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Unit 3: Set 3. Armed Conflict - Kingsbury’s History of the Battle of Whitestone Hill

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

Battle Accounts: Sully | Kingsbury |Furnas | Thomson | Newspaper

The following historical report on the Battle of Whitestone Hill was written by George Kingsbury in History of Dakota Territory vol 1 pt 1 (Chicago: The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1915), 289-290.

Sully’s fighting force numbered about fifteen hundred men and he had reduced his wagon transportation to seventy-five. In fifteen days he had reached Long Lake Creek. Here Sully learned from an old decrepit Indian, that was found on the prairie, that Sibley had met the Indians only a short distance from the camp, and a detachment of troops were at once dispatched to ascertain whether the old Indian’s narrative was reliable. The detachment found Sibley’s camp and the battle field just as described and learned further that the Indians had been driven [west] across the Missouri, but had recrossed three days after Sibley left, opened the caches where their goods were stored, and had gone east probably to overtake and harass Sibley’s rear. Sully immediately started in pursuit. This was on the 1st of September, and on the 3d, late in the afternoon, his scouts discovered one encampment of eight hundred to one thousand hostiles. The troops were then hurried forward, leaving a suitable guard for the supply train, and after a sharp ride of eight miles came upon a recently deserted Indian camp, the occupants having fled upon the approach of the troops; another mile brought the fugitive in full view; the troops galloped forward, and the battle opened without any formalities, our soldier pouring in a deadly fire upon the enemy, which was valiantly returned. The Indians appeared to the soldiers in the twilight of evening as a dark struggling mass of beings, yelling, shouting, shooting and groaning. The Indians were now mainly concentrated in a narrow ravine, quite shallow, each side of which was flanked by the troops, who kept up a galling and destructive fire as long as it was possible to distinguish an Indian from a soldier. Orders then came to cease firing fearing the troops might fire into their own ranks, so intense was their fighting ardor, and the men bivouacked on the field. At daylight the following morning Sully expected to resume the battle but the enemy had quietly faded away during the night, abandoning everything that would impede his flight. The battlefield presented a soul-sickening sight. All the slain soldiers, nineteen in number, were horribly mangled and scalped, some of them tomahawked, indicating that they had been helplessly wounded, and some killed with the merciless hatchet during the night. Intermingled with our dead were the bodies of the Indians and horses, all a ghastly field to look upon, while for miles were tepee poles, folded lodge skins and thousands of packs of dried buffalo meat. No attempt was made to follow the fugitives, as they had evidently scattered in every direction, but a scouting party was sent out as a measure of precaution, and during the day Big Head, the chief, was captured and a large number of squaws and children and quite a number of braves. This scouting party was surprised on one occasion by running into a numerous body of fugitives, who came very near surrounding them, and were able to kill four of the cavalrymen before the captain was able to extricate his command from its perilous situation. Sully had lost twenty-three in killed and thirty wounded, one of the wounded of the Nebraska Second dying a little later. A force of 200 men was detailed to gather up and burn the abandoned supplies of the Indians, saving what was necessary to subsist and shelter the Indian prisoners. Two entire days were consumed in this work, which shows the large quantity of stores, lodges, etc., destroyed. Sully estimated that the Indian loss would reach one hundred and fifty as learned from his prisoners, and the wounded were much more numerous.

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