Mountain Men and Life in the Rocky

Subject Guide


Mountain West

Malachite’s Big Hole

Battle of Pierre's Hole

The Battle of Pierre’s Hole took place at the end of the Rendezvous of 1832. The rendezvous was just starting to break up, and fur brigades under different leaders were heading out to locations chosen for their fall hunts. A party of 40 some men under Milton Sublette and Henry Fraeb, and accompanied by Nathaniel Wyeth and his party of New Englanders, had left rendezvous the previous day and made about seven miles before encamping. On the morning of August 26th as the men were raising camp a large mounted party were seen approaching.  No alarm was immediately raised because this party was assumed to be the American Fur Company supply train under Lucien Fontenelle, who had failed to show up in time for rendezvous.  As the party came closer, they were seen to be Indians, and two men, Antoine Godin and Baptiste Dorian were sent out to determine who they were.  As Godin and Dorian approached, a single chief rode out to meet them.  The Indians were Blackfoot (Actually Gros Ventre, a tribe aligned with the Blackfeet).  Because they were traveling with their women and children, the Blackfoot would have preferred to have avoided trouble at this time, and the chief was signing for peace.  Antoine Godin, whose father Thyery Godin was previously slain by Blackfoot Indians, harbored a deep-seated, hatred of the Blackfoot tribe.  As the two men approached the Blackfoot chief, Godin quickly plotted to kill the man and steal his blanket and gun, which was done.  The Blackfoot Indians had a long history of conflict with white traders and trappers and hostilities, once initiated by Godin, quickly escalated into full blown warfare.  An express was immediately sent back to the rendezvous site, and after a couple of hours about 200 white trappers and 500 friendly Nez Perce and Flathead Indians returned to take part in the battle.  Nathaniel Wyeth’s party of 12 Yankees declined to participate in hostilities being as they felt that this was not part of their affair, although they were active in treating the wounded and watching over the horses at the rear.  The following four descriptions of the Battle of Pierre’s Hole are from participants or eyewitnesses to the battle. Warren Ferris wasn't an eyewitness to the battle, but visited the scene about nine months later. 

The Account of Zenas Leonard:  
The Account of Nathaniel Wyeth:  
The Account of John Ball:  
The Account of Robert Campbell:
The Account of Warren Ferris:

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