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Unit 3: Set 3. Armed Conflict - Attack at the Heart River

Introduction | Heart River Battle | Battle of Whitestone Hill | Activity

Battle Accounts: Kingsbury | Two Accounts of Battle | Horatio Larned | Fire Heart

There are several accounts of the conflict between Sioux and gold miners at the Heart River that took place probably in 1863. This one was published in Collections of the State Historical Society Volume VII 1925.

“Pioneer Experiences of Horatio M. Larned” by Ethel A. Collins pp 1-58

p. 48 – “The Ambuscade of the Gold Miners”

A group of gold miners was returning from the gold fields of Montana or Idaho gold mines. They stopped at Fort Berthold but were told that camping on the west side of the Missouri River would be unsafe because Dakotas, led by Black Moon and Fire Heart, were hunting nearby. However, the miners did land on the west bank and were soon killed by warriors who had seen them coming downriver. A hunter had seen the boats and returned to the village. Joined by about 20 warriors they returned to the river and attacked as soon as the miners secured their boat to the shore.

One of the traders at Fort Berthold heard of the event and traveled to the riverbank. He found a concealed storage container in the boat which contained gold nuggets and dust worth perhaps as much as $100,000 which he took. The trader was known to have used gold in making purchases after this time.

Fire Heart also remembers the attack, thinking that it occurred in 1864 when his people (about 100 lodges) were camped near the Heart River. Indians took from the pockets of the miners quantities of gold dust using it several months later to trade at Fort Rice. In 1867, Fire Heart drew a sketch of the place where the attack had taken place. Fire Heart said that he did not personally take part in the attack, but that others had, and he had been given some of the gold dust.

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