Battle of Powder River (1876)

Published on March 8, 2013 by Carol

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Fort Fetterman Photos

The opening battle of the Black Hills War, between the U.S. Army and the Sioux and Cheyenne, the skirmish occurred in March, 1876 when Brigadier Genernal George Crook advanced north from Fort Fetterman in present day Wyoming. Discovering an Indian trail, he sent Colonel Joseph J. Reynolds and six troops of the 2d and 3d Cavalry to find a village he suspected to be at the end of the trail. At dawn on March 17th, in the Powder River Valley, Reynolds located and charged the village. The surprised inhabitants fled from their lodges to the bluffs above the valley, occupied the commanding heights, and poured a deadly fire at the troops below. After burning most of the village, Reynolds captured the Indian ponies and hastily retreated. That night the warriors surprised him and recaptured all their ponies. Crook reunited his forces but, discouraged by the setback, the shortage of supplies, and the bitter cold and deep snow, he returned to Fort Fetterman to refit. If anything, he had succeeded only in stiffening Indian resistance.

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Today, the battle site is a privately owned ranch. The Indian village was situated on the west side of the Powder River. In 1923 the river overflowed and covered the bottom land with about a foot of silt. The mesa and bluffs from which the Indians counterattacked are unchanged. A marker is located near the northern edge of Moorhead. The battle site is accessible via an unimproved road, about four miles northeast of Moorhead, Montana.

Source: Legendsofamerica

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