Dull Knife Fight

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Dull Knife Fight
Part of the Great Sioux War of 1876
Date November 25, 1876
Location Wyoming Territory
43°32′27″N 107°32′19″W / 43.54083°N 107.53861°W / 43.54083; -107.53861 (Bates Creek)Coordinates: 43°32′27″N 107°32′19″W / 43.54083°N 107.53861°W / 43.54083; -107.53861 (Bates Creek)[1]
Result United States victory
Cheyenne  United States
Commanders and leaders
Dull Knife
Little Wolf
United States Ranald S. Mackenzie
~400 ~1,000
Casualties and losses
30 killed
unknown wounded
9 killed
26 wounded

The Dull Knife Fight, or the Battle on the Red Fork, part of the Great Sioux War of 1876-77, was a battle that was fought on November 25, 1876 in present day Johnson County, Wyoming between soldiers and scouts of the United States Army and warriors of the Northern Cheyenne. The battle essentially ended the Cheyennes' ability to wage war on the Great Plains.


After soldiers from Fort Fetterman in Wyoming Territory under Brigadier General George Crook fought the Northern Cheyenne's at the Battle of Powder River, on March 17, 1876, the Battle of Prairie Dog Creek on June 9, 1876, the Battle of the Rosebud on June 17, 1876, and the Battle of Slim Buttes on September 9-10, 1876, General Crook received reinforcements at his Goose Creek, Wyoming supply base and began to move up the old Bozeman Trail towards Crazy Horse. After learning of a village of Cheyennes in October, 1876, Crook sent Colonel Ranald S. Mackenzie into the Southern Powder River Country to locate it.

Colonel Mackenzie departed Camp Robinson, Nebraska with nearly 1,000 soldiers in 11 companies of the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th United States Cavalry Regiments. He also had a large contingent of Indian scouts, including Pawnee, Shoshone, Arapaho, Lakota, and Cheyenne.[2]

The battle[edit]

Eventually on November 25, 1876, Mackenzie found the camp of about 400 Cheyenne's in 173 tepees under Dull Knife and Little Wolf on the Red Fork of the Powder River. The Cheyenne warriors were having a celebration because of a recent victory over the Shoshone Indians. Mackenzie waited until dawn, then attacked and drove the warriors from the village. Some were forced to leave their clothes, blankets and buffalo robes behind and flee into the frozen countryside. Dull Knife began to offer stiff resistance, and savage fighting continued. The Pawnee warriors accompanying the soldiers fought with exceptional ability against the Cheyenne's. Second Lieutenant John A. McKinney, of the 4th United States Cavalry Regiment, and five enlisted men were Killed in action. Chief Dull Knife's Cheyenne warriors finally retreated, abandoning their village.[3] The Cheyenne village of 173 lodges and all its contents were entirely destroyed, and the soldiers captured about 500 Indian ponies.


The Dull Knife Fight ended the Northern Cheyenne's resistance to the United States for all practical purposes. Dull Knife's followers were left in the freezing November weather without sufficient clothing, and many suffered from frostbite. A large number of Dull Knife's band traveled north along the Bighorn Mountains, eventually reaching the upper Tongue River regions. Some joined Chief Crazy Horse's Oglala Sioux camp on Beaver Creek, and on January 8, 1877, would fight alongside Crazy Horse and Two Moon at the Battle of Wolf Mountain on the banks of the Tongue River, in Montana Territory.[4]

Order of battle[edit]

Native Americans, Chief's Dull Knife, and Little Coyote (Little Wolf). About 400 warriors.

Native Americans Tribe Leaders

Native Americans

Northern Cheyenne


United States Army Expedition from Camp Robinson, Nebraska, October-November, 1876, Late Major General, Colonel Ranald S. Mackenzie, commanding.

Expedition Regiment Companies and Others

     Colonel Ranald S. Mackenzie, 4th Cavalry, commanding.

2nd Cavalry

   Captain James Egan

3rd Cavalry


4th Cavalry

   Second Lieutenant John A. McKinney

5th Cavalry


Indian Scouts and Guides

   Chief of Scouts

Dull Knife battlefield[edit]

Dull Knife Battlefield

The Dull Knife Battlefield is located east of the Bighorn Mountains in Johnson County, Wyoming near the present day town of Kaycee, Wyoming. The battlefield is on private land and tours are available only by special arrangement. The location is now the site of a Cattle ranch.


  1. ^ "Bates Creek". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey. 
  2. ^ Grinnell, George B.: The Fighting Cheyennes, p. 351.
  3. ^ Junge, Mark (July 6, 1979). "National Register of Historic Places Inventory - Nomination Form: Dull Knife Battlefield" (PDF). National Park Service. Retrieved 2009-08-05. 
  4. ^ Grinnell, George B.: The Fighting Cheyennes, p. 368.