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Fort Phil Kearny by Dee Brown

Fort Phil Kearny (1962)

by Dee Brown

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1063113,849 (3.97)1
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    Sioux Dawn by Terry C. Johnston (southerncross116)
    southerncross116: A nice complimentary book ( Johnston's being historical fiction), however if you like Bernard Cornwell's style then this might be a perfect fit.). Covers the same period as Brown's book (and may well have used it as reference material.).
  2. 00
    The Bloody Bozeman by Dorothy M. Johnson (jefbra)

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-In digging around - I located this I wrote a few years back.

The original title of this work was: “Fort Phil Kearny: an American Saga”. As such it was a much more appropriate title since the book is not so much about the Fetterman Massacre (or Fetterman Fight if you will) as it is about the rise and fall of this frontier fort.

To set the background of the times, it is 1866 and the American Civil War has just ended. The US Government coffers are bare by the high cost of financing the war as well as the rebuilding efforts. Finally gold has been discovered in the Virginia City area of what is now the State of Montana - in the area north but mostly west of what would become Yellowstone National Park.

The original road to these Montana goldfields used a circuitous route to the west of the Bighorn Mountain Range. The area from the east of the Bighorn Range to the Black Hills was a region highly prized by Native Americans (primarily the Sioux, Northern Cheyenne and Northern Arapaho nations) for the rich hunting grounds there. It was also an area awarded by treaty to these nations, in perpetuity. These Indians’ main resource was the North American Bison, and that area had plenty of herds to sustain the local native populations.

Eventually, with the objective of getting to the gold fields more expeditiously, another trail (The Bozeman Trail) was developed. This trail ran from Fort Laramie (in present day South-eastern Wyoming), skirting the Eastern foothills of the Bighorn Range and up to the
gold fields. It was a much better route. It was shorter and easier to traverse; but it had one major problem: The Bozeman Trail ran through the Indians’ treaty-granted hunting grounds.

Col. Henry B. Carrington, a man who held a desk job role during the (American) Civil War, was given command of the military district that encompassed the Bozeman Trail, and was charged with building three forts in order to protect its travelers. This was, however, none too popular with some of the Indians who had gathered at Fort Laramie to hammer out a treaty allowing for the forts' construction. Indeed, a key to the origin of what became known as Red Cloud's War (the frontier war that included the Fetterman Fight) was that Colonel Carrington showed up at Fort Laramie with his command, and made it clear that he intended to proceed with his mission, regardless of the outcome of the treaty negotiations.

Capt. William Fetterman comes off in the book as a rash hotshot, new to the frontier and used to battlefield success in the Civil War. He boasted how his 80 plus men could not only find the Native American villages, but also wipe them out and thereby end the war. Fetterman, however, did not reckon with the fact that Indians' idea of combat was different than Southerners’. This was a mistake that would cost him his life in December 1866.

A commonly taught misconception (in the USA), is that the country has never lost a war before Vietnam. However, in Red Cloud's War, the United States did just that, and lost this war to Native Americans. Their resistance resulted in a peace treaty that not only recognized the legitimacy of the Indians' claim to the land that the Bozeman Trail crossed, but also the land between the Bighorn Range, and all of what is now South Dakota lying to the west of the Missouri River. The three forts (Ft. C. F. Smith, Ft. Phil Kearny, and Ft. Reno) were abandoned and destroyed. It was an ignominious defeat for an overmatched, much smaller post-Civil War army.

The Fetterman Fight, itself, shocked the country. It was hitherto inconceivable that Indians could be so organized in order to kill an entire command. It might also be the way that the fallen troopers were treated - with mutilation being the rule, rather than the exception - that stunned the nation. (The book is fairly graphic in its description of these events, as well as the effect of the command in recovering those men that fell in battle.)

Ultimately what happened to Fetterman was overshadowed by the Battle at Little Bighorn, nearly 10 years later (and not all that far away from where Fetterman's command met its fate).

This book is well worth anyone's time that would want to investigate a little known war and a period of military history that is rarely brought up in schools.

Oct 25, 2005 ( )
  southerncross116 | Feb 4, 2013 |
A relatively quick read, but I remember wondering how accurate the author's imagination of the battles could be -- nonetheless, despite a bit of unnecessary skepticism, the descriptions are compelling. Probably a bit too focused a topic for the general reader. ( )
  tintinintibet | Apr 18, 2011 |
  Earl_Dunn | Oct 21, 2006 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0803257309, Paperback)

The Fetterman Massacre occurred on December 21, 1866, at Fort Phil Kearny, a small outpost in the foothills of the Big Horns. The second battle in American history from which came no survivors, it became a cause célèbre and was the subject of a congressional investigation.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:02:12 -0400)

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