Bighorn Expedition Of 1863 Part Two
A Night Attack
Stuart assumed the attackers had been Crow. He was most likely mistaken, the attackers were more than likely hostile Sioux. The men decided not to chance a retreat back to Bannack by way of their initial route. Instead, they decided to abandon most of their supplies and proceed with only five to six days’ rations. They would head for South Pass and Fort Bridger in southwestern Wyoming. Before they left the area, Bostwick who was in horrific pain, asked to be left behind with his revolver to fight off the hostiles. Not long after the party left him, he committed suicide.
Fight For Survival
On May 14th they headed southwest over rugged country where they finally shook off the Indians. Unfortunately on that day, Henry T. Geery shattered his shoulder when he accidentally triggered a shotgun hidden among the party’s blankets. He too committed suicide.
Over the following two days, the party was fooled by the terrain into thinking they were just a few miles from open country. Instead they found themselves crossing several canyons that were from 800 to 1,500 feet in depth. During this time they passed into Garvin Basin - probably the first white men to do so - and finally reached the top of Devil Canyon. Their time in the Bighorn Canyon country was drawing to a close.
The next ten days they fled south, wading through snow drifts and across barren, inhospitable country. Finally on May 28th they reached Pacific City at South Pass on the Oregon Trail. It would be nearly another month before they made it back to Bannack, arriving on June 22, 1863. The men were scarcely recognizable to their fellow citizens, after suffering such considerable hardships.
The Next Big Strike
Did You Know?
On August 1, 1867, a haying party of 25 soldiers and civilians held off the attacks of over 800 Sioux and Northern Cheyenne warriors in the hayfields 2 ½ miles northeast of Fort Smith. The outcome was a draw. The incident became known as the Hayfield Fight. More...