Hat Creek sends messages to nation
by Ed Cook, Contributing Writer
Good news went out to an anxious nation from Hat Creek today on this newly completed section of the Fort Laramie to Black Hills Telegraph line. Jack Crawford, the well-known Black Hills chronicler, and of late, scout for General Crook, rode in this morning with news dispatches. The news was of General Crook's victory over the Sioux in the "Battle of Slim Buttes." This fight was an important climax to the summer campaign, and a turning point in the long war to subjugate the Sioux and Northern Cheyenne.
Our telegraph service here was temporarily down when Crawford arrived, therefore he left copies of them and instructed our telegraph operator, Charley Partridge to send them as soon as the line was in operation. He then proceeded to Fort Laramie with his original dispatches. (By the time he reached Fort Laramie the line to Hat Creek was repaired and the news was already on the wire service allowing most of the nation's papers to carry stories of the Slim Buttes victory in their Sunday, Sept. 17 editions.)
The Slim Buttes Battle destroyed the village of the Sioux chief American Horse and diverted Crazy Horse away from the Black Hills where he had planned to attack miners working in the hills. American Horse and many of his warriors were killed, four of General Crook's men died and scouts "Pony White, and "Buffalo Chip" Charley, a good friend of Buffalo Bill Cody, were also killed. The troops also captured some much needed food and found a lot of plunder from the Custer battle. From the battle site, north of the Black Hills, Crook and his men continued their "mud, horse-meat, and starvation" march on to the Black Hills for much needed supplies.
On Sept. 10, the day after the battle, General Crook ordered his guide and courier, Frank Grouard to ride to the nearest telegraph with dispatches for General Sheridan including news of the previous day's fight. Crawford rode with Grounard in a literal race to see who could get the news to civilization first. In Custer City, Grouard hired another courier to carry the dispatches to Camp Collier (inn Red Canyon near Edgemont), from there troops assigned to that camp continued carrying the dispatches. Meanwhile Crawford pushed on to Hat Creek, the apparent winner of the race.
(Information sources; Fort Laramie 1876, by Paul Hedren; An Infantry Company in the Sioux Campaign, 1876, periodical - Montana, the magazine of western history, by Paul Hedren; The Cheyenne and Black Hills Stage and Express Routes, by Agnes Wright Spring; The Indian Wars of the West, by Paul I. Wellman; Pioneer Years in the Black Hills, by Richard B. Hughes.)