Powder River Expedition (1865)

Powder River Expedition (1865)
Powder River Expedition
Part of the Sioux Wars, American Indian Wars
Date 1865
Location Powder River Country, Wyoming, Montana
Result United States victory
United States United States Sioux
Commanders and leaders
United States Patrick E. Connor
United States Jim Bridger
Black Bear
This event should not be confused with the Big Horn Expedition during the Black Hills War.

The Powder River Expedition, or the Powder River War and Powder River Invasion, of 1865, was a military operation of the United States Army against native Americans in what soon became the Wyoming and Montana territories.


In 1865, Major General Grenville M. Dodge ordered the Powder River Expedition as a punitive campaign against the Sioux, Cheyenne and Arapaho for raiding along the Bozeman Trail. It was led by Brigadier General Patrick E. Connor, and was one of the last Indian war campaigns carried out by U.S Volunteer soldiers. One of the guides for Connor's forces was the legendary frontiersman Jim Bridger.

Connor divided the expedition into three columns. The "Right Column" was composed of Missouri Volunteers led by Colonel Nelson Cole and was to operate along the Loup River east of the Black Hills in Nebraska. Colonel Samuel Walker of the 16th Kansas Cavalry led the "Center Column" north from Fort Laramie west of the Black Hills. The "Left Column" was composed of the 6th Michigan Volunteer Cavalry Regiment under Colonel James H. Kidd recently transferred from the Civil War battlefields of Virginia. General Connor would personally accompany Kidd's column and would move along the Powder River with the goal of establishing a post near the Bozeman Trail.

To satisfy General Dodge's request Colonel Kidd established Fort Connor along the Powder River. General Connor left Kidd in command of the fort and continued on. The expedition encountered only minor skirmishing until it reached the camp of Arapaho Chief Black Bear along the Tongue River. The Battle of the Tongue River was the only major engagement of the expedition and was a victory for the army.

A concurrent surveying expedition under James Sawyers failed in its mission to improve the Bozeman Trail as it was turned back in the face of Native attacks. The public became critical of these large and expensive expeditions against the Native Americans. The end of the Connor's expedition however came abruptly when the Volunteer regiments of his command were mustered out of service, the Civil War having ended.

Connor's victory at the Tongue River stopped attacks along the emigrant trails momentarily and he met his immediate goal of establishing the army's first fort along the Bozeman Trail. However the campaign did not make any lasting impressions on the Sioux and the fighting in the Powder River Country eventually grew into Red Cloud's War.

See also


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