• Nez Perce National Historical Park. Front Page banner photograph is of Heart of the Monster, an ancient place where the Nez Perce creation story originates. The secondary page photograph is of Nez Perce beadwork.

    Nez Perce

    National Historical Park ID,MT,OR,WA

Cottonwood Skirmish Site

Cottonwood-Skirmish

The actual Cottonwood skirmish sites are on private property. The skirmish sites are marked in a turnout off of Highway 95.

Nez Perce National Historical Park

In the immediate aftermath of the battle at White Bird, the Nez Perce crossed the Salmon River below the town of White Bird. General Howard did not follow until July 1. By the time Howard began his pursuit, the Nez Perce had crossed the Salmon again and reappeared on the Camas Prairie.

As the Nez Perce crossed the prairie, they skirmished with the U.S. Army and volunteers near Cottonwood. On July 3, Captain Stephen G. Whipple, commanding two companies of the First Cavalry, sent two civilian scouts west of Cottonwood. The scouts came across some Nez Perce and one was killed. The other made it back to Whipple and reported the urgent news. In response to the attack, Whipple sent a detachment of ten men under the command of Lt. Sevier M. Rains to investigate. Rains' group was surprised by warriors and everyone was killed.

In the meantime, Whipple received reinforcements from Ft. Lapwai and they dug in close to Norton Ranch, three miles from Cottonwood. They received fire from Nez Perce warriors who eventually broke off the fight. On July 5, as the Nez Perce crossed the Camas Prairie to gain access to the ancient trail that would take them over the Bitterroot Mountains, warriors came across a party of seventeen armed civilian volunteers. They were quickly surrounded, allowing the main body of Nez Perce to escape. For General Howard, the Nez Perce frustrated his plans and created a great deal of doubt in the popular press over his ability to bring this conflict to a quick close.

Did You Know?

Nez Perce male fishing from a canoe. NPS Photo NEPE-HI-783

The Nez Perce often travelled great distances to fish with family and friends. They fished as far away as present day Willamette Falls, near Oregon City as well as Celilo and Kettle Falls to the north.