By 1878 more than 300 Northern Cheyennes were desperate to escape their hated reservation in Indian Territory (Oklahoma). Led by Dull Knife and Little Wolf, they headed for their homeland in the north, fighting their way across Kansas. At about noon on October 4, 1878, they arrived at a crossing of the South Platte River and the Union Pacific Railroad northwest of Alkali Station but east of Ogallala. Their arrival was observed and reported by telegraph to Fort Sidney.
Already aboard rail cars at the fort, the soldiers believed they could stop the Northern Cheyennes at this crossing. Arriving at 4 p.m., they began tracking the trail leading north, but the Cheyennes had already crossed the North Platte River and escaped into the Sandhills.
The Cheyennes soon parted ways. Little Wolf’s people made it home to Montana, but Dull Knife continued to northwest Nebraska. His group was captured and taken to Ft. Robinson. They escaped January 9, 1879, but most were captured or killed in a running fight known as the Cheyenne Outbreak or Fort Robinson Massacre.