Skip to content Nez Perce War (1877)

The Nez Perce war between the USA and the Nez Perce Indians took place in Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming and Montana in 1877.  The USA had between 1,000 and 1,500 soldiers and on the Indian side there were between 600 and 800 fighters and civilians. There were 257 victims on the US side (115 killed, 142 wounded) and the Indian losses amounted to about 140. The US forces won the battle.

The Nez Perce War was a series of battles between the Nez Perce and the United States government. The Nez Perce were led by several chiefs, including Chief Joseph, Chief Ollicot, Chief White Bird and Chief Too’hoo’lu’sult and Chief Looking Glass. The American Army was represented mainly by General Oliver Otis Howard. Colonel John Gibbon, General Nelson A. Miles and Colonel Samuel D. Sturgis were involved as well.

The conflict began when white ranchers realized that Wallowa Valley, as well as the Snake and Clearwater valleys, where the Indians lived, would make great open range for their cattle. As a result, the U.S. Government pressured the Indians to move to a reservation established in an 1863 treaty or be removed by force. At first, the Nez Perce agreed to the move in order to forestall violence, though they did not recognize the 1863 treaty as binding. Unfortunately, four whites, including Jurdin Elfers and Henry Beckridge, were killed by Nez Perce en route to the reservation. Looking Glass and the other Chiefs then decided to travel to Montana to stay with the Crow Tribe, a tribe they knew from their buffalo hunting in the area.

The Nez Perce travelled through Idaho towards Montana, fighting the U.S. Army in several battles along the way. The Nez Perce were victorious in all of these engagements. The Nez Perce then entered Montana through the tough and mountainous Lolo Pass. They continued on to Yellowstone National Park and then north towards Canada. When they were within a few days ride of Canada, the Nez Perce were cut off by General Nelson Miles and were forced to surrender.