It was the last "war whoop" of the Native Americans in our area. Ultimately, the conflict brought down the "Gang" which consisted of Bat Masterson, Wyatt Earp and their comrades.
In late summer of 1878, Dull Knife, or Morning Star, and about 300 Indians, famished and suffering from disease, fled the Darlington Reservation, in Indian Territory (Oklahoma). They had been since 1876. They wanted to return to their ancestral Northern Cheyenne home, 1,000 miles north in the Black Hills of the Dakotas.
As they traveled north from Oklahoma, they engaged in battles with the U.S. Army and killed several civilians. The results of their pillaging were greatly exaggerated. For example, a house fire thought to be set by the Indians, was caused instead by residents leaving a stove burning as they fled to Dodge City in a panic. And a number of accidental shootings occurred in Dodge City due to frightened inhabitants firing at imaginary Indians. Fortunately, nobody was seriously injured.
Panic turned into feelings of vengeance when the Ford County Globe reported that Commandant of Fort Dodge, Col. W.H. Lewis had been killed by Dull Knife's band while chasing them north through western Kansas.
As the soldiers followed the group of marauders, the Indians left a path of destruction and death in their wake into northwest Kansas. Eventually, soldiers captured or killed the group of 150 Indians. In a bloody escape attempt on Jan. 8, 1879, Dull Knife and a few Indians got away making it to the Pine Ridge Agency where they were held prisoner before being allowed settle on a reservation near Fort Keogh in Montana.
In January 1879, young and overly ambitious County Attorney, Gang member Mike Sutton, asked the military to turn over the Native Americans to Ford County so he could prosecute them for the deaths of five people within his jurisdiction. A group from Dodge City, led by prominent Gang member, Bat Masterson, traveled to Fort Leavenworth and selected seven ringleaders to be bought to Dodge for trial.
The Indians, some still recovering from wounds received in battle, were lodged in the Ford County Jail in February. Here they lived on the County's dime for six months. By June, when a change of venue to Lawrence was granted, the fervor against the Indians had died down. In Lawrence, the convictions everyone had thought were a done deal turned out to be acquittals.
Anti-gang forces capitalized on the negative publicity generated by the expenditure of Ford County funds on the attempt at revenge against Dull Knife's band. This was the beginning of the end for the "Gang" as the political tide turned against them. And the voters expressed their displeasure against the Gang in the November 1879 election.