Mormon Trail AssociationMormon Trail Association 1854 Emigration

1854 Emigration

Outfitting Location Departure Captain
Arrival in Salt Lake
* Kanesville May 23 Perrigrine Sessions
Westport June 15 Hans Peter Olsen
Oct. 5
Westport (PEF) June 17 James Brown
Oct. 3
Westport (PEF) June 17 Darwin Richardson
Sept. 30
Westport June 16 Job Smith
Sept. 23
St. Louis & Ft. Leavenworth Jun 21 William Field
Sept. 19
Westport July 14 Robert L. Campbell
Oct. 28
Westport (PEF) July 2 Daniel Garn
Oct. 1
** Westport July Benson/Pratt/Eldredge
Oct. 3
Westport July William Empey
Oct. 24
2 Independent (Benjamin Truman and Cyrus Snell) * Followed the MPNHT ** Church Freight

Mormons disembarked from Missouri River boats at the Westport Landing. From the landing immigrants went due south 4 miles to their staging ground at the town of Westport. From Westport, immigrants followed some variant of the Oregon-Santa Fe Trail southwest to near Gardner, Kansas. Strictly speaking, the Oregon Trail did not start until near Gardner, Kansas, some 45 miles southwest of Independence. This is because the Oregon Trail followed the older Santa Fe Trail that far.

Grattan Massacre

The primary purpose of the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1851 was to assure safe passage for whites along the Oregon Trail. During the late summer of 1854, about 4,000 Brule and Oglala Sioux had camped near Fort Laramie to receive their annual distribution of goods provided under the terms of the treaty. On August 17, a cow belonging to the Hans Peter Olsen Company strayed into the Brules' camp and was killed by High Forehead, a visiting Miniconjou Sioux. The animal's owner reported the incident to authorities at Fort Laramie and demanded that the responsible Indian be punished.

Lieutenant John L. Grattan, fresh from West Point, insisted on the arrest of High Forehead. Accompanied by an inebriated interpreter, 28 troops and two 12-pounder howitzers, Grattan rode into the Brules' camp looking for trouble. Chief Conquering Bear, the spokesman for all the Sioux, tried to defuse the situation by offering a horse in return for the dead cow, but Grattan refused the offer. When Conquering Bear turned to walk away, a soldier immediately shot him. Both sides then opened fire. Within moments all the white soldiers were dead except for one. He had his tongue cut out and later died at Ft. Laramie.

When news of the Grattan Massacre reached the War Department, plans were immediately formulated to punish the Sioux. General William Selby Harney, 53 years of age and a veteran of 36 years in the military, was in Paris on what was supposed to be a two-year leave of absence from the Army to spend time with his wife and children, who made their residence there. In late October he received orders to return to St. Louis to take command of a punitive expedition to begin the following year against the Sioux Indians.

On September 3, 1855, at Ash Hollow on Blue Water Creek, Harney's 600 soldiers came eye to eye with 250 Sioux men, women, and children under the leadership of Little Thunder, who had succeeded Conquering Bear as the chief of the Brules. Harney, who only days earlier had declared, "By God, I'm for battle---not peace," ordered his men to open fire. When all the smoke cleared, 85 Brules had been killed.

Alarmed whites dubbed the incident the Grattan Massacre and, in response, carried out a much more brutal act of their own. On September 3, 1855, 600 troops out of Fort Kearny in Nebraska, under General William S. Harney, swarmed over a Brule village at Blue Water, killing 85 of the scattering Sioux, and taking 70 women and children captive.

After the battle, Harney led his men on a march through Sioux country to demonstrate the army's strength to other Sioux bands, but encountered no further resistance. For his merciless handling of the battle at Ash Hollow, Harney was forever afterwards known among the Sioux as "the Butcher." However, for U. S. military officials and the ever increasing numbers of emigrants traveling the Oregon and Mormon Trails, Harney's execution of the affair bought them 10 more years of relative peace.

One young Oglala Teton who had been in the camp the night Conquering Bear received his fatal blow would especially remember. His name was Crazy Horse and, in a vision soon after the incident, he would discover his purpose and destiny as a war chief in battles to come.

December 29, 1890, Chief Big Foot and 300 Sioux Indians were massacred at Wounded Knee effectively ending the Indian Wars.

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