The Cow that

Started a War

ABOVE: The original Fort Laramie

It started innocently enough. A pioneer's cow wandered into a Sioux camp. If the emigrants had gone after the cow, it's likely the amiable Sioux would have simply returned it. Instead, the emigrants went to Ft. Laramie, where they told an overzealous Lt. Grattan what happened. He and 29 soldiers then set out to punish the tribe. In the meantime, hungry Sioux did what you might expect--they ate the cow.

When Grattan and his men arrived at the Sioux camp, the chief offered a horse in exchange for the cow--more than a fair trade. Grattan's response? He ordered his men to fire at the Sioux. Surprisingly, the chief ordered his warriors to withhold their fire, thinking Grattan now had his revenge and would leave. Grattan's response? He shot again, and killed the chief. This time the Sioux fought back, killing 21 soldiers.

The unfortunate result was that a number of tribes continued guerrilla attacks, and the military plotted a major retaliation. Years of hostility ensued and many innocent people died.

All because of a wandering cow.