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Battle of Cedar Creek
Part of the Great Sioux War of 1876
DateOctober 21, 1876
LocationCedar Creek, Montana Territory
Result United States tactical victory
Sioux  United States
Commanders and leaders
Sitting Bull United States Nelson A. Miles
~300 398
Casualties and losses
6 bodies recovered
unknown wounded
2 killed
2 wounded

Coordinates: 47°30′55″N 106°16′41″W / 47.51528°N 106.27806°W / 47.51528; -106.27806 (Big Dry Creek) The Battle of Cedar Creek (also called Big Dry Creek or Big Dry River) [1] occurred on October 21, 1876, in the Montana Territory between the United States Army and a force of Lakota Sioux native Americans during the Great Sioux War of 1876.

Col. Nelson A. Miles led the 5th Infantry in the summer of 1876 from Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, up the Missouri river via a paddlewheel boat from Yankton (South Dakota) to the Yellowstone River to help subdue the Sioux and Cheyenne, who had claimed a major victory in the summer at the Battle of Little Bighorn. Miles joined General Terry on the Rosebud in autumn and marched with him up the Rosebud river to join with General Crook. The two commanders together moved east and crossed Tongue river and reached the mouth of the Powder River. Here the two commands separated, with General Crook moving south and east toward the Black Hills and a detachment under Captain Anson Mills engaged and defeated a force of Indians in September at the Battle of Slim Buttes. Mills had been sent by Crook to obtain supplies from the Black Hills because their supplies were running perilously low, and at times, the men had to resort to eating horseflesh to survive.

After separating from General Crook, General Terry with Col. Miles moved north up Dry Creek, east and then south again to eventually reached Glendive, Montana Territory, on the Yellowstone River where the troops established winter headquarters. Col. Miles equipped his troops with winter gear and established a temporary base at the mouth of the Tongue River.

Troops under Col. Elwell S. Otis escorted a train of more than 100 supply wagons that had been dispatched from a post on Glendive Creek, Montana Territory, to supply Miles's troops. On October 11, Sioux warriors ambushed the slow moving wagon train near Spring Creek, killing several mules and temporarily driving off the wagons. Undaunted, the wagon train tried again to reach Miles, but the Indians again attacked it along Spring Creek on October 15. This time, the wagon crews and their escort managed to fend off their attackers and continue their passage.

Soon afterwards, two Indian emissaries approached Colonel Otis and suggested that Miles meet with Sitting Bull, the long revered spiritual leader of the Hunkpapa Sioux. Miles accepted the offer, and set out for Cedar Creek, Montana Territory, north of the Yellowstone River. On October 20, Miles met with the Indian leader to parley between the lines of the Indians and the soldiers, at Sitting Bull's request. Sitting Bull offered to trade for ammunition so his followers could hunt buffalo. He would not bother the soldiers, if they did not bother him. Miles informed Sitting Bull of the government's demands for a surrender. While neither leader was pleased, both agreed to meet on the morrow after consulting with their subordinates.

Some of Sitting Bull's minor chiefs wanted to leave the warpath and return to the reservations, but many others wanted to fight. On October 21, the conference resumed. Sitting Bull again demanded that Miles and his soldiers leave, and that no more wagon trains be allowed in Sioux territory. He threatened to kill any chief who still wanted to lead his band back to the reservations. The talks quickly broke down, and the leaders returned to their forces. Soon, gunfire erupted. After a sharp skirmish, Sitting Bull withdrew. The army claimed to have chased the Lakotas for up to 42 miles (68 km), collecting large quantities of dried meat, lodge poles, camp equipage, ponies and broken down cavalry horses, and arms along the way. On October 27, over 400 lodges (with 2,000 men, women, and children) formally surrendered to Miles and peacefully returned to their reservations. However, some of Sitting Bull's more ardent followers headed northward for Canada, and Miles made preparations to pursue them throughout the winter.

Medal of Honor recipients

  • First Sergeant Henry Hogan of Company G of the 5th U.S. Infantry received the Medal of Honor for his actions at Cedar Creek, one of two such medals he would be awarded.
  • Sergeant Michael McLoughlin, Company A of the 5th U.S. Infantry received the Medal of Honor for his actions at Cedar Creek.[2] Born in Ireland, Jan. 4, 1840. He died on Jun. 8, 1921 and is buried at the Old Pioneer Cemetery[3] in Tacoma, Washington (state).
  • George Miller, Corporal, Company H, 5th U.S. Infantry. Place and date: At Cedar Creek, etc., Mont., October 21, 1876 to January 8, 1877. Entered service at: ------. Birth: Brooklyn, N.Y. Date of issue: April 27, 1877. Citation: Gallantry in action.
  • Joseph A. Cable, Private, Company I, 5th U.S. Infantry. Place and date: At Cedar Creek, etc., Montana, October 21, 1876 to January 21, 1877. Birth: Cape Girardeau, Mo. Entered service at: Wisconsin. Date of Issue: Apr 27, 1877. Citation: Gallantry in action. Additional information: Died of wounds on October 15, 1877, while engaged against the Nez Perce under Chief Joseph during the Battle of Bear's Paw Mountain, Montana, September 30, 1877.
  • Private Henry Rodenburg, Company A, 5th U.S. Infantry. Place and date: At Cedar Creek, Montana, October 21, 1876 to January 8, 1877. Birth: Germany. Entered service at: New York. Date of Issue: Apr 27, 1877. Citation: "Private Rodenburg personally helped in the security of settlers throughout the region. For extreme gallantry, he was awarded the Medal of Honor and promoted Corporal." Died Dec. 13, 1899, New York City. Interred in Cypress Hills National Cemetery, Brooklyn, NY.


The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pleasure in presenting the Medal of Honor to Private James Spencer Calvert, United States Army, for gallantry in engagements at Cedar Creek, Montana and other campaigns during the period October 21, 1876 to January 8, 1877, while serving with Company C, 5th U.S. Infantry.

General Orders: Date of Issue: April 27, 1877

Action Date: October 21, 1876 to January 8, 1877

Service: Army

Rank: Private

Company: Company C

Division: 5th U.S. Infantry

  • Greene, Jerome A., Yellowstone Command: Colonel Nelson A. Miles and the Great Sioux War, 1876-1877, University of Nebraska Press, 1994. ISBN 0-8032-7046-1
  • Pohanka, Brian C., Nelson A. Miles, Arthur L. Clark, 1986. ISBN 0-87062-159-9
  • Miles, General Nelson A., Personal Recollections of General Nelson A. Miles.

After the Custer Massacre A Winter Campaign

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