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Battle of Ash Hollow

Detailed map of the Battle of Ash Hollow, also known as the Blue Water Creek.

The Battle of Ash Hollow was an engagement of the First Sioux War, fought on September 2 and 3, 1855, between United States Army soldiers under Brigadier General William S. Harney and a band of the Brulé Lakota, which took place north of the Platte River near present-day Garden County, Nebraska.

The battle, which the American force won while killing Brulé women and children as well as warriors, was a punitive expedition for the so-called "Grattan Massacre" in August, 1854 and for raids by Lakota in its wake during the year following.

The dispute beings with a Mormon emigrant's losing a cow while traveling with his party on the Oregon Trail, which wandered into a Brulé Lakota camp. The cow was killed for food by a Sioux Indian known as High Forehead. The Mormon farmer reported the cow as stolen to Army officers at Fort Laramie.

The fort's commander sent Lieutenant John Lawrence Grattan to arrest High Forehead. Grattan pressed the chief to surrender the Sioux man. One of his soldiers shot the chief Conquering Bear in the back and killed him. In the ensuing battle, the Sioux killed Grattan and twenty-nine of his men.

President Franklin Pierce vowed to avenge what became known as the Grattan Massacre. The War Department appointed Harney in command with instructions to "whip the Indians." The expedition finally set out in August 1855. On September 1, 1855, the expedition caught up with a Sioux encampment along the Platte River in a place known as Blue Waters.

Harney opened the fight by attacking the Sioux camp. Some of the Sioux took refuge in caves along the river. Harney had his men fire into the caves, where they killed many women and children. A large group of mounted warriors made for an escape route away from Cooke's and Harney's forces, but Heth saw them and led his forces to block the escape route.

The warriors managed to break through Heth's men, but were pursued on horseback by cavalry with Heth in the lead. They had a running fight for about five miles, which lasted several hours. At some point, Heth got so far ahead of his men that he was presumed killed in action. Among other American participants of the battle was Gouverneur K. Warren, who noted in his diary the horror of killing women and children. He later became a Union general during the American Civil War.

Afterward, the army made a wide sweep of the surrounding Sioux country but encountered no further resistance. The Sioux called Harney "The Butcher" for the battle at Blue Water, "the Hornet" for invading their territory, and "the Big Chief Who Swears" for his handling of the treaty. Following this battle, there were about ten years of peace between the United States and the Sioux.