Historical Details

Hat Creek Dateline: 1876/07/06

Courtesy of The Lusk Herald, 01/10/1990

Cody stops warriors, kills chief
by Ed Cook, Contributing Writer

A courier from Fort Laramie just arrived with news, to the 5th Cavalry camped near here, that General Custer and his 7th Cavalry troop of 256 men had all been killed in the Battle of the Little Big Horn on June 25. They had been defeated by a large number of warriors lead by Red Cloud.

July 12, 1876 - Colonel Merritt with "Buffalo Bill" Cody as scout moved his seven companies of the 5th Cavalry. They plan to stop at Running Water and Rawhide Buttes then on to Fort Laramie from where they will probably proceed to the Powder River Country to reinforce troops there.

July 16, 1876 - The 5th Cavalry was here at noon today. They were welcomed by Lieutenant Taylor who is in command of the newly built fortification at Camp Hat Creek. Yesterday the 5th Cavalry had received word that 800 to 1000 Cheyenne warriors, encouraged by the news of Custer's defeat, had left the Spotted Tail and Red Cloud reservations and were headed for the Powder river country to join the hostiles. At that time Merritt was south of Rawhide Buttes. they immediately headed north on a forced march, stopping briefly at Rawhide Creek (near Jay Em) then on to Running Water where they camped last night in the rain near the Cardinals Chair (Wyoming Women's Center). At daylight they proceeded on their way here. After a brief noon stop they picked up all of the extra ammunition they could carry and hurried down the Black Hills trail to the east. When they crossed the old Powder River Indian trail they followed it to Warbonnet Creek and camped for the night. The seven companies of the 5th Cavalry were concealed by the bluffs on the creek. The 351 troopers slept on their saddle blankets and did not pitch any tents or start any fires. In the last 31 hours the 5th had marched 80 miles undetected by the Indians and now they were hiding directly in the path of the approaching warriors who now were a day's travel away from the Red Cloud agency (Fort Robinson).

July 17, 1876 - At daylight several mounted Indians were observed. The Indians seemed to be after two couriers who were approaching with messages from the supply wagons which had lagged far behind the cavalry troops. Colonel Merritt ordered several troopers and Cody to stop the Indians who were completely taken by surprise. By some chance of fate Buffalo Bill found himself confronted by Chief Yellow Hand. Each was firing as they closed in on one another. Yellow Hand's horse was shot from under him. At about the same time Cody's horse stepped in a badger hole, falling, leaving both Cody and Yellow Hand afoot. Cody's marksmanship paid off as Yellow Hand fell to the ground with bullet in his head. Cody then proceeded to scalp Yellow Hand (reported by the press as the first scalp taken avenging Custer's defeat). Within a few minutes firing became general and the 1,000 or so Indians hiding behind the hills were soon on their way back to the reservation.

NOTE: J.B. Griffith, Ralph Olinger and Al Rundquist spent several years locating this exact site in 1929-31, at the request of the Wyoming Historical Landmark Commission. After they determined that it was near Montrose, Neb., they had two eye-witnesses, Sgt. Chris Madsen and General King identify the spot and madsen p9ointed out where each Cavalry Company had camped. With the identification complete, Ms. Johnny Baker, wife of Cody's foster son, and Captain Way and Madsen bore the expense of erecting two monuments near Montrose, marking where the duel took place and the spot from where the Indians were first observed. This location was also reviewed and confirmed by Brig. Gen. W. C. Brown, U.S. Army Retired.

(Information sources: "Brig. Gen. W. C. Brown, Sgt. Christian Madsen, campaigners in Indians Wars, tell how "Buffalo Bill" Cody killed Yellow Hand in Hand-to-Hand Fight; Site located and marked few years ago." The Lusk Herald, May 28, 1936 by J. B. Griffith; Hat Creek and Hard Times by Edward C. Bryant; Frontier Spirit - The Story of Wyoming by Craig Sodaro and Randy Adams.)

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Related/Linked Records

Record Type Name
Obituary Olinger, Ralph (05/20/1885 - 02/06/1965) View Record
Obituary Brown, C. (11/30/-0001 - 02/18/1953) View Record