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View Full List of National Register: Wyoming Listings

Dull Knife Battlefield


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The conflict between the United States army and certain tribes of High Plains Indians intensified during and after the Civil War, reaching a climax in 1887. In March, 1876 Colonel Joseph Reynolds fought Crazy Horse in an engagement on the Powder River with inconclusive results. That summer a standstill battle was fought between the same Indian leader and General George Crook at the Rosebud. The most famous engagement, however, was that between a combination of Indian forces and General George Custer, resulting in the annihilation of the latter at the Little Big Horn. Crook continued his campaign against the Sioux, Cheyenne and Arapaho in the fall and winter of 1876, fighting the Battle of Slim Buttes in September. His strategy changed from one of open confrontation to one of seeking out bands of Indians in their winter camps. At that time of the year Indians did not normally seek warfare and were splintered into various bands as they prepared to supply themselves for the season. The mobility of the warrior was thus impaired by the presence of his family and possessions. The army objective was to attack an Indian village, capture their ponies and destroy their winter's supply of food and fuel, their tipis, weapons and utensils. With their subsistence and means of subsistence gone, the Indians would then have little choice except to surrender. Such was the plan behind the assault on a Northern Cheyenne village that took place in the Big Horn Mountains on November 25, 1876.

The Dull Knife battle is well-documented in a number of sources, one of the most interesting accounts being that of Captain John G. Bourke of the Third Cavalry. On a cold day in November, 1876 scouts sent out by General Crook discovered a band of about 1400 Cheyenne under chiefs Dull Knife and Little Wolf camped in the upper valley of the Red Fork, one of the headwater streams of the Powder River.



Date Added to Register:
Wednesday, August 15, 1979
North of Barnum
Johnson County
Smithsonian Number: 


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