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Battle of Arikaree 1868

Colt Model 1860 Army revolversConflicts between American Indians and the U.S  military occurred as whites moved west to settle land in Kansas.  These same lands were also the traditional hunting areas of native peoples.  One such encounter was the Battle of Arikaree, also known as the Battle of Beechers Island. 

Surrounded by hundreds of Cheyenne and Sioux warriors on the Arikaree branch of the Republican River in what is now eastern Colorado, Colonel George Forsyth and his 50 civilian scouts from Kansas took up their defense September 17, 1868, on a small island in the dry river bed.

For several days, the Indians repeatedly attacked, killing three men and wounding 18 others among them the colonel and the surgeon. Then Indian fire also soon killed the horses. Rations vanished and the besieged men began subsisting on a diet of horse flesh, prickly pears, cactus, and coyote meat.

Two attempts by scouts were made to reach help at Fort Wallace, 75 miles away, but both failed. On the third attempt, scouts Allison J. Pliley and John Donovan accepted a three page note from Forsyth and slipped away in the darkness bound for help.

On September 25, the troops of the 10th Cavalry appeared on the horizon and rescued the besieged men. The fight has become one of the more well known battles between American Indians and army troops on the American frontier.

Entry: Battle of Arikaree 1868

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: June 2003

Date Modified: January 2013

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.