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Battle of Milk Creek/River - Thornburgh, CO, USA
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member Outspoken1
N 40° 12.131 W 107° 41.456
13T E 270966 N 4453671
Quick Description: One of the last American Indian battles, this one resulted in the Ute Indians being removed to a reservation in Utah, USA. The actual battlefield is below the marker and is private property.
Location: Colorado, United States
Date Posted: 6/2/2018 4:43:28 PM
Waymark Code: WMYDN5
Published By: Groundspeak Charter Member BruceS
Views: 0

Long Description:
The monuments and plaques read:

In Memory of
Officers, Soldiers and Civilians
of the United States Army
Here killed and wounded in battle with the Utes
29th September to 5th October 1879

Troops Engaged
Co's F and D, 5th Cavalry
E of3d Cavalry
D of 9th Cavalry

Major T. T. Thornburgh, U.S.A.
1st Sergeant John Dolan
Wagoner Amos D. Miller
Privates John Burns _ Michael Firestone
Samuel McKee _ Michael Lynch
Thomas Mooney _ Charles Wright
and Dominick Cuff
Wagon Master William McKinstry
Teamster W. E. McGuire [sic]

Capt. J. S. Payne, U.S.A.
2nd Lieut. J.V.S. Paddock U.S.A.
Act'g Ass't. Surg R.B. Grimes U.S.A.
Sergeant John Merrill
Trumpters Fredrick Sutcliff
John McDonald
Privates William Esser _ James T. Gibbs
John Hoaxly _ Emil Kussman
Eugene Patterson _ Frank E. Simmons
Eugene Shickedonz _ Gottlieb Steiger
Nicholas W. Heeney _ Fredrick Bernhard
Thomas Lynch _ Ernest Muller
Sergeants James Montgomery _ Allen Layton
Corporals Charles T. Eichwurzell
Frank Hunter
Farrier William Schubert

Privates Joseph Budka _ James Conway
John Crowly _ William Clark
John Donovan _ Orlando H. Duvan
Thomas Ferguson _ Thomas Lewis
Edward Lavell _Willard W. Mitchell
John Mahoney _ Thomas McNamara
and Joseph Patterson
Teamsters Thomas Cain and Fred Nelson
Scout Grafton B. Lowry


In memory of the
Ute Indians
who were here killed
or wounded in a battle with the
United States Army.

Sept. 28 to Oct. 5, 1879



Ute Indian Tribe of Utah
29 September 1879

Let us not forget the Whiteriver Utes who gave their lives and those who were
wounded at the Battle of Milk Creek on September 29, 1879.

Nathan Meeker, Indian Agent, did not understand the Utes and knew very little
about their traditions and culture. Resentment toward Meeker's policy of farming
resulted in a fight between "Johnson," a Ute, and Agent Meeker.

This was the beginning of the problems that ensued. Because of the battles at
Whiteriver and Meeker, Colorado, the Whiterivers and Uncompahgres were forced by
gun-point to the reservation in Utah, leaving behind their beautiful land in Colorado.
However, the Uncompahgres had nothing to do with those events. Under the 14th
Amendment, their rights were ignored.

"Milk Creek Battlefield Park

Northern Utes and their ancestors inhabited mountainous Colorado and Utah for centuries. White settlers in the Colorado Territory brought competition and conflict for the land. The Ute Reservation and Agency at White River were established by the treaty of 1868. Settlers violated the treaty encroaching onto Ute lands. Utes and local traders previously engaged in a friendly “buckskin” economy through trading posts along the Yampa and Little Snake Rivers.

In 1878, White River Indian Agent Nathan Meeker imposed a mandatory lifestyle conversion upon the traditionally nomadic Utes to agriculture which was resented and resisted. Finally, Meeker ordered the plowing of the Ute horse racing track which resulted in a quarrel that put fear into Nathan Meeker. When Meeker requested military assistance, Major T.T. Thornburgh and troops were dispatched to aid Meeker, and crossed Milk Creek onto reservation land, where they were engaged by the Utes in a fierce battle September 29th – October 5th 1879. Thornburgh, many soldiers and Utes were slain. Concurrently, at the Indian Agency, Utes attacked and killed Meeker and all the male employees.

A military cantonment was subsequently established in the present site of downtown Meeker. By 1883, congress ordered the eviction of all Utes from their beloved homeland onto reservations in Eastern Utah and Southern Colorado where they remain today. When the U.S. Cavalry received orders to leave, the buildings were sold and the town of Meeker began its own chapter of history.

To commemorate the last major battle engagement with a Native American Tribe and the United States Army, a memorial park has been built in honor of all those who lost their lives in the Battle of Milk Creek in 1879. The memorial is located on County Road 15, approximately 17 miles northeast of Meeker, and attracts heritage tourists from throughout the world as an historic destination.

The iron gates at the entrance tell the story with one side representing the army soldiers and the other side depicting the Native American Indians. Gates created by master craftsman and artist, Mark Scritchfield." (from (visit link) )

"Nathan Meeker and Ute Removal

Broad, grassy meadows near what is now the town of Meeker provided the Ute Indians with ideal grazing lands for their large horse herds. That fact, coupled with the determination of Indian Agent Nathan C. Meeker to alter the Utes’ traditional horse culture, would play a critical role in the events of 1879 that led to the deaths of Meeker and others, the removal of most Utes from Colorado, and the creation of the town of Meeker.

Nathan Meeker was appointed agent for the White River Indian Agency in 1878. At the time, the agency was one of three that served an estimated 4,000 Ute Indians on the 12-million-acre Ute Indian Reservation that covered much of Colorado’s Western Slope.

Meeker’s patronizing attitude toward the Utes, and his insistence that they get rid of most of their horses and abandon their hunting lifestyle in favor of farming, caused increasing tension between the agent and the Native Americans. The conflict came to a head in September 1879 after Meeker ordered his employees to plow up a field the Utes used for horse racing. He and a Ute leader named Canalla got into a pushing match, and Meeker sent messages to state and federal officials pleading for US Army intervention.

Army support arrived on the morning of September 29, 1879, and approximately 140 cavalry troops entered the Ute Reservation. Soon, shots were fired and the week-long Battle of Milk Creek began. Thirteen whites and at least nineteen Utes were killed during the battle.

Although it is not clear which side fired the first shots, there is no doubt that the Utes viewed the army’s incursion onto their reservation as a violation of treaty terms, even an invasion. Several days before the battle began, Ute leaders such as Nicaagat and Colorow had pleaded with Major Thomas Thornburgh not to bring his entire force onto the reservation but instead to bring only a half-dozen men to the White River Indian Agency to discuss problems between Meeker and the Utes. Thornburgh at first agreed, but later, after the Indians had left, he decided to go to the agency with his entire force.

Once the first shots had been fired, his fellow Utes ignored Nicaagat’s urging to hold their fire. He was unable to halt young Ute warriors from engaging in battle with the soldiers.

Most of the shooting and fatalities occurred during the first hours of the battle. But the Utes, holding ground on the ridges surrounding Milk Creek, had the army troops pinned down in a low spot in the valley. They kept them trapped there until army reinforcements arrived from Cheyenne, Wyoming, a week later.

The same day the Milk Creek battle began, another fight occurred about twenty miles to the southwest at the White River Indian Agency. Nathan Meeker and his eight male employees were killed. Meeker’s wife and daughter were taken hostage, along with the wife of an agency employee and her two small children. They were held for twenty-three days before being released on Grand Mesa.

The Battle of Milk Creek, the killings of the agency employees, and the taking of hostages sparked nationwide outrage and quick political action. By June 1880, the US Congress had passed legislation to require the White River Utes and the Uncompahgre Utes to abandon their traditional homelands and move to much smaller and less verdant reservations in Utah. They were forcibly removed the following year. Two Ute bands in southwestern Colorado, which became known as the Southern Utes and the Ute Mountain Utes, were allowed to remain in Colorado on much smaller reservations.

In 1879, the US Army constructed buildings to house troops along the White River a few miles upstream from the Indian agency. Those buildings soon became the nucleus of the budding town of Meeker, which was incorporated in 1885." (excerpted from (visit link) )

"The Ute uprising of 1879 began at this site, the location of the White River Agency and the scene of the Meeker Massacre. With the possible exception of the Ghost Dance outbreak of the Sioux in 1890, the massacre was probably the most violent expression of Indian resentment toward the reservation system. The agency had been founded in 1873 for several bands of Utes, who had agreed in a treaty that year to settle on a reservation. Five years later Nathan C. Meeker, founder of the city of Greeley, assumed the duties of Indian agent. Resisting his undiplomatic and stubborn efforts to make them farm, raise stock, discontinue their pony racing and hunting forays, and send their children to school, as well as resenting settler encroachment on their reservation and Indian Bureau mismanagement, the nomadic Utes revolted. Assaulted by a subchief during a petty quarrel, Meeker called for troops. On September 29, 1879, before they arrived, the Indians attacked the agency, burned the buildings, and killed Meeker and nine of his employees. Meeker's wife, daughter, and another girl were held as captives for 23 days. After the massacre, relief columns from Forts Fred Steele and D. A. Russell, Wyo., defeated the Utes in the Battle of Milk Creek, Colo., and ended the uprising.

The site, indicated by a wooden marker on the south side of the highway, is in a privately owned meadow on the north side of the White River. A few traces of building foundations reveal the location of the Indian agency. A monument indicates the spot where Meeker died.

Following the Meeker Massacre, the Utes ambushed a column of 150 troops under Maj. Thomas T. Thornburgh at this site on the northern edge of the White River Reservation, approximately 18 miles from the Indian agency. The soldiers had marched south from Fort Fred Steele, Wyo., in answer to Meeker's plea for help. Forming a wagon corral and sending out a messenger with a call for aid, they held out from September 29 until October 5, 1879. During that time, 35 black cavalrymen, based at Fort Lewis, Colo., broke through the Indian line to reinforce their comrades-in-arms. A relief expedition of 350 men led by Col. Wesley Merritt from Fort D. A. Russell, Wyo., finally lifted the siege and rounded up the hostiles. Army casualties were 13 dead, including Major Thornburgh, and 43 wounded. The Government imprisoned several of the Ute leaders, and placed the tribe on a new reservation, in Utah.

The battlefield, situated in a brush-lined canyon, appears today much as it did in 1879. A monument bears the names of the dead soldiers." (from (visit link) )

Eleven soldiers were awarded the Medal of Honor and approximately thirty were decorated for heroic conduct in one of the most decorated battles of the Indian wars. - pg 81, Miller, Hollow Victory
Name of Battle:
Battle of Milk Creek or Battle of Milk River

Name of War: Indian Wars

Entrance Fee: 0.00 (listed in local currency)

Date(s) of Battle (Beginning): 9/29/1879

Date of Battle (End): 10/5/1879

Parking: Not Listed

Visit Instructions:
Post a photo of you and/or your GPS in front of a sign or marker posted at the site of the battle.

In addition it is encouraged to take a few photos two of the surrounding area and interesting features at the site.
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