History, Tales, and Destinations in the Land of Ahs


Indian Battles, Skirmishes and Massacres

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Indian Battles:


Battle of Beaver Creek (1867)

Battle of Chouteau's Island (1816)

The Battle of the Little BighornBattle of Coon Creek (1848)

Battle of Prairie Dog Creek (1867)

Battle of Punished Woman Fork (1878)

Battle of the Saline River (1867)

Battle of Solomon Fork (1857)

Cheyenne Outbreak of Morris County (1868)

Cheyenne Raid (1878)

Kidder Massacre (1867)

Love's Defeat (1847)

Plum Buttes Massacre (1867)



Battle of Beaver Creek (1867) - During the Indian troubles in the summer of 1867, the Eighteenth Kansas Volunteer Cavalry left Fort Hays on August 20th for the headwaters of the Solomon and Republican Rivers. On the evening of the 21st Captain George B. Jenness of Company C was sent out with a detachment to ascertain the cause of a light seen at some distance across the prairie. He found the remains of an old Indian campfire, but when he attempted to return to his regiment, he became confused in the darkness, and finally decided to camp  on the open prairie. Early the next morning he reached the river, about 8 miles below the camp.


Upon reaching the river he pushed on toward the troops, but after going about three miles his detachment was attacked by a large body of Indians. Forming a hollow square, he managed to hold the Indians at bay. His men were armed with Spencer repeating carbines and each man carried 200 rounds of ammunition, so they were well equipped for a heroic defense. After a short skirmish Captain Jenness again began to move up the river toward the camp, but after going about ˝ mile, saw more Indians. He then returned to the river and threw up a breastwork of driftwood and loose stones, behind which his little band fought valiantly for three hours. All the horses except four were either killed or wounded; two of the men were killed and 12 seriously wounded. The detachment withdrew to a ravine, where they found water and remained under cover of the willows and banks of the ravine until dark. The Indians then drew off and Jenness and his men, under the guidance of a scout, followed a buffalo path for five miles until they came to the river. The Indians renewed the attack the next morning, but the main command came to Jenness' rescue. The event was said to have occurred on Prairie Dog Creek in the northwestern part of Phillips County.


Battle of Chouteau's Island (1816) - In the winter of 1815-1816, August P. Chouteau and Jules de Munn tried to extend the Chouteau trading territory into the upper Platte and Arkansas River valleys and overland to Santa Fe, New Mexico, blazing parts of what would later be known as the Mountain Branch of the Santa Fe Trail.


In the spring of 1816, they were making their way back to Missouri with the furs collected during the previous winter. Shortly after traveling east of present-day Colorado/Kansas state line, they were attacked by about 200 Pawnee Indians near the Arkansas River. Chouteau and his men quickly crossed the shallow water of the river to a large island of timber where they took refuge.


The trappers utilized their packs of furs for barricades. One trapper was killed and three were wounded. However, seven of the Pawnee Indians died in the battle. The Pawnee would later say that it was the most fatal affair in which they were ever engaged, having never seen guns in the past.




The island was afterwards known as “Chouteau’s Island” to travelers along the Santa Fe Trail and described as a "beautiful spot, with a rich carpet of grass, delightful groves, and and a heavily timbered bottom."  Located about six miles west of Lakin, Kansas in Kearny County, Chouteau’s Island has long since disappeared due to erosion by the Arkansas River.


Battle of Coon Creek (1848) - In May, 1848, a company of about 70 soldiers left Fort Leavenworth to join the Santa Fe battalion in Chihuahua, Mexico. From Council Grove, they were to escort a wagon train of 60 wagons to Ft. Mann, just west of Dodge City. West of Walnut Creek, they were joined by an artillery battalion of 60 men with two cannons. On June 17th they camped for the night on Coon Creek, where it empties into the Arkansas River, a few miles west of Lewis, Kansas. Early the next morning, an immense herd of buffalo were stampeded toward the camp, followed by some 200 Comanche and Apache Indians. The troops were armed with breech-loading carbines, but the bullets rattled harmlessly from the raw-hide shields of the savages who came on in a charge that looked as though the troops might be exterminated. When they were almost upon the camp the soldiers turned their attention to firing upon the horses, and with their breech-loading guns soon turned the tide of battle. Nearly all the horses in the front rank were killed at the first volley and the remaining Indians sought safety in flight. After this inconclusive battle, according to the official report, an Indian woman "who seemed to be their queen, mounted on a horse, decorated with silver ornaments on a scarlet dress, rode about giving directions about the wounded." Her identity is unknown. The campsite is thought to have been along the Arkansas River approximately two miles northeast of present day Kinsley, Kansas. At this location a limestone post marker has been placed. Near this location is said to be where the battle took place.


Battle of Prairie Dog Creek (1867) - In the summer of 1867, Indians were regularly attacking travelers and settlements in Kansas and the frightened citizens of Kansas demanded military help. The War Department responded by authorizing volunteer militia units on active duty during the emergency. On July 15, 1867, four companies of the 18th Kansas Volunteer Cavalry were mustered into Federal service to protect settlers from attack. The volunteers set out on July 18th for a month of vigorous campaigning before returning to Fort Hays. They then joined forces with the 10th U.S. Cavalry of "Buffalo Soldiers," making a combined force of more than 250 men led by Captain George A. Armes of the 10th and Captain Horace L. Moore of the 18th.


Armes led his men down Prairie Dog Creek in present-day Phillips County, while Moore scouted upstream. While separated, Armes group was attacked on August 21, 1867 by about 300 Kiowa and Cheyenne under the leadership of Satanta and Roman Nose. As Armes' troops valiantly fought off the attack, the other soldiers began to make their way to  provide assistance. Captain Armes then gathered the troops and charged the Indians, who then broke and scattered. The cavalry suffered 3 men dead and 36 wounded; the Indians, 50 dead and 150 wounded. This battled ended the U.S. offensive operations on the Kansas frontier for the year, and in the fall treaties were signed with the tribes of the Southern Plains. Today, the 18th Kansas Volunteer Cavalry continues its efforts as the Kansas Army and Air National Guard.


Battle of Prairie Dog Creek

Battle of Prairie Dog Creek, painting by Ralph Heinz for

 the National Guard Bureau.


Battle of the Saline River (1867) - In August, 1867, P.S. Ashley and a crew of six were surveying the route for the Union Pacific Railway when they were attacked by a group of about 30 Cheyenne warriors, attempting to stop the construction of the iron rails through their homeland. All six of the railroad workers were killed, but one man named William Gould survived and was brought to Fort Hays where he told his story, before he too, died of his wounds. At that time, one of Fort Hays main functions was to protect the railroad workers and Captain Henry Corbin, commanding the Thirty-eighth Infantry and Tenth Cavalry, known as the "Buffalo Soldiers," immediately ordered Captain George Armes, Company F, Tenth Cavalry, in pursuit of the Cheyenne.

Armes and his men then began to follow the trail and soon sent back to the fort for reinforcements.


However, after waiting for four hours, the anxious men continued the pursuit before the reinforcements arrived. Some 25 men of the Thirty-eighth Infantry, under the command of Sergeant Pittman of Company C, were sent out to reinforce the Tenth Cavalry. Following the trail up the North Fork of Big Creek northeast of Fort Hays, they encountered a small band of 50 Cheyenne warriors and three shells from a howitzer, which succeeded in scattering the Indians but doing little damage. When they found no signs of Captain Armes and his men, the Thirty-eighth Infantry returned to Fort Hays.


In the meantime, Armes had followed the trail up the Saline River and about 25 miles northwest of Fort Hays, they were surrounded and attacked by some 400 Cheyenne warriors. Armes quickly ordered his men to dismount and fight on foot and the soldiers soon found themselves surrounded. Outnumber, Armes then ordered his men to form a compact defensive maneuver by forming a "hollow square" around the cavalry horses and began to march toward Fort Hays. The battle raged for six hours as the Buffalo Soldiers fought off their attackers. Amazingly, when the soldiers were about ten miles north of Fort Hays, the Cheyenne broke off the attack. During the thirty hours the troops had been gone, they had marched 113 miles without rations, fifteen of those miles while under attack. Although 2,000 rounds of ammunition had been fired during the battle, casualties were surprisingly light - with only six Indians and one soldier, Sergeant William Christy, killed. Christy was the first combat death in the Tenth Cavalry. Armes would later say of the battle, "It is the greatest wonder in the world that my command escaped being massacred."


Battle of Solomon Fork (1857) - Though the exact location is unknown, but thought to be near Penokee, in Graham County, the Battle of Solomon Fork took place along the Solomon River in July, 1857. The skirmish was led by Colonel Edwin V. Sumner, commander at Fort Leavenworth, who had taken to the field in an effort to subdue the Cheyenne Indians. With a force of about 500 men, Sumner and his troops were in what is now Sheridan County, when he received word from his scouts that a large body of Indians was massed a short distance ahead. On July 29th, they pursued the Cheyenne down Solomon's Ford of the Kansas River when they came upon about 300 Cheyenne warriors, drawn up in battle array. Sumner would later write:


"The Indians were all mounted, and well armed, many of them had rifles and revolvers, and they stood with remarkable boldness, until we charged and were nearly upon them, when they broke in all directions, and we pursued them seven miles. Their horses were fresh and very fleet, and it was impossible to overtake many of them."


In the pursuit, the troops killed nine of the Indians and wounded several others. Of the troops, two men were killed and eight wounded. The troops continued to follow the Indians and on July 31st, came upon their village where 171 lodges were standing but all the Indians were gone. Sumner then destroyed the village and continued the pursuit, trailing them some 40 miles, but the Cheyenne had scattered. Sumner did not again intercept the Indians at that point on the Arkansas River nor did he catch them at Bent's Fort as he later hoped, because his command was broken up by an order detaching part of it for service in Utah.




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