General Phillip Sheridan, who fought for the Union in the Civil War, was appointed head of the Department of the Missouri in 1867 by President Grant with orders to keep the Native Americans living on the plains under control and restricted to reservations. His tactics included harsh treatment of woman and children, destruction of villages and food supplies, and unrestricted killing of buffalo.
On November 27, 1868 the 7th U.S. Cavalry, led Lt. Col. George Custer under Sheridan’s command, attacked the sleeping village of Cheyenne Peace Chief Black Kettle. The village was the western most of a series of winter camps along the Washita River and relatively isolated. The men in the village attempted to hold the soldiers at bay while the women and children fled to safety but many were captured and held as hostages. Custer and his men began marching towards warriors from the other villages who had been gathering on the nearby hilltops. Fearing that the women and children would be harmed the warriors retreated which allowed Custer’s troops to retreat back to their camp and supply train.
Black Kettle and his wife were killed along with village men, women, children although an exact count is a disputed matter. Custer lost 21 soldiers. Native Americans refer to the action as the Lodge Pole Massacre which seems a more appropriate name than the Washita Battle.
The site includes a visitor center, a paved loop trail, and a 1.5 mile grassy trail to the village location.
The visitor center is accessible. The paved trail is accessible but, due to grades, wheelchair users may need assistance.
The visitor center parking lot is large enough for RVs. The Washita trailhead lot is small but RVs can be parked in the grass along Route 47. Battlefield 35.61617, -99.68677