Camas Meadows

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The following is from the book, Encyclopedia of American Indian Wars, by Jerry Keenan.

19 August 1877: Following the Battle of the Big Hole, Gen. O.O. Howard took up pursuit of the fleeing Nez Perce, who reversed course, crossed the Continental Divide, and moved down Idaho's Lemhi Valley. Howard correctly guessed that the Nez Perce would move south then turn east through Yellowstone Park in order to reach the plains beyond, and he moved to intercept.

On 19 August Howard's tired command camped at a place called Camas Meadows, so named because the camas root, which was a staple of the Nez Perce diet, grew there in great abundance. Howard knew he was close, because the Nez Perce had camped there just 24 hours earlier. The one thing Howard did not anticipate was that the Indians would come looking for him-which they did. That night a war party estimated at 200 crept in and managed to run off a number of the army's pack mules. Fortunately, Howard's cavalry mounts were picketed. In the morning a detachment pursued the raiders and managed to recover part of the stolen stock. However, the Nez Perce then counterattacked, forcing the troops to retreat. They were rescued when Howard arrived with the main body.

As battles go, Camas Meadows was a minor encounter. Howard had one killed and seven wounded, but once again the Nez Perce had managed to embarrass the army pursuers and continue their epic flight.

See also: Big Hole, Battle of the; Gibbon, Col. John;
Howard, Gen. Oliver Otis; Joseph; Looking Glass; Nez
Perce War
Further Reading: Brown, The Flight of the Nez Perce:
Hampton, Children of Grace.


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