Cheyenne Attack on Julesburg and Fort Rankin, 1865

Michael has a BA in History & American Studies and an MSc in American History from the University of Edinburgh. He comes from a proud military family and has spent most of his career as an educator in the Middle East and Asia. His passion is travel, and he seizes any opportunity to share his experiences in the most immersive way possible, whether at sea or on the land.

Part of our in-depth series exploring the forts of Comancheria

After the massacre at Sand Creek, the survivors fled north to the Republican River where the main body of Cheyenne were camped. The Cheyennes sent a messenger to the Sioux and Arapaho inviting them to join them in a war on the whites. In early January 1865, as many as 2000 Cheyenne, Sioux and Arapaho warriors shifted their camps closer to the South Platte Trail where it cut through the northeast corner of Colorado. On January 6, a small party hit a wagon train and killed twelve men. Just before sunrise the following day, the majority of the Dog Soldiers and their allies concealed themselves in some sand hills a short distance from Fort Rankin and Julesburg, one mile up the Platte River, while the Cheyenne chief Big Crow slipped up to the fort. At first light he rushed the sentries stationed outside the walls. A sixty man cavalry troop quickly emerged from the gates to give chase and as soon as they were clear of the fort they were cut off from their base as more than a thousand warriors dashed from the sand hills and began to empty the cavalry saddles. All but a few were killed. As the remaining garrison prepared to defend the fort, the Indians raced up the Platte to the undefended Julesburg where they plundered at will while the soldiers at Fort Rankin could only watched and harmlessly fire their howitzers. The Indians returned to Julesburg in force on February 2nd and burned and looted the town along with some wagon trains that had sought refuge there. The exultant warriors held their victory dance within sight of the fort.

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