Part of our in-depth series exploring the forts of Comancheria
2 February 1865, Julesburg, Colorado: A month after the January attack on Julesburg, the Cheyenne and Lakota raiders hit the town again before leaving the area and heading for the Powder River country. The day of the attack, Capt. Nicholas J. O'Brien, in charge of Fort Rankin near Julesburg, was on his way back from an aborted expedition with Lt. Eugene Ware, ten soldiers, and a howitzer. From a hill about three miles east of the fort, the soldiers saw smoke rising from Julesburg. While about 1,000 warriors plundered the town, O'Brien decided to cut through to the fort, blasting a path through the startled Indians with the howitzer. About a mile from the fort, warriors blocked the troopers' way, but they charged ahead, opening the path. Said Lt. Ware: "We made a royal bluff, and it won."
The 100 soldiers and 50 civilians staying at Fort Rankin expected an attack. The mixed-blood George Bent, who lived among the Cheyennes, later told about the incident, saying that warriors rode around the fort and taunted the soldiers, but to no avail. The Indians, left alone, finished sacking the town. Before leaving, they scattered shelled corn taken from the warehouse over the ice on the South Platte River to make it easier for their ponies to cross, then disappeared over the bluffs.
Join the discussion