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The Battle of Julesburg

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Date: [unknown] [unknown]
Location: Sedgwick County, Colorado, USAmap
Surnames/tags: American_Indian_Wars Military_and_War
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The Battle of Julesburg which was between 60 members of the 7th Iowa Cavalry, Company F, and around 1,000 warriors of the Cheyenne, Arapaho and Lakota Tribes, and between 50 and 60 civilians took place near Julesburg, Colorado on January 7, 1865. It was a response by the Plains Tribes to the events that took place at Sand Creek on November 29, 1864, better known as the Sand Creek Massacre.

Contents

The Battle of Julesburg - January 7, 1865

The Cheyenne, Arapaho and Lakota met at Cherry Creek a few days before to plan their retaliation for Sand Creek. Those present included Cheyenne Dog Soldiers, Northern Arapaho, the Brulé Lakota lead by Spotted Tail, and the Oglala Lakota lead by Pawnee Killer. Their target would become Julesburg, Colorado.

Julesburg, Colorado was a prominent stop on the Overland Trail and also for the Pony Express. It was located about a mile west of Camp Rankin (more commonly called Fort Sedgwick) The settlement began in 1859 when French Canadian trader Jules Beni set up a saloon and restaurant to serve travelers. Beni would later add a warehouse, blacksmith shop, and stable, and became the local stationmaster for the Leavenworth City & Pikes Peak Express stage line. By 1860 Julesburg consisted of four buildings, but by 1862 a hotel, several houses and a general store had been added and would continue to grow to include telegraph offices. Julesburg's civilian inhabitants were well armed with sod walls to defend behind. Camp Rankin (later Fort Sedgwick) was manned by one company of cavalry under Captain Nicholas J. O'Brien. Established in 1864, Camp Rankin was only a few months old at the time, but its defenses were already solidly built.

The day before the Battle of Julesburg, January 6, 1865, a small party of Native American attacked a wagon train killing 12 men.

The Native Americans plan was to lure the soldiers out of the fort and then to ambush them with superior numbers. A small group of ten of Cheyenne Headman Big Crow's warriors charged the fort and immediately retreated. Captain Nichoals O'Brien took a large number of the troops under his command, along with a few civilians who volunteered, and gave chase. About three miles out they were almost to the ambush site when one or more young warriors destroyed the Native American element of surprise by firing on the Cavalry troops too soon. Now alerted, the troops retreated back to the fort pursued by the combined Native American forces. The troops missed reaching the safety of the fort by about 300 yards when the Native Americans in pursuit intercepted them. A group of the Cavalry troops was completely cut off and they dismounted to defend themselves. Fifteen members of the 7th Iowa Calvary, Company F were killed along with at least four civilians. The remaining troops and civilians made it back to safety of the fort. There is no agreement on whether or not any Native Americans were killed during the battle. The Cavalry claimed they killed about 60 while the Native Americans claimed no losses on their side.

Although prepared to defend the fort against the assault, the Native American forces instead returned to Julesburg where they looted and hauled off whatever they could. The buildings were left intact in the hopes that the settlement would be resupplied so it could be raided again later. About three day later, the Native American force returned to Cherry Creek where a celebration ensued and the desperately needed looted goods were distributed among their people.

The Aftermath

As the cycle of aggression continued between the US Military and the Native Americans, General Robert Byington Mitchell took 640 Cavalry, a battery of Howitzers, and 200 supply wagons from Cottonwood Springs (later known as Fort McPherson) and set out to face the Native Americans who had attacked Julesburg. January 19, 1865, they came across the Cherry Creek camp, however the Natives Americans were already gone. It being the dead of winter on the plains Mitchell's soldiers were suffering the effects of the bitter cold and General Mitchell decided to return to Cottonwood Springs. The only incident Mitchell's forces saw was a small band of Native Americans who rode through his camp at night, firing into the tents.

In late January and early February the Native Americans began making their way back towards the Black Hills country of South Dakota and the Powder River Country of Wyoming, During this time ranches and stage stations would be burned, telegraph wires ripped up, wagon trains raided, cattle run off, and travel routes to Denver blocked. The wide swath of destruction stretched from Fort Morgan, Colorado to Paxton, Nebraska. The Lakota raided east of Julesburg, the Cheyenne west, and the Arapaho down the middle. During this time the Native American forces remained basically unchallenged by U.S. troops.

By February 2, a Native American caravan headed north and comprised of several thousand women, children, and livestock crossed the frozen South Platte River west of Julesburg and the settlement was raided yet again. The Native American warriors attempted to lure the soldiers out of the fort again, but the 15 soldiers and 50 civilians, were wary this time and stayed behind the walls of Camp Rankin during the raid. Captain O'Brien and 14 of his troops, however, had been away had the misfortune to return during the raid. For awhile the returning soldiers were concealed by smoke from the burning remains of Julesburg. When they got closer to the fort. O'Brien fired his field howitzer at the Native Americans. Soldiers in the fort followed by firing theirs and together were able to buy O'Brien and his men enough time to gain the safety of the fort.

Additional clashes between the Native Americans and the Army would follow at Mud Springs and Rush Creek further north in Nebraska Territory.

Fort Sedgwick was completed in September 1865 and three years later, the Cheyenne and Arapaho were relocated to Indian Territory (present day Oklahoma) under the terms of the Medicine Lodge Treaty. In 1869 Tall Bull’s Dog Soldiers were defeated at the Battle of Summit Springs, effectively ending Native American resistance on the Colorado plains.

Members of the 7th Iowa Cavalry, Company F Who Were Killed

SGT Alanson Hanchett
CPL Anthony Koons
CPL Walter B. Talcott
CPL William H Gray
CPL Hiram W Brundage
PVT George Barnett
PVT Henry H Hall
PVT David Ishman
PVT James Jordan
PVT Davis Lippincott
PVT Edson D. Moore
PVT Amos C. McArthur
PVT Thomas Scott
PVT Joel Stebins
PVT John M Pierce

Civilians Who Were Killed

Sources

  • Report of Brig. Gen. Nathaniel B. Baker, Adjutant General and Act’g Q.M.G. and Act’g as P.M.G., to Hon. William M. Stone, Governor of the State of Iowa, In accordance with Chap. 82 (Laws of Eleventh General Assembly) AP Proved March 30th 1866. January 1, 1867, Vol. I, Des Moines: F.W. Palmer, State Printer, 1867
  • "Life of George Bent Written from His Letters", By, George Bent, George E. Hyde, University of Oklahoma Press, 1968
  • "The Seventh Iowa Cavalry and the Plains Indians Wars." By David P. Robrock, Montana: The Magazine of Western History. Vol. 39, No. 2 (Spring, 1989), p. 12




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