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Big Hole National Battlefield
Location: Beaverhead County, Montana
Area: 1010 acres (409 hectares)
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
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.