Arickaree, Battle of.This action terminated the Indian wars on the plains. It was the most tragic of the many battles fought with the Indians in Kansas and Nebraska and took its name from the place where the battle which was fought on a small island in the middle of the Arickaree, a branch of the Republican river. This island is now included in the state of Colorado, near the west line of what is now Cheyenne county, Kan.
BEECHE'S ISLAND, SEPT. 17, 1905.
In the summer of 1868 a troop of renegade Indians, composed of men from several tribes, made a raid on the settlers of the Saline and Solomon valleys, killed a number of people, drove off numerous horses and captured two white women, one of whom lived on White Rock creek, Jewell county, the other on the Solomon river in Ottawa county. Most of the settlers from the district fled to the towns for safety. The Indians were well armed and mounted and moved rapidly toward the north. Many of the settlers along the Saline and Solomon were old soldiers and quickly formed an armed band to pursue the Indians but could not overtake them. Gen. Sheridan, who was in command of the department, heard that there was a band of Indians camped on the western frontier and decided to pursue them. Col. George A. Forsyth was ordered to form a volunteer company at Fort Harker (q. v.), in what is now Ellsworth county. Lieut. Frederick Beecher, of the regular army, was detailed to select the troop and choose 50 picked men, experienced frontiersmen, ex-soldiers and scouts, all known for their metal and daring. Most of the men furnished their own horses and were well equipped for the service. They made a forced march to Fort Hays, then up the Smoky Hill river to Fort Wallace, a distance of 200 miles. There they were supplied with ammunition, rations, pack mules and a few horses. On Sept. 10, the troop, consisting of 49 men, left Fort Wallace, Col. Forsyth in command, Lieut. Beecher second in command, and Dr. Moore, of Fort Wallace, citizen surgeon. They expected to meet a band of from 250 to 300 Indian warriors, the number reported by the scouts.
Hearing of an Indian raid on a wagon train near Sheridan, the troop hastened in that direction. There they struck the Indian trail and followed it north until they reached the Republican river then westward to the Arickaree, where a camp was formed on its north bank opposite a sandy island. While they could see no Indians the troop was convinced they were in the vicinity. The island was investigated and chosen as a safe place of retreat should they be surrounded by the enemy, sentinels were posted, the stock guarded and most of the men went to sleep worn out by the forced march. The Indians had been notified by their scouts of the conditions at the camp and attacked just at dawn on the morning of the 17th. By stealth, they had crept down the ravine and managed to stampede most of the mules and also some of the horses. Singing their battle-songsCheyenne, Arapahoe and Siouxthe Indians came on. The men of the troop knew that advance meant death and retreat was impossible, the advantage of the island as a place of refuge was now of value and Col. Forsyth gave the order, "Reach the island." This sudden movement disconcerted and surprised the Indians. Col. Forsyth divided the command, part going to the east end of the island under Jack Stilwell, the other to the west end. The Indians advanced in disorder across the creek bed toward the island and were met by volley after volley from the whites, who had managed to dig shallow pits in the sand which offered small cover. Some of the Indians then tried to advance through the tall grass, but were picked off. During the first hour many of the horses and mules were killed, firing on both sides was kept up until 10 o'clock, when several chiefs had been killed and the celebrated chief, Roman Nose, took command. He claimed to have a charmed life and led another fierce attack toward the east end of the island, which the Indians did not know was defended as the fighting had been all at the other end. Roman Nose was shot and with his fall the attack practically ceased until 2 o'clock p. m., when the Indians received reinforcements under Dull Knife of the Sioux tribe. Orders were not to fire until the Indians were in close range; Dull Knife was killed and when the Indians returned and recovered his body, the battle was ended. The river bed was strewn with the dead warriors and ponies of the Indians; the wounded whites received but little aid as Dr. Moore had been hit in the head early in the engagement. Col. Forsyth and Lieut. Beecher were both wounded, many of the men were dead, and all suffered for lack of water. At midnight two scouts were started on their perilous journey to Fort Wallace for aid, and reached the fort at sundown on Sept. 20. A command left at midnight for the Arickaree. As help was so long in coming to the besieged men, who were suffering, two more men volunteered to try to get through the Indian lines. They met the relief party under Col. Parker, and guided it to the island. It was later learned that the Indians lost between 700 and 800 warriors during the battle, which broke their power in the west.Pages 97-99 from volume I of Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. ... / with a supplementary volume devoted to selected personal history and reminiscence. Standard Pub. Co. Chicago : 1912. 3 v. in 4. : front., ill., ports.; 28 cm. Vols. I-II edited by Frank W. Blackmar. Transcribed May 2002 by Carolyn Ward.
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