East Florida Danish Empire — Mexico — Republic of Indian Stream — Republic of Texas — California Republic Confederate States — These conflicts occurred in North America from the time of the earliest colonial settlements in the 17th century until the s.
The various Indian Wars resulted from a wide variety of factors, including cultural clashes, land disputes, and criminal acts committed by both sides. The European powers and their colonies also enlisted Indian tribes to help them conduct warfare against each other's colonial settlements.
After the American Revolution , many conflicts were local to specific states or regions and frequently involved disputes over land use; some entailed cycles of violent reprisal. The British Royal Proclamation of , included in the Constitution of Canada , prohibited white settlers from taking the lands of indigenous peoples in Canada without signing a treaty with them. It continues to be the law in Canada today, and 11 Numbered Treaties , covering most of the First Nations lands, limited the number of such conflicts. As white settlers spread westward across America after , the size, duration, and intensity of armed conflicts increased between settlers and various cultures of Indians.
The climax came in the War of , which resulted in the defeat of major Indian coalitions in the Midwest and the South. Conflict with settlers became much less common and were resolved by treaty, often through sale or exchange of territory between the federal government and specific tribes. The Indian Removal Act of authorized the US government to enforce the Indian removal from east of the Mississippi River to the west, what the government considered the sparsely populated American frontier. Many tribes had extensive territory in this area, however.
The federal US policy of removal was eventually refined in the West, as American settlers kept expanding their territories, to relocate Indian tribes to specially designated and federally protected reservations. The colonization of America by the English, French, Spanish, Dutch, and Swedish was resisted by some Indian tribes and assisted by other tribes. Wars and other armed conflicts in the 17th and 18th centuries included:. In several instances, warfare in America was a reflection of European rivalries, with American Indian tribes splitting their alliances among the powers, generally siding with their trading partners.
British merchants and government agents began supplying weapons to Indians living in the United States following the Revolution in the hope that, if a war broke out, they would fight on the British side. The British further planned to set up an Indian nation in the Ohio-Wisconsin area to block further American expansion.
Most Indian tribes supported the British, especially those allied with Tecumseh , but they were ultimately defeated by General William Henry Harrison. The War of spread to Indian rivalries, as well. Many refugees from defeated tribes went over the border to Canada; those in the South went to Florida while it was under Spanish control. During the early 19th century, the federal government was under pressure by settlers in many regions to expel Indians from their areas.
The Indian Removal Act of offered Indians the choices of assimilating and giving up tribal membership, relocation to an Indian reservation with an exchange or payment for lands, or moving west. Some resisted fiercely, most notably the Seminoles in a series of wars in Florida. They were never defeated, although some Seminoles did remove to Indian Territory. The United States gave up on the remainder, by then living defensively deep in the swamps and Everglades.
Others were moved to reservations west of the Mississippi River, most famously the Cherokee whose relocation was called the " Trail of Tears. The war in the east was a struggle against British rule, while the war in the west was an "Indian War". The newly proclaimed United States competed with the British for control of the territory east of the Mississippi River. Some Indians sided with the British, as they hoped to reduce American settlement and expansion. In one writer's opinion, the Revolutionary War was "the most extensive and destructive" Indian war in United States history.
Some Indian tribes were divided over which side to support in the war, such as the Iroquois Confederacy based in New York and Pennsylvania who split: the Oneida and Tuscarora sided with the American Patriots, and the Mohawk , Seneca , Cayuga , and Onondaga sided with the British. The Iroquois tried to avoid fighting directly against one another, but the Revolution eventually forced intra-Iroquois combat, and both sides lost territory following the war. The Crown aided the landless Iroquois by rewarding them with a reservation at Grand River in Ontario and some other lands.
In the Southeast, the Cherokee split into a pro-patriot faction versus a pro-British faction that the Americans referred to as the Chickamauga Cherokee ; they were led by Dragging Canoe. Many other tribes were similarly divided. When the British made peace with the Americans in the Treaty of Paris , they ceded a vast amount of Indian territory to the United States.
Indian tribes who had sided with the British and had fought against the Americans were enemy combatants, as far as the United States was concerned; they were a conquered people who had lost their land. The frontier conflicts were almost non-stop, beginning with Cherokee involvement in the American Revolutionary War and continuing through late They followed war leader Dragging Canoe southwest, first to the Chickamauga Creek area near Chattanooga, Tennessee , then to the Five Lower Towns where they were joined by groups of Muskogee , white Tories , runaway slaves, and renegade Chickasaw , as well as by more than a hundred Shawnee.
The primary targets of attack were the Washington District colonies along the Watauga , Holston , and Nolichucky Rivers , and in Carter's Valley in upper eastern Tennessee, as well as the settlements along the Cumberland River beginning with Fort Nashborough in , even into Kentucky, plus against the Franklin settlements , and later states of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. The scope of attacks by the Chickamauga and their allies ranged from quick raids by small war parties to large campaigns by four or five hundred warriors, and once more than a thousand.
The Upper Muskogee under Dragging Canoe's close ally Alexander McGillivray frequently joined their campaigns and also operated separately, and the settlements on the Cumberland came under attack from the Chickasaw, Shawnee from the north, and Delaware. Campaigns by Dragging Canoe and his successor John Watts were frequently conducted in conjunction with campaigns in the Northwest Territory. The colonists generally responded with attacks in which Cherokee settlements were completely destroyed, though usually without great loss of life on either side.
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The wars continued until the Treaty of Tellico Blockhouse in November In , the Northwest Ordinance officially organized the Northwest Territory for settlement, and American settlers began pouring into the region. Violence erupted as Indian tribes resisted, and so the administration of President George Washington sent armed expeditions into the area.
General St. Clair's defeat was the most severe loss ever inflicted upon an American army by Indians. The Americans attempted to negotiate a settlement, but Blue Jacket and the Shawnee-led confederacy insisted on a boundary line that the Americans found unacceptable, and so a new expedition was dispatched led by General Anthony Wayne. Wayne's army defeated the Indian confederacy at the Battle of Fallen Timbers in The Indians had hoped for British assistance; when that was not forthcoming, they were compelled to sign the Treaty of Greenville in , which ceded Ohio and part of Indiana to the United States.
By , the Indian population was approximately , in the continental United States. By , their population had declined to about , Shawnee brothers Tecumseh and Tenskwatawa organized Tecumseh's War , another pan-tribal resistance to westward settlement. Tecumseh was in the South attempting to recruit allies among the Creeks , Cherokees , and Choctaws when Harrison marched against the Indian confederacy, defeating Tenskwatawa and his followers at the Battle of Tippecanoe in The Americans hoped that the victory would end the militant resistance, but Tecumseh instead chose to ally openly with the British, who were soon at war with the Americans in the War of The Creek War —14 began as a tribal conflict within the Creek tribe, but it became part of the larger struggle against American expansion.
Tecumseh was killed by Harrison's army at the Battle of the Thames , ending the resistance in the Old Northwest. American settlers began to push into Florida, which was now an American territory and had some of the most fertile lands in the nation. Paul Hoffman claims that covetousness, racism, and "self-defense" against Indian raids played a major part in the settlers' determination to "rid Florida of Indians once and for all". Andrew Jackson sought to alleviate this problem by signing the Indian Removal Act , which stipulated the relocation of Indians out of Florida—by force if necessary.
The Seminoles were relatively new arrivals in Florida, led by such powerful leaders as Aripeka Sam Jones , Micanopy , and Osceola , and they had no intention of leaving their new lands. They retaliated against the settlers, and this led to the Second Seminole War , the longest and most costly war that the Army ever waged against Indians. The Treaty of Paynes Landing was signed in May by a few Seminole chiefs who later recanted, claiming that they were tricked or forced to sign and making it clear that they would not consent to relocating to a reservation out west.
The Seminoles' continued resistance to relocation led Florida to prepare for war. The St. Augustine Militia asked the US War Department for the loan of muskets, and volunteers were mobilized under Brig.
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Richard K. Indian war parties raided farms and settlements, and families fled to forts or large towns, or out of the territory altogether. A war party led by Osceola captured a Florida militia supply train, killing eight of its guards and wounding six others; most of the goods taken were recovered by the militia in another fight a few days later.
Sugar plantations were destroyed along the Atlantic coast south of St. Augustine, Florida , with many of the slaves on the plantations joining the Seminoles. The US Army had 11 companies about soldiers stationed in Florida. Fort King Ocala had only one company of soldiers, and it was feared that they might be overrun by the Seminoles.
Three companies were stationed at Fort Brooke Tampa , with another two expected imminently, so the army decided to send two companies to Fort King. Seminoles shadowed the marching soldiers for five days, and they ambushed them and wiped out the command on December Only three men survived, and one was hunted down and killed by a Seminole the next day.
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Clarke died of his wounds later, and he provided the only account of the battle from the army's perspective. The Seminoles lost three men and five wounded. On the same day as the massacre, Osceola and his followers shot and killed Agent Wiley Thompson and six others during an ambush outside of Fort King. On December 29, General Clinch left Fort Drane with soldiers, including volunteers on an enlistment due to end January 1, The group was traveling to a Seminole stronghold called the Cove of the Withlacoochee , an area of many lakes on the southwest side of the Withlacoochee River.
When they reached the river, the soldiers could not find the ford, so Clinch ferried his regular troops across the river in a single canoe. Once they were across and had relaxed, the Seminoles attacked. The troops fixed bayonets and charged them, at the cost of four dead and 59 wounded. The militia provided cover as the army troops then withdrew across the river.
In the first two days, 90 Seminoles surrendered. On the third day, Taylor stopped to build Fort Basinger where he left his sick and enough men to guard the Seminoles who had surrendered. Taylor's column caught up with the main body of the Seminoles on the north shore of Lake Okeechobee on December The Seminoles were led by "Alligator", Sam Jones, and the recently escaped Coacoochee , and they were positioned in a hammock surrounded by sawgrass.
The ground was thick mud, and sawgrass easily cuts and burns the skin. Taylor had about men, while the Seminoles numbered fewer than Taylor sent in the Missouri volunteers first, moving his troops squarely into the center of the swamp. His plan was to make a direct attack rather than encircle the Indians. All his men were on foot.
As soon as they came within range, the Indians opened with heavy fire. The volunteers broke and their commander Colonel Gentry was fatally wounded, so they retreated back across the swamp.
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The fighting in the sawgrass was deadliest for five companies of the Sixth Infantry; every officer but one was killed or wounded, along with most of their non-commissioned officers. The soldiers suffered 26 killed and wounded, compared to 11 Seminoles killed and 14 wounded. No Seminoles were captured, although Taylor did capture ponies and head of cattle.
By , the war was winding down and most Seminoles had left Florida for Oklahoma. The number killed in action is less clear. Mahon reports [ citation needed ] regular army killed in action, while Missall reports [ citation needed ] that Seminoles killed officers and men. Similarly, Mahon reports [ citation needed ] 69 deaths for the Navy, while Missal reports [ citation needed ] 41 for the Navy and Marine Corps.
Mahon and the Florida Board of State Institutions agree [ citation needed ] that 55 volunteer officers and men were killed by the Seminoles, while Missall says [ citation needed ] that the number is unknown. A northern newspaper carried a report [ citation needed ] that more than 80 civilians were killed by Indians in Florida in By the end of , 3, Indians had been shipped from Florida to the Indian Territory. Many of these conflicts occurred during and after the Civil War until the closing of the frontier in about Various statistics have been developed concerning the devastation of these wars on the peoples involved.
However, Michno says that he "used the army's estimates in almost every case" and "the number of casualties in this study are inherently biased toward army estimations". His work includes almost nothing on "Indian war parties", and he states that "army records are often incomplete". According to Michno, more conflicts with Indians occurred in the states bordering Mexico than in the interior states. Arizona ranked highest, with known battles fought within the state's boundaries between Americans and Indians.
Also, Arizona ranked highest of the states in deaths from the wars. At least 4, people were killed, including both the settlers and the Indians, over twice as many as occurred in Texas, the second highest-ranking state.
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Most of the deaths in Arizona were caused by the Apaches. Michno also says that 51 percent of the battles took place in Arizona, Texas, and New Mexico between and , as well as 37 percent of the casualties in the country west of the Mississippi River. American settlers and fur trappers had spread into the western United States territories and had established the Santa Fe Trail and the Oregon Trail.
Relations were generally peaceful between American settlers and Indians. The treaty allowed passage by settlers, building roads, and stationing troops along the Oregon Trail. The Pike's Peak Gold Rush of introduced a substantial white population into the Front Range of the Rockies, supported by a trading lifeline that crossed the central Great Plains. Advancing settlement following the passage of the Homestead Act and the growing transcontinental railways following the Civil War further destabilized the situation, placing white settlers into direct competition for the land and resources of the Great Plains and the Rocky Mountain West.
Miners, ranchers, and settlers expanded into the plain, and this led to increasing conflicts with the Indian populations of the West. But the Sioux of the Northern Plains and the Apaches of the Southwest waged the most aggressive warfare, led by resolute, militant leaders such as Red Cloud and Crazy Horse. The Sioux were relatively new arrivals on the Plains, as they had been sedentary farmers in the Great Lakes region previously. They moved west, displacing other Indian tribes and becoming feared warriors.
The Apaches supplemented their economy by raiding other tribes, and they practiced warfare to avenge the death of a kinsman. During the American Civil War , Army units were withdrawn to fight the war in the east. They were replaced by the volunteer infantry and cavalry raised by the states of California and Oregon, by the western territorial governments, or by the local militias.
These units fought the Indians and kept open communications with the east, holding the west for the Union and defeating the Confederate attempt to capture the New Mexico Territory. After , national policy called for all Indians either to assimilate into the American population as citizens, or to live peacefully on reservations. Raids and wars between tribes were not allowed, and armed Indian bands off a reservation were the responsibility of the Army to round up and return.
In the 18th century, Spanish settlers in Texas came into conflict with the Apaches, Comanches, and Karankawas, among other tribes. Large numbers of American settlers reached Texas in the s, and a series of armed confrontations broke out until the s, mostly between Texans and Comanches. During the same period, the Comanches and their allies raided hundreds of miles deep into Mexico see Comanche—Mexico Wars. The first notable battle was the Fort Parker massacre in , in which a huge war party of Comanches, Kiowas, Wichitas, and Delawares attacked the Texan outpost at Fort Parker.
A small number of settlers were killed during the raid, and the abduction of Cynthia Ann Parker and two other children caused widespread outrage among Texans. The Republic of Texas was declared and secured some sovereignty in their war with Mexico, and the Texas government under President Sam Houston pursued a policy of engagement with the Comanches and Kiowas.
Houston had lived with the Cherokees, but the Cherokees joined with Mexican forces to fight against Texas. Houston resolved the conflict without resorting to arms, refusing to believe that the Cherokees would take up arms against his government. Lamar followed Houston's and took a very different policy towards the Indians. Lamar removed the Cherokees to the west and then sought to deport the Comanches and Kiowas. This led to a series of battles, including the Council House Fight , in which the Texas militia killed 33 Comanche chiefs at a peace parley. The Lamar Administration was known for its failed and expensive Indian policy; the cost of the war with the Indians exceeded the annual revenue of the government throughout his four-year term.
It was followed by a second Houston administration, which resumed the previous policy of diplomacy. Texas signed treaties with all of the tribes, including the Comanches. In the s and s, the Comanches and their allies shifted most of their raiding activities to Mexico, using Texas as a safe haven from Mexican retaliation. Texas joined the Union in , and the Federal government and Texas took up the struggle between the Plains Indians and the settlers. The conflicts were particularly vicious and bloody on the Texas frontier in through , as settlers continued to expand their settlements into the Comancheria.
The battles between settlers and Indians continued in , and Texas militia destroyed an Indian camp at the Battle of Pease River. In the aftermath of the battle, the Texans learned that they had recaptured Cynthia Ann Parker, the little girl captured by the Comanches in She returned to live with her family, but she missed her children, including her son Quanah Parker. He ultimately surrendered to the overwhelming force of the federal government and moved to a reservation in southwestern Oklahoma in A number of wars occurred in the wake of the Oregon Treaty of and the creation of Oregon Territory and Washington Territory.
Among the causes of conflict were a sudden immigration to the region and a series of gold rushes throughout the Pacific Northwest. The Cayuse were defeated in , but the conflict had expanded and continued in what became known as the Yakima War — Washington Territory Governor Isaac Stevens tried to compel Indian tribes to sign treaties ceding land and establishing reservations.
The Yakama signed one of the treaties negotiated during the Walla Walla Council of , establishing the Yakama Indian Reservation , but Stevens' attempts served mainly to intensify hostilities. Gold discoveries near Fort Colville resulted in many miners crossing Yakama lands via Naches Pass , and conflicts rapidly escalated into violence. It took several years for the Army to defeat the Yakama, during which time war spread to the Puget Sound region west of the Cascades. The Puget Sound War of — was triggered in part by the Yakima War and in part by the use of intimidation to compel tribes to sign land cession treaties.
The Treaty of Medicine Creek of established an unrealistically small reservation on poor land for the Nisqually and Puyallup tribes. Violence broke out in the White River valley, along the route to Naches Pass and connecting Nisqually and Yakama lands. The Puget Sound War is often remembered in connection with the Battle of Seattle and the execution of Nisqually Chief Leschi , a central figure of the war.
In , the fighting spread on the east side of the Cascades. In southwest Oregon, tensions and skirmishes escalated between American settlers and the Rogue River peoples into the Rogue River Wars of — The California Gold Rush helped fuel a large increase in the number of people traveling south through the Rogue River Valley. Gold discoveries continued to trigger violent conflict between prospectors and Indians. This conflict occurred in Canada, but the militias involved were formed mostly of Americans. The discovery of gold in Idaho and Oregon in the s led to similar conflicts which culminated in the Bear River Massacre in and Snake War from to In the late s, another series of armed conflicts occurred in Oregon and Idaho, spreading east into Wyoming and Montana.
The Nez Perce War of is known particularly for Chief Joseph and the four-month, 1,mile fighting retreat of a band of about Nez Perce, including women and children. The Nez Perce War was caused by a large influx of settlers, the appropriation of Indian lands, and a gold rush—this time in Idaho. The Nez Perce engaged 2, American soldiers of different military units, as well as their Indian auxiliaries. They fought "eighteen engagements, including four major battles and at least four fiercely contested skirmishes", according to Alvin Josephy.
The Bannock War broke out the following year for similar reasons. The Sheepeater Indian War in was the last conflict in the area. These spanned from to at least Indian tribes in the southwest had been engaged in cycles of trading and fighting with one another and with settlers for centuries prior to the United States gaining control of the region.
These conflicts with the United States involved every non-pueblo tribe in the region and often were a continuation of Mexican—Spanish conflicts. The Navajo Wars and Apache Wars are perhaps the best known. The last major campaign of the military against Indians in the Southwest involved 5, troops in the field, and resulted in the surrender of Chiricahua Apache Geronimo and his band of 24 warriors, women, and children in The U. Army kept a small garrison west of the Rockies, but the California Gold Rush brought a great influx of miners and settlers into the area.
The result was that most of the early conflicts with the California Indians involved local parties of miners or settlers. Following the Civil War, California was mostly pacified, but federal troops replaced the volunteers and again took up the struggle against Indians in the remote regions of the Mojave Desert , and in the northeast against the Snakes — and Modocs — The tribes of the Great Basin were mostly Shoshone , and they were greatly affected by the Oregon and California Trails and by Mormon pioneers to Utah. The Shoshone had friendly relations with American and British fur traders and trappers, beginning with their encounter with Lewis and Clark.
The traditional way of life of the Indians was disrupted, and they began raiding travelers along the trails and aggression toward Mormon settlers. The California militia stationed in Utah responded to complaints, which resulted in the Bear River Massacre. One of these was the Box Elder Treaty which identified a land claim made by the Northwestern Shoshone. The Supreme Court declared this claim to be non-binding in a ruling,   but the Indian Claims Commission recognized it as binding in Most of the local groups were decimated by the war and faced continuing loss of hunting and fishing land caused by the steadily growing population.
Some moved to the Fort Hall Indian Reservation when it was created in Some of the Shoshone populated the Mormon-sanctioned community of Washakie, Utah. Initially relations between participants in the Pike's Peak gold rush and the Native American tribes of the Front Range and the Platte valley were friendly. During the early s tensions increased and culminated in the Colorado War and the Sand Creek Massacre , where Colorado volunteers fell on a peaceful Cheyenne village killing women and children,  which set the stage for further conflict.
The peaceful relationship between settlers and the Indians of the Colorado and Kansas plains was maintained faithfully by the tribes, but sentiment grew among the Colorado settlers for Indian removal. The savagery of the attacks on civilians during the Dakota War of contributed to these sentiments, as did the few minor incidents which occurred in the Platte Valley and in areas east of Denver. Regular army troops had been withdrawn for service in the Civil War and were replaced with the Colorado Volunteers , rough men who often favored extermination of the Indians.
Complimenting the riveting entries are dozens of previously unpublished photographs. This groundbreaking study will appeal to lay readers, historians, site visitors and interpreters, Civil War and Indian wars enthusiasts, collectors, museum curators, and archeologists. Jerome A. Greene is a retired historian with the National Park Service. He resides in Colorado. Be the first to leave a review. About the Book The decades-long military campaign for the American West is an endlessly fascinating topic, and award-winning author Jerome A.
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