On This Day – 23 January 1870

Colonel Eugene Baker ordered his troops to attack a camp of sleeping Blackfeet Indians along the Marias River.

On the morning of 23 January the Colonel had a Blackfeet Indian camp along the Marias River surrounded by his troops. His scout Joe Kipp quickly realised that the painted designs on the camp lodges indicated that this was not the tribe led by Mountain Chief that Baker had been sent to punish, but rather a peaceful tribe of Blackfeet under the leadership of Heavy Runner.

Kipp informed the Colonel of his error but Baker reportedly responded by saying that it made no difference, Blackfeet were Blackfeet. Futhermore he ordered his sergeant to shoot Kipp if he made any attempt to warn the sleeping Indians.

The soldiers opened fire on the unsuspecting Indians. Estimates suggest that by the time the shooting had stopped 37 men, 90 women and 50 children had been killed. Baker also captured 140 women but abandoned them shortly after without food or shelter in the middle of winter when he discovered they had smallpox.