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Dull Knife Fight
Part of the Great Sioux War of 1876
DateNovember 25, 1876
LocationWyoming Territory
43°32′27″N 107°32′19″W / 43.54083°N 107.53861°W / 43.54083; -107.53861 (Bates Creek)Coordinates: 43°32′27″N 107°32′19″W / 43.54083°N 107.53861°W / 43.54083; -107.53861 (Bates Creek)[1]
Result United States victory
Cheyenne  United States
Commanders and leaders
Dull Knife
Little Wolf
United States Ranald S. Mackenzie
~400 ~1,000
Casualties and losses
30 killed
unknown wounded
Nine killed
26 wounded

The Dull Knife Fight, or the Battle on the Red Fork, was a Great Plains battle in the Wyoming Territory between the United States Army and the Northern Cheyenne as part of the Great Sioux War of 1876-77. The battle essentially ended the Cheyennes' ability to wage war.

Dull Knife Battlefield

After the battles of the Rosebud and Little Bighorn, Brigadier General George Crook received reinforcements and began to move up the Bozeman Trail against Crazy Horse. After learning of a Cheyenne war party, he sent Colonel Ranald S. Mackenzie into the Wyoming Territory to find it.

In October 1876, Colonel Mackenzie departed Camp Robinson with about 1,000 troopers of the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th Cavalry Regiments. He also had a large contingent of Indian scouts, including Pawnee, Shoshone, Arapaho, Lakota, and Cheyenne.[2]

Eventually he found the camp of Dull Knife and Little Wolf on the Red Fork of the Powder River. The Cheyenne warriors were having a celebration because of a recent victory over the Shoshone Indians. Mackenzie waited until dawn, then attacked and drove the warriors from the village. Some were forced to leave their clothes, blankets and buffalo robes behind and flee into the frozen countryside. Dull Knife began to offer stiff resistance, and savage fighting continued. The Pawnee warriors fought with exceptional ability, and the Cheyennes finally gave way and retreated from their village.[3] The Indian village of 173 lodges and all its contents were entirely destroyed. About 500 ponies were captured. Lieutenant J. A. McKinney, US 4th Cavalry, was killed, along with five enlisted men.

The battle ended Cheyenne resistance for all practical purposes. Dull Knife's followers were left in the freezing weather without sufficient clothing, and many sustained frostbites. Most followed the ridge of the Bighorn Mountains and eventually reached the Tongue River. Some joined Crazy Horse's camp on Beaver Creek.[4]

Order of battle

U.S. Army (Col. Ranald S. Mackenzie, 4th U.S. Cavalry, in command)

  • Company K, 2nd U.S. Cavalry
  • Companies H and K, 3rd US Cavalry
  • Companies B, D, E, F, I, and M, 4th US Cavalry
  • Companies H and L, 5th US Cavalry
  • Indian Scouts, mostly Pawnee and Shoshone


  • Warbands under Dull Knife and Little Wolf (400 warriors)


  1. "Bates Creek". Geographic Names Information System, U.S. Geological Survey. 
  2. Grinnell, George B.: The Fighting Cheyennes, p. 351.
  3. Junge, Mark (July 6, 1979). "National Register of Historic Places Inventory - Nomination Form: Dull Knife Battlefield". National Park Service. Retrieved 2009-08-05. 
  4. Grinnell, George B.: The Fighting Cheyennes, p. 368.


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