Anniversary of the Battle of Beecher Island & Annual Reunion
On September 17, 1868 a large group of Cheyenne, Arapaho and Lakota warriors attacked 50 United States Army volunteer scouts, under the command of Major George A. Forsyth and Lieutenant Frederick H. Beecher, on the Arickaree River about 18 miles southeast of Wray. The Army scouts were in search of a band of Natives believed to have raided a freight train in Kansas. When attacked, the scouts retreated to a sandbar in the middle of the Arickaree River, and concealed themselves behind the bodies of their horses. Major Forsyth dispatched scouts to walk the 75 miles to Fort Wallace, Kansas for reinforcements; four of those scouts made it to Fort Wallace on the 22nd and 23rd. Carpenter Company H and I "Buffalo Soldiers" under the command of Colonel Henry Bankhead Carpenter arrived at the battle site on the morning of September 25 to the relief of the besieged scouts.
Major Forsyth named the sandbar “Beecher’s Island” in honor of Lieutenant Beecher, who died during the attack. Three other Army scouts died during the battle, and two more died later from wounds sustained at the fight; another 20 scouts were wounded. The number of Native American casualties is in dispute, but a noted Cheyenne warrior known as “Roman Nose” almost certainly died at the battle.
In 1898, thirty years after the battle, three surviving members of Forsyth’s scout band came back to Beecher Island to locate the battle site, and erected a sandstone marker memorializing the battle. The next year the local chapters of the Grand Army of the Republic organized the Beecher Island Park and Memorial Association (later the Beecher Island Battle Memorial Association). The Association has held September reunions since 1899.