Cheyenne and Sioux decimate frontiersmen at Beecher’s Island

Year
1868
Month Day
September 17

Early in the morning on September 17, 1868, a large band of Cheyenne and Sioux stage a surprise attack on Major George A. Forsyth and a volunteer force of 50 frontiersmen in Colorado.

Retreating to a small sandbar in the Arikaree River that thereafter became known as Beecher’s Island, Forsyth and his men succeeded in repulsing three massed Indian charges. Thanks to the rapid fire capability of their seven-shot Spencer rifles, Forsyth’s volunteers were able to kill or wound many of the Indian attackers, including the war chief Roman Nose. But as evening came and the fighting temporarily halted, Forsyth found he had 22 men either dead or wounded, and he estimated the survivors were surrounded by a force of 600 Native Americans. The white settlers faced certain annihilation unless they could somehow bring help. Two men—Jack Stilwell and Pierre Trudeau—volunteered to attempt a daring escape and silently melted into the night.

The battle raged for five more days. Forsyth’s effective fighting force was reduced to ten men before the Native American forces finally withdrew. Miles from help and lacking wagons and horses, Forsyth knew that many of his wounded would soon be dead if they didn’t get help. Fortunately, on September 25, the 10th Cavalry—one of the Army’s two African American units nicknamed the “Buffalo Soldiers”—came riding to their rescue with a field ambulance and medical supplies. Miraculously, Stilwell and Trudeau had managed to make it through the Sioux and Cheyenne and bring help. Thanks to the timely arrival of the Buffalo Soldiers, the lives of many men were saved.

READ MORE: Native American History Timeline 

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Sam Mason survives Native American attack

Year
1777
Month Day
August 31

Samuel Mason, a Patriot captain in command of Fort Henry on the Ohio frontier, survives a devastating Native American attack on August 31, 1777.

The son of a distinguished Virginia family, Samuel Mason became a militia officer and was assigned to the western frontier post of Fort Henry in present-day West Virginia. In the summer of 1777, with the colonies fighting a war for independence, Mason feared attacks by the Native allies of the British. He was proven correct on August 31, 1777, when a band of Native Americans from several eastern tribes attacked the fort.

The Native Americans initially fired only on several men who were outside the fort rounding up horses. Hearing the shots, Mason gathered 14 men and rode to their rescue; this was exactly what the warriors hoped he would do. They ambushed the party, killing all but Mason. Badly wounded, Mason escaped death by hiding behind a log. A second party that attempted to come to his rescue suffered the same fate as the first. All told, Mason lost 15 men, compared to only one fatality among the attackers.

Mason recovered from his wounds and continued to command Fort Henry for several years. Following the end of the war, though, he fell on hard times. Repeatedly accused of being a thief, he moved farther west into the lawless frontier of the young American nation. By 1797, he had become a pirate on the Mississippi River, preying on boatmen who moved valuable goods up and down the river. He also reportedly took to robbing travelers along the Natchez Trace (or trail) in Tennessee, often with the assistance of his four sons.

By the early 1800s, Mason had become one of the most notorious desperados on the American frontier, a precursor to Jesse James, Cole Younger and later outlaws of the “Wild West.” In January 1803, Spanish authorities arrested Mason and his four sons and decided to turn them over to the Americans. En route to Natchez Trace, Tennessee, Mason and his sons killed the commander of the boat and escaped.

Determined to apprehend Mason, the Americans upped the reward for his capture, dead or alive. The reward money soon proved too tempting for two members of Mason’s gang; in July 1803 they killed Mason, cut off his head and brought it into the Mississippi territorial offices to prove that they had earned the reward. The men were soon identified as members of Mason’s gang, however, and they were arrested and hanged.

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Sioux military leader Crazy Horse is killed

Year
1877
Month Day
September 05

Oglala Sioux leader Crazy Horse is fatally bayoneted by a U.S. soldier after resisting confinement in a guardhouse at Fort Robinson, Nebraska. A year earlier, Crazy Horse was among the Sioux leaders who defeated George Armstrong Custer’s Seventh Cavalry at the Battle of Little Bighorn in Montana Territory. The battle, in which 265 members of the Seventh Cavalry, including Custer, were killed, was the worst defeat of the U.S. Army in its long history of warfare with the Native Americans.

After the victory at Little Bighorn, U.S. Army forces led by Colonel Nelson Miles pursued Crazy Horse and his followers. His tribe suffered from cold and starvation, and on May 6, 1877, Crazy Horse surrendered to General George Crook at the Red Cloud Indian Agency in Nebraska. He was sent to Fort Robinson, where he was killed in a scuffle with soldiers who were trying to imprison him in a cell.

READ MORE: Crazy Horse: His Life and Legacy

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U.S. surrenders Fort Detroit to the British

Year
1812
Month Day
August 16

During the War of 1812, American General William Hull surrenders Fort Detroit and his army to the British without a fight. Hull, a 59-year-old veteran of the American Revolution, had lost hope of defending the settlement after seeing the large English and Indian force gathering outside Detroit’s walls. The general was also preoccupied with the presence of his daughter and grandchildren inside the fort.

Of Hull’s 2,000-man army, most were militiamen, and British General Isaac Brock allowed them to return to their homes on the frontier. The regular U.S. Army troops were taken as prisoners to Canada. With the capture of Fort Detroit, Michigan Territory was declared a part of Great Britain and Shawnee chief Tecumseh was able to increase his raids against American positions in the frontier area. Hull’s surrender was a severe blow to American morale. In September 1813, U.S. General William Henry Harrison, the future president, recaptured Detroit.

In 1814, William Hull was court-martialed for cowardice and neglect of duty in surrendering the fort, and sentenced to die. Because of his service in the revolution, however, President James Madison remitted the sentence.

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Deerfield settlement razed in Queen Anne’s War


Year
1704
Month Day
February 29

Deerfield, a frontier settlement in western Massachusetts, is attacked by a French and Native American force. Some 100 men, women, and children were massacred as the town was burned to the ground.

The Deerfield raid was the bloodiest event of Queen Anne’s War, a conflict known to American historians as the second of the French and Indian Wars. The frontier conflict, named after the English monarch at the time, was to France and England a rather unimportant aspect of the War of the Spanish Succession. To settlers in America, however, the rivalry of the two powers in the colonies was a serious concern, as the fighting meant not only raids by the French or the British but also the horrors of Indian tribal warfare.

With the signing of the Peace of Utrecht in 1714, peace returned to the frontier. Thirty years later, it would be broken by the War of Austrian Succession, the third of the French and Indian Wars.

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The Seven Years War begins

Year
1756
Month Day
May 15

The Seven Years War, a global conflict known in America as the French and Indian War, officially begins when England declares war on France. However, fighting and skirmishes between England and France had been going on in North America for years.

In the early 1750s, French expansion into the Ohio River valley repeatedly brought France into armed conflict with the British colonies. In 1756–the first official year of fighting in the Seven Years War–the British suffered a series of defeats against the French and their broad network of Native American alliances. However, in 1757, British Prime Minister William Pitt (the older) recognized the potential of imperial expansion that would come out of victory against the French and borrowed heavily to fund an expanded war effort. Pitt financed Prussia’s struggle against France and her allies in Europe and reimbursed the colonies for the raising of armies in North America.

By 1760, the French had been expelled from Canada, and by 1763 all of France’s allies in Europe had either made a separate peace with Prussia or had been defeated. In addition, Spanish attempts to aid France in the Americas had failed, and France also suffered defeats against British forces in India.

The Seven Years War ended with the signing of the treaties of Hubertusburg and Paris in February 1763. In the Treaty of Paris, France lost all claims to Canada and gave Louisiana to Spain, while Britain received Spanish Florida, Upper Canada, and various French holdings overseas. The treaty ensured the colonial and maritime supremacy of Britain and strengthened the 13 American colonies by removing their European rivals to the north and the south. Fifteen years later, French bitterness over the loss of most of their colonial empire contributed to their intervention in the American Revolution on the side of the Patriots.

READ MORE: 10 Things You May Not Know About the French and Indian War

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Pequot massacres begin

Year
1637
Month Day
May 26

During the Pequot War, an allied Puritan and Mohegan force under English Captain John Mason attacks a Pequot village in Connecticut, burning or massacring some 500 Indian women, men, and children.

As the Puritans of Massachusetts Bay spread further into Connecticut, they came into increasing conflict with the Pequots, a war-like tribe centered on the Thames River in southeastern Connecticut. By the spring of 1637, 13 English colonists and traders had been killed by the Pequot, and Massachusetts Bay Governor John Endecott organized a large military force to punish the Indians. On April 23, 200 Pequot warriors responded defiantly to the colonial mobilization by attacking a Connecticut settlement, killing six men and three women and taking two girls away.

On May 26, 1637, two hours before dawn, the Puritans and their Indian allies marched on the Pequot village at Mystic, slaughtering all but a handful of its inhabitants. On June 5, Captain Mason attacked another Pequot village, this one near present-day Stonington, and again the Indian inhabitants were defeated and massacred. On July 28, a third attack and massacre occurred near present-day Fairfield, and the Pequot War came to an end. Most of the surviving Pequot were sold into slavery, though a handful escaped to join other southern New England tribes.

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Sitting Bull surrenders

Year
1881
Month Day
July 20

Five years after General George A. Custer’s infamous defeat at the Battle of the Little Bighorn, Hunkpapa Teton Sioux leader Sitting Bull surrenders to the U.S. Army, which promises amnesty for him and his followers. Sitting Bull had been a major leader in the 1876 Sioux uprising that resulted in the death of Custer and 264 of his men at Little Bighorn. Pursued by the U.S. Army after the victory, he escaped to Canada with his followers.

Born in the Grand River Valley in what is now South Dakota, Sitting Bull gained early recognition in his Sioux tribe as a capable warrior and a man of vision. In 1864, he fought against the U.S. Army under General Alfred Sully at Killdeer Mountain and thereafter dedicated himself to leading Sioux resistance against white encroachment. He soon gained a following in not only his own tribe but in the Cheyenne and Arapaho Native American groups as well. In 1867, he was made principal chief of the entire Sioux nation.

In 1873, in what would serve as a preview of the Battle of Little Bighorn three years later, an American Indian military coalition featuring the leadership of Sitting Bull skirmished briefly with Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer. In 1876, Sitting Bull was not a strategic leader in the U.S. defeat at Little Bighorn, but his spiritual influence inspired Crazy Horse and the other victorious American Indian military leaders. He subsequently fled to Canada, but in 1881, with his people starving, he returned to the United States and surrendered.

He was held as a prisoner of war at Fort Randall in South Dakota territory for two years and then was permitted to live on Standing Rock Reservation straddling North and South Dakota territory. In 1885, he traveled for a season with Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West show and then returned to Standing Rock. In 1889, the spiritual proclamations of Sitting Bull influenced the rise of the “Ghost Dance,” an American Indian religious movement that proclaimed that the whites would disappear and the dead American Indian and buffalo would return.

His support of the Ghost Dance movement had brought him into disfavor with government officials, and on December 15, 1890, American Indian police burst into Sitting Bull’s house in the Grand River area of South Dakota and attempted to arrest him. There is confusion as to what happened next. By some accounts, Sitting Bull’s warriors shot the leader of the police, who immediately turned and gunned down Sitting Bull. In another account, the police were instructed by Major James McLaughlin, director of the Standing Rock Sioux Agency, to kill the chief at any sign of resistance. Whatever the case, Sitting Bull was fatally shot and died within hours. The American Indian police hastily buried his body at Fort Yates within the Standing Rock Reservation. In 1953, his remains were moved into Mobridge, South Dakota, where a granite shaft marks his resting place.

READ MORE: Native American History Timeline

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King Philip’s War begins

Year
1675
Month Day
June 24

In colonial New England, King Philip’s War begins when a band of Wampanoag warriors raid the border settlement of Swansee, Massachusetts, and massacre the English colonists there.

In the early 1670s, 50 years of peace between the Plymouth colony and the local Wampanoag Indians began to deteriorate when the rapidly expanding settlement forced land sales on the tribe. Reacting to increasing Native American hostility, the English met with King Philip, chief of the Wampanoag, and demanded that his forces surrender their arms. The Wampanoag did so, but in 1675 a Christian Native American who had been acting as an informer to the English was murdered, and three Wampanoag were tried and executed for the crime.

King Philip responded by ordering the attack on Swansee on June 24, which set off a series of Wampanoag raids in which several settlements were destroyed and scores of colonists massacred. The colonists retaliated by destroying a number of Indian villages. The destruction of a Narragansett village by the English brought the Narragansett into the conflict on the side of King Philip, and within a few months several other tribes and all the New England colonies were involved. In early 1676, the Narragansett were defeated and their chief killed, while the Wampanoag and their other allies were gradually subdued. King Philip’s wife and son were captured, and on August 12, 1676, after his secret headquarters in Mount Hope, Rhode Island, was discovered, Philip was assassinated by a Native American in the service of the English. The English drew and quartered Philip’s body and publicly displayed his head on a stake in Plymouth.

King Philip’s War, which was extremely costly to the colonists of southern New England, ended the Native American presence in the region and inaugurated a period of unimpeded colonial expansion.

READ MORE: American-Indian Wars: Timeline, Battles & Summary

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Dakota uprising begins in Minnesota

Year
1862
Month Day
August 17

Minnesota erupts in violence as desperate Dakota Indians attack white settlements along the Minnesota River. The Dakota were eventually overwhelmed by the U.S. military six weeks later.

The Dakota Indians were more commonly referred to as the Sioux, a derogatory name derived from part of a French word meaning “little snake.” They were composed of four bands, and lived on temporary reservations in southwestern Minnesota. For two decades, the Dakota were poorly treated by the Federal government, local traders, and settlers. They saw their hunting lands whittled down, and provisions promised by the government rarely arrived. Worse yet, a wave of white settlers surrounded them.

The summer of 1862 was particularly hard on the Dakota. Cutworms destroyed much of their corn crops, and many families faced starvation. Dakota leaders were frustrated by attempts to convince traders to extend credit to tribal members and alleviate the suffering. On August 17, four young Dakota warriors were returning from an unsuccessful hunt when they stopped to steal some eggs from a white settlement. The youths soon picked a quarrel with the hen’s owner, and the encounter turned tragic when the Dakotas killed five members of the family. Sensing that they would be attacked, Dakota leaders determined that war was at hand and seized the initiative. Led by Taoyateduta (also known as Little Crow), the Dakota attacked local agencies and the settlement of New Ulm. Over 500 white settlers lost their lives along with about 150 Dakota warriors.

President Abraham Lincoln dispatched General John Pope, fresh from his defeat at the Second Battle of Bull RunVirginia, to organize the Military Department of the Northwest. Some Dakota fled to North Dakota, but more than 2,000 were rounded up and over 300 warriors were sentenced to death. President Lincoln commuted most of their sentences, but on December 26, 1862, 38 Dakota men were executed at Mankato, Minnesota. 

READ MORE: Native American History Timeline 

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