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Collins saw the large number of Indians coming his way and formed up his wagons and horses into a corral and put his soldiers to work digging rifle pits and establishing defense lines among the sandy ridges on the plain. The Indians crossed the North Platte above and below the soldiers and advanced, attempting to capture the soldier's horses and put the soldiers afoot. A long-distance shooting match ensued. Shots from a howitzer kept the Indians at a distance, although many of the shells were defective.
One group of Indians crept close enough to be a danger and Collins ordered a detail of 17 men under Lieutenant Patton of the 11th Ohio Cavalry to charge and disperse them. Collins reported that the mounted charge was successful, although two men were killed. One soldier killed was Private William H. Hartshorn of Company C, 11th Ohio Cavalry, whose body was recovered containing 97 arrows. George Bent, a Cheyenne warrior, said that the soldiers retreated in haste and with many casualties after a counter-charge by Indians. A young Cheyenne named Yellow Nose was wounded in the action. Eleven years later, Yellow Nose would capture Lieutenant Colonel George A. Custer’s flag during the Battle of the Little Bighorn. The Indians withdrew in the late afternoon. Collins's force remained in his defensive position overnight.
The next morning several hundred Indian warriors returned to resume the attack on Collins and to attempt again capturing his horses. After long-distance sniping for several hours, the Indians broke off the battle.
Collins reported two men killed and nine wounded with another 10 men suffering frostbite. He estimated the Indian casualties at Mud Springs and Rush Creek at 100 to 150. Bent, by contrast, says only two Indians were wounded at Rush Creek. Collins, however, tells a detailed story of one Indian killed; Bent tells an equally detailed story of a third soldier, a courier, being killed.