This Date in Native History: Today marks the 153rd anniversary of the Battle of the Badlands, which began on August 7, 1864 between present-day Medora and Sentinel Butte, North Dakota.
The battle was fought in the aftermath of the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862 as United States Army General Alfred Sully led his men through the Badlands and encountered resistance from the Sioux.
The Battle of the Badlands was more of a running skirmish than an up-close battle. The Sioux attacked from the hills trying to keep Sully from reaching Yellowstone River, where there were steamboats carrying supplies he needed.
Sully claimed to have killed 100 Sioux warriors, but as Doug Ellison, a historian and former mayor of Medora, told The Dickinson Press: “There was really no close hand-to-hand combat, so the troops didn’t have anyone killed. They thought they had killed quite a number of warriors, but it was just kind of a running battle through the Badlands.”
To read more about this battle and others during that time, check out The Dakota War: The United States Army Versus the Sioux, 1862-1865 by Micheal Clodfelter.
The Battle of the Badlands had a commemorative celebration for its 150th anniversary in 2014. The commemoration was an opportunity to share knowledge on the history of the area and how the battle shaped the area today.
“It’s to remind us of our heritage in the Dakotas,” Ellison said in The Dickinson Press in 2014 about the commemoration. “(The battle) played such an important role in the formation of the Dakotas. It just played such a permanent role in our development.”
Ellison felt it was important to tell both sides of the story and Ernie LaPointe, great-grandson of Sitting Bull, was invited to be one of the speakers, to share the Lakota side.
“I think it is just important to understand where some of these issues originated, and a lot of them originated with the Sully campaign,” Ellison told The Dickinson Press. “It led to the reservation system, which led to Wounded Knee, which led to these divisions we are still dealing with today.”
This story was originally published August 7, 2014.