EARLY MILITARY HISTORY
|First United States Troops in Wyoming—First Military Posts—The Oregon Battalion—Early Indian Troubles—Protecting the Overland—Raids Along the Platte—Powder River Expedition—Affair at Platte Bridge—The Bozeman Road—The Fetterman Massacre—Red Clouds Defeat—The Troops Withdrawn—Sioux Rids on Wind River—Campaign of 1876—Custer's Last Fight—Peace at Last ... 274|
|Wyoming was settled and organized at a date too late to participate in any of the nation's early wars, but the state has nevertheless been the scene of military expeditions, conflicts with the Indians, etc., and the site of military posts of more or less historic importance. The first United States soldiers in what is now Wyoming were those forming the little detachment of twenty men who accompanied Fremont on his first exploring expedition in 1842. A few years later came the tide of emigration from the older states to the Pacific Coast, and with it came a demand for military protection along the line of the Oregon Trail. After a long and tiresome discussion. Congress passed an act providing for certain military stations along the route. This act, which was approved by President Polk on May ig, 1846, appropriated $5,000 for each post established–$2,000 to pay for the ground purchased of the Indians and $3,000 for the erection of buildings. The line of posts began at the Missouri River and were garrisoned by the "Oregon Battalion" of five companies. The battalion was raised in Missouri and was commanded by Col. Stephen W. Kearney. Posts were established in Nebraska in 1847 and 1848. The next year Lieut. Daniel P. Woodbury, of the engineer corps, was authorized to purchase Fort Laramie of the American Fur Company and the post was bought for $4,000. This was the first military station established in Wyoming by the United States authorities.|
|EARLY INDIAN TROUBLES|
| During the two years following the purchase of Fort Laramie the Indians gave very little trouble, and in 1852 the garrison there was reduced to twenty-five men, under Lieutenant Fleming. That summer an Indian fired upon the sergeant in charge of the ferry over the Laramie River. Lieutenant Fleming took twenty-three men (leaving only the ferry sergeant and two others at the fort) and went to the Indian village to arrest the offender, who had been recognized. The chief happened to be absent and the young braves declared in favor of war when Fleming made known through an interpreter the object of his visit. The lieutenant advanced with five of his men, shots were exchanged, four Indians were killed and two captured without loss on the part of the whites. Later the chief surrendered the man who had fired upon the sergeant and the captive Indians were released. The incident had the effect, however, of a slight addition being made to the garrison.|
The following year a Mormon emigrant reported to Fleming that a Sioux Indian, one of Chief Bear's band and a man noted for his evil disposition, had killed one of his cattle. Fleming sent Lieutenant Grattan, with twenty-eight men and two howitzers, to bring in the Indian. Grattan was just from West Point and knew very little of the Indian character and tactics on such occasions. His selection to lead the party was a mistake, as Fleming afterward learned to his sorrow. Upon arriving at the Sioux camp, Grattan allowed himself to be drawn into a parley, which was prolonged until he discovered that his party was about to be surrounded by the savages. He ordered a volley to be fired. Chief Bear fell mortally wounded and one Indian was killed. The Indians returned the fire and the howitzers were then brought into play, but were aimed so high that no damage was done by their discharge. The Indians then rushed upon the little detachment from all sides, and though the troops fought valiantly, only one man escaped to carry the news to the fort. The Indians, incensed by the loss of their chief, and realizing that the annihilation of Grattan's company had so weakened the garrison at the fort as to render it practically useless, turned their attention to the trading posts, several of which were attacked and robbed, after which they moved off toward the Black Hills. Three companies of infantry were then sent to Fort Laramie, under Maj. William Hoffman, and the garrison was further strengthened in 1855.
Gen. William S. Harney, with 1,500 men, marched against the Sioux Indians in the summer of 1855. On the 3d of September he attacked the camp of Little Thunder at Ash Hollow, about one hundred miles southeast of Fort Laramie, and killed quite a number of women and children and a few warriors. He then moved northward to Dakota and in the spring of 1856 held a "peace council" at Fort Pierre, but the Sioux apparently soon forgot the conditions of the agreement and continued their depredations. General Harney also established Fort Randall, in what is now South Dakota, while on this expedition.
In 1857 an expedition against the Cheyenne Indians was organized at Fort Laramie and Port Leavenworth. It was commanded by Col. E. V. Sumner, of the First United States Dragoons, and operated chiefly in Kansas and Colorado, but it wielded an influence upon the tribes farther north and for the next two or three years emigrant trains were permitted to pass through Wyoming without molestation.
|PROTECTING THE OVERLAND|
| During the winter of 1862-63 the tribes inhabiting Wyoming, relying upon the fact that the Government was engaged in prosecuting the Civil war, and encouraged by the Sioux outbreak in Minnesota the preceding summer, renewed their hostile activities along the Overland Route. Several miners were killed and emigrant trains were attacked. These demonstrations were made by the Bannock and Shoshone Indians under Chief Bear Hunter and some minor chiefs.|
Col. P. E. Connor was ordered to protect the Overland from Fort Kearney, Nebraska, to Salt Lake, and early in the year 1863 came into Wyoming. Soon after his arrival he began to make inquiries and learned that some of the Indians associated with Bear Hunter belonged to Washakie's band, who were supposed to be on friendly terms with the whites. The chief explained that he had remonstrated with his young men, who argued that the emigrants would be robbed anyhow, and that they might as well have a share of the plunder. Between Connor and the chief, most of these young warriors were induced to abandon Bear Hunter's standard, leaving him only about three hundred men with which to continue his depredations. Connor also learned that certain Mormons were in league with Bear Hunter and furnished him with information concerning every movement of the troops, whereupon the new commander hit upon a plan to break up Bear Hunter's band before his Mormon friends could learn what was going on.
He knew that Bear Hunter was encamped on the Bear River, near the western border of Wyoming. On January 22, 1863, he ordered Captain Hoyt to take Company K, Third California Infantry, twelve men of the Second California Cavalry, two howitzers under command of Lieutenant Honeyman, and fifteen wagons loaded with supplies and reconnoiter the Indian camp. Encumbered with a train of fifteen wagons. Captain Hoyt's progress was necessarily slow enough to permit the Mormons to get word to the Indians that a comparatively small detachment of troops was on the way to the camp. This was precisely what Colonel Connor intended. Late on the evening of the 24th he left camp with four companies of the Second California Cavalry, and by daylight he was nearly seventy miles away. The next day he overtook Captain Hoyt and at daybreak on the 29th the entire command was close to the Indian camp. Connor sent Major McGarry, with part of the cavalry, to get in the rear of the Indians to prevent their escape, but the ground was such that the camp could not be surrounded and his movement was discovered. The Indians, thinking this was the small force mentioned by the Mormons, rushed upon McGarry, who dismounted his men and poured a withering fire into the ranks of the approaching redskins. Hearing the firing, Connor brought up the main body of the cavalry and the howitzers also began their deadly work. The Indians retreated into a ravine, but Major McGarry succeeded in turning their flank and driving them out. As they emerged from the ravine they were ruthlessly shot down by the cavalrymen. The fight lasted about four hours, the Indians suffering a loss of 224 killed, and the guards stationed along the river before the engagement commenced reported that twenty-five others were killed while trying to cross the stream. Connor's loss was fourteen killed and fifty-three wounded. Upon General Halleck's recommendation. Colonel Connor was promoted to brigadier-general, his commission dating from March 29, 1863. Bear Hunter's band was completely broken up.
About the first of April, 1863, a band of Ute Indians, that had been annoying the stage line beyond Salt Lake, came into Wyoming. On the 3d the station at Sweetwater, guarded by twenty-six men of the Sixth Ohio Cavalry, was attacked, but the Indians were driven off. One trooper was slightly wounded. Ten days after this attack General Connor sent the following telegram to General Halleck: "Unless immediately reinforced with cavalry, the Indians, urged on by the Mormons, will break up the Overland Mail and make the emigrant road impassable."
Halleck referred the matter to General Schofield, commanding the Department of the Missouri, who ordered Maj. E. W. Wyncoop to reinforce Connor with four companies of the First Colorado Cavalry. Two troops under Major Wyncoop's command were neither mounted nor equipped and this caused a delay in carrying out the order. General Connor grew somewhat impatient and on the 28th wrote to the commander of the Department of the Pacific that the Indians were congregating in the vicinity of the Mormon settlement south of Fort Laramie, that they were encouraged by Brigham Young, who was supplying them with arms and ammunition, and that there was no doubt that Young's object was to force the Overland into a contract with him to protect the line for a certain sum, etc. He asked for reinforcements, and closed his letter by saying: "Send me the men; I will do the rest."
Reinforcements were sent and Fort Halleck, a short distance west of the Medicine Bow Mountains, was established. Early in June Connor made a peace agreement with one of the leading Shoshone bands, and it was not long until other bands begged for peace. Late in July the Ute disturbers also sued for peace and for the time the Overland was safe. Connor had fulfilled his promise.
|RAIDS ALONG THE PLATTE|
| Just at daylight on the morning of November 29, 1864, Col. John M. Chivington, commanding the District of Colorado, made an attack upon a Cheyenne village of 130 lodges and about one thousand warriors on Sand Creek, Colorado. Chiefs Black Kettle, Little Robe and White Antelope and about four hundred and fifty warriors were killed, and over four hundred mules and ponies were captured.|
Fugitives from Sand Creek reached the Cheyenne camp near the head of the Smoky Hill River, where a council was held and it was decided to "send a pipe" to the Northern Arapaho and Sioux and invite them to join the Cheyenne in a war upon the whites. The chiefs of the Arapaho and Sioux "smoked the pipe," which was equivalent to accepting the invitation. This was early in December, 1864. The chiefs waited until all the small war parties came into the camp on Cherry Creek, where a force of about one thousand warriors were gathered, and it was then determined to begin the war by an attack on Julesburg, where the Overland stages formerly forded the South Platte. Julesburg at that time consisted of the station building, of cedar logs, the stables, corrals, store and a large warehouse filled with the stage company's supplies, an express and telegraph office, and a few dwellings.
A short distance west of Julesburg, at the mouth of Lodge Pole Creek, was Fort Sedgwick, which had been established in August, 1864, and was garrisoned by a part of the Seventh Iowa Cavalry, under the command of Capt. N. J. O'Brien. Captain O'Brien was afterward chief of artillery with General Connor's Powder River expedition. He established Camp Connor (later Fort Reno) and was one of the first city officials of Julesburg. Subsequently he removed to Cheyenne, where he served in the city council, was sheriff of Laramie County, a member of the Legislature and United States marshal. The Indians knew his reputation as a fighter and adopted the plan, so often worked successfully, of drawing the troops at the fort into an ambush before the attack was made on Julesburg.
Accordingly, about daylight on January 7, 1865, Big Crow, the Cheyenne chief, selected seven of his fleetest footed warriors to show themselves in front of the fort, with the hope that the soldiers would pursue them into the sand hills, where the main body of the Indians was secreted. At first the plan promised success. When the seven Indians appeared a small detachment of troops sallied out and began the pursuit, but some of the younger warriors, in their enthusiasm, acted too quickly, the soldiers saw the situation and returned to the fort.
A few hours later a large body of Indians appeared at Julesburg. The few white men there fled to the fort, leaving the savages to plunder the warehouse. They also drove off a herd of cattle on the opposite side of the river from the town. During the remainder of the month they wrecked about seventy-five miles of the road, burning stations, cutting the telegraph wires, etc. On February 2, 1865, some of the Indians started for the North Platte, Julesburg was again plundered and this time the stage company's buildings were burned. During the day about fifty miles of telegraph line were destroyed and that night the party encamped on the ridge between Lodge Pole Creek and the South Platte, where they celebrated their victory by feasting and dancing until a late hour.
On the morning of the 4th an attack was made on the Mud Springs Ranch, where the Town of Simla, Nebraska, is now located, and ran off a large herd of cattle. Mud Springs Ranch was at that time the only station or settlement of consequence between the North and South Platte. The telegraph operator at the station called Camp Mitchell and Fort Laramie and advised the military authorities of w-hat was taking place at the ranch. Lieutenant Ellsworth, with thirty-six men of the Eleventh Ohio Cavalry, and Lieutenant-Colonel Collins, with twenty-five picked men, made a forced march from Fort Laramie and arrived at the station late on the 5th. That night 100 more men joined Lieutenant-Colonel Collins' command and the Indians moved off to the northward. On the 7th a severe fight occurred at the mouth of Brown's Creek. The result was a drawn battle, but the Indians evidently did not care for any more just then, as they retreated to the Powder River, where they joined the Ogallala Sioux and Northern Arapaho.
Collins, with his little force of 140 men, followed the Indians for some distance, and on the night of the 12th encamped near the mouth of Rush Creek, about eighty-five miles north of Julesburg. Here he was attacked by about twenty-five hundred Indians on the morning of the 13th, but with the aid of a brass twenty-four pounder he held them at bay for twenty-four hours, with a loss of three men killed and eight wounded. Just before daylight on the 14th the Indians withdrew. In April another attack was made on Collins, who was then at Mud Springs with 125 men. The Indian force on this occasion was estimated at fifteen hundred. Again Collins held the Indians in check for a whole day, when reinforcements arrived with artillery and they were completely routed. The loss of the whites in this action was two killed and eleven wounded.
|POWDER RIVER EXPEDITION|
| Minor raids upon the Overland stations along the Platte continued until spring. which led Gen. Grenville M. Dodge, commanding the Department of Missouri, to plan two expeditions into the Indian country. One of these expeditions, under Gen. Alfred Sully, was to ascend the Missouri and approach the Black Hills from the east. The other, commanded by Gen. P. E. Connor, was to attack the Indians on Powder River. Sully failed to carry out his part of the arrangement, but about the middle of May Connor marched from Julesburg and soon reached Fort Laramie. There he found a number of volunteer soldiers who were very much dissatisfied. They claimed that the three years for which they had enlisted were expired, that the war with the South was over, and that they were entitled to their discharge. When Connor's order for them to join the expedition was read they refused to join the expedition. Connor ordered a battery of artillery to be trained upon the mutineers, which caused them to reconsider their refusal, and on July 5, 1865, they left Fort Laramie, under command of Colonel Walker of the Sixteenth Kansas Cavalry. About the same time Colonel Cole marched from Columbus, Nebraska, under orders to effect a junction with Colonel Walker.|
General Connor left Fort Laramie on the 2d of August with the greater part of the Seventh Iowa Cavalry, the Second California Cavalry, ninety-five Pawnee scouts, commanded by Maj. Frank North, and about the same number of Omaha and Winnebago scouts—about seven hundred men in all. Crossing the Platte River near the La Bonte crossing, Connor moved up the river to a point near where Fort Fetterman was afterward built. There he turned toward the northwest and struck Powder River about half way between the mouth of Nine Mile Creek and the mouth of Crazy Woman Fork, where Camp Connor (afterward Fort Reno) was established. A few days later some of the Pawnee scouts found an Indian trail and followed it until the next morning, when they came upon a party of Cheyennes just in the act of breaking camp. The scouts attacked the camp, recovered a lot of plunder that had been taken from the Overland stations earlier in the year, captured twenty-nine horses and reported to Connor that all the Cheyennes were killed. Four of the captured horses bore the Government brand and one bore the brand of the Overland Stage Company. Not one of the scouts was killed or wounded, but they lost four horses.
Early in September Connor moved over to the Tongue River. On the 8th, having heard nothing from Cole and Walker, he sent Major North, with twenty of his scouts, back to Powder River to look for their trail. On the nth North rejoined the command and reported that he had found over five hundred dead cavalry horses and in the ashes of fires the remains of saddles, from which it was supposed that Cole's command had been annihilated by the Indians. North was instructed to make a further search, and on the 19th found the men in a starving condition, with only about six hundred horses, and those unfit for service. Cole reported that while passing through the bad lands they were afraid to allow the horses to graze, for fear they would stray away or be captured by the Indians, and that the horses actually died of starvation. He was then forced to burn his saddles and wagons to prevent their falling into the hands of the enemy.
Cole and Walker formed a junction north of the Black Hills and east of the Little Missouri River. The two commanders quarreled regarding the course to be pursued. On September 8, 1865, near the mouth of the Little Powder River, they were attacked by about three thousand Sioux. Cole had managed to retain his artillery, which was the only thing that held the Indians in check. They reached Camp Connor, guided by Major North, on the 24th.
About the time Connor left the Powder River, the Pawnee scouts came upon a plain trail and followed it for twenty miles, when they discovered a strong village of nearly three hundred lodges. A messenger was sent back to Connor, who hurried forward with some four hundred men and two pieces of artillery. The village proved-to be Black Bear's band of Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians. Fire was opened with the artillery and a large number of Indians were killed, the rest seeking safety in flight. Some women and children and nearly seven hundred horses were captured.
When General Dodge received the first news of Cole and Walker's movements, he believed their march into the Indian country' was a victorious advance, but when General Connor sent in his report relating to that part of the expedition, it showed a humiliating retreat. It was impossible for Connor to foresee the disagreement between Cole and Walker, which resulted in the failure of their part of the campaign. Nevertheless, he was criticized for his general conduct of the expedition and was withdrawn from Wyoming, much to his personal regret and the regret of many of the officers and men who served under him.
|AFFAIR AT PLATTE BRIDGE|
| After the Southern Cheyenne came north in the spring of 1865 to raid the Overland stage stations, they encamped on Powder River, near the Northern Cheyenne, and for some time the two bands joined in daily feasts. Then they moved over to the Little Powder River to hunt bufifalo, and in the latter part of May passed over to the Tongue River, which they ascended to the Big Horn Mountains. There the chiefs held a war council, at which it was decided to continue the raids upon the emigrant roads along the Platte. On May 20, 1865, a party of Northern Cheyenne raided the Deer Creek station, which had been abandoned by the stage company and was then occupied by a small detachment of the Eleventh Kansas Cavalry. In the fight which ensued one soldier was killed and the Indians succeeded in running off about twenty horses.|
At Platte Bridge, where the City of Casper now stands, was a small military post called "Camp Dodge," which was garrisoned by two companies of the Eleventh Kansas Cavalry. This post seemed to be the one most hated by the Indians. About the middle of July a large party of Sioux and Cheyenne, under the leadership of Young-Man-Afraid-of-His-Horse, struck the river some thirty miles below the post and moved up the stream, finally going into camp on a small creek behind the hills, where they could not be seen from the fort. No hostile demonstrations were made until July 25th, when the Indians undertook to stampede some horses that were grazing below the bridge. A detail of troops went out and succeeded in driving the horses within the stockade. The Indians started to follow, when the chief High Backed Wolf was sent to bring them back. Instead of obeying orders, he joined with the others, crossed the river and led the attack against the post. The howitzer was brought into action and a number of the savages were killed, among them High Backed Wolf. After his death the Indians withdrew and the fighting was over for the time.
Before daylight the next morning one-half of the Indians concealed themselves below the bridge and the other half above. They then tried the old trick of sending out a small party as a decoy, hoping the soldiers would pursue and be caught in the ambush. It so happened that Sergt. Amos J. Custard was conducting a wagon train from Sweetwater to Camp Dodge. This train came in sight early on the morning of the 26th, on the hills some two miles west of the fort, and the howitzer was fired to warn the escort that Indians were in the neighborhood. Custard ordered a corporal to take five men and go forward to see what the firing meant. These six men were soon cut off, though two of them hid in the bushes along the river and managed to reach the fort that afternoon. The nineteen men of the train escort were surrounded, but fought valiantly until 3 o'clock in the aftenoon before they were all killed.
It was not quite 7 o'clock when the train was first seen coming over the hills, and Major Howard, commandant at Camp Dodge, ordered Sergeant Hankhammer to take twenty-five men and go to its relief. Lieut. Caspar W. Collins of the Eleventh Ohio Cavalry, who had just arrived at the post the day before, begged permission to command the relief party, although some of his friends tried to persuade him to remain in the fort. Major Howard granted his request, however, and at the head of his little troop he rode out of the fort, crossed the bridge and moved up the road to meet the train. The Indians knew nothing of the train up to this time, and supposed that Collins and his little squad of cavalry were following the decoy that had been sent forward for the purpose of leading the troops into an ambush. When about half a mile from the bridge, Collins found himself surrounded by five hundred or more yelling Indians, and upon looking toward the hills saw seven or eight hundred more coming down from the bluffs. Major Howard at the fort also saw the perilous situation of the relief party and ordered Captain Greer, Company I, Eleventh Kansas Cavalry, to take his company and try to open a retreat for Collins. Captain Greer charged across the bridge and poured a deadly fire into the Indians, which caused them to fall back, and Collins gave the order to make for the bridge. The one howitzer at the fort also opened fire upon the Indians, but it was too late. Of the twenty-five men who went out with Collins, eight were killed and seven wounded, Collins himself being among the fomier.
There are two stories as to the manner in which Lieutenant Collins met his death. One is that he stopped to aid a wounded trooper, who begged his comrades not to leave him behind, and the other is that his horse became unmanageable and carried him into the ranks of the enemy. There is probably some truth in both of these accounts. He may have halted to assist a wounded comrade, but it is quite certain that his horse ran away. His body was found on the 29th, about a mile and a half from the fort, on the bank of the creek which still bears his name. On November 21, 1865, Maj. Gen. John Pope issued the following order;
"The military post situated at Platte Bridge, between Deer and Rock creeks, on the Platte River, will hereafter be known as Fort Casper, in honor of Lieut. Casper Collins, Eleventh Ohio Cavalry, who lost his life while gallantly attacking a superior force of Indians at that place."
|THE BOZEMAN ROAD|
| In the spring of 1863, John M. Bozeman. a citizen of Montana, assisted by J. M. Jacobs, selected a route for a wagon road from the Red Buttes on the Platte River to the three forks of the Missouri River in Western Montana. This road ran through the country of the Crow and Sioux Indians and was the shortest route from Fort Laramie to the Montana mines. It was not originally intended for a military road, and, in fact, was opened without the sanction of the Government. The Indians objected to emigrants passing through their territory, but the road soon became a thoroughfare almost as well known as the celebrated Oregon Trail and the United States authorities were forced to recognize it. Late in the year 1865 the Government tried to induce the Indians to consent to a right of way through their country to Montana. Several of the Sioux bands gave their consent, but the Cheyenne and Ogallala Sioux refused to sign the agreement. On June 1, 1865, Col. H. E. Maynadier, commandant at Fort Laramie, E. B. Taylor, superintendent of Indian affairs, Thomas Wistar of Philadelphia, and R. N. McLaren of Minnesota, acting as commissioners for the United States, met the principal chiefs at Fort Laramie and concluded a treaty of peace. The immigration to the Montana mines was then at its height and one thing demanded by the commissioners was a right of way for the Bozeman Road from the Platte River to Bozeman, Mont. To this all the tribes agreed except the Ogallala Sioux. Red Cloud, the head chief of the Ogallala, made a speech, in which he accused the commissioners of acting in bad faith in asking the Indians to give their consent, when the white men had already taken what they wanted, after which he withdrew from the council.|
In one sense of the word Red Cloud was right, for on March 10, 1866, nearly three months before the council was held at Fort Laramie, General Pope organized the Mountain District and ordered the establishment of two military posts for the protection of the Bozeman Road. This order was addressed to Col. H. B. Carrington of the Eighteenth United States Infantry, then stationed at Fort Kearney, Nebraska. Colonel Carrington left Fort Kearney on May 19, 1866, and arrived at Fort Laramie before the conclusion of. the council above mentioned. While there he received instructions from General Pope to name the two new posts Fort Philip Kearny and Fort C. F. Smith. Early in July, with 700 men, Carrington left Fort Laramie. Red Cloud warned him not to enter the Indian country for the purpose of establishing new forts, and with some three hundred warriors hung on the heels of the expedition. Several slight skirmishes occurred, and as Carrington was hampered with over two hundred mule teams transporting supplies for the new posts it required all his skill to protect the teams and wagons.
Upon reaching Camp Connor (Fort Reno) part of the force was left to garrison that post and the remainder moved on up to the Bozeman Road to Big Piney Creek, near the northern boundary of the present Johnson County, where on July 15, 1866, Fort Philip Kearny was staked off. Early in August Fort C. F. Smith was located on the Big Horn River, about ninety miles northwest of Fort Philip Kearny, and the remainder of Carrington's force was used to garrison the two new posts. Thus his force of 700 men was divided into three parts and Carrington established his headquarters at Fort Philip Kearny, which was completed on the 21 St of October. While it was under construction the trains sent out to bring timber to the fort were constantly annoyed by Indians and pickets were maintained on the Sullivant Hills to watch their movements. Scarcely was the fort finished when some of Red Cloud's band attempted to stampede the horses grazing near. A party sent out to recover the horses was attacked and several troopers were killed or wounded. During the two weeks following the completion of the fort, eight attacks were made on emigrant and supply trains between Fort Reno and Fort Philip Kearny.
|THE FETTERMAN MASSACRE|
| Never was the old adage, "Eternal vigilance is the price of Liberty," better verified than in the early days of Fort Philip Kearny. Almost daily attacks were made upon the trains bringing wood to the post, and the pickets stationed upon the Sullivant Hills were never relaxed when any of the garrison was outside the stockade. Early in December Capt. W. J. Fetterman was sent out with forty men to protect the wood train and followed the attacking party of Indians into a place where he was almost surrounded. Prompt action on the part of Colonel Carrington, in coming to the rescue was all that saved the detachment from utter annihilation. As it was only one man was killed and two were wounded.|
On December 21, 1866, the pickets on Sullivant Hills signaled the fort that the wood train was again attacked. Carrington selected forty-nine men from his own regiment (the Eighteenth Infantry) and twenty-seven men from the Ninth Cavalry to go to the relief of the train. He first gave the command to Capt. James Powell, with Lieutenant Grummond to command the cavalry, but Captain Fetterman, who was probably anxious to redeem himself from his mistake of a few weeks before, begged to be given the command, and claimed the right on account of seniority. Carrington granted his request, but warned him not to follow the Indians beyond Lodge Trail Ridge, an elevation a short' distance southwest of the fort. Just why this warning was ignored will never be known, but Fetterman moved back of the Sullivant Hills, probably with the intention of cutting off the attacking party from the main body of the Indians. In a short time firing was heard on the other side of Lodge Trail Ridge and Carrington ordered Captain Ten Eyck to reinforce Fetterman. Says Grinnell: "When the relief party looked down from the top of Lodge Trail Ridge no soldiers were to be seen, but all over the valley, and above all along the ridge running down to Clear Creek, were Indians riding about and shouting their war cries, evidently celebrating a triumph."
Captain Ten Eyck sent a messenger to report to Carrington and then descended to the scene of the slaughter. That evening wagons brought in the bodies of forty-nine of the victims of the massacre and the others were recovered the next day. Not a man of Fetterman's command lived to tell the tale, but from the Indians it was learned that a small party mounted on fast horses was used as a decoy to draw the soldiers into an ambush–an old trick, and one that it might be supposed the soldiers would learn in time, but it seldom failed to work.
Through the efforts of Hon. Frank Mondell, member of Congress from Wyoming, the site of Fetterman's defeat is marked by a monument erected by the Government on "Massacre Hill," about five miles from the site of Fort Philip Kearny. The monument, built of boulders, was dedicated on July 4, 1908. Among those present were General Carrington and a few of the survivors of his command in 1866. Fastened to the monument is a bronze shield, which bears the following inscription: "On this field on the 21st day of December, 1866, three commissioned officers and seventy-six privates of the Eighteenth United States Infantry and the Ninth United States Cavalry, and four civilians, under the command of Captain and Brevet Lieut.-Col. William J. Fetterman, were killed by an overwhelming force of Sioux under command of Red Cloud. There were no survivors."
|RED CLOUD'S DEFEAT|
| In the spring of 1867 reinforcements were sent into Wyoming for the purpose of organizing an expedition against Red Cloud. For some reason the original design was not carried into effect, the troops remaining quartered at the military posts and in summer camps along the Platte River. Red Cloud lingered in the vicinity of Fort Philip Kearny, against which post he seemed to hold a vindictive hatred. By the middle of July he had collected a force of about three thousand warriors, intending to take the fort by assault. On the last day of July, Capt. James Powell, of the Eighteenth Infantry, with fifty-one men, went to the timber along Piney Creek, about five miles from the fort, as an escort and guard to the workmen employed by the contractor, J. R. Porter. Indian spies were watching every movement made by the garrison, and Red Cloud determined to cut off the escort, which would lessen the resistance of the garrison when he attacked the fort. The attempt was not made, however, until the 2d of August. On that day another small party was sent out to guard the live stock while grazing. Some of Powell's men had returned to the fort, but thirty-two still remained on guard at the wood-cutters' camp. This gave Red Cloud an opportunity, as he thought, to cut off two parties at the same time.|
Some two hundred Indians were sent to attack the herders and a force of about five hundred was thrown against the wood camp. Most of the former managed to reach the fort in safety, and Captain Powell received warning of the approach of the Indians in time to prepare for defense. The wagon beds used by the contractor were made of iron, or were wooden boxes shod with iron of sufficient thickness to resist an ordinary bullet. (This has been denied by some of the soldiers who took part in the affair, but Captain Powell's official report is responsible for the statement.) These wagon beds were hurriedly arranged in a circle, inside of which the thirty-two men took their stand. They were armed with the new breech-loading rifles, and Captain Powell, aware of the fact that their only hope was "a cool head and a steady aim," ordered that the poor marksmen should keep the rifles loaded for those more expert. They had not long to wait until the yelling hordes appeared, evidently expecting an easy victory. On they came until near enough to make the aim of the little band behind the wagon beds certain, when the breech-loading rifles began their deadly work. Not a bullet went wild and the savages recoiled before that withering fire.
When Red Cloud saw the wholesale slaughter of his best warriors he decided to change his tactics. Dismounting his men, they crawled forward through the grass and shrubbery, hoping to get near enough to rush upon the defenders and carry their position by storm. But the attempt was a failure. Every time an Indian exposed himself his earthly career was cut short by a bullet "from a rifle that was never empty," while the balls fired by the assailants flattened themselves against the iron wagon bodies and were thus rendered harmless. More Indians were brought up. but Red Cloud's entire force proved unable to conquer the thirty-two brave men, who remembered the fate of Fetterman's men and fought with the fury of desperation. After more than three hours, during which repeated attacks were made, the Indians withdrew, leaving hundreds of their number dead upon the field. Powell's loss was insignificant. His brave stand, with its unexpected results, had a crushing effect upon Red Cloud, and Fort Philip Kearny was allowed to remain unmolested until it was abandoned about a year later.
| Among Powell's men was on old frontiersman, who was an expert marksman and was one of those selected to do the shooting. Some time later he met General Dodge, who asked him how many Indians were in the attacking party. To this the old trapper replied: "Wall, General, I reckon there was about three thousand."|
"And how many were killed ?" asked Dodge.
"I can't say for sartin, but I've heard about a thousand."
"How many did you kill?"
"I don't know. General, but I kept eight guns pretty well het up for more'n three hours.
|THE TROOPS WITHDRAWN|
|In the meantime, when the news of the Fetterman Massacre reached the East, it caused much excitement. Colonel Carrington was severely criticized, and he in turn complained that Gen. P. St. George Cooke, the department commander, had refused reinforcements and that 700 men were not sufficient to garrison three posts in the heart of the hostile Indian country. President Johnson ordered an investigation, the result of which was the withdrawal of the troops from the Powder River country, in accordance with the treaties then in existence. Forts Reno, Philip Kearny and C. F. Smith were therefore abandoned in August. 1868. The buildings at Fort Philip Kearny were afterward burned by Little Wolf.|
|SIOUX RAIDS ON WIND RIVER|
| The territorial government of Wyoming was organized in the spring of 1869. In his message to the first Legislature the following October. Governor Campbell mentioned the Sioux raid in the Wind River valley, about the time he came into office, when four white men were killed and a number of horses and mules were stolen by the Indians. The raid was reported to the governor by the commissioners of Carter County. Governor Campbell asked the commander of the military department for troops for the protection of the settlers in that section. Two companies–one of infantry and one of cavalry–were ordered to the valley, and one still remained on duty there at the time of the meeting of the Legislature.|
On July 3, 1869, another raid was made by the Sioux and again four white men were killed, but the Indians were driven off by the two companies above mentioned before they could do any further mischief. On the 28th of the same month a raid was made upon the mining settlements and three men engaged in mining near Atlantic City were killed. At the request of Governor Campbell, the department commander sent a supply of arms and ammunition to the commissioners of Carter County to be distributed among the citizens. When the Sioux discovered that the people were being armed they withdrew and no further hostile demonstrations were made, though the settlers remained watchful until the Sioux were quartered on their reservations.
|CAMPAIGN OF 1876|
| For several years after the organization of the Territory of Wyoming the Indians continued to commit depredations upon the frontier settlements. During the years 1874 and 1875 General Crook, whose headquarters were at Omaha, made some incursions into the Indian country, but no permanent benefit was derived from such movements. At that time the hostile Indians about the Black Hills and the region of the Powder River numbered several thousands and the outlook for the settlers was anything but encouraging. President Grant, Generals Sherman, Sheridan, and other military commanders held a consultation and decided to send a force of troops large enough to bring the Indians to terms.|
Early in 1876 General Crook started against the Sioux, Northern Cheyenne, Arapaho and other tribes in the vicinity of the Black Hills. Near the head of the Rosebud Creek the Indians met with such a positive check at the hands of Crook that it amounted almost to a defeat. Crook then took up a strong position and waited for reinforcements, which he knew were on the way. On May 29th Gen. A. H. Terry reached the Little Missouri River and opened communication with Crook. General Gibbon pame up from the west, and on June 8th joined Terry near the mouth of the Powder River. It was known that the main body of the Indians were then near the mouth of the Little Big Horn. With Terry was Gen. George A. Custer, one of the most dashing cavalry commanders in the United States army. The plan proposed by Terry, and adopted, was for Custer to take a position on the east, to cut off escape in that direction, after which Gibbon was to close in on the Indian village and drive the Indians either upon Custer or upon Crook, whose position was farther to the south.
The story of "Custer's Last Fight," when he and his command were all killed on June 25, 1876, on the Little Big Horn, has been written so many times that it is deemed unnecessary to repeat the story in all its details here. It has been charged that Custer acted without orders and attacked the camp, instead of waiting to cut off the escape of the Indians after Gibbon opened the engagement. This charge is sustained in a letter written by General Gibbon to Terry under date of November 6, 1876, in which the writer says:
"So great was my fear that Custer's zeal would carry him forward too rapidly, that the last thing I said to him when bidding him good-by, after his regiment had filed past you when starting on his march, was, 'Now, Custer, don't be greedy, but wait for us.' He replied gaily, as with a wave of his hand he dashed off to follow his regiment, 'No, I will not.' * * * Except so far as to draw profit from past experience, it is perhaps useless to speculate as to what would have been the result had your plan, as originally agreed upon, been carried out. But I cannot help reflecting that in case my column, supposing the Indian camp to have remained where it was when Custer struck it, would have been the first to reach it; that with our infantry and Catling guns we should have been able to take care of ourselves, even though numbering about two-thirds of Custer's force, and that with six hundred cavalry in the neighborhood, led as only Custer could lead it, the result to the Indians would have been very different from what it was."
After the defeat of Custer the Indians broke up into small bands and occupied different camps, which changed the whole plan of the campaign. Several small fights occurred during the months of August and September, but none was of sufficient importance to render the Indians tractable. General Crook then decided upon a winter campaign. He collected a force of 1,600 soldiers and about four hundred Indians (mostly Pawnee), and after the capture of Red Cloud's and Swift Bear's camps organized his Big Horn expedition at Fort Fettennan. Leaving there on November 14, 1876, he moved northward into the Indian country. On the 20th some of his scouts brought in a young Cheyenne, who said Crazy Horse was located on the Rosebud and that there was a small Indian village on the upper Powder River. Two days later, while camped on the Crazy Woman Fork of the Powder, scouts brought the information that a large village, under Dull Knife and Wild Hog, was located farther up the Crazy Woman Fork in the Big Horn Mountains.
Gen. R. S. Mackenzie, with 1,100 troops and 300 Indians, was despatched to capture the village. On the 25th some Arapaho scouts definitely located the village and by making a night march it was surrounded without arousing the inmates. At dawn on the 26th the order was given to charge. Mackenzie's men advanced from all sides and the Indians were thrown into a panic. A few gained the mountains west of the village and attempted to put up a defense, but the village was completely destroyed. Dull Knife and Wild Hog both managed to escape, and spent the winter with Crazy Horse (Sioux) on the lower Powder River. In the spring of 1877 they surrendered and joined in the agreements made the preceding year, by which all the country between the Platte and Powder rivers had been ceded to the white men. From this time on the settlers of Wyoming enjoyed greater security.