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Fetterman Massacre


In August 2008 I visited the Fetterman Massacre battlefield. I really don't like that name for it, preferring Fetterman Fight or Fetterman Battlefield instead. It seems if the Indians won it was a massacre, but if the US Army or whites won it was a battle or fight.

The battlefield site is near Fort Phil Kearny in Wyoming. It was easy to get to and well marked. The grounds were well maintained and the information plaques on the battlefield were informative and in good condition. The monument was dedicated on July 3, 1908 after two years of construction by local stonemasons. Veterans of Fort Phil Kearny attended the ceremony and recounted the events of the December 21, 1866 battle involving Captain William Judd Fetterman and Plains Indian tribes. The battlefield is easy walking and is about one mile in length.

A brief version of the battle has Captain Fetterman and his men being lured out of sight of Fort Phil Kearny by a very small band of Indians lead by the great leader Crazy Horse. When Captain Fetterman, his US 18th Infantry and the US 2nd Cavalry, totaling 81 men, got to the battlefield site approximately 1,200 other Indian Warriors were waiting for them. The US Army fought it's way back to where the monument is, were surrounded and destroyed. No US Army or civilian personnel survived. Chief Red Cloud is mentioned as leading the Indian attackers (or defenders it could be argued) on the bronze plaque adorning the monument, however most modern historians doubt his presence.

It was quite exciting to be able to see the wagon train ruts of the Bozeman Trail still remaining. The Bozeman Trail was established in 1863 and about one thousand immigrants a year traveled it until 1866. It was then used for freight and military wagons. The trail was closed in 1868 as the Trans-Continental Railroad took over and civilian use of it was forbidden in the Treaty of 1868. General George Crook used the trail again in the Sioux Wars of 1876.

 The monument.

Closeup of the plaque.

The monument and stone fence.

This plaque gives the history of the monument.

A view from the battlefield looking back at the monument.

Indians hid here awaiting the doomed US Army Soldiers.

Beautiful mountains surrounding the battlefield.

Most of the Indian Warriors hid here.

Indian Warrior Big Nose died here.

A view of the battlefield from the midpoint looking away from the monument.

The Bozeman Trail wagon ruts. They show up much better in person than in photos.

Captain William Judd Fetterman.


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