CRAZY WOMAN BATTLEFIELD

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     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 had guns.

     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 further information.

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