FORT PHIL KEARNY, DAKOTA TERRITORY, 1866-1868
From information edited from "Bozeman Trail Scrapbook" by Elsa Spear, and from the interpretive signage, by Robert C. Wilson, installed at the Fort in  2001.

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Fort Phil Kearny, from a drawing by Buglar Nicolai, June 23, 1867, with friendly Crow Indians  camped near the fort and sentries stationed at intervals to protect them. Hostile Indians are barely visible on the skyline.  The huge garrison flag is close to actual scale.

     (NOTE: No photographs have ever been found of Fort Phil Kearny. Dee Brown believes that Smithsonian photographer, Ridgway Glover, whose equipment was inoperable, may have gotten it fixed, taken photos, and sent them back to the Philadephia Enquirer.  But years of search by Brown, and later by  Smithsonian photo archivist, Paula Fleming, have turned up nothing.  Glover was killed by Indians on September 15, 1866).

INTRODUCTION:

     Colonel Henry B. Carrington reached Piney Creek on the Bozeman Trail the 13th of July, 1866.  At Crazy Woman's Fork, he had reported that it was 112 degrees in the shade.  After a reconnaissance on Goose Creek and Tongue River, it was decided to build the post on a plateau between the forks of Little Piney Creek.

      The Fort was build of pine logs, cut and hauled from the foothills of the Big Horns, about seven miles west. A train of up to 90 wagons was employed to haul logs from the Pinery (near where Story, Wyoming is today).  Carpenters, blacksmiths, wheelwrights, harness makers and other workmen came as civilian employees.  Mowing machines, plows and garden tools were introduced into the virgin wilderness.  Four blockhouses were built to protect the woodchoppers and teamsters employed.  The first 6 months after the posts was established there were 154 persons killed by the Indians, and about 700 head of cattle, mules and horses captured.

THE STOCKADE:

     The Fort was built 600 feet by 800 feet, enclosed with a stockade of heavy logs placed three feet in the ground and standing eight feet high.  Machinery from the two sawmills was brought with the expedition and the mills were set up on Little Piney Creek and put into operation at once.  Brick and shingle machines were included.  The square spikes to nail the logs were about 5" long.   Firing notches cut along the stockade banquet at every fifth log, with blockhouses or gun-bastions built on two opposite corners.  There were gates on all sides.   Five guard stands provided 24 hour surveillance of the grounds both inside and outside the post.

ENLISTED MAN'S QUARTERS: Better than Nothing

     Some of the first structures built, the first four enlisted-men's barracks were 24x84 foot, green-log, panel constructed buildings with dirt roofs and floors. Each barracks was expected to house about 87 men. The men lived in an open bay with cast-iron stoves providing heat.  The roofs leaked in the rain, providing homes for snakes, mice, and all sorts of critters.  The green-log building material shrank as it dried, leaving gapes in the walls, and the dirt floors turned to mud.  The enlisted man was poorly paid, poorly fed, and poorly housed.  But it was better than nothing, if only slightly.

CAVALRYMAN'S QUARTERS: Few and Far Between

     It is a false perception that the frontier posts of the American West were garrisoned with large troops of cavalry.  Actually, a post's usual population was largely infantry with a few cavalry for support, reconnaissance, escort, or mail delivery.  It was not until November 2, 1866 that any cavalry were stationed at the post.  They were finally housed in a large, new 100 x 25 foot log panel constructed barracks with a shingle roof.  Nearby was a 250 x 32 foot board and batten stables with corral, saddler's shop, and a blacksmith.  Unfortunately, of those troops available on December 21, 1866 all were killed in the Fetterman Fight, leaving their quarters empty.

OFFICERS ROW:

     Officers row was a group of seven to ten non-described wooden structures providing housing for officers and their families, and included surgeons, chaplains, and quartermasters.  They were probably a combination lumber, log, canvas, and dirt construction with one room, seldom larger than 24 x 30 feet, and were the last living quarters built at the fort.  Officers and their families were considered of a higher social order than the enlisted men and were expected to remain aloof except during duty, and never socialize.  Officers social events included dances, picnics, teas, rides, and more.

     On moving from the first officers' quarters, made up of two A-tents,  into her log home Frances Grummond  writes, "The house was made of pine logs, recently felled and not quite dry, and small pine poles were covered with clay for the roof.  Beneath were three--yes, actually three--rooms.  In my haste to move...I tacked blankets around the bed space, ..Pieces of sheeting answered for window shades and old newspapers covered the kitchen windows.  The company taylor sewed gunny sacks from which the corn had been hurriedly emptied and I soon had a carpet.   My residence seemed patatial."

THE BAND QUARTERS:

     The 18th Infantry's 40 piece regimental band was housed in a 24 x 64 foot wooden constructed, dirt-roofed barracks.   Besides sounding commands or music to march by, members might be called on to act as messengers or medical orderlies in combat.  Band members also built Carrington's house, and served as clerks and supply personnel.

    The members carried Spencer carbines though they seldom went into combat. Following the December 6th, 1866 skirmish, Colonel Carrington transferred these weapons to the cavalry.  All the weapons were lost in the Fetterman Fight two weeks later.  The first death at the Fort was the Bandmaster, Master-Sergeant William Curry.

POST HEADQUARTERS:

     Here the commander issued his orders to Forts Phil Kearny, C.F. Smith, and Reno.  During its existence, the 25 x 50 foot, one-inch plank board building was an office for Colonels Henry B. Carrington, Henry Wessells, and Jonathon Smith.  The building was also the communication center for flag signalmen receiving and sending messages to Pilot Knob and other points.  In 1867,  Quartermaster Captain George Dandy described the building as "needing torn down."  Yet it continued to function in a number of uses.  One was as a school house, in which Chaplain White taught classes for the 10 children of 17 families on post.

SUTLER'S STORE:  A Social Club

     Fort Phil Kearny's Sutler's store was established and built by John Kinney in partnership with others, including famous frontiersman, Finn Burnett*.   The building was 24 x 64 feet and constructed in a civilian style with a shingled roof with overlapping log corners.  The store was operated under a concession contract with the government.  Exorbitant prices were charged for such items as canned fruits and vegetables, seafood, weapons, clothing, tobacco, and beer, not available from normal military supplies.

     The store also became an area of socialization.  Men would meet to play cards, talk of their home and families, and listen to Jim Bridger tell of trapping and fighting Indians.

*(Finn Burnett was also at Fort C.F. Smith, and the Rosebud Battle, and later worked with Chief Washakie of the Shoshone, who gave him land for a house on the reservation.   His descendents, former Wyoming Governor and U.S. Senator, Millward Simpson, U.S. Senator Alan K. Simpson, and historian and former state legislator, Peter K. Simpson, PhD, became famous in their own right.)

THE GUARD HOUSE: Not just a jail

     The 50 x 32 foot, shingled building was used primarily for guard-mount. Soldiers were assigned on intervals of 2 hours on, 4 hours off, for 24 hours a day.  Margaret Carrington records accounts of Indians sneaking up and shooting guards off the stand.

     In August 1866, records indicate that 24 prisoners were being held awaiting completion of the building.  Their crime was desertion.  Lessor crimes might be punished by extra duty, wearing a ball and chain or a barrel with a sign stating  your offense, or even flogging.

HOSPITAL:

     An attempt to relieve the suffering was seldom successful at either of its two hospitals.  The original was a 24 x 84 foot structure similar to the barracks. During its short service it sadly served as the morgue for Fetterman's command. It also functioned as an officer's quarters and was home to Captain Powell during his time at the post.

     The second and primary hospital was built in 1867.  It was an L-shaped structure with panel construction and was 25 x 156 feet.  The building either replaced or was attached to the bakery, providing additional warmth and no doubt soothing aromas.  In addition to combat wounds the occupants of the hospital might be suffering from dysentery, scurvy, or tuberculosis which records indicate were prevalent due to poor diet and sanitation.

LAUNDRESS ROW:

     All military posts had laundress's, with some having poor reputations as ladies-of-the-night.  This was likely not the case at Fort Phil Kearny.  There were four to five laundresses at the fort, and all but one were married to enlisted men.  They and their husbands were housed in 10 x 24 foot jack-pole built quarters with dirt roofs.

     The laundress for Company H was a servant who came west with Captain Ten Eyck.  Her name was Susan Fitzgerald and she was affectingly known as "Colored, or Black Susan".  She was credited with an "excellent ability to make sausage out of almost every kind of meat."  But her enterprise led to trouble. Capt. Ten Eyck was reprimanded from Colonel Carrington for allowing her to sell pies, made  from quartermaster stores, to the troops for 50 cents.

QUARTERMASTER AND COMMISSARY BUILDINGS:

     Quartermaster supplies included weapons, clothing, saddles, blankets, beds and more.  Commissary supplies were maily foodstuffs.  These items were stored in five or more warehouses varying in size from 24 x 84 feet to 32 x 160 feet.  The buildings were of board and batten construction with shingle roofs and one contained a cellar.  Some civilians bunked in the larger warehouse.

     The quartermaster's office was 32 by 64 feet, with a shingle roof.  It straddles the stockade wall, between the upper and lower stockade areas, and from here the quartermaster acted as liaison between civilian workers and the military. Capt. Frederick Brown of the Fetterman Fight, was the first quartermaster.

POST COMMANDER'S QUARTERS:

      An 1867 quartermaster inspection of Fort Phil Kearny buildings indicated most in poor condition and many needing rebuilding.  The post commander's house, however, was an exception.  It was 48 x 32 foot frame building built of timber from a fire-dried tree stand, shingled, and with a 22 x 13 foot attached kitchen, and brick chimneys.  The house was built for Colonel Carrington by the regimental band and initially housed the Colonel, his wife Margaret, their sons Jimmy and Harry, and butler George.  After Carrington left the post, it housed commanders Henry Wessells and then, Jonathan Smith.

THE MAGAZINE:

     The magazine was 16 x 16 feet, with an 11-foot dirt covered ceiling, and buried eight feet somewhere in the southwest quadrant of the parade ground*.  Colonel Carrington was constantly frustrated with his lack of munitions and the shortage of ammunition at the post.  When Carrington left the fort on December 22, 1866 to retrieve the bodies of Fetterman's command, he left secret instructions of which Frances Grummond Carrington writes many years later, "If, in my absence, Indians in overwhelming numbers attack, put the women and children in the magazine---a last desperate struggle, destroy all together, rather than have any captured alive."

(*Note: The exact location of the magazine has not been found.  Results of the 1999 archaeological study do not indicate evidence of a magazine in the southwest quadrant).

THE MAIN GATE:

     The largest gate was built of two 10-foot wide heavy plank gates separated by 10 feet of stockade.  Each large gate had a wicker walking entrance built into it for pedestrian travel.  The main gates were built at a "V" in the stockade line and at the head of the small draw to provide a strong defensive position.  The steepness of the slope indicates that the gate was not designed for use by wagons and may not have been used by any traffic.  Instead, visitors and wagons came in through the quartermaster corral south of the main gate.

THE FLAGPOLE: An awesome sight.  The First garrison flag to fly between the North Platte and Yellowstone Rivers.

     The sight of a huge 20 by 36 foot American flag flying atop a 124  foot  flagpole came as a great relief to the traveler of the Bozeman Trail.  It meant safe-haven, temporarily free from the rigors of the trail and from Indian attack.  It was built of lodgepole pine, in two pieces, similar to a ship's mast, and pinned together by civilian builder William Dailey.  It was raised, to much fanfare, on October 31, 1866.  The band played on an octagonal bandstand at its base and Colonel Carrington addressed the post's residents, spoke of hardships and tribulations, and dedicated the new fort after nearly four months of occupation.

ARCHAEOLOGY AT FORT PHIL KEARNY THROUGH THE YEARS:

     Documented archaeology began at Fort Phil Kearny in 1961 and has reoccurred in 1970, 1991, and 1999.  The initial work was done by Gene Galloway who salvaged artifacts during the county road construction.  In 1970-71 Dr. George Frison, with the help of Carl Oslund, studied the site determining stockade, gate, southeast blockhouse and flagpole locations.

     About two decades later, Dr. Richard Fox, with assistants  and FPK/BTA  volunteers, searched for and identified the southwest blockhouse, Sutler's store, and post commander's residence.  In 1999-2000, Dr. Tom Larsen's studies gave an overall view of the upper stockade and its' diagonal blockhouses, resulting in the partially reconstruction of the stockade in 2001.

     Historic features and locations have been confirmed, various construction techniques identified, and many personal artifacts have been recovered.  The archaeology has given us a better understanding of Fort Phil Kearny, given us some understanding of the reliability of the historical record, and pointed us in new directions--the lessons will continue with ongoing projects using new and innovative technics.

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