Old West Lifestyle & Stories

Mountain Men Battle Indians

  In 1822 William Ashley advertised for men to go up the Missouri River and trap for pelts. The trappers were to spend the winter alone, and then Ashley would come back up river in keelboats, the next spring, and pick them up along with the furs.
  When Ashley arrived the next spring, on May 29, 1823, he was met by Jedediah Smith, and was told the trappers needed horses. On May 31 Ashley and his men went to a nearby Arikara Indian village in order to trade for the needed horses.
The next day Ashley got 20 horses from the Arikara in return for gun powder and shot… a trade they were later to regret. In the middle of the fourth night there, one of two men who were staying in the Indian’s village came running out screaming that his partner had been killed. It’s not known if it was part of a plan or there had been a problem, but at the break of dawn the air was filled with arrows and just traded bullets, fired from behind the stockade. The horses were the first to die. Using the dead horses as shelter, the mountain men yelled for the boats to come ashore and pick them up.

Finally, Ashley was able to get a couple of skiffs up to the shore. It was every man for himself. Those who didn’t make it in a skiff were washed downriver. Finally, with the survivors aboard the keelboats, they drifted downriver about 25 miles before they pulled ashore to take inventory.

  There were 13 men dead or missing. Eleven were wounded. Their horses were dead, and they had provided the local Indians with enough fire power to keep them out of the area for some time.

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