HAT CREEK BATTLEGROUND
War Bonnet Creek
It is said that the spirit of murdered Indians whisper and stalk their prey here through the windswept grass of the battlefield. The dark history of this place speaks volumes of tragedy and bloodshed.... do the spirits of the past really still linger behind?
In September of 1984, two history buffs named John
Grant and Lester Barton had a strange experience at the Hat Creek historic site. They were
not the first to encounter the unknown here, nor would they be the last. These two men,
like so many other Americans, were historical re-enactors, those enthusiasts who dress in
the clothing of the period and attempt to immerse themselves in the past. On this night in
1984, these two men would come closer to the past than they ever thought possible.
Night had fallen on the fourth day of their encampment, where rows of white, cloth tents recalled the encampment of the Fifth Cavalry. Grant was sitting on top of a hill , next to the Hat Creek Monument, guarding the camp, thinking about the day that he had spent at the historic site.
Suddenly, he heard the sound of men whispering in the prairie grass. The sounds died but were followed by the sounds of men running through the grass. They seemed close, but he saw no one. Grant smiled to himself, thinking that some of his friends were planning to sneak up on him... but no one came. He got up and walked around the top of the hill, now starting to get nervous.
Grant went back to the monument and say down. He was scared by this time, and even went as far as to load a round of ammunition into his Springfield rifle. Then, he felt a very strong presence and he looked up to see a cloud of greenish-colored mist slipping around the side of the monument. Grant scrambled away and started down the hill. His watch was not quite over.... but he wanted nothing more to do with the hill.
Lester Barton took over the next watch and the
following day, Grant took him aside. "Did anything funny happen to you on your
watch?", he asked him. Barton then proceeded to tell of him of the strange sounds
that he heard and the bizarre green mist that had appeared near the monument.
Apparently, the stories were true.... the Hat Creek Battleground really was haunted.
The history of the hill that overlooks Hat Creek is
one that is stained with the blood of Cheyenne Indians. Shortly after the death of General
Custer and his men at Little Big Horn, news of the battle reached the reservation at Red
Cloud Agency. A number of Cheyenne warriors started north for the Black Hills.
The Fifth U.S. Cavalry, under command of General Wesley Merritt, had been ordered to cut off Cheyenne forces and return them to the reservation. One of the scouts on this mission was a young man named William F. Cody, who was later known as Buffalo Bill.
In mid-July 1876, Merritt's forces met and defeated the Cheyenne at Hat Creek. Much of the fight took place on horseback but the skills of the Cheyenne were beaten down because of sheer numbers and a lack of food by the Indians.
During the fighting, Cody fired his carbine at a Cheyenne named Yellow Hand. The bullet passed through him and killed his horse, but Cody finished him off. He removed Yellow Hand's war bonnet and weapons, which were later displayed in his "Wild West Show".
The site of the battle was a place called War Bonnet Creek, later re-named Hat Creek.
Nothing can prove that John Grant and Lester Barton had a strange experience on the hill above the battleground but the two men were convinced that something is there, as are others who have followed and had similar encounters.
The Hat Creek Battleground is a state historic site and is located in northwestern Nebraska.
Copyright 1998 by Troy Taylor, All Rights Reserved
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