Punished Woman’s Fork

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

27 September 1878; Scott City, Kansas: After Little Wolf and Dull Knife escaped from Capt. Joseph Rendlebrock, Lt. Col. William H. Lewis, 19th Infantry, with elements of Companies B, F, G, H, and I, 4th Cavalry, and D, F, and G of the 19th Infantry, joined Rendlebrock in the pursuit. Little Wolf halted his band in the cutbanks of Punished Woman's Fork, south of the Smoky Hill River, and planned an ambush. He moved the women and children into a side canyon, and he and Tangle Hair placed the warriors in rifle pits along the bluffs.

On 27 September, about 4 p.m., Lewis followed Cheyennes' trail right down into the canyon, but an overanxious warrior fired too soon, alerting the soldiers to the trap. Lewis was able to extricate his command and sent some men out to find a way around the canyon, almost trapping a number of Cheyennes in his turn. Little Wolf sent a mounted charge against the soldiers, but by now he had little ammunition left.

On the prairie, Lewis's infantrymen poured out of the wagons. Little Wolf knew the soldiers meant business, but he could not flee and leave the women and children. With the soldiers closing in on three sides of them, led by Lewis on a big bay gelding, Little Wolf called out for his warriors to fire their final bullets. The volleys felled some soldiers, among them Lewis. The troopers retreated. In the night, Little Wolf and Dull Knife gathered their people and crept off to the north. Many of the Indians walked, for they had lost about 80 ponies.

Two warriors were killed and about ten were wounded. The soldiers lost one man and six were wounded. An ambulance sped Lewis to the nearest post, Fort Wallace, but the bullet had struck a femoral artery, and he bled to death that night.

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