Battlespace 1865: Archaeology of the Landscapes, Strategies, and Tactics of the North Platte Campaign, Nebraska [Paperback]

Douglas D. Scott(Author); Peter Bleed(Author); Amanda Renner(Author)

ISBN: 9781785703393 | Published by: Oxbow Books | Series: American Landscapes | Year of Publication: 2016 | 1st | Language: English 144p, H9.7 x W7.3, b/w and color
Status: In Stock - Available

Battlespace 1865


For a period of about week in February 1865, as the Civil War was winding down and Plains Indian communities were reeling in the wake of the Sand Creek massacre, combat swept across the Nebraska panhandle, especially along the Platte River. The fighting that marked this event barely compares to the massive campaigns and terrible carnage that marked the conflict that was taking place in the eastern states but it was a significant event at the opening on the ensuing Indian Wars. Operating on terrain they knew well, Cheyenne warriors and other Native forces encountered the US Cavalry who operated within a modern network of long distance migration and pony express trails and military stations.
The North Platte Campaign offers a good basis for the application of landscape approaches to conflict archaeology if only because of its scale. This fighting is both easily approached and fascinatingly encompassed. There were probably far fewer than 1000 fighters involved in those skirmishes, but before, after, and between them, they involved substantial movements of people and of equipment that was similar to the arms and gear in service to other Civil War era combatants. They also seem to have used approaches that were typical of America’s western warfare. Like many of the conflicts of interest to modern observers, the North Platte fights were between cultural different opponents. Archaeological consideration of battlefields such as Rush Creek and Mud Springs, bases, and landscapes associated with this fighting expose how the combat developed and how the opposing forces dealt with the challenges they encountered.
This study draws on techniques of battlefield archaeology, focusing on the concept of ‘battlespace’ and the recovery, distribution and analysis of artifacts and weaponry, as well as historical accounts of the participants, LiDAR-informed terrain assessment, and theoretical consideration of the strategic thinking of the combatants. It applies a landscape approach to the archaeological study of war and reveals an overlooked phase of the American Civil War and the opening of the Indian Wars.

Table of Contents


1. Introduction

2. Landscapes and Dynamics of the Platte Valley in 1864 and 1865

Forms and Features of the Platte Valley Landscape

The River Course

North Platte Valley Side Slopes

North Platte Bluffs


Traffic and Trail Patterns of the Platte Valley

Euro-American Trails

Native American Trails

Euro-American Civilian Facilities

Relations between the United States Government and Platte Valley Native Communities

The Sand Creek Massacre

Indian Reactions to Sand Creek and the move to the North Platte Valley

Army Reactions to Sand Creek

3. Conceptual Tools for the Consideration of Conflicted Landscapes

Levels of War

The Strategic Level

The Operational Level

The Tactical Level

Conflicted Landscapes as “Battlespace”

4. Levels of War and Battlespace in the North Platte Valley of 1865

Levels of War and Battlespace among the Cheyenne and allied tribes

Levels of War and Battlespace of the Civil War Frontier Army

Battlespace – Trails and Battlefields as Essential Elements

5. Conflict Begins – The Battle of Mud Springs

Mud Springs as Battlespace

Strategy and Tactics of the Mud Spring Operation

6. The Archaeology of the Mud Springs Battle

The Archaeological Assemblage

Firearms Artifact Distribution

The “Rifle Pit” Feature

Interpreting the Actions and Evidence of Mud Springs

7. The Road to Rush Creek

Cheyenne Movements away from the Camp on Rush Creek

The Army’s Pursuit

Discovery of the Rush Creek Camp

8. The Forces Collide at Rush Creek

Beginning of the Battle

Tactical Operations of Rush Creek Combat

Artillery at Rush Creek

Cavalry Action at Rush Creek

9. Archaeology of the Rush Creek Battle

Archaeological Expression of the Battlefield

Small Arms Evidence

Artillery Evidence

Rush Creek: A battlespace adjusted to surprise

10. Conclusions

Appendix: Transcriptions of Enlisted Men’s Accounts of the Fights



Reviews & Quotes

"“A fascinating book… the authors raise interesting questions about the clash of military forces in the context of cultural conflict.”"


"“…if one is not deterred by the jargon-laden archaeological discussion, this book actually contains a most interesting and informative account of two relatively small and unfamiliar actions between the US Cavalry and the Cheyenne.”"
Arthur Harman

""Battlespace 1865 is a good example of integrating landscape analysis, battlefield archaeology best practices, historical documentation, GIS/GPS advances, and strategic/theoretical assessment of combat leadership decision-making into a deeper understanding of the battles at Mud Springs and Rush Creek.""

Nebraska History Magazine ()

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