Battle of the Clearwater 1877

What was happening in 1877?

In June 1877, the Nez Perce War began. This war was fought by the Native American Nez Perce tribe against the American army. The American army wanted to evacuate the Nez Perce from their ancestral lands and relocate them to a small reservation.

The Nez Perce, on the other hand, valued their freedom and didn’t want to give it up. So they decided to fight back. After a small initial battle in which the Nez Perce were victorious, they started journeying towards the southeast, hoping to eventually enter Canada. Along this way many battles took place between the U.S. army and the Nez Perce. The Battle of Clearwater was one of them.

Background of the Battle of Clearwater

The Nez Perce journey began in June 1877. They encountered a small American army in early July and successfully defeated it, continuing their journey eastwards. However, a larger army under General O. O. Howard was still pursuing them. The Nez Perce thought that Howard’s army was still at some distance. On July 11, the Nez Perce had set up camp in Idaho County and were resting when Howard’s army suddenly reached near them and took them by surprise. This led to the Battle of the Clearwater

When and where did the battle take place?

The Battle of Clearwater took place in the Idaho County of the state of Idaho. It was fought on July 11, 1877 and July 12, 1877.

Commanders on both sides

The American army was commanded by General Oliver Otis Howard. He commanded a force which included 440 soldiers and around 160 civilian volunteers.

The main leaders on the Nez Perce side were Chief Joseph, Looking Glass and Toohoolhoolzote. The Nez Perce strength comprised of around 200 warriors.

The Fighting

The fighting started on July 11, 1877, when Howard’s army took the Nez Perce camp by surprise. The American army started firing on the village. At this point, a small group of Nez Perce warriors under Toohoolhoolzote came forward and creating a makeshift stone fort, started firing at the American army.

This delayed the advance of the American soldiers and gave the rest of the Nez Perce enough time to retreat from the camp safely. When the Americans finally forced Toohoolhoolzote to retreat, nearly 100 Nez Perce warriors had taken defensive positions and with their firing, stopped the advance of the U.S. army. On July 12, 1877, the American army was finally able to launch a strong assault and forced the Nez Perce warriors to give up their positions.

Result and Aftermath

The Battle of Clearwater was a victory for the U.S. army. However, the army was not able to take any prisoners or to stop the retreat of the Nez Perce. During the fighting, the American side suffered around 45 casualties including 17 dead. The Nez Perce suffered around 10 casualties including 4 dead. General Howard and his army continued to pursue the Nez Perce on July 13 but the Nez Perce were able to escape with most of their numbers intact.

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