the 2d Cavalry and 7th Infantry) under Col. John Gibbon, moved from Fort Ellis (Montana) to the mouth of the Big Born.

On 17 June 1876 Crook's troops fought an indecisive engagement with a large band of Sioux and Cheyenne under Crazy Horse, Sitting Bull, and other chiefs on the Rosebud and then moved back to the Tongue River to wait for reinforcements. Meanwhile, General Terry had discovered the trail of the same Indian band and sent Lt. Col. George A. Custer with the 7th Cavalry up the Rosebud to locate the war party and move south of it. Terry, with the rest of his command, continued up the Yellowstone to meet Gibbon and close on the Indians from the north.

The 7th Cavalry, proceeding up the Rosebud, discovered an encampment of 4,000 to 5,000 Indians (an estimated 2,500 warriors) on the Little Big Horn on 25 June 1876. Custer immediately ordered an attack, dividing his forces so as to strike the camp from several directions. The surprised Indians quickly rallied and drove off Maj. Marcus A. Reno's detachment (Companies A, G, and M) which suffered severe losses. Reno was joined by Capt. Frederick W. Benteen's detachment (Companies D, H, and K) and the pack train (including Company B) and this combined force was able to withstand heavy attacks which were finally lifted when the Indians withdrew late the following day. Custer and a force of 211 men (Companies C, E, F, I, and L) were surrounded and completely destroyed. Terry and Gibbon did not reach the scene of Custer's last stand until the morning of 27 June. The 7th Cavalry's total losses in this action (including Custer's detachment) were: 12 officers, 247 enlisted men, 5 civilians, and 3 Indian scouts killed; 2 officers and 51 enlisted men wounded.

After this disaster the Little Big Horn campaign continued until September 1877 with many additional Regular units seeing action (including elements of the 4th and 5th Cavalry, the 5th, 14th, 22d, and 23d Infantry, and the 4th Artillery). Crook and Terry joined forces on the Rosebud on 10 August 1876, but most of the Indians slipped through the troops, although many came into the agencies. Fighting in the fall and winter of 1876-77 consisted mostly of skirmishes and raids, notably Crook's capture of American Horse's village at Slim Buttes (South Dakota) on 9 September and of Dull Knife's village in the Big Horn Mountains on 26 November, and Col. Nelson A. Miles' attack on Crazy Horse's camp in the Wolf Mountains on 8 January. By the summer of 1877 most of the Sioux were back on the reservations. Crazy Horse had come in and was killed resisting arrest at Fort Robinson (Nebraska) in September. Sitting Bull, with a small band of Sioux, escaped to Canada but surrendered at Fort Buford (Montana) in July 1881.

Nez Perces, 1877. The southern branch of the Nez Perces led by Chief Joseph refused to give up their ancestral lands (Oregon-Idaho border) and enter a reservation. When negotiations broke down and Nez Perce hotheads killed settlers in early 1877, the 1st Cavalry was sent to compel them to come into the reservation. Chief Joseph chose to resist and undertook an epic retreat of some 1,600 miles through Idaho, Yellowstone Park, and Montana during which he engaged 11 separate commands of the Army in 13 battles and skirmishes in a period of 11 weeks. The Nez Perce chieftain revealed remarkable skill as a tactician and his braves demonstrated exceptional discipline in numerous engagements, especially those on the Clearwater River (11 July), in Big Hole Basin (9-12 August), and in the Bear Paw Mountains where he surrendered with the remnants of his band to Col. Nelson A. Miles on 4 October 1877. Maj. Gen. O. O. Howard, commander of the Department of the Columbia, and Col. John Gibbon also played a prominent part in the pursuit of Joseph, which, by the end of September 1877 had involved elements of the 1st, 2d, 5th, and 7th Cavalry, the 5th Infantry, and the 4th Artillery.

Bannocks, 1878. The Bannock, Piute, and other tribes of southern Idaho threatened rebellion in 1878, partly because of dissatisfaction with their land allotments. Many of them left the reservations, and Regulars of the 21st Infantry, 4th Artillery, and 1st Cavalry pursued the fugitives. Capt. Evan Miles so effectively dispersed a large band near the Umatilla Agency on 13 July 1878 that most of the Indians returned to their reservations within a few months.

The Sheepeaters, mountain sheep hunters and outcasts of other Idaho tribes, raided ranches and mines in 1879. Relentless pursuit by elements of the 1st Cavalry and 2d Infantry compelled them to surrender in September of that year.

Cheyennes, 1878-1879. After the extensive surrenders in 1877 of the hostile Northern Cheyennes, in the Departments of Dakota and the Platte, a number were sent under guard to the Cheyenne and Arapaho Agency, at Fort Reno, Indian Territory, on 8 August 1877. Subsequent to that date other small parties surrendered and some died, so that on 1 July 1878, the number of Northern Cheyennes, at Fort Reno amounted to more than 940. An attempt had been made by General Pope, commending the Department of the Missouri, to disarm and dismount these Indians, so as to place them on the same footing with the Southern Cheyennes, but as it was found this could not be done without violation of the conditions of their surrender, they were permitted to retain their arms and ponies.

A large part of the Northern Cheyennes found friends among the Southern Cheyennes, mixed with them, and joined the various bands. About one-third of the Northern Cheyennes, however, under the leadership of "Dull Knife," "Wild Hog," "Little Wolf," and others, comprising about 375 Indians, remained together and would not affiliate with the Southern Cheyennes. Dissatisfied with life at their new agency, they determined to break away, move north, and rejoin their friends in the country where they formerly lived. Their intention to escape had long been suspected and their movements were consequently watched by the troops, but by abandoning their lodges, which they left standing, about 89 warriors, and slightly less than 250 women and children escaped from the agency on 9 September 1877.

Although troops were dispatched from several posts to intercept and return them to the agency, the Indiana eluded their pursuers and continued north raiding settlements for stock and committing other depredations. On 21 September a minor skirmish took place between the Indians and Army troops assisted by citizens. Six days later, Colonel Lewis' command overtook the Cheyennes on "Punished Woman's Fork" of the Smoky Hill River, where the Indians were found very strong entrenched and waiting for the troops. Colonel Lewis attacked them at once and was mortally wounded while leading the assault. In the clash, 3 enlisted men were wounded, one Indian killed; 62 head of stock were captured.

In spite of all precautions, the Cheyennes managed to escape and continue north. Two Cheyennes who had been taken prisoner by cowboys told authorities the fugitives had intended to reach the Cheyennes, supposed to be at Fort Keogh, Montana, where, if permitted to stay, they would surrender, otherwise they would try to join Sitting Bull, who still remained in Canada. The prisoners also said that the escaping Cheyennes had lost 15 killed in the various fights subsequent to their escape from Fort Reno.

On 23 October, two troops of the 3d Cavalry captured 149 of the Cheyennes and 140 head of stock. "Dull Knife," "Old Crow," and "Wild Hog" were among the prisoners. Their ponies were taken away, together with such arms as could be found, but the prisoners said they would die rather than be taken back to Indian Territory. "Little Wolf" and some of his followers escaped and, in January 1879, additional members of the tripe escaped to join "Little Wolf" after a skirmish with troops near Fort Robinson.

Some of the escaping Cheyennes strongly positioned on some cliffs were intercepted, but again they escaped. However, two days later they were again located near the telegraph line from Fort Robinson to Hat Creek, where they were entrenched in a gully. Refusing to surrender, they were immediately attacked and the entire party either killed or captured. "Dull Knife" their leader was among those killed.

On 25 March "Little Wolf" and his band were overtaken near Box Elder Creek by a force made up of two troops of Cavalry, a detachment of Infantry, a field gun, and some Indian scouts. The Indians were pursuaded to surrender without fighting and gave up all their arms and about 250 ponies, and marched with the troops to Fort Keogh. The band numbered 33 men, 43 squaws, and 38 children.

Utes, September 1879-November 1880. The Indian agent, N. C. Meeker, at White River Agency (Colorado) became involved in a dispute with Northern Utes in September 1879 and requested assistance from the Army. In response, Maj. T. T. Thornburgh's column of some 200 men (parts of the 5th Cavalry and 4th Infantry) moved out from Fort Steele (Wyoming). On 29 September this force was attacked and besieged in Red Canyon by 300 to 400 warriors. Thornburgh's command was finally relieved by elements of the 9th Cavalry that arrived on 2 October and of the 5th Cavalry under Col. Wesley Merritt who arrived on 5 October, but in the meantime Meeker and most of his staff had been massacred. Before the Utes were pacified in November 1880, several thousand troops, including elements of the 4th, 6th, 7th, 9th, and 14th Infantry had taken the field. In 1906 the Utes of this area left their reservation and roamed through Wyoming, terrorizing the countryside, until they were forced back on their reservation by elements of the 6th and 10th Cavalry.

Pine Ridge. November 1890- January 1891. In the late 1880s the Lakota way of life was under severe stress. The U.S. government pressured the Lakota to adopt western ways, such as farming and private property, and in the process reduced the land set aside for reservations to free it up for settlement by others. Due to poor management and budget cuts, the Bureau of Indian Affairs also reduced rations provided to the Lakota. Coupled with a severe drought, food was scarce and illness increased. In 1889 a Paiute medicine man’s vision gave rise to a revivalist religious movement known as the Ghost Dance, which held out the promise of the disappearance of non-native people, the return of the buffalo, and the resumption of the traditional way of life. It attracted many fervent supporters. Although the movement did not call for violent action, some Indian agents and settlers feared that possibility, and the federal government responded by increasing the presence of the U.S. Army and ordering suppression of the Ghost Dance movement.

On 15 December 1890, bureau police killed Sitting Bull, a leader in the Ghost Dance movement, while trying to arrest him. Government attention then focused on Big Foot and his band of a few hundred Ghost Dance followers. The 7th Cavalry found him on 28 December and escorted him and his people to the Army camp at Wounded Knee, South Dakota. On the morning of 29 December, an effort to disarm the band led to a shot being fired. It may have been an accidental discharge as a soldier tried to confiscate a weapon, but whatever the source, it led immediately to heavy and indiscriminate firing from soldiers and some return fire from the Lakota. In the ensuing action, many Lakota men, women and children sought to escape via ravines that cut through the area. The soldiers also employed artillery despite the presence of numerous noncombatants. The main firing lasted about an hour, though intermittent shots rang out into the afternoon. When it was over, more than two hundred Lakota (perhaps as many as three hundred), including women and children, were dead. Army casualties totaled 25 killed and 39 wounded, some of whom likely were hit by friendly fire in the confused situation. A few small skirmishes ensued in the region, but by mid-January the violence was over. The Army conducted an investigation of the incident but never determined culpability.