Battle of Powder River

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The following is from the book, Indian Wars, by Bill Yenne.

Crook and Reynolds suffered through a severe blizzard during the second week of March as they searched the valleys for sign of their elusive quarry. On March 16, they were working their way along the tongue River, when they caught sight of a pair of Indians. Crook ordered Reynolds to take six companies and pursue them, while Crook waited with the slower elements of the command.

The following day, Reynolds crossed into the valley of the Powder River, and came upon an encampment containing an estimated seven hundred Cheyenne and Oglala Lakota. The troops attacked but they were hit by gunfire from the high ground surrounding the camp. Reynolds ordered a tactical withdrawal, which was executed amid confusion and disorganization, and with the loss of four men killed in action.

The following morning, the Indians attacked Reynolds's camp, taking back the horses. Once the column had struggled back to Fort Fetterman through the deep snowdrifts, Crook ordered Reynolds to be court-martialed for bungling the attack and essentially losing the Battle of the Powder River.

There were moments of heroism in the Powder River Fight. Hospital steward William Bryan was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for having "Accompanied a detachment of cavalry in a charge on a village of hostile Indians and fought through the engagements, having his horse killed under him. He continued to fight on foot, and under severe fire and without assistance conveyed two wounded comrades to places of safety, saving them from capture." Other Medals of Honor went to two men of Company M, 3rd Cavalry, blacksmith Albert Glavinski and Private Jeremiah Murphy. The latter, "the only member of his picket not disabled, attempted to save a wounded comrade."


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