Red Cloud’s War refers to an armed conflict between an alliance of Native American tribes on one side and the U.S. government. The war was named after ‘Red Cloud’ who was a famous Native American chief and led the war against the U.S. government. The war lasted from 1866 to 1868 and resulted in a peace treaty agreed upon by both sides.
In the 1860s, gold was discovered in Montana and the Montana Gold Rush began. Thousands of miners from American states headed towards Montana. The path to Montana went past Native American territories which belonged to the Native Americans as per their previous treaties with the U.S. government.
However, the American settlers blazed the Bozeman Trail right through the Powder River Basin territory, passing through the heart of the Native American territory. As more and more miners and settlers traversed this path, resources in the area decreased and the Native Americans feared that the white settlers would take over the land.
So they started attacking the settlers traveling along the Bozeman Trail. The U.S. army responded by establishing a number of forts along the Trail. This angered the Native Americans who, under the leadership of Red Cloud, waged war on the U.S. army.
The fighting during Red Cloud’s War comprised mostly of raids by the Native Americans on U.S. army posts and soldiers. The U.S. Army in the area was stationed mostly in a number of forts. They rarely ventured out of these forts since the surrounding territory was mostly controlled by the Native Americans.
The Native Americans, on the other hand, held these forts in virtual siege. Whenever a group of soldiers ventured out, a Native American raiding party would attack it. A major defeat for the U.S. army came in November, 1866 when a group of 100 U.S. soldiers were surrounded and killed by Native Americans. Similar raids by the Native Americans continued although by late 1867, the U.S. army had adapted to these tactics and was inflicting a lot of damage on these attackers as well.
By 1868, the Native Americans realized that it was futile to fight against the U.S. government. On the other hand, the U.S. government was eager to bring this conflict to an end. So in 1868, the U.S. government sent peace commissioners to the U.S. forts along the Bozeman Trail in order to negotiate a truce with Red Cloud and other Native American leaders.
Red Cloud said that he would negotiate only after the U.S. troops left their forts in the area. So in August 1868, U.S. army abandoned the forts along the Bozeman Trail. The Native Americans then signed a treaty with the U.S. government. According to this treaty, the entire Power River country remained in Indian control. The treaty was called the ‘Treaty of Fort Laramie’ and resulted in the creation of the Great Sioux Reservation.