Category: Military

Marias River Massacre 23 January 1870

Background

At the confluence of the Two Medicine and Cut Bank Rivers is where the Marias River begins and flows east for approximately 60 miles to Lake Elwell, then on for another 80 miles where it meets the Missouri River near Loma, Montana. Somewhere along this stretch of river (possibly here), there lies an ancient American Indian site where Major Eugene Baker of the U.S. Army took his mixed detachment from the 2nd US Cavalry and the 13th Infantry to surround an encampment of Piegan Indians on 22 January 1870. What happened next is clear, but why is not so clear.

A Tragic, Familiar Story

The area had seen an altercation between two hotheads, one white, Malcolm Clarke, and one Indian, Owl Child. Clarke beat Owl Child, who he claimed had stolen his horses. Owl Child retaliated by killing Clarke. As so happened in those days, this caused cries for the army to make sure another white was not killed by another Indian, so Major Baker was sent to teach the Indians a lesson. Baker’s detachment left Fort Shaw on 15 January 1870 and rode north to find a group of Indians known as the Piegans. Baker found an encampment at a big bend on the Marias River and surrounded it in the winter’s night of 22/23 January 1870. There is some debate as to whether Baker knew it was the camp he was looking for or another one.

The Marias River Massacre

On the morning of the incident, also known as the Baker Massacre and the Piegan Massacre, Chief Heavy Runner tried to stop the attack by showing papers that he claimed gave him and his people clear passage in the area. Regardless, Baker issued the order to fire on the camp and many women, children and elderly were killed, the camp was burned and the survivors set afoot in the Montana winter without provisions.

Some said Baker knew that it as the wrong encampment. Some said he didn’t care. Some said he was a drunken commander and didn’t know what was happening. None of the PR options were good and the Army made it worse by ignoring, at the least, but probably covering up the massacre. As so often happened in these cases in the U.S. Army, a young soldier steps up where his superiors have fallen down and tells the truth. Lieutenant William Pease, acting as a Blackfoot agent, reported the massacre to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, Ely Samuel Parker. Parker, a Civil War veteran, confidante to U.S. Grant and an Iroquois Indian whose Indian name was Donehogawa, demanded a investigation, but the outcome was prevarication as the U.S. Army closed ranks with General William Tecumseh Sherman saying he would prefer to believe his soldiers.

In the end, no official recognition of the Marias River Massacre was forthcoming and only time has brought a gradual acceptance of the fact of this massacre. Author Dee Brown, in Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, puts the casualties at 33 men, 90 women and 50 children. Stan Gibson has investigated the topic deeply. He and Jack Hayne are working on a book on the topic.

If you are teaching this topic to 7-12th grade students, there is a good looking lesson plan that uses the Montana: Stories of the Land textbook by Holmes, Krys, Susan C. Dailey, and David Walter. Helena, Mont: Montana Historical Society Press, 2008. You can find the relevant chapter 7 online.

Marias River Massacre Motorcycle Ride

This is a long ride starting and ending at Browning, Montana at the Museum of the Plains Indians. The ride passes through the origin of the Marias River and also runs about 5 miles north and parallel to the Marias for a good while on the beautiful U.S. Highway 2. This is a good description of the things to see along this route, including a Cold War missile Silo. As always, good Battlefield Biking requires the courtesy to ask for permission to travel on private roads. Be polite and ensure the rest of us can enjoy the ride too.

The Burial at St Augustine – Second Seminole War Memorial

Cross-posted at Dragoon History.

Photo Credit – By Ebyabe (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Reading From Everglade to Canyon with the Second United States Cavalry, I slowed to read this poem again. It is about the lost troopers of the First Seminole War, 1835-1842, but it is timeless and could have been written in Iraq or Afghanistan. The only difference is that we bring them home these days. Toujours Prêt, Fellas.

The Burial.

Hollow ye the lonely grave.
Make its caverns deep and wide ;
In the soil they died to save
Lay the brave men side by side.
Side by side they fought and fell,
Hand to hand they met the foe ;
Who was heard his grandsire tell
Braver strife or deadlier blow ?

Wake no mournful harmonies,
Shed no earthly tear for them ;
Summer dew and sighing breeze
Shall be wail and requiem.
Pile the grave-mound broad and high
Where the martyred brethren sleep ;
It shall point the pilgrim eye
Here to bend, but not to weep.

Not to weep ! Oh ! no ; the grief
Springing from a blow like this
May not seek a fond relief
In the drops that mother’s kiss ;
But the kindling heart shall bear
Hence the lesson, stern and high,
With as proud a flame to dare,
With a proud a throb to die.

“… On the 15th of August, 1842, the monument having been completed, the gallant dead were interred in the ground selected near Ft. Marion at San Augustine.”

“A mound of pyramidal form had been erected over each of the three vaults in which the remains were placed; each mound was five feet high, and rested on a bank of turf nicely terraced; on the marble surface of the tombs had been inscribed the names of those resting beneath.”

From Everglade to Canyon with the Second United States Cavalry, pages 75-76 and Appendix XXXII

Second Seminole War Memorial Inscriptions

A Short History of the Berlin Brigade Post Cold War

The new World Military History Blog has a concise history of the US Berlin Brigade in the few years after the fall of the wall and before the unit was de-activated in 1994. It is something I was not aware of, but an interesting case study on how units and commanders react to losing a mission when policy has  not caught up to the facts on the ground. In the 2nd Armored Cavalry, we continued to patrol the border for approximately eight months after the fall of the wall. We stopped active patrolling only about three months before German reunification on 3 October 1990. In some sense, we were lucky to get sent to Desert Shield/Storm as it forced us to focus on a new mission and not wallow around looking for another mission for three or four years.

As a military historian, I marvel at how a narrative forms after the fact. We search for a story that will help us make sense of what just happened. The end of the Cold War and the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact, the Soviet Union, and the whole international order in the span of a few months is something I’ll never forget. Don’t let anyone tell you they expected it or prepared for it or even had a idea of what to do afterwards. The major story of how the Cold War ended has yet to be told fully. I think a lot of the reason for this is that so many insiders are still alive and active. It is just to painful for many to acknowledge how off kilter their predictions of the future were. I try to remember that when I hear people telling me what is going to happen in the future. Or they will tell you confidently how something can never happen, because of a world view that is obvious to any right-thinking person.

I think Thomas Kuhn’s paradigm shifts apply to international relations as well.

The New SilentHawk Hybrid Special Forces Motorcycle

The multi-fuel SilentHawk Hybrid Special Forces Motorcycle in the works

Popular Science reports that the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is working on an electric motorcycle that is super quiet and easily deployable and sustainable.

…DARPA, the Pentagon’s future projects wing, is funding the development of a versatile electric dirt bike, so that special forces can have as silent a ride as possible on two powered wheels. The bike is called “SilentHawk,” and after receiving the first prototype, DARPA liked to so much they asked for two more.

Collaboration on the SilentHawk Hybrid Special Forces Motorcycle

The SilentHawk is made in collaboration by Alta Motors and Logos Technologies. The team has expertise in lightweight and stealth technologies and commercial electric motorcycles. The SilentHawk will allow Special Forces operators to approach targets quickly with a much lower sound profile. After completion of the mission, they will be able to exfiltrate in a stealthy fashion as well.

The SilentHawk Hybrid Special Forces Motorcycle is highly sustainable in the field.

Although the purpose of the electric motorcycle is mission stealth, the bike also is highly versatile in using multiple forms of fuel, such as diesel, JP5/8 jet fuel, as well as conventional gasoline. This will allow operators to stay in the field longer and charge their myriad of technologies (GPS, radios, lasers, etc.) on the go using the Integrated mount and power interface for Android Tactical Assault Kit (ATAK) device. The ability to ride a generator is a big plus for those teams deployed into the wilds.

Less speed but also less BRRRAAAAPPP

The SilentHawk tops out at 80MPH and I suppose that is when it is not fully loaded like it will be most of the time. However, the 55 decibel sound signature compared to the 113 decibel signature of a standard, gasoline fueled dirt bike means that the SpecOps community can pass a village in the night with a sound that is no louder than a human conversation. With a range of 170 miles without refueling—including two hours in quiet mode on a single charge, the bike will become a staple of long-range reconnaissance patrols, I bet.

See the specifications of the SilentHawk on the Logos Technologies website. From the Logos Technologies PDF;

SilentHawk combines Alta Motors’ high-performance RedShift MX electric motorcycle with a multi-fuel hybrid system developed by Logos Technologies. The hybrid-electric prototype can run for up to 170 miles without refueling—including two hours in quiet mode on a single charge. In addition, the multi-fuel engine would provide flexibility as well as the option to acquire fuel during
a mission. The hybrid design allows the user to quickly transform SilentHawk into a lighter, electric-only vehicle if needed. In either configuration, SilentHawk maintains its superior
all-terrain handling.
In the Battlefield Biker’s humble opinion, the SilentHawk Hybrid Special Forces Motorcycle will be a great addition to the Special Operations bag of tricks.

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