The Online Encyclopedia of Wyoming History

Visiting Fetterman Fight Site

Visiting Fetterman Fight Site

Near Fort Phil Kearny in December 1866 in what’s now northern Wyoming, Lakota Sioux and Cheyenne warriors ambushed and killed Capt. William Fetterman and his entire command of 80 men. Fetterman’s arrogance has long been blamed for the disaster, but new evidence shows a more complex and interesting story.

For info and mapped directions on how to visit the Fetterman Battlefield and seven other Indian Wars sites in Wyoming, visit http://www.wyohistory.org/travel/historic-indian-wars-sites and download the QR-coded brochure, “Travel Wyoming’s Indian Wars Sites with WyoHistory.org.”

To hear three minutes of audio information about each of the sites, smartphone and tablet users can download the free app, TravelStorysGPS at http://www.travelstorysgps.com/, go to the Indian Wars tour, and find three minutes of audio information about each of eight historic sites from Fort Laramie to the Connor Battlefield north of Sheridan.

Here are some questions to raise during the bus ride:

  • Make a list of the animals seen along the way, both domestic and wild.  Which ones would benefit trail travelers, and which ones would be a hindrance? Which were of the most importance to the Indians in the region?
  • Where is the Bozeman Trail? When was it built? Why was it built?
  • Where is the Powder River Basin located? Why was this area important during the 1860s and 1870s?
  • Where did the Fetterman Fight occur? Where was the nearest fort and what was its name?

Arriving at the site of the Fetterman Fight:

  • What do you see when you look at the location where this fight took place? Why is the landscape important to this fight?
  • How was this fight important in Red Cloud’s War?
  • What duties were Capt. Fetterman and his troops supposed to be tending that day? Was this unusual or routine? How many men were with him?
  • Who else was involved in the battle? Name the tribes. How many warriors were there?
  • Why did the fight happen? How long did it last?
  • Was anyone killed?
  • How many miles away from Fort Phil Kearny did this fight occur?
  • What happened to the commander of Fort Phil Kearny, Col. Henry B. Carrington, after the battle?

Back in the classroom after the visit:

  • Different accounts of this battle give differing opinions about whether Fetterman was a brash, disobedient officer or whether he followed Carrington’s orders that day. How did the confusion arise? Which opinion do you think is correct and why?
  • Who was Lt. George Grummond? What role might he have had in the conflict?
  • Write a story from Fetterman’s perspective. Write one from the point of view of Crazy Horse.

Note to teachers:

This lesson addresses a number of the Wyoming State Social Studies Standards detailed in the 2013 draft of Wyoming Social Studies Content and Performance Standards, benchmarked for the ends of grades 2, 5, 8 and 12. All are available at http://edu.wyoming.gov/sf-docs/publications/DRAFT_2013_Social_Studies_Standards.pdf?

More specifically, the lesson addresses Content Standard 4, Time, Continuity and Change, under which students analyze events, people, problems, and ideas within their historical contexts, and Content Standard 5, People, Places and Environments, under which students apply their knowledge of the geographic themes (location, place, movement, region, and human/environment interactions) and skills to demonstrate an understanding of interrelationships among people, places, and environment.

Under Content Standard 4, the lesson addresses standards SS5.4.4. SS8.4.4 and SS12.4.4, which call for students to discuss, identify or describe historical interactions between and among individuals, families, and cultural/ethnic groups, and standards SS5.4.5, SSD8.4.5 and 12.4.5, which call for students to understand the difference between primary and secondary sources, and how to use them in their research.

Under Content Standard 5, this lesson addresses the Human Place and Movement standards SS2.5.3, SS5.5.3 (which specifically mentions American Indians and the Oregon Trail), SS8.5.3 and SS12.5.3, and the Environment and Society standards SS2.5.4, SS5.5.4, SS8.5.4 and SS12.5.4, which call on students to understand how people in Wyoming adjust and have adjusted to their physical and geographical environment.