Fetterman Massacre

In June 1866, Red Cloud, chief of the Oglala Sioux, began negotiating with the army based at Fort Laramie about the decision to allow emigrants to settle on the last of the great Sioux hunting grounds. When he was unable to reach agreement with the army negotiators he resorted to sending out war parties that attacked emigrants and army patrols. These hit and run tactics were difficult for the army to deal with and be the time they arrived on the scene of the attack the war parties had disappeared.

On 21st December, 1866, Captain W. J. Fetterman and an army column of 80 men, were involved in protecting a team taking wood to Fort Phil Kearny. Although under orders not to "engage or pursue Indians" Fetterman gave the orders to attack a group of Sioux warriors. The warriors ran away and drew the soldiers into a clearing surrounded by a much larger force. All the soldiers were killed in what became known as the Fetterman Massacre. Later that day the stripped and mutilated bodies of the soldiers were found by a patrol led by Captain Ten Eyck.

Primary Sources

(1) John F. Finerty, Warpath and Bivouac (1890)

We got into camp at old Fort Philip Kearny about noon, and were located in a most delightful valley at the foothills of the Big Horn Mountains. This is a celebrated spot. Here it was that Colonel Carrington founded the fort made bloodily famous by the slaughter of Fetterman, Brown, Grummond and eighty-three soldiers on December 22, 1866. The world has heard the story how the wood party was attacked down Piney Creek, half a mile from the post. How Fetterman and the rest, being signaled, went to their relief. How a party of Indians decoyed them beyond the bluffs and then fell upon them like an avalanche, killing every man and mutilating every body except that of Metzker, a bugler, who fought with such desperate valor that the Indians covered the remains with a buffalo robe as a token of their savage respect. They attempted to take this brave bugler alive, but he killed so many of the warriors that he had to be finished. This much Red Cloud's people subsequently told our soldiers.