Looking Glass' 1877 Camp History

Chief Looking Glass's camp is the location of the July 1 battle of the Nez Perce Flight of 1877.

June Activity

Chief Looking Glass had originally opposed the 1863 treaty and certainly sympathized with those who had been dispossessed of their land;, however, he advocated for peace. His band initially gathered with the others at Tolo Lake in early June, during which time Looking Glass repeatedly warned the other leaders to rein in their angriest people. One June 10th his band, numbering about 150 people, left Tolo Lake and moved onto their assigned home on the eastern edge of the reservation near present day Kooskia, days before warriors from White Bird's band began raiding settlements.

Looking Glass was on the reservation before the 30 day deadline General Oliver O. Howard had demanded, so he and his people were abiding by the treaty. Howard, however, did not trust that Looking Glass would remain neutral, and so . . .

"With a view of preventing the completion of this treachery, I sent Captain Whipple, commanding his own and Winter's companies, and the Gatling guns, with instructions to make a forced march, suprise and capture this chief and all that belonged to him." ~General Howard, August 27, 1877.

The July 1 Attack

Captain Stephen G. Whipple arrived at Looking Glass's new village on the middle fork of the Clearwater River around 7am July 1, 1877 with 60 troops and 20 civilian volunteers. As the army approached, Looking Glass sent Peo Peo Tholekt (Bird Alighting) as an emissary under a white flag to explain that "We want no trouble . . . We ran away from war!" and to tell the troops to stay on their side of the creek. The negotiations had hardly begun when an anxious member of Whipple's troops opened fire, and a nimíipuu (Nez Perce) man fell wounded. The terrified villagers fled up a nearby wooded hillside while the soldiers burned the village, destroyed the band's possessions and captured most of their 700 head of horses. Whipple failed to arrest Looking Glass or any of his band members.

Map showing a river running east to west with a creek joining it from the south. Hills rise steeply on either side of the creek. The army attacked from the west and the Nez Perce fled to the hills in the east. Horses were captured near the creek.
This map depicting the July 1, 1877 attack on Looking Glass's Camp is an adaptation of the map created by the Montana Historical Society Press.

Map created by wikipedia user Florn88.



Ironically for Howard, the unprovoked attack enraged Looking Glass, finally convincing him that there was no way peace could be had and so he resolved to join with the other "non-treaty" bands. A skilled warrior familiar with Buffalo Country, Looking Glass provided invaluable assistance to the nimíipuu headed to Montana. Thus the attack made real Howard's vague suspicion. He later wrote, "We thus stirred up a new hornet's nest."

Learn more about what happened next by following the links below.

Two signs and a monument in the shape of Idaho on the side of the road.

Cottonwood Skirmish Site History

From July 3rd to July 5th of 1877, skirmishes took place between the U.S. Army and the Nez Perce.

Painting depicting soldiers and Nez Perce warriors in battle.

The Nez Perce Flight of 1877

In 1877, the non-treaty Nez Perce were forced on a 126-day journey that spanned over 1,170 miles and through four different states.

Wooden Information Sign about Looking Glass' Camp is situated near a scenic river.

Visit Looking Glass' Camp

Plan your visit to the site where the U. S. Army attacked Looking Glass's camp during the Nez Perce Flight of 1877.


Nez Perce Trail Auto Tour

The Nez Perce National Historic Trail has developed auto tours with travel instructions for retracing the 1877 route of the Nez Perce along with maps, graphics, and details about the confilct at sites you can see along the way. Download Auto Tour 1 for more details about the the attack on Looking Glass' camp and other early events in the Nez Perce Flight of 1877.

Last updated: December 30, 2022

Park footer

Contact Info

Mailing Address:

Nez Perce National Historical Park
39063 US Hwy 95

Lapwai, ID 83540-9715


208 843-7001

Contact Us