the Big Hole LbNA # 53808
|Placed Date||Jun 1 2010|
Big Hole National Battlefield is a memorial to the people who fought and died here on August 9 and 10, 1877; combatants in a five month conflict that came to be called the Nez Perce War of 1877. Like other Indian Wars in the late 1800's, the Nez Perce War involved two very different groups with very different outlooks on land rights, civilian authority, government powers, social organization, and the responsibilities of the individuals to society.
In 1877, about 750 non-treaty Nez Perce fled Idaho in the face of demands from the US Army that all Nez Perce move onto a reservation a fraction from the size of their traditional homeland. The Army was enforcing a national policy of placing all American Indians on reservations to make way for the westward expansion of the young United States.
In early August, the non-treaty Nez Perce camped for several days along the North Fork of the Big Hole River. They knew they had crossed into Montana Territory, and believed they were safe from further pursuit. Just before daybreak on August 9, 1877, military forces attacked them as they rested after six weeks of conflict and flight.
Although the soldiers and civilian volunteers attacked the village while most of the Nez Perce slept, the warriors quickly mounted a resistance and drove the military men to retreat to a wooded hill nearby. The soldiers dug trenches for protection, but the Nez Perce warriors surrounded the fortified hill and held the soldiers there. Meanwhile, the older men, women and children in the camp buried the dead and fled again.
The Battle of the Big Hole lasted less than 36 hours, yet casualties were dreadfully high. Between 60 and 90 Nez Perce men, women, and children were killed, most in the initial attack on the sleeping camp. How many Nez Perce were wounded in the battle is impossible to say, but the number is doubtlessly high. Twenty-two soldiers, a civilian guide, and five civilian volunteers were killed, and 39 more were severely wounded.
From the Big Hole, the Nez Perce continued to flee from the military, traveling east through Yellowstone National Park, then turning northward and moving toward the Canadian border. There were several skirmishes and encounters with federal troops in the weeks that followed the Battle of the Big Hole, but it wasn't until early October that the US Army finally succeeded in forcing most of the non-treaty Nez Perce to surrender. About 150 escaped into Canada. (Information obtained through www.nps.gov)
To find the box:
You don't need to go into the park, but we strongly suggest you do! The visitor center is quite nice, and the walks around the grounds are as well. To find teh box, go to the entrance sign and look behind it- facing Wisdom. You'll find it in the bushes.