Big Hole National Battlefield
Big Hole National Battlefield is 10 miles west of Wisdom, Montana, on Montana Highway 43. The Nez Perce were camped in this area in 1877 when they were attacked by Col. John Gibbon's troops. This 655-acre site is managed by the National Park Service. Two self-guiding trails lead from the lower parking area to the location of the Nez Perce camp and the siege area where U.S. soldiers were pinned down during the second half of the battle.
The Big Hole Battlefield Visitor Center interprets the Big Hole Battle and the War of 1877. Wayside exhibits, trail guide booklets, and battlefield markers supply details of the battle on the battlefield.
The National Battlefield, which is surrounded by ranching operations and the Beaverhead National Forest, retains much of the character of 1877 when Col. John Gibbon's forces attacked the Nez Perce at their camp next to the Big Hole River.
"About early morning I was awakened. My father and Chief Yellow Bull were standing, talking low. They thought they saw soldiers across the creek. Next instant we heard shots from above the creek, across the canyon, maybe a quarter mile away. I heard the call, 'We are attacked' ... After these two or three shots there broke a heavy fighting. Soldiers soon came rushing among the tepees. Bullets were flying everywhere." Red Elk, August 9, 1877
"...Gibbons (sic) noticed that the Indians had us almost surrounded, and he gave the order for us to retreat ... By this time the Indians began to rally and drove the whites back through the camp and across the creek. After we got across that blamed creek we did not know what to do. We seemed to be waiting for orders, and as we were bunched together an Indian behind the big tree was simply giving us hell. The fact is we were so close together he couldn't miss us and several were killed right there. I heard Gibbon give the command to scatter, then came the order to take the timbered point away from them and intrench. 'Charge the point and rake the brush with your rifles,' was the command. That was no easy place to take. It was a steep hill and the Indians were on top shooting down at us. I saw fellows fall over backward and fall to the bottom." Tom Sherrill, August 9, 1877