Fort Macknezie named after a military hero – Sheridan Media
Although Congress has differing ideas on the name of the newly constructed fort in Sheridan, Wyoming, the military had no problem deciding who should be honored, General Ranald Mackenzie, who fought with distinction during the civil war as well as numerous Indian engagements in Texas, Montana and Wyoming.
Thomas Hatch, VA historian who compiled much of the information used in this article, has said of Mackenzie. “Ranald Mackenzie… his name is spelled with an a…. was quite a character…. If you ask the people of Sheridan, “Who was Ranald Mackenzie?” Almost no idea. But in Texas he is “The Guy”.
This is the story of Ranald Mackenzie.
As a young man, Mackenzie had little guidance until he applied and was accepted into the West Point class in 1862. The Civil War began in 1861, and Mackenzie saw several of his classmates resign and quit. ‘enlist to fight in the war.
Mackenzie continued his education and graduated at the top of his class. The year before, George Armstrong Custer graduated from the bottom of his class at West Point. Without a doubt, the two men knew each other or at least knew each other. When Mackenzie graduated in 1862, he was appointed a second lieutenant in the Union Army. He was immediately dispatched to report to the Northern Virginia campaign.
Mackenzie fought in the Battle of Manasseh, or the Second Bull Run, where he was shot in the back. “There was a big stench that he was running away from,” Hatch said. “But he actually functioned as a messenger for his commander. He was attacked and was trying to escape from Confederate troops when he was injured. His mother came to take him home to recover.
Once cured, he was promoted to the rank of first lieutenant. In March 1865, he reached the rank of brigadier general of the 6th Army Brigade. He was only 26 years old and became one of the youngest generals in the Civil War. In addition to Manasseh, Mackenzie fought at Antietam, Gettysburg, Cedar Creek, Appomattox, and other engagements. He was wounded seven times during the conflict. In his third Civil War battle, an exploding shell tore off two fingers. After that, the Indians he met called him “Bad Hand”.
Hatch said Mackenzie was responsible for the cavalry chasing the forces of General Robert E. Lee that ended up at the Appomattox courthouse, where Lee surrendered to Grant. Mackenzie was also responsible for assembling other Confederate cavalry units. At the end of the Civil War he was the highest ranking officer in the West Point class of 1862. After the war he returned to his original rank, which was then the rank of captain. He has been described by General Ulysses S. Grant as the most promising young officer in the Union.
The Army decided to restructure the Army in 1865. Mackenzie received the rank of Colonel and was placed in charge of the 41st Division, the First Color Division. They were posted to Texas and became a very effective unit.
Hatch continued, “In Texas, Mackenzie is becoming the go-to guy in the military for their Indian issues.” He said Indian forces were in cahoots with Mexican “gangs”. Indians came to Texas to loot, steal women, loot, and then return to Mexico to sell their loot to Mexican bandits. The US military could only follow them to the Mexican border. “General Sheridan is calling Mackenzie to end the raids. Ranald said, ‘I’ll take care of it. If you’re cool with this, I’m fine. I’ll take care of it.’ Sheridan agreed to let Mackenzie take care of the problem.
Hatch said the Mackenzie waited for the next incident, then on a night march, surrounded the camp, killed the Indians, freed the captives, and took them across the Rio Grande in the morning. This created an international incident with Mexico, but the flack quickly subsided.
Mackenzie continued to fight the Indians in Texas. Then on June 26, 1876, Custer’s 7th Cavalry was slaughtered and the army called in the guy who had won every Indian engagement he was in. Mackenzie. He came to Wyoming to bring in the Indians who had attacked Custer earlier in the year. He was instrumental in the Dull Knife Battle near Kaycee in November 1876.
In the Cheyenne Daily Leader of November 30, 1876, he gives this report of the battle.
Mackenzie and Dull-Knife. More details on Fighting Clear Fork-dispatch dated Field, nov. 25, via Fort Fetterman, 27th provides the following additional details on Gemgeneral Mackenzie Fthe night of the 25th: the hostiles had a war dance the night away and were not caught off guard by the attack, which took place at sunrise. The village was located in a canyon running almost north and south. It contained In regards to two hundred Iodges, with maybe five hundred warriors. General Mackenzie’s fighting force numbered nearly a thousand men. Most of the enlisted Indians behaved well at first, but after the ffirst of all heat load, very many of them have relapsed into apparent indifference to anything but pIunder the abandoned teepees of the Cheyennes, and tryrun away from horses.
Cheyenne Weekly Leader Wyoming, December 7 1876. Terrible blow to Cheyenne’s cutthroats — Bravery of the Troops, etc. Further details of General Mackenzie’s fight with the Cheyennes were received at Fort Fetterman on Sunday evening. The victory was most complete. The entire village of the Dull Knife Band, with all its stores of substance and robes fell into the hands of the troops, leaving the Cheyennes, the bravest and most bellicose of enemies, utterly helpless in the face of a harsh winter, contemplation of what made them fight in desperation. Their death loss is around 25, with a large number injured.
General Mackenzie’s conduct is described as brilliant, resulting in the loss of only one officer, Lieutenant McKinney, 4th Cavalry, from Memphis, Tenn., And Fifive troops killed, twenty wounded. The The Pawnee scouts have rendered invaluable service and have been richly rewarded in loot. General Mackenzie will join General Crook on Crazy Woman’s Fork, and a combined attack will then be be made on Crazy Horse, which is reported to to be on the Rosebud, near the Jun battlefielde17th.
In the same newspaper, we read a dispatch from Chicago, December 1–The official report of Colonel Mackenzie, 4th Cavalry, was received at military headquarters here today. It indicates that around noon on the 24the inst., as he was walking in a southwest direction towards the Sioux Pass of the Big Horn Mountains, five scouts encountered him; reporting that the main Cheyenne camp was about 15 or 20 miles away. As the sun set, the command began to move towards the enemies, reaching the village after daylight, surprising the Indians and forcing them to suddenly leave the village and take refuge in the ravines.
After an hour-long fierce fight and skirmishes until nightfall, they surrendered. The the entire village, numbering 173 lodges, with all its contents, was destroyed. five hoursimplied ponies were captured and twenty-five Indian bodies were found. It is almost certain that many more were killed.
Five soldiers and an officer were killed on our side, and twenty-five wounded, in addition to a Shoshone scout belonging to the United States service. Fifteen cavalry horses and four Indian scout horses were killed. Command then moved to a camp on Powder River, hence this report was made on the 26th instant. Lieutenant McKinney, fourth of the cavalry, who was killed, was one of the most gallant of oagents and honorable of men. General Crook, transmitting the above report, said: “I cannot praise this brilliant achievement and the bravery of the troops enough. It will be a terrible blow to the hostiles, like these Cheyennes weyou are not only the bravest of warriors, but you have led most of the raids and devilishness committed in this land.
Mackenzie’s main tactic was to capture or kill the tribe’s herd of horses. Without horses, the tribe could neither hunt effectively, nor travel far, nor wage war. Driven by famine, the Cheyenne surrendered.
In the Cheyenne Daily Sun Wyoming Territory, Saturday, May 6, 1877, a small portion of a longer article states: Our readers know the details of the Cheyenne surrender that took place at Red Cloud (agency) a few days ago. The village under the leadership of Little Wolf, Dull Knife and Standing Elk, was twice attacked and twice totally destroyed by troops from this department. In each case, the boastful and vindictive Cheyenne were led to the muzzle of guns to a more dreaded death if slower – that of starvation and frost. In the last battle, that won by General Mackenzie last December, the destruction was simply terrifying in its entirety.
Thirty of the survivors froze to death, others died of deprivation a few days after losing their home. And of the remaining 700 half-starved, unsheltered and half-clothed prisoners who laid down their arms, dozens more were maimed for life by wounds received in the named battle or else by exposure.
Many of these now in the camp Robinson hospital tell a pitiful story of their terrible suffering since this mockery struggle. They say they have had no day of peace or night amD aif they express it “,ohyour dogs never bark at night but what our women dolaugheded out of fear and we expected another attack by soldiers and Indians. Wchicken the chefs, Lsmall Wolf, dull knife and Selkposed their guns To General Crook’s feet, be he remembered that theyhelp, “We are aD shooteD. Wi want make eternal peace.
One of Mackenzie’s many injured was in the head, and later hit his head again while falling from a wagon and started having metal issues.
As a result, he retired from the military in 1884 and died in 1889. He is buried in New York State, where he lived with a sister until his death.
Most of Ranald Mackenzie’s life was spent on the battlefield, he fought in the Civil War and fought Indians in Texas, Wyoming and Montana. Fort Mackenzie is indeed honored to bear his name.