Battle Of Leech Lake

Published on March 11, 2013 by Carol

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Leech Lake

Soon after landing at the village, two of the Pillagers who were involved in Bugonaygeshig’s escape were recognized and arrested. Bugonaygeshig himself was unable to be found, apparently having fled prior to their arrival. The soldiers made camp and began searching the surrounding woods and neighboring villages to arrest any Pillagers with outstanding warrants. None of those with arrest warrants were found and, in fact, there were few male Pillagers found to be present in the area.

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The exact circumstances as to which side fired the first shot are disputed by both sides. General Bacon claimed that one of the soldier’s rifles accidentally discharged causing the Pillagers hiding in the woods to think that they were being attacked while the Pillagers said the battle started when several soldiers were seen firing at an Indian canoe carrying several women as their steamship approached Sugar Point.

Around 11:30 am, the Pillagers began firing upon the soldiers from the surrounding woods. The soldiers, many of them young recruits, dropped to the ground although their officers managed to get them to form a crescent-shaped skirmish line around Bugonaygeshig’s cabin. During the first half-hour, a number of Wilkinson’s men were killed or wounded. After Wilkinson himself was shot in the leg, he and some of the other wounded were moved to the lake side of the cabin which provided some protective cover.

Recovering behind the cabin for only a few moments, Major Wilkinson soon returned outside after his leg was bandaged and began encouraging the young troopers. He was soon shot again, this time through the abdomen, and was carried back into the cabin where he died an hour later. Another officer under his command, Sergeant William Butler, was also killed as he went off to inform General Bacon of Major Wilkinson’s mortal wound. Gunfire from the Pillagers became less frequent after this point, however some would take occasional shots throughout the rest of the day.

That evening, an Indian policeman was killed by a soldier who mistook him for one of the Pillagers and, the following morning, a soldier was killed while trying to dig out some potatoes from a garden patch. He was the last official casualty of the battle.

The Pillagers finally dispersed early the next day and the soldiers headed back to Walker. Six soldiers, including Major Wilkinson, had been killed and ten others wounded. None of the civilians had been killed during the battle, with the exception of one Indian Police officer although five —including a second Indian policeman — had been wounded. After his escape, Bugonaygeshig was never captured

Source: Legendsofamerica Unabridged
Based on the collective work of, © 2015 Native American Encyclopedia.
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    title = { Unabridged},
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    year = 2015,
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