Rocky Boy Tribe of Chippewa Indians of Montana

August 9, 1877 Battle of Big Hole

After defeating Ojibway Soldiers at Nez Perce Reservation, American Soldiers were then sent to Big Hole Valley located in southwestern Montana. I suspect a large Ojibway Reservation was set aside in that location in 1868. There were several Ojibway villages in Big Hole Valley. This battle is suspcious. Battle of Big Hole was a part of Mullan Road War. A list of Mullan Road War battles is above. Colonel Gibbon left Fort Shaw near Great Falls and led 161 American Soldiers and 45 civilians to a Big Hole or Big Hole Valley. What about Fort Ellice which was closer? They always ignore Great Falls. Instead of extending Mullan Road to what is now Great Falls, they instead made a diversion some 10 to 15 miles north of Great Falls, west then southwest, to Fort Shaw. From Fort Shaw, Mullan Road led to Dearborn then to Helena. They had to bypass lakes north of Great Falls during those times. However, they really had to bypass a very large Ojibway population living around Great Falls. In fact, Great Falls of Missouri River was Mullan Road Wars most important goal.

General Gibbon, who was commander of Montana District, was sent a telegraph message by General Howard by couriers telling him to send out troops to intercept hostiles who were either planning a westward exodus or on sending reinforcements to Idaho. Gibbon then sent an order to Captain C.C. Rawn who was commander of Fort Missoula, to prepare for Ojibway Soldiers on a possible trek towards Fort Missoula. It was really to prepare American Soldiers and civilians at and near Fort Missoula, for a trek to Fort Shaw, to bolster that forts number of soldiers. They reached Fort Shaw in 7 days or by August 3. More American Soldiers came up from Fort Ellice to bolster Fort Shaws number of soldiers also.

Gibbon then called for soldiers from Fort Benton and Camp Baker (Fort Logan) to join him at Fort Shaw. Ojibway scouts were obviously scouting their domain and knew what was going on and notified their leaders who prepared their soldiers for war against hostile Americans. Gibbon then ordered his entire force at Fort Shaw to prepare for battle. Gibbon did not make a trek towards Fort Missoula. His instructions were to attack Ojibway villages at Great Fals of Missouri River. Gibbon led his 200 (they were far more numerous than that) or so American Soldiers and civilians to a location of an Ojibway village on Thursday August 9, 1877.

Their leaders were these following: Captain R. Comba with 26 soldiers who left Camp Baker (Fort Logan) on July 24, 1877 and arrived at Fort Shaw on July 27, 1877; Lieutenant E.E. Hardin led 21 soldiers from Fort Benton on July 25, 1877 and reached Fort Shaw on July 26, 1877 or in one day; Captain C.C. Rawn who led 150 American Soldiers and civilians from Fort Missoula and reached Fort Shaw on August 3. American Soldiers from Fort Ellice were probably with Rawn's soldiers which means their total number was much higher. Total number of American Soldiers who fought at Battle of Big Hole may have been near 1,500. Final part of this war was about to be fought.

Early (around 3:30 a.m. or 4:00 a.m. according to some sources) on a cool or mild morning of Thursday August 9, 1877, American Soldiers launched a surprise (Ojibway leaders knew what was going on and shrewdly prepared) assault on an Ojibway village near or at Great Falls. According to American descriptions of that Ojibway village, it was V shaped. There is what appears to be a canal or canals in Great Falls. It or they (today they are two canals) are V shaped. One canal leads from 38th Street and 10th Ave North and extends west to 19th Street and 11th Ave North. Another leads from 10th Ave North at Gibson Parks north end and extends southwest then almost south, stopping before reaching Milwaukee Depo. Before it ends as a canal at 19th Street and 11th Ave North, railroad tracks within that canal nearly continue to 11th Street and River Drive North. If it was one canal, they merged near River Drive North and 9th Street. It is about 60 to 80 feet wide and 15 feet deep. If it was a canal, i can understand why Ojibways built it. To avoid Great Falls of Missouri River which are 5 waterfalls. However, why would they extend that canal southwest then south, almost adjacent to Missouri River?

William Clark drew a map of Great Falls of Missouri River and included "The Portage of Eighteen Miles." For some reason, Lewis and Clark trekked 7.5 miles southwest of Belt Creek, then 10 miles southwest to White Bear Islands. They only needed to follow (stayed close to) Missouri River to White Bear Islands. They trekked south of Great Falls then west to White Bear Islands. Below is a google earth map i drew of Lewis and Clarks "Portage of Eighteen Miles." It has a V shape. Not quite like Clarks yet similar. William Clark may have actually drawn a course that canal took. That's if it was a canal. White Bear Islands may be what are today known as Sacajawea Islands or island. Clark did not include Sacajawea Islands on his map. Ojibway People most definitely had a village in that location. Why? Giant Springs which is one of earths largest freshwater springs. It is United States largest freshwater spring. An Ojibway village was definitely located where Rainbow Falls is. It was located on Missouri River's north side, adjacent to Rainbow Falls on it's northeast. Though it was a small village it was a favorite of Ojibway People, especially Ojibway leaders who frequented that village for recreation.

For around 20 minutes, American Soldiers shot up that village, especially it's west end yet also on it's north and south but were driven out of that village to seek shelter from a larger Ojibway military force that quickly responded to that American assault. American Soldiers quickly dug rifle pits and used rocks and logs to use as barriers. American Soldiers then commenced using their howitzers but they were tossed away by American Soldiers after they realized they could no longer use them as a result of Ojibway Soldiers killing most of their howitzer crew. Ojibway Soldiers then dismantled their howitzers. Per their leaders instructions, Ojibway women were told to gather their horses and head for Lake Creek which was across Missouri River then. They supposedly retreated with their horses some 18 miles north or a little north of Benton Lake and Grassy Lake, where Lake Creek commences. They made defensive works at an Ojibway village in that location.

Ojibway Soldiers prevented their enemies from leaving and continued to battle them throughout that following night. American reinforcements led by General Howard were expected to reach Gibbon's force within a day a so. On Friday August 10, 1877 fighting continued. During that following night, however, Ojibway Soldiers stopped their shooting. They knew General Howards larger force was near. Howard had came up from a location 71 miles away. He came up from Helena which is 71 miles from Great Falls. After Howards force reached Great Falls, they merged with Gibbons force then retreated back to Fort Shaw. Battle for Great Falls had commenced. Casualties were probably significant or higher than estimated. American casualties were 29 killed and 40 wounded. Ojibway casualties were much higher. Ojibway Soldiers had prevented American Soldiers from destroying their village. However, they kept building defensive works at their villages at Great Falls of Missouri River and near Benton Lake and Grassy Lake. Probably to defend their villages from American Soldiers stationed at Fort Benton. Most Ojibway Soldiers remained at their villages around Great Falls. This battle is also known as Battle of Bear Paw. It was really a siege of a large Ojibway village at Great Falls. It commenced on August 9, 1877. Ojibway descriptions of this battle indicate American Soldiers possibly using gatlin guns.

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