On Aug. 29, 1854, Brevet 2d Lieut. J. L. Grattan, 6th Infantry, and thirty men of Company G were killed by Indians near Fort Laramie. The affair is known as the Grattan Massacre. A party of Mormons en route to Salt Lake City having officially reported to the commanding officer of Fort Laramie that the Sioux had stolen one of their cows and refused to give it up, Lieutenant Grattan was sent with thirty men of Company G and a mountain howitzer to demand restoration of the stolen property. This was the last seen of Grattan and his men alive, and the facts of the massacre as related have been gathered from statements of the Indians. Having reached his destination Lieutenant Grattan made his demand upon the Indians, and then despite their warning trained his howitzer upon them and prepared to fire. The Indians, watching the pulling of the lanyard, avoided the shot by falling to the ground as the piece was discharged, and rushing upon the troops overpowered them and killed every man.
Map of the Battle of Blue Water Creek, drawn by Gouverneur Kemble Warren, 1855
On Sept. 3, 1855 a battalion of the regiment composed of Companies A, E, H, I and K, under the command of Major Albemarle Cady, took part in the affair with the Sioux on the Blue Water, known as the battle of Ash Hollow.
Writing to the Adjutant-General from his camp on Blue Water Creek, N. T., under date of September, 1855, General Harney says:
At half past four oclock, A. M., I left my camp with Companies A, E, H, I and K, 6th Infantry, under the immediate command of Major Cady of that regiment, and proceeded toward the principal village of the Brules with a view to attacking it openly, in concert with a surprise contemplated through the cavalry.
The results of the affair were eighty-six killed, five wounded, about seventy women and children captured, fifty mules and ponies taken, besides an indefinite number killed and disabled. The amount of provisions and camp equipage must have comprised nearly all the enemy possessed, for teams have been constantly engaged in bringing into camp everything of value to the troops, and much has been destroyed on the ground.
The casualties of the command amount to four killed, four severely wounded, and one missing, supposed to be killed or captured by the enemy.
With regard to the officers and troops of my command I have never seen a finer military spirit displayed generally ; and if there has been any material difference in the services they have rendered, it must be measured chiefly by the opportunity they had for distinction. Lieutenant Colonel Cook and Major Cady, commanders of the mounted and foot forces, respectively, carried out my instructions to them with signal alacrity, zeal, and intelligence.
The company commanders whose position, either in the engagement or in the pursuit, brought them in closest contact with the enemy, were Captain Todd of the 6th Infantry, Captain Steele and Lieutenant Robertson of the 2d Dragoons, and Captain Heath, 10th Infantry.
Brevet Major Woods, Captain Wharton, and Lieutenant Patterson, of the 6th Infantry, with their companies, rendered effective service as reserves and supports, taking an active share in the combat when circumstances would permit.
Thus Grattan and his men were avenged by their comrades of the Sixth.