Impasse by John Staats | Script Revolution




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Ambushed and besieged, a US Cavalry Command struggles for survival until reinforcements arrive. It's a Wild West 'Black Hawk Down' in 1879.

Tagline: A simple show of force.

Synopsis: Action/war drama is based on the Battle of Milk Creek, one of the last true battles of the American Indian Wars and the most decorated single battle in U.S. Military history.

In 1878, the Bureau of Indian Affairs appoints Nathanial Meeker as their new agent for the White River Agency over the Ute tribe. Upon arrival, Meeker immediately begins to oppress the Utes with overzealous acts and tactics to civilize the savages. Chief Jack, a Ute Elder, physically assaults Meeker after he’s forbidden to hunt off the reservation lands. Fearing for the agency’s safety, Meeker sends out a plea for the U.S. Cavalry’s help.

Heeding Meeker’s call is Major Thomas Thornburgh, Commanding Officer of Fort Steele in the Wyoming Territory. The Major assembles a force of 150 men and sets out on a 180 mile journey to the White River Agency. During the trek, the Major has an encounter with Chief Jack, only to ignore his warning to stay off the Ute reservation lands. The Major believes that a simple show of force will settle down the Ute agitation.

On September 29, 1879, Major Thornburgh leads his command onto Ute lands and into an ambush led by Chief Jack. The ensuing battle results in the near immediate death of the Major and casualties greater than 30%. The Utes also massacre Meeker and all the men of the agency in response to the Cavalry advancement.

Captain Scott Payne assumes command and rallies the soldiers. One of his first orders is to send two pair of riders for help under the cover of night. One pair is to ride 160 miles to the nearest telegraph office, and the other is to try and locate a company of Buffalo Soldiers patrolling forest fires somewhere in the Rocky Mountains.

Captain Francis Dodge and his 40 Buffalo Soldiers are found and ride all night to the relief of the command. They arrive on the fourth day of the siege to ungodly conditions of bloated bodies and filth. Sergeant Henry Johnson is assigned First Sergeant upon arrival to oversee all the command’s enlisted soldiers.

On the sixth day, Colonel Merritt arrives after a grueling 170 mile push with 250 soldiers. Chief Jack admits defeat and surrenders to end the siege.

The screenplay focuses on Major Thornburgh’s overconfidence and denial of potential resistance; the development of the young adjutant Lieutenant Cherry; Captain Payne, the veteran Indian fighter, who assumes command after Thornburgh’s death; Sergeant Johnson who earns one of the first Congressional Medals of Honor for a black soldier; as well as many others that performed heroic acts contributing to the commands survival. Eleven (11) Medals of Honor were bestowed for acts of heroism by Congress.

All Accolades & Coverage: 

2019 Filmmatic Season 4 Drama Screenplay Finalist

Submitted: September 7, 2016
Last Updated: July 19, 2019

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The Writer: John Staats

I'm proud of the work posted here and the stories you're about to read. You have your choice of feature screenplays, numerous shorts (including a VR short) and some comic formats in case you're up for something a bit different. The links to my comics would make awesome storyboards if you want to bring the story to life. If you like what you read, feel free to give it some love and tic the the heart icon. Been around... Seen some things... Yep, a helluva story teller. No sh*t, there I was.... Go to bio

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