Army Concludes Punitive Campaign
Killdeer Encampment Attacked
Badlands Battle Leaves Many Dead
Fort Rice, D.T.
September 8, 1864
General Alfred Sully and his troops have just arrived here and are preparing to depart for home. They have spent the last two months in a campaign against what Sully calls “hostiles.” He originally came to Dakota to capture Dakota who had instigated the uprising in Minnesota two years ago, but he has seemed content to punish most any Indian people.
On July 23 Sully’s force of 2,000 men encountered a large encampment in the Killdeer Mountains. According to the army, the camp held between 5,000 and 6,000 warriors of the Dakota; Hunkpapa and Sihasapa Lakota; and Yanktonai. Indian sources place the number at much less.
After a brief but furious encounter, both sides fell back. At this time the army’s eight canons blasted into the Indian ranks, killing 150 men and breaking off the battle. The encampment fled into the Badlands and the soldiers burned the camp and its provisions.
Sully pursued the Indians to the eastern rim of the Badlands where on August 7 the warriors mounted an attack. A fierce, although brief, battle ensued. In the rugged terrain much of the fighting was hand-to-hand. Almost before it started, the Battle of the Badlands was over: U.S. Army, 9 dead, 100 wounded; native warriors, 311 dead, several hundred wounded.
Sully believes that with these battles “all necessity for future large expeditions cease. The Indians, broken up, scattered in all directions.” Government officials believe that the Sully campaign will provide an excellent groundwork for peace.
By Dr. D. Jerome Tweton
Originally published as The North Star Dakotan student newspaper, written by Dr. D. Jerome Tweton and supported by the North Dakota Humanities Council.