The Nez Perce War was fought between an alliance of Native American tribes and the U.S. Army. The Native American alliance mainly comprised of the Nez Perce tribe which gave the war its name.
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The Nez Perce tribe lived in northwest parts of the United States of America. They had long lived in this area which they considered their ancestral land. But as USA expanded and white settlers reached the area, there was conflict between the Indians and the white newcomers.
In 1855, the U.S. government tried to settle this conflict by allowing the Nez Perce to retain 7.5 million acres of their ancestral land along with other privileges. But the government soon went back on this treaty and demanded that all Nez Perce leave their ancestral lands and relocate to a reservation site in Idaho.
A part of the Nez Perce tribe agreed to do so but many bands of the tribe were indignant over the violation of the previous treaty by the U.S. government and decided to fight back. This ultimately led to the war between U.S. Army and the Nez Perce warriors.
The Nez Perce War started in June, 1877 and continued until October, 1877. It was fought in the modern-day states of Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming and Montana.
The important commanders on the U.S. side were Brigadier General Oliver Otis Howard and Brigadier General Nelson A. Miles. The U.S. army which took part in this war comprised of nearly 1500 soldiers. The most important leader of the Nez Perce side was Chief Joseph. The Nez Perce alliance comprised of 250 to 300 warriors.
The Nez Perce had only nearly 300 warriors on their side. And yet, once the war started, they fought fiercely and engaged the U.S. army in a number of battles. They defeated a small force of U.S. soldiers at the Battle of White Bird Canyon in June, 1877. This was the first battle between Nez Perce and the U.S. army.
Following this fight, the Nez Perce tribe started retreating towards the southeast. Along the way, they were followed by the U.S. army and had to fight many battles. And yet, despite having only a small band of warriors, the Nez Perce not only held off the U.S. army but also continued to retreat successfully.
At one point in the war, they sought refuge with the Native American Crow Nation but they were refused. So they continued to retreat away from the U.S. army which was following them and hoped to enter Canada. In all, the Nez Perce fought nearly 18 engagements against the U.S. army, including 4 major battles. And they were not defeated or overwhelmed in either of them.
When the retreating Nez Perce stopped and made camp nearly 40 miles from the Canadian border, the U.S. army finally caught up with them on September 30, 1877. The Nez Perce fought back for three days but then they finally surrendered.