Fremont’s Orchard

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

12 April 1864; Orchard, Colorado: On 11 April, rancher W.D. Ripley came into the Camp Sanborn, on the South Platte River, to report that Cheyennes were stealing cattle and horses along Bijou Creek. Lt. Clark Dunn and 40 men of Companies C and H, 1st Colorado Cavalry, went with Ripley to recover the stock. Dunn split his men into two scouting parties. Neither group, one scouting along Bijou Creek and the other on the South Platte River, found any Indians. Reuniting near the South Platte, the soldiers saw smoke. Again Dunn split them, sending half toward the smoke and accompanying the others to the river.

About three miles from Fremont's Orchard, Dunn spotted 15 to 20 Cheyennes crossing the river a mile upstream with horses. When Ripley confirmed that the horses were his, the men crossed the river and rode over to the party. Dunn and 15 troopers confronted the warriors while Ripley and 4 troopers went after the stock. As Dunn spoke to the Indians they moved closer, trying to shake hands and show that they were friendly. Dunn was wary, however, and sought to disarm them. The Indians bolted, firing at the soldiers as they fled.

Dunn pursued the Cheyennes for 15 miles, but his horses could not catch up. Four of his men were wounded, two of them fatally, and the Cheyennes also had about four casualties.

These and other cattle thefts by Cheyennes in Colorado sparked the Plains War of 1864.

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