Part of our in-depth series exploring the forts of Comancheria
10-13 September 1868; Woodward, Oklahoma: Due to constant Indian raiding in Kansas during the summer of 1868, the army sent an expedition to punish the tribes south of the Arkansas River. Brig. Gen. Alfred Sully led 500 men in 9 companies of the 7th Cavalry under Maj. Joel H. Elliot, and Company F of the 3rd Infantry, out of Fort Dodge on 7 September.
On 10 September, near the confluence of Crooked Creek and the Cimarron River, the expedition's scouts were attacked by Indians (probably Cheyennes) but escaped. Shortly afterward, Elliot's vanguard repulsed another attack, killing two Indians. Early the next morning, a war party burst into the soldiers' camp, tried to run off the horses, and bodily carried off two men of Company F. Capt. Louis Hamilton of Company A, in command of the rear guard, took up the chase. He pressed the raiders so closely that they were forced to drop one of the soldiers, but not before severely wounding him. The other, James Curran, was killed after Sully ordered Hamilton to return to the column.
Sully forged across the divide toward the North Fork of the Canadian River, harassed all the way by Cheyenne Dog Soldiers, one of whom blew bugle calls. Elliot's troopers killed eight of the Indians. Six miles from the river, the expedition came upon a deserted village, where they were confronted by more warriors, whom they drove off after inflicting several more casualties. Heading down the North Fork, the soldiers were harassed by Indians in the sandy bluffs. Sully ordered his men to dismount, and for two hours they chased the Indians back into the hills, causing 12 more casualties. They then continued another 15 miles downriver.
At about 11 a.m. on the 12th, the soldiers crossed the divide from the North Fork to Wolf Creek and marched southeast for two miles. There they met a large force of Kiowas, Comanches, and Cheyennes. The Indians had made false trails in the sand to set a trap. With difficulty Sully extricated his wagons from the surround, and while the 3rd Infantry guarded the train, the 7th Cavalry troops fanned out into the sand hills to drive away the tenacious warriors.
The next day Sully continued about 20 more miles down the North Fork and encountered more conflicts with Indians in the sand hills south of the river. Fed up, he turned the troops around and headed upriver, assuming the Indians had fled that area. Two days later, harassed the entire way by Indians whom Sully thought had gone, the soldiers made camp at Bluff Creek, 45 miles southeast of Fort Dodge.
Three enlisted men had been killed and 5 wounded. Sully reported 22 Indians killed and 12 wounded.
6 April 1875; El Reno, Oklahoma: In the spring of 1875, many Indians were surrendering to the U.S. Army. The bands of Stone Calf and Grey Beard were told to camp near the Darlington Agency on the North Fork of the Canadian River while the officers at the agency quietly tried to figure out which Indians to hold responsible for bringing on the Red River War. Thirty-three Indians were selected as the worst of the lost, to be sent to Fort Marion, Florida, for incarceration.
Guarding the agency was Lt. Col. Thomas H. Neill, 6th Cavalry, stationed with Company M of the 6th Cavalry, and Companies D and M of the 10th Cavalry. On 6 April the Cheyenne Black Horse was taunted by a Cheyenne woman as an army blacksmith was placing him in leg irons. Black Horse knocked the blacksmith down and ran from the enclosure. As he fled across the compound, he was shot down.
While firing at Black Horse, the soldiers hit other Cheyennes. Some produced weapons and began firing back. Fearing they would all be killed, the bands fled. About 150 Cheyennes from White Horse's Dog Soldier camp across the river soon joined the others. They ran to some sand hills along the North Canadian River, where they had a cache of arms and ammunition.
The cavalrymen, along with a detachment of 5th Infantry, surrounded the sand hills and fought until dark. During the night, the Cheyennes fled. The Indians lost 11 men while the soldiers suffered 19 wounded, one of them mortally.
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