an impressive stone monument and memorial plaque marks the site of this tragic battle, one
of the few in American military history in which an entire command was wiped out. A
walking path has also been developed in recent years along the ridge, with over 30 signs
interpreting the battle from both the military and Indian points of view. And
archaeology is being planned for this summer which may well add to our knowledge. (See
News page for details on the archaeology project). Tours of the site have been given most
years during Bozeman Trail Days.
On December 21, 1866, Lakota Sioux,
Northern Cheyenne and Arapaho warriors staged an ambush some three miles from Fort
Phil Kearny. Ordered to rescue a besieged wood-wagon train, Captain William J.
Fetterman and 80 men were decoyed over Lodge Trail Ridge by a small number of Indians led
by the young Lakota Sioux warrior, Crazy Horse, into a trap where over 1000 warriors
waited in hiding. Fetterman's pursuit over the ridge, in violation of Carrington's orders,
led to the death of the entire command.
shooting started about noon, and was over by 12:30. Many of the bodies were found by Capt.
Ten Eyck that afternoon. They were stipped and mutilated much in the same manner as
were the Cheyenne at the Sand Creek massacre earlier. Indian oral history accounts
indicate that Fetterman himself was killed by famous Sioux warrior, American Horse (Note:
This is not the same American Horse who died at the Slim Buttes Battle of 1876).
Fetterman pursue the Indians over Lodge Trail Ridge after being warned by his Commanding
Officer not to? And was he, or Lt. Grummond, at fault--this is being newly argued today.
Was Chief Red Cloud present? Exactly how did the battle flow?
archaeological investigations of the site and Indian oral history accounts add greatly to
our understanding, many details will be forever shrouded in mystery.
Only the Battle of the Little Big
Horn stands as a worse defeat for the United States Army and a greater victory for the
Note: Dee Brown's book, originally titled Fort Phil Kearny: An American Saga and
later re-titled The Fetterman Massacre is, after close to 35 years, still
considered the classic study on the early history of the Post. Wild West Magazine
of December, 1997, contained a comprehensive article on the Fetterman Fight by McCune and