How Many People Died During the Indian Wars?

Marshall Trimble Indian Wars True West Magazine

How many people died during the Indian Wars?

Paul Gortarez
Phoenix, Arizona

Considering the isolated skirmishes and unrecorded killings on both sides, historians can offer only an estimate. The numbers are skewed even for well-known battles. For example, somewhere between 450 and 800 settlers died during the 1862 Sioux Uprising.

Marshall Trimble Indian Wars True West Magazine

“In my Encyclopedia of Indian Wars,” writes Greg Michno, “I go over the casualties (Army, civilian and Indian; killed and wounded) in 675 fights from 1850-90. There were 21,586 total. Army and civilian totaled 6,596 (31 percent), and Indians 14,990 (69 percent). These are casualties, so deaths are more likely 30-35 percent of the total.

“I never counted civilian deaths—found it impossible. I did count civilian deaths in Texas alone during the decade of the 1860s (in The Settlers’ War). They totaled 399.”

Marshall Trimble is Arizona’s official historian and vice president of the Wild West History Association. His latest book is Arizona Outlaws and Lawmen; The History Press, 2015. If you have a question, write: Ask the Marshall, P.O. Box 8008, Cave Creek, AZ 85327 or email him at marshall.trimble@scottsdalecc.edu.

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Marshall Trimble

Marshall Trimble is Arizona’s official historian and the Wild West History Association’s vice president. His latest book is 2018’s Arizona Oddities: A Land of Anomalies and Tamales. Send your question, with your city/state of residence, to marshall.trimble@scottsdalecc.edu or Ask the Marshall, P.O. Box 8008, Cave Creek, AZ 85327.