Print Size: 23.25"x36" 


Artist's Commentary

This was an epic clash between an American Indian tribe and the US Calvary on August 9th and 10th, 1877. The site is now a US National Monument administered by the National Park Service, just west of the present town of Wisdom, Montana.

The Nez Perce bands, after long months of running battles and retreating from Col. John Gibbons infantry and volunteers, settled down on the Big Hole River to rest. They failed to post guards anywhere and were secure in their belief that the army was far to the rear. But by forced marches, the military caught up and prepared a surprise daybreak assault. The camp consisted of about 90 lodges with about 800 souls including 125 warriors.

At first light the troops attacked and succeeded in capturing the village for a short period. But the warriors rallied and drove the soldiers back across the river. Meanwhile a gun crew of six infantrymen were inching their way to a site overlooking the village. They emplaced the 12 pounder mountain Howitzer. The crew consisted of two sergeants, a corporal, and three privates. They managed to fire only two rounds before the Nez Perce attacked and captured the gun and a pack mule loaded with 200 pounds of Springfield ammunition. The Nez Perce celebrated their victory by dismantling the gun and depositing the parts in the swampy bog below. The gun was retrieved later, cleaned up, and is currently on display at the Big Hole Battlefield Museum.

The Indians kept the troops pinned down for 36 hours. During this time the surviving Indians were retreating toward Yellowstone National Park. They continued their retreat toward Canada---but camped just south of the Canadian boundary in the Bear Paw Range. They were overwhelmed by units of General Miles.

I personally visited this battle site and the canon's location, where I made several field sketches before committing this exciting incident in Western History to an oil painting entitled: BATTLE OF THE BIG HOLE.

Gary Carter

West Yellowstone, Montana

November 1980

The Battle of the Big Hole

SKU: battle-bighole
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