After violently attacking a fellow officer Lt. Edward Garnett, cavalry Captain Kern Shafter is court martialled. Later, he rejoins the army with Custer's regiment at Fort Lincoln, Dakota, becoming a sergeant, where he runs into his old foe.
In Wyoming Territory, army Major Ives and his men are building a temporary camp. The civilian surveyor, Mr. Keats is making preparations for the construction of a large permanent fort. However, the future fort is being erected on Cheyenne lands, in defiance of the treaty. Adam Reed is a self employed scout with friendly ties to the Cheyenne. Upset about the construction of the new fort on their lands, the Cheyenne ask scout Reed to contact Major Ives and deliver their message of grievance to him. The symbolic message consists of a yellow tomahawk as a warning against the building of a new fort in the area. Reed delivers the warning message to Major Ives but he is not taken serious. Major Ives lectures Reed about the need of bringing civilization to the lands that otherwise would go to waste under the savages. Reed retorts that Major Ives' only duty is to escort wagon trains of settlers passing through Cheyenne territory rather than build new forts in violation of the treaty. Reed also...Written by
As rugged Indian scout Adam Reed (Rory Calhoun) rides in the open country of Utah towards a US Cavalry outpost, he is stopped by his close friend, Cheyenne warrior Fire Knife (Lee Van Cleef). Fire Knife gives Reed a yellow tomahawk to give to the outpost commandant, Major Ives whom he and Chief Red Cloud call a "butcher" and hold mainly responsible for the Massacre at Sand Creek. That site is a real historical event (1864) where the US Cavalry killed over 100 Indians, most of whom were women and children. The yellow tomahawk is a warning – more than the Cavalry gave earlier to the Indian – for the soldiers to clear out of the planned future fort or face the consequences. The soldiers will be allowed to depart peacefully.
On his way to the military encampment, Reed spots blonde and nubile Kate Bolden (Peggy Castle) bathing and swimming in a pond. They briefly exchange words; Kate tells him that she's from Boston. At the post, arrogant commander Ives (Warner Anderson) is adamant: he has no intention of leaving, even though the encampment is in Cheyenne territory. No lover of the Indian, Ives believes that the red men are dangerous to civilization. Ives gives women (and children) a choice whether to leave for Ft. Ellis or remain. Orders are given for the men to fortify the position. When preparations are being made, Reed tells Master Sergeant Bandini (Dan Riss) that advance pickets should be placed on the hills, and that not all of the men should be placed behind the barricades. Bandini agrees but explains to Reed that he is resigned to taking orders, whether he agrees or not. The Indians soon attack, and Ives' faulty tactics manifest themselves. When the violence ends there are only nine survivors: the major, a corporal, a private, a Mexican Indian scout Tonio (Reed's friend, Noah Beery Jr.), Tonio's Indian girlfriend Honey Bear (a lovely Rita Moreno), an army engineer/surveyor, a slimy prospector (Peter Graves) who has murdered his two partners for gold, blonde Kate, and Reed.
Now the survivors must make the dangerous trek to Ft. Ellis and safety. Reed wants to keep the major alive at all costs so that he can stand trial (court martial) for provoking an Indian war. Along the way, their numbers will shrink, as will those of the attacking Indians. When Reed and Fire Knife have a parlay, the latter says he will let the dwindling survivors leave peacefully, except for Ives. Reed cannot accept this condition. So the trek continues until the inevitable conclusion.
Director Lesley Selander has directed a nice, very well-paced western. The actors are well-cast, and are given an above average script. Some sympathy is given to the Indians, who are defending their tribal lands from encroachment. There are two twists at the end that involve Major Ives; they will not be revealed here. The western was shot in Technicolor but released to television in black and white.
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