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Big Hole National Battlefield

 Big Hole National Battlefield



Location: Beaverhead County, Montana

Area: 1010 acres (409 hectares)




Description of Big Hole National Battlefield


Big Hole National Battlefield is a historic site of a battle between Nez Perce native tribes and US cavalry that was fought on 9- 10 August 1877. Big Hole Battle became the largest military engagement of Nez Perce War that lasted for five months (June- October 1877). The outcome of the Big Hole Баттле proved inconclusive but losses were high among both Native Americans and US cavalry. Big Hole National Battlefield is designated part of Nez Perce National Historical Park, the complex of parks dedicated to the history of Nez Perce Native American tribe.
The prelude to Nez Perce War occurred in 1877 when General Oliver O. Howard attempted to force Nez Perce people into a reservation. New American government greatly reduces the size of the original reservation and prohibited any Native Americans to stay on other parts of their original homeland that covered Oregon, Washington, and Idaho Chief Joseph reluctantly accepted the compulsory order. Several young Indian warriors, however, disregarded orders of the US government and their elders and attacked a band of white settlers massacring all of them. Chief Joseph fearing for lives of his people were forced to retreat across Canada border in hopes to escape retaliation of the US cavalry.

Battle of the Big Hole started on August 9th, 1877. Cavalry commanded by John Gibbon carried out a surprise pre-dawn attack on an Indian village of 800 men, women and children. Nez Perce warriors managed to organize a fierce defense of the village. They managed to drive back the enemy and bury their dead. It is hard to say what were the exact casualties. Most historians agree that natives lost 70- 90 people in that battle. Most of them were women. While US cavalry lost 28 men and an additional 40 heavy casualties that later resulted in two more deaths.
Chief Joseph ended Nez Perce War in October 1877, just two months after the Big Hole Battle. He surrendered to the US army under command of General Oliver O. Howard. In his final speech to his men, he said: " Hear me, my chiefs! I am tired. My heart is sick and sad. From where the sun now stands I will fight no more forever." Old chief stayed true to his word. He never fought again and didn't contact a group of 150 warriors that refused to surrender and moved to Canada. In 1889 Chief Joseph met his former enemy John Gibbon on a site of their showdown (pictured below).





The site of the Big Hole National Battlefield was established as a Military Preserve in 1883, and designated a National Monument on June 23, 1910. It was redesignated a National Battlefield on May 17, 1963. The trail system was designated as a National Recreation Trail in 1977. As with all historic areas administered by the National Park Service, the Big Hole National Battlefield was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on October 15, 1966.




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