Fort Phil Kearny
State Historic Site

ft-fetterman2.jpg (4844 bytes)
General George Crook Reenactor Norm Johnson at left at Fort Fetterman

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Fort Phil Kearny
State Historic Site

528 Wagon Box Road
Banner, WY  82832
Phone: (307) 684-7629

FORT FETTERMAN
The Last and Longest-Operating Fort on the Bozeman Trail
by Robert C. Wilson

ftfetterman.jpg (31111 bytes)
General Crook's men arrive at Fort Fetterman near present day Douglas, Wyoming
in a blizzard in 1876.  Drawing from Frank Leslie's Quarterly

Note: The management of Wyoming State Historic site at Fort Fetterman, near Douglas, Wyoming, is under the jurisdiction of Arlene Ekland-Earnst, Superintendent at Wyoming Pioneer Memorial Museum in Douglas, Wyoming, 307-358-9288.

     Fort Fetterman, located on a plateau near the junction of La Prele Creek and the North Platte River seven miles north of Douglas, Wyoming, on Highway 93, was the last fort constructed on the Bozeman Trail. It was named for Capt. William J. Fetterman, who lost his life at the Fetterman Fight near Fort Phil Kearny Dec. 21, 1866.

     Major William Dye and several companies of the 4th Infantry began construction in July of 1867 using building parts and materials from the abandoned Fort Caspar. Construction continued under various commanders into the 1870s. Then, well established, the post served a conspicuous part in the upcoming 1876 campaigns. In accordance with the Treaty of 1868, Forts Reno, Phil Kearny, and C. F. Smith along the Bozeman Trail were abandoned, leaving Fort Fetterman to serve as an outpost on the fringe of Indian territory and sometime annuities distribution point.

     Fort Fetterman was considered a hardship post by officers and men who were stationed there. Desertions were common and the post frequently lacked adequate supplies and equipment. Supplies were hauled from Fort Laramie to the southeast or from Medicine Bow Station on the Union Pacific Railroad. Although a hardship post, Fetterman was the only community within 50 to 100 miles. Its hospital, theater, sutler's store and garrison served the area ranchers, farmers, travelers, and Indians alike. Numerous colorful personalities of the time frequented the post including Jim Bridger, Wild Bill Hickok, Calamity Jane, Buffalo Bill Cody, Rain-In-The-Face and Alfred Packer.

     In 1876 the Sioux War began in earnest and Fort Fetterman was the staging area for General George Crook's three campaigns. The first, in March, ended with the Reynold's fight on the Powder River. The second led to the Rosebud Fight on June 17, 1876, in southern Montana, and concluded with the starvation march to South Dakota. The third concluded with Ranald Mackenzie's fight on the Red Fork of the Powder River in November (also known as the Dull Knife Battle) resulting in the final defeat of the Northern Cheyennes.

     In 1882, Fort Fetterman was closed to military operations and became the community of Fetterman City, still serving as the social center for the area population. This wild west cow town was the focus of Owen Wister's "The Virginian", the site of numerous gun fights, and the capture of Alfred Packer. By 1886 the railroad had advanced to present day Douglas, and Fetterman City was abandoned.

     In the 1960's the Wyoming Historical Commission gained ownership of the historic site and restored the few existing buildings to their original historic appearance. In 1990 new exhibits were installed in the Bachelor Officer Quarters and the Ordnance Building. These interpret the extensive history of the site including the Native American, the Military Post, and Fetterman City.

     Annually, in the early summer, Fetterman Days is held to celebrate and interpret the history of the site through living history, tours, and craft demonstrations, often with Native American input. The site is open to the public daily from 9 to 5, Memorial Day to Labor Day.

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Regional Public Sites Memorial on the Rock Nearby Historic Places Links