The fight against Fetterman took place 155 years ago this month – Sheridan Media
The Fetterman monument
The Fetterman Fight was one of the bloodiest battles between Native Americans and the US military in Wyoming. It happened 155 years ago, on December 21, and it happened near Story.
The Red Cloud War was a conflict between an alliance of Lakota, North Cheyenne, North Arapaho, and the United States. The war was fought for control of western Powder River country and in protest against the construction of the Gold Digger Trail to Montana. This prairie, rich in buffaloes, was under the control of the Lakota and their leader, Red Cloud.
Fort Phil Kearney, near Story, was one of the forts, along with Fort Reno near Kaycee and Fort CF Smith, MT that were built along the Bozeman Trail to protect Montana’s gold diggers from Indians Sioux. The Sioux were not impressed.
In the Wyoming Industrial Journal, Shoshoni, Wyoming, December 1909, there is this article on Red Cloud. Red Cloud was an Oglala Sioux, whose branch of the Sioux Nation lived on the buffalo ranges west of the Black Hills. Prior to 1866 they had not joined with the other Sioux in waging war on the white settlers, but by that year Red Cloud rose to prominence along with ten other deputy chiefs and was recognized by General Harney as the chief chief of the Oglalas.
Under Colonel Sawyer, in 1865, the government attempted to build a railcar route through the Powder River valley to the gold mines of Montana and Idaho. This road traversed some of the richest buffalo chains left to the Sioux Indians. In the fall of 1865, the commissioners attempted to meet with the Indians and obtain their consent to the construction of the road. Red Cloud was the only chief who refused to attend the council. At Fort. Laramie in June 1866, he attended the council and told the commissioners quietly but firmly that the last hope for survival of the Oglalas lay in the preservation of the bison and that they would not consent in any way to the opening of the road through the Powder River country. . As he spoke, General Carrington arrived with many soldiers. “Why are these soldiers coming? Red Cloud asked. “Build forts and open Montana” was the response.
There have been several Sioux attacks, like this one, taken from the article mentioned above, … Colonel Sawyer and the survey party began construction of the road under an escort of twenty-five Dakota Cavalry. Red Cloud met them near the Black Hills and protested their entry into buffalo country. Colonel Sawyer ignored the protest; then Red Cloud gathered a large number of Oglalas and Cheyennes and held the survey party in siege for a fortnight. A soldier was killed in the attack.
But, despite the efforts of the Red Cloud, the trail and forts were built. But Red Cloud’s warriors haven’t stopped their attacks on the military.
On December 21, 1866, 81 men left Fort Phil Kearney with a log train to bring firewood and were attacked by a large force of Indians operating with a well-established plan.
An article in the Cheyenne Weekly Leader from August 24, 1876, they cited a previous article from July 15 which,… .. published a full and graphic account of the Kearney massacre, of which we quote: “On the day of the massacre, the Indians attacked the log train. The assault force was apparently no larger than 30 or 40 warriors. These were driven out by the troops, and Captain Fetterman, after routing them, followed the fleeing Sioux over the cliffs and out of sight of the post. It was what the Indians expected and wanted. They seemed to retreat before Fetterman, and this officer, unsuspecting the trap laid for him and his troops, pressed them to a point where the savages were able to hold him back. Once in the Indian Hill neighborhood, they rushed between him and the fort. He saw the plan for the first time. His men, who numbered nearly ninety at the time, found little chance of escaping. Fetterman tried to force passage through the Indians, who numbered about 3,000, back over the cliffs to the post, but found it impossible. The condemned men saw their ammunition collapse. All hope was gone. They gathered around their commander and fought to kill, not to survive. The Indians waited until every ounce of lead and powder was spent. Then, seeing their white enemy practically disarmed, they rushed in and slaughtered the brave who remained.
And this one in The Wyoming Press, Evanson, Wyoming, February 10, 1900, when Congress approached to erect a monument to Fetterman’s men. The rest of the article appears below.
At December 21, 1866, Fort Phil Kearney, commanded by Colonel Henry Carrlngton, was the extreme government outpost in the Grandhor Western mountainous region. The Post was 200 miles from the telegraph lines and In one Isolitary position. Large bodies of Sioux Indians had been hovering near the post for some time. Devs. 21, the Indians attacked the log train a few miles north of the fort. A detachment of troops under the lieutenant. Colonel Fetterman including two officers and 78 men, and a number of civilians cf, made a dash of the fort in order to protect the log train, when about four miles from the fort they were surrounded by several thousand d ‘Indians and EverThe man from the detachment was killed. the the officers killed were the lieutenant. Colonel Fetterman, Captain FH Brown and Lt. Drummond.
An excerpt from Colonel Carrlngton’s report to the War Department reveals the desperate nature of combat. He said, “The road on the little ridge where the final fight took place was littered with arrows, arrowheads, scalp masts and broken spear stems. Arrows that were safely spent in all directions show that the command was suddenly overwhelmed, surrounded and cut off during the retreat. Not an officer nor a man survived. A few bodies were found at the north end of the divide where the road passes just past the Lodge Trail ridge. Almost all of them were crammed near four boulders at the point closest to the fort, these boulders enclosing an area of about six square feet, having been the last refuge for the defense. Here were found some unused Spencer cartridges. Fetterman and Brown each received a gunshot to the left temple, and I am convinced that they fell through each other rather than suffer the slow torture inflicted on the others. Pools of blood on the road and the sloping sides of the narrow divide showed where the Indians were bleeding fatally, but their bodies were washed away. I counted sixty-five of these places in the space of an acre, and three within ten feet of the Lieut. Grummond’s body. Between two rocks some distance from where most of the soldiers’ bodies were found, I found the bodies of civilians James S. Wheatly and Isaac Fisher, one with 105 arrows in his naked body. The piles of cartridges told how bravely they fought. “It is believed from an examination of the men’s bodies that almost all of them were tortured while injured. Dr Morton, post-surgeon, was of the opinion that no more than six had been killed instantly, and that the others had been maimed and tortured to death. The mutilations were frightening. (The article included all the gruesome details.)
The Fort Laramie Treaty in 1868 stipulated that the government would abandon the forts along the Bozeman Trail and included a number of provisions to encourage the tribes to move closer to the white man’s way of life. But the treaty was soon broken and after the Battle of Custer in 1876, the Indians were transferred to government reserves.
In an article in The Wyoming Press, Evanson, Wyoming, February 10, 1900
To mark Scedo not massacre. A special in the Denver Republican says the Senate Military Affairs Committee returned a favorable report on Senator Warren’s bill to provide a monument to mark the item of the nearly forgotten Fort Phil Kearney massacre that occurred in 1866 in northern Wyoming, the bill was before the last Congress passed the Senate, failing in the House. It is believed that favorable action will be received in both chambers this session. The bill provides for the Secretary of War to be responsible for marking the site of the massacre with a crude masonry monument and historic table, and that $ 500 will be spent for this purpose. The committee’s report on the bill is the story of a disastrous and disastrous Indian fight, save in casualties, like the one in which Custer and his command were overwhelmed a few years later.
Fort Phil Kearney has long been abandoned. The bodies of the officers and men who were killed in the massacre were transported in 1889 to the National Cemetery on the Custer battlefield, and there is nothing left to mark the site of this appalling disaster for our soldiers. “Massacre Hill,” where the men from Fetterman’s Command had his last fight, is on the stage line between Sheridan and Buffalo, Wyoming. It is proposed by war Ddepartment that if the monument was allowed it would be constructed of coarse masonry, something in the nature of a cairn, so that there would be no temptation on the part of the relic hunters to degrade it.
Today, this monument stands on a hill not far from Story and the former site of Fort Phil Kearney in memory of the fallen soldiers.