Battle of Canyon Creek 1877

What was happening in 1877?

In June 1877, the Nez Perce War began. The Indian tribe of Nez Perce fought this war against the U.S. army. The U.S. army wanted the Nez Perce to give up their native lands and move to a government reservation. When the Nez Perce refused, the U.S. army tried to force them.

In the initial battle of the war, the Nez Perce defeated the U.S. army and then started retreating towards the southeast. Along the long journey, the Nez Perce were continuously pursued by the army and this resulted in many battles. The Battle of Canyon Creek was one of these.

Background of the Battle of Canyon Creek

The ancestral lands of the Nez Perce were in Oregon. Once they started their long retreat, the Nez Perce had hoped that if only they could hold off the U.S. army until they had reached the Yellowstone River, they would be safe. This was based on the assumption that the Crow tribe living near the Yellowstone River would help them and grant them refuge. But when the Nez Perce reached Yellowstone River, the Crow tribe refused to help them.

Now the Nez Perce had no option but to continue their journey and hope to reach Canada. So they decided to cross the River at the Canyon Creek. It was here that the U.S. army pursuing them finally caught up with them and this resulted in the Battle of Canyon Creek.

When and where did the battle take place?

The Battle of Canyon Creek took place near Canyon Creek in the state of Montana. It was fought on September 13, 1877.

Commanders on both sides

The American army was commanded by Colonel Samuel D. Sturgis. He commanded a force of 425 soldiers and around 100 scouts.
The Nez Perce force comprised of nearly 200 warriors. These were led by Looking Glass and Chief Joseph.

The Fighting

The U.S. army caught up with the Nez Perce near the Canyon Creek. Colonel Sturgis initially sent out a group of cavalry soldiers to intercept the Nez Perce. As in the previous battles, the Nez Perce immediately countered the attack while at the same time, evacuating their women and children. Only a handful of Nez Perce warriors kept firing and stopped the American army from making any advances.

Sturgis ordered the American army to advance from multiple sides but the Nez Perce successfully stopped each of these attacks. By nightfall on September 13, the American army had made little headway and the Nez Perce had successfully continued their retreat. The next day, the American army rapidly pursued the Nez Perce but was only able to get hold of around 400 Nez Perce horses.

Result and Aftermath

The Battle of Canyon Creek was a Nez Perce victory. The Nez Perce were able to hold off the U.S. army while continuing their journey. During the fighting, 4 Americans were killed while 11 were wounded. On the Nez Perce side, around 5 warriors were killed and 10 were wounded.

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