LEGENDS OF KANSAS

 

History, Tales, and Destinations in the Land of Ahs

 

Indian Battles - Page 2

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Cheyenne WarriorsBattle of Punished Woman Fork, aka: Battle of Squaw's Den Cave  (1878) - The last Indian battle in Kansas occurred after Chief Dull Knife and Little Wolf of the Northern Cheyenne decided to lead their people from their reservation near Fort El Reno, Oklahoma back to their former home in the north. The Cheyenne included 92 warriors, 120 women and 141 children attempting to make their way back home. As they came through Kansas crossing the Arkansas River at the Cimarron Crossing, Lieutenant-Colonel William H. Lewis, commander at Fort Dodge, was dispatched to capture and return them.

 

Hiding from the soldiers during the day, the Indians traveled by night and made their way to present-day Scott County, Kansas where they took refuge in the Valley of Punished Woman's Fork in late September, 1878. For two days they rested, re-supplied their food and fortified their position in what is today known as Battle Canyon. On the afternoon of September 27th, Colonel Lewis and his troops caught up with them, advancing from the southwest.  The women, children, and elderly hid in Squaw's Den Cave while the warriors fought the advancing soldiers. Lieutenant-Colonel William H. Lewis was wounded in the thigh. That night, the Cheyenne escaped, crossing the Smoky Hill River and to the northwest. 

The following day, Lewis was placed in a military ambulance and the soldiers made their way to Fort Wallace, Kansas about 40 miles to the northwest. Along the way, he died of his wounds, becoming the last Kansas military casualty of the Indian Wars.

After escaping from Battle Canyon the tribe continued what has become known as the Cheyenne Raid, making their way through Decater and Rawlins Counties and committing a number of depredations.

 

The Cheyenne then made their way to Nebraska, split up with part of the group following Chief Dull Knife and the other with Little Wolf. Dull Knife's group was captured close to Fort Robinson, Nebraska while Little Wolf's band remained in the sand hills of Nebraska for the winter and eventually making their way to Montana.

 

The battle site is located about one mile southeast of Lake Scott State Park. Owned by the Scott County Historical Society, a marker designates the battle site and a monument has been placed over Squaw's Den Cave.

 

Also See: The Cheyenne Raid

 

Squaw's Den Cave, Scott Lake park, kansasCheyenne Outbreak of Morris County (1868) - On June 3, 1868, some 400 Cheyenne Indians flooded Council Grove armed and painted for war. When the Indians reached the west end of the town, they divided their forces, one-half following along Elm Creek to the south of town while the other continued to march along Main Street. The people were taken completely by surprise but held themselves in readiness for whatever might happen.

 

At that time, the Kanza tribe was stationed about 2 ˝ miles east from Council Grove, on Big John Creek. The cause for the Cheyenne being on the warpath was a dispute with the Kanza Indians. During the previous year, the Kanza and Cheyenne had lived at peace with each other but a dispute arose over horses.

 

The two tribes came together about two miles east of Council Grove, where negotiations with the the help of Indian agents took place. However, while talks were being held, some of the more impetuous of the Indians exchanged shots. A full battle soon erupted that was kept up for several hours, in which three men were killed. Afterwards, the Cheyenne left the area moving up the Solomon Valley, where they killed quite a number of settlers and committed other depredations.  

 

Kidder Massacre (1867)  - Cheyenne and Sioux Indians ambushed and killed a 2nd US Cavalry detachment of eleven men and an Indian guide near Beaver Creek in Sherman County, Kansas on July 2, 1867. See full article HERE.

 

 

 

Love's Defeat (1847) - On June 7, 1847 Lieutenant John Love led a group of about 80 soldiers of Company B out of Fort Leavenworth, Kansas to the Santa Fe Trail. Their orders were to escort a paymaster to Santa Fe, New Mexico. Protecting paymaster, Major Charles Bodine, 12 wagons and about $350,000 payroll, the troops set out reaching the Pawnee Fork Crossing near present-day Larned, Kansas on June 23, 1847. From the time they had crossed the Little Arkansas River, they had spied a number of Kiowa and Comanche Indians and were on high alert.

On the morning of June 24th, the troops crossed the Pawnee Fork in high water which which made for a long and difficult day, though they finally succeeded, making camp on the other side of the crossing.

The following day, the troops caught up with another wagon train headed by a man named Hayden. The two groups encamped near each other next the Arkansas River. On June 26th, the livestock were allowed to graze in the valley, when Comanche Indians attacked Hayden's campsite. Love and his troops quickly mounted up to resist the attack, but not before the livestock were all run off. More Indians then appeared and rather than chasing the livestock, Love and his men fell back to protect the paymaster and the payroll as he had been assigned to do.

During the battle, six soldiers were killed, their bodies mutilated after death. Six more were wounded. Love and his men allowed the wounded to heal before taking off once again on July 2nd. The battle was referred to in the newspaper as "Lieutenant Love's Defeat," even though they had followed orders and protected the payroll.

The battle site is located about 9 ˝ miles west of Garfield, Kansas on U.S. Highway 56 and is designated with a marker on the south side of the highway.

 

 

Indian AttackPlum Buttes Massacre

 

On September 9, 1867, Franz (Frank) Huning, an experienced Santa Fe Trail Merchant from Albuquerque, New Mexico was traveling back home, returning from a trip to Dayton Ohio.  His small group, which consisted of seven wagons, a carriage, and an ambulance was traveling with several drivers as well as his mother-in-law and 16 year-old brother in law.

 

In Junction City, they were warned to hold up for a few days as several groups of Plains Indians were on the warpath. Other wagons and freight trains were gathered at the end of the railroad planning to travel in a large group for protection.

However, Huning was obviously impatient and the small party soon set out alone. The group made their way south to the Santa Fe Traill and began to make their way to the southwest.

 

After traveling for another 45 miles or so, they came to the Little Arkansas River Crossing where Huning found Captain Edward Byrne of the Tenth Cavalry Buffalo Soldiers. By this time, the experienced teamster was having second thoughts about traveling with such a small party and asked Byrne for a military escort. However, despite the fact that the troops were stationed there specifically for that purpose, Byrne refused as his soldiers were out on a picnic.

 

Once again, Huning bravely moved on alone. Wary now, he rode ahead of the freight train scouting for Indians. However, when his worst fears were realized, the alarm came from the back of wagons, when a teamster in the back began yelling, “Indians, Indians!”  Huning, hearing the cry, quickly turned around. While he had been riding ahead, a number of Kiowa, Arapaho and Cheyenne warriors had sneaked up behind the wagons on foot.

 

Taking refuge from the third wagon from the front, Huning began to blast the Indians at the back of the train, but alas, he was too late. The warriors stampeded the mules and pulled the four wagons at the back, the carriage, and the ambulance away from the rest of the group.  

 

The other three wagons pulled ahead into a circle as they faced off another of wave of warriors astride horses and on foot. Oddly, they didn’t attack the group of three wagons, instead turning their attention to the wagons they had already acquired and had moved several hundred yards from the trail.

 

As Huning heard the sounds of his mother-in-law’s screams as the Indians ravaged her, he continued to fire upon them until his rifle jammed. As he watched helplessly, the warriors plundered his goods, packed them onto the backs of his mules, and began to set the large items on fire. His mother-in-law's cries of terror were finally silenced with a pistol shot. Huning then saddled a mule and quickly began to make his way to Fort Zarah, some 15 miles away.

 

Upon his arrival, there were no soldiers in camp, but two civilian scouts, Captain Charles Christy and a man named Roma, set out with an ambulance to Plum Buttes. When they arrived they found the scalped and mutilated body of one of the teamsters under a wagon and stuffed inside a featherbed, the mutilated bodies of Huning’s mother-in-law and and brother in-law and the prairie littered with burned wagons and goods.

 

FreighterThe scouts loaded the three bodies into the ambulance and began to return trip to the fort. On their way back, they too were assailed by the warriors and were engaged in a four mile chase. Fortunately, they were lucky enough to hold off the Indians until a large group of Fort Zarah soldiers came quickly riding in and the Indians fled.

 

Huning returned to the rest of his family in Albuquerque where he continued on as a successful merchant. He became the first person in the American West to complain, "Where's the damn cavalry when you need them?" For years afterward, partly burned wagons, barrels, and broken dishes lay scattered in the area. Many historians believe that the attack was led by Charley Bent, the half-breed renegade son of William Bent, and a group of Dog Soldiers.

 

The Massacre site is located about one mile west of "Ralph's Ruts" in Rice County, about five miles west of Chase, Kansas, north of US Highway 56. 

 

 

Compiled by Kathy Weiser/Legends of Kansas, updated March, 2017.

 

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