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July 11, 1861 Steamboat Chippewa Fiasco


On July 11, 1861 an event occurred where Milk River's mouth is. It's 6.8 miles northeast of Fort Peck, Montana. Through a treaty agreement, whites were allowed by Ojibway leaders to use Missouri River to bring trade items by steamboat to Fort Benton trade post. First steamboat to reach Fort Benton trade post was named Chippewa and that was followed by one named Key West. That occurred in 1860. This event set off this long Montana War. Alarmed Ojibway chiefs became very concerned once they learned large numbers of illegal white settlers were arriving by steamboat to Fort Benton trade post. Historians claim that over 20,000 illegal white settlers used Mullan Road to travel from Fort Benton trade post and from Fort Walla Walla, Washington, westwards and eastwards, to Montana. It set off this war for control of Montana. On July 11, 1861 Steamboat Chippewa exploded east of Fort Benton trade post. Specifically where Milk River's mouth is. Historians claim that a fire accidentally erupted on Steamboat Chippewa which was carrying a large supply of gun powder. That gun powder was not going to be traded to Indians. It was going to be used by whites who were making themselves clear to Ojibway leaders, that they were invading. Ojibway leaders wanted that gun powder and knew Steamboat Chippewa not only carried trade items yet ammunition and weapons. Supposedly after learning their steamboat was on fire, whites quickly evacuated their steamboat then set it loose to sail down river where it eventually exploded. According to historians, a force of Crow Indians showed up next day and joined whites to scavenge for any usuable items left after that explosion. Then whites supposedly left to travel to Fort Union and a large force of Lakota soldiers then showed up to battle Crow Soldiers. Ojibway Soldiers attacked steamboat Chippewa and either captured or killed white passengers on steamboat Chippewa, then looted it for supplies it carried. They then destroyed it. After accomplishing their assignment, they may have released most or all white captives they held or most whites escaped to Fort Union (Fort Buford, North Dakota). There were casualties yet they are unknown. Whites were now invading northeast Montana. They would or had already by 1861, invaded southwest Montana.



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