The Bozeman Trail

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John Bozeman discovered a shortcut to the Montana gold fields in the winter of 1862-1863.  The trail was shorter than most trails to this area at that time.  The other two options were long-one following the Missouri River and the other was an Overland Trail in Idaho.  The first of sevel emigrant trains began traveling the trail shortly after Bozeman's original journey.  A train of 46 wagons with 89 men, 10 women and several children made the journey in 1863.  They were met by a large party of Northern Cheyenne and Sioux warriors who warned them to turn back the way they'd came or be killed.  The group turned back.

A year later, a larger group headed on the same path.  They had very little issues, except for one group.  The Townsend Train saw a large group of warriors near where they were traveling.  The natives requested to travel along with them to head to a raid with the Crow.  Townsend gave them food, but refused to allow them to travel along the trail with the emigrants.  An emigrant turned up missing and so Townsend sent a group to find him and learned a group of Natives had killed him and a fight followed.  The emimgrants were better armed and ended up killing a large number of the natives.  The train continued on from there to their destination without any further trouble.

The biggest drawback of the Bozeman Trail was that it crossed the hunting grounds of the Lakota and Cheyenne Indians, which created a lot of conflict between emigrants and the Natives.  Between 1864-1865 about 2,000 people made the trip across the trail.  

In 1864 and 1865, the federal government built three forts along the trail to protect travelers along the trail.  The Lakota chief, Red Cloud, was not happy about this at all.  

In December of 1866, Indian decoys drew soldiers over a ridge and into a trap laid by Red Cloud.  Over a thousand natives rose out of the tall grass; Lakota, Oglala and Miniconjou, Arapho and Northern Cheyenne killed all of the general's soldiers there.  In March of 1868, General US Grant gave orders to abandon the forts.  On November 7th, 1868, Red Cloud finally signed a treaty at Fort Laramie.