The origin of the term Circle the wagons

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The origin of the term Circle the wagons

This saying came from an amazing battle where 32 soldiers and workers held off over 1000 Indians. The victory was also aided by the new breach loading rifles they used.

In the Wagon Box Fight, August 2, 1867, near Ft. Kearney a detail under Capt. James Powell, barricaded behind behind wagon bodies that had been removed from their running gear, held off several thousand Sioux and Cheyenne, attacking in waves of several hundred at a time, for over four hours with a loss of only 3 killed and 2 wounded.

One of the three killed was Capt. John Janness. Janneess was standing in a wagon and was ordered to get down. His last words were his response, "I know how to fight Indians." The words were hardly out of his lips when he fell to an Indian bullet.

The Wagon Box fight is believed to have taken place on top of the knoll marked by the line of trees. In the aftermath of the Wagon Box Fight, however, the Indians realized that they needed modern weapons.

In some instances the weaponry of the Indians was antiquated. Through the autumn, Fort Phil Kearny remained under a state of seige. At the end of October, the Indians set fire to the dry grass about the fort. Belden described the scene:

... Quote:
In the last days of the month the Indians fired the grass all around the post, and for a time we thought we should be burnt up. The slopes of the hills, as far as the eye could reach, were covered with lines of fire, and tall sheets of flame leaped up from the valley or run crackling through the timber. The parade ground of the garrison was lighted up at night so one could see to read, and for a distance of many miles every tree and shrub could be distinctly seen.

The crackling of the fire sounded like the discharge of thousands of small arms, and every few moments the bursting of heated stones would resound over the valley, resembling the booming of distant cannon. In all my life I had never seen so grand and imposing a sight, and never expect to witness one like it again. For three days the flames raged over a vast extent of country, and then, having consumed all the grass and dry trees, went out, doing us no harm, owing to the streams around the fort, which completely checked the advance of the destroying element.

The result of the Wagon Box fight is believed to have been the attack on Lt. Edmond R. P. Surley's train on November 2, 1867, when the train was ambushed in a narrow ravine of Peno Creek near Goose Creek. The object of the attack was allegedly to capture breech loading rifles and a mountain howitzer. The Indians succeeded in capturing one mule team and a wagon with its contents. One soldier was killed and three were wounded. Among the wounded was Lt. Shurley who was wounded in the foot. The lesson of having modern weapons was not, however, lost on the Indians. Later at Little Bighorn, Some of the Indians had newer weapons than Custer.

With the pending completion of the Union Pacific Railroad and the relocation of the Emigrants' Road further to the south, the necessity of maintaining the Oregon Trail north of the Platte River was reduced. The Army, additionally, needed to devote its attention to the southern plains. Thus, representatives of the Indians were summoned to a great conclave at Ft. Laramie.


Well worth reading the article on the link above and below.


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By netchicken: posted on 3-8-2005

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