In 1877, the Nez Perce War began. This war was fought between the Native American Nez Perce tribe and the U.S. army. Previously, the American government had allowed the Nez Perce to live in their ancestral lands located in the northwestern parts of USA. But later, the government told them to give up their lands and move to a reservation.
The Nez Perce didn’t want to give up their freedom and resisted. This led to war in which the Nez Perce first defeated a small U.S. army and then started retreating towards southeast. During this retreat, they were pursued by the American army and many battles between the two sides took place along the way.
In June 1877, the Nez Perce successfully defeated a small U.S. army in the Battle of White Bird Canyon. The Nez Perce then started their long retreat towards the southeast. An army under General O. O. Howard continued to pursue them. The Nez Perce successfully shook off this army through quick manoeuvring and continued their retreat. But a small group of American soldiers were stationed ahead on their path. When the Nez Perce came across these soldiers in early July, this led to the Battle of Cottonwood.
The Battle of Cottonwood took place near Cottonwood in the state of Idaho. It was fought from July 3, 1877 to July 5, 1877.
The small American army was commanded by Captain David Perry and Captain Stephen Whipple. The American army comprised of 85 soldiers and around 30 civilian volunteers. The Nez Perce were led by Chief Joseph, White Bird and Ollokot. They commanded around 150 warriors.
On July 3, scouts were sent by the American army to check out the location of the Nez Perce. One of these scouts was killed by the Nez Perce while the other escaped. Then Captain Stephen Whipple sent out 10 soldiers and 2 civilians to investigate the strength of the Nez Perce.
The Nez Perce warriors successfully ambushed and killed them all. The American army then dug in defenses and took defensive positions. By this time, the Nez Perce had reached near the army positions and Nez Perce snipers started firing on the American soldiers.
The objective of the Nez Perce was to keep the American soldiers pinned into defensive positions so that the Nez Perce women and children could bypass the battlefield and go on ahead. They succeeded in this and after forcing the American soldiers to stay in their positions until July 7, the Nez Perce continued their journey.
The Battle of Cottonwood was a Nez Perce victory. The Nez Perce not only inflicted some damage on the American army but also continued their journey. On the American side, 11 soldiers and 6 civilian volunteers were killed in the battle. On the Nez Perce side, 1 Nez Perce warrior was killed and another was wounded.