It was the last battle with American Indians in Kansas and, in this fight, an Army officer from Fort Dodge was the last soldier to die in action in the state.
On September 9, 1878, Northern Cheyenne chief, Dull Knife broke out the Darlington Indian Reservation in Indian Territory. He took with him a band of 92 men, 120 women and 141 children in an attempt to return to their home territory in the north.
They raided settlers along the way for horses and supplies. Dull Knife's band caused panic in Ford County near Dodge City when they killed five men. The U.S. government sent troops led by Lt. Col. William H. Lewis's 19th Infantry from Fort Dodge to capture these Indians and return them to Darlington.
The Indians stopped at Punished Woman's Fork in Scott County, an oasis in the prairie which was defendable on three sides. As they camped, scouts waited for the soldiers as the group and horses rested.
Another leader of the band, Little Wolf, had a plan to ambush the U.S. forces who outnumbered the warriors three to one. The warriors, women and children dug a number of rifle pits along the canyon walls. They planned to lure as many of the soldiers into the steep-walled valley as possible. They would then drive them northwards into a broad expanse that would serve as a killing field.
On September 27, when Dull Knife's band had been at Punished Woman's Fork for two days, his scouts spotted Lewis's soldiers. The Army's scouts saw horses, women and children, so they knew the warriors were nearby.
Late in the afternoon, the warriors' plan for an ambush fell apart when an over-eager warrior hiding in the rocks fired a shot at the scouts when they were still too far away.
The Army scouts immediately rode back to Lewis to inform him of the warriors' location. Little Wolf, realizing plans for the ambush were foiled, led a charge of dozen warriors into the ranks of soldiers. From then on a fierce battle ensued in which Col. Lewis and three men were wounded.
Lewis rode on horseback until his horse was shot out from under him. Unhorsed, he did not take cover and was shot in the upper leg severing the femoral artery. Despite the surgeon's efforts, Lewis died from blood loss the next day.
At sundown the soldiers had the Indians surrounded, but a storm gave the Indians cover to escape. They had to leave their ponies, but only one warrior lost his life.
With a head start, Dull Knife's band continued their trek northward, capturing or killing settlers along the way. In Nebraska they split into two groups.
Dull Knife, happy to be in his home region, didn't resist capture near Camp Robinson in northwest Nebraska. The group led by Little Wolf made it to southeastern Montana before they were captured and taken to Fort Keogh, Montana.
In January 1879, Ford County attorney, Mike Sutton, asked the military to turn over warriors from the band to Ford County to be tried for the deaths of five people in the County.
Bat Masterson led a group from Dodge City to Fort Leavenworth and selected seven warriors to stand trial in Dodge City. Neither Dull Knife of Little Wolf were among these unlucky warriors.
In February, the seven were placed in the Ford County Jail where the County lodged and fed them for six months. In June, the warriors received a change of venue to Lawrence.
By then, the fervor against the Indians had died down. The judge dropped charges against one Indian, and the other six were acquitted.
Dull Knife died in 1883 and is buried near the Rosebud River in southern Montana. Little Wolf died in 1904 and is buried not far from the grave of Dull Knife.