On July 20, 1866, one of the
first clashes between the Indians opposed to the establishment of the Bozeman Trail and
the forts along it took place at the trail crossing of the Crazy Woman Fork of Powder
River. Sioux and Cheyenne warriors attacked a small wagon train of soldiers and
civilians under command of Lieutenant George M. Templeton of the 18th United States
Infantry, holding the train under siege until nightfall when a relief column coming down
the trail relieved the surrounded party.
The battle began when Lt. Templeton and Lt.
Napoleon H. Daniels rode ahead of the wagons to chase what appeared to be a herd of
buffalo. As they entered the creek valley, the warriors struck, shooting Daniels and
chasing Templeton back to the train. Templeton and the other officers corralled the
wagons as the Indians pressed their attack. The situation was serious, since of the
37 people in the party 9 were women and children, and only 10 of the 19 enlisted soldiers
Since the position the train had corralled
at was difficult to defend, Templeton ordered the wagons moved to the top of a high bluff
about a mile above the creek. This was accomplished while continual skirmishing took
place between the warriors and soldiers.
Even though the new position was stronger,
by nightfall the battle had lasted since approximately 12:30 or 1:00 p.m., and ammunition
was getting low in the corral. While the main force of Indians were regrouping in the
valley, it was decided to send for help, and Chaplain Reverend David White and a soldier
slipped through the Indian pickets and headed to Fort Reno to get help.
In the growing darkness, a cloud of dust
coming from the north came to view, and Templeton saw it was a wagon train. Soon the
Indians watching the corralled wagons left the area, killing a lone soldier that was
walking ahead of the oncoming train before joining the main force of warriors. Soon
the Indians were gone.
The relief force was a supply train headed
from Fort Phil Kearny to Fort Reno. Its commander, Captain T.B. Burrowes, took
command of both parties. The body of the lone soldier killed at the end of the
battle, Lance Corporal Terrence Callary, was buried near the corralled wagons. Lt.
Daniels body was recovered the next morning, and after the arrival of another relief
force from Fort Reno, both trains traveled on to Fort Reno.
Although only two soldiers had been killed
in the first fight at Crazy Woman Crossing, it signaled the beginning of hostilities on
the Bozeman Trail. The next two years would see many similar small engagements.
Today, a stone monument and several
interpretive signs stand near the battlefield. Please call (307) 684-7629 for