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Records Relating to Investigations of the Ft. Philip Kearney (or Fetterman) Massacre
Testimony of Col. Henry B. Carrington - Page 5
M740 roll 1 of 1
National Archives & Records Administration
Transcribed by Billy Markland

Fort Philip Kearney D.T.
December 8th 1866.

Bvt. Major H.G. Litchfield
Asst. Adjt. General
Omaha N.T.

I mail full report of skirmish of the 6th instant, with over three hundred Indians.

With deep regret I have to report the death of Lieutenant Bingham, 2nd U.S. Cavalry, an Officer endeared to us all by his manly qualities and professional spirit. He was killed when separated from his command, cause unknown.

The additional casualties are Sergeant Bowers, 18th U.S. Infantry killed, after killing three Indians.

Sergeant Aldridge, 2nd U.S. Cavalry, wounded. Four Privates were wounded. We lost three horses killed, and had five wounded.

The rescue of Lieutenant Bingham's body, severe weather and night fall, cut off all pursuit. Our force engaged was less than sixty men, many of them recruits, but all the mounted men I could move. The occasion was an attack upon our wood train. The Indian's loss in men and ponies was considerable. They carried off their fallen.

Brevet Lieutenant Colonel Fetterman, Captain Brown, and Lieutenant Wands my Regimental Quarter Master, acquitted themselves with great credit. I reached this post six hours after leaving. The mercury is below zero today.

I need mittens for the men and especially do I need every officer I can get. The Cavalry has none. There are but six for six companies including staff. Potter, Stearns and Fenton ought to be here.

Captain Bisbee leaves us in the morning and Captain Brown is hurrying up his Quarter Master papers to join his company.

Henry B. Carrington
Col. 18th U.S. Infantry
Comd'g. Post

Having received an order restricting the military reservation to twenty five square miles, I furnished the Department Commander with my map of the surroundings of Fort Phil Kearney. I advised that such a reservation would throw out the best grass and all timber for lumber or fuel, and asked in view of my previous report of the character of the country "if five miles square were not an accidental error in the issue of the order".

The reply was "that the order must be observed and it was expected that sufficient grass and timber could be found in that area".

I had stated that liberal compliance with the order left the post entirely dependent upon contract for all wood and timber, and only mention the subject to show that being upon the ground, and knowing the facts, my judgement was correct – that the reservation should have been as first established.

To resume the military narrative proper of my stay at Fort Phil Kearney. –

December 6th Indians attacked the wood train, and in the ensuing skirmish, Lieutenant Bingham and Sergeant Bowers lost their lives. Brevet Lieutenant Colonel Fetterman commanded the party relieving the wood train. I commanded the party moving to cut off Indian retreat.

The subsequent report of Brevet Lieutenant Colonel Fetterman, made to my Adjutant, on my order, appears on page 41 of the published report of the Secretary of War and Interior, in relation to the Massacre at Fort Phil Kearney.

That report was a schedule and duly marked and enclosed in my official report of that skirmish, and mailed to Department Head Quarters. The painphlet [sic] does not include my report of that skirmish, neither do I know that it was ever forwarded from Department Head Quarters. My report reads as follows. –

Fort Philip Kearney D.T.
December 6th 1866.

Bvt. Major Henry G. Litchfield
Acting Asst. Adjt. Genl.

I have the honor to report skirmish with a body of Indians numbering in the aggregate not less than three hundred warriors, with results and casualties.

The death of Lieutenant Bingham 2nd U.S. Cavalry, is greatly lamented by us all and while his unaccountable separation from Brevet Lieutenant Colonel Fetterman, with full half of his command, defeated the movement as originated and in full success, he paid the penalty of his life, and whatever the circumstances, he died a soldier.

Sergeant Bowers, Company "E", 2nd Battalion 18th U.S. Infantry was killed, first killing three Indians.

He had previously distinguished himself in several Indian skirmishes, and was a veteran of the regiment, honored in life and mourned in death. He deserves whatever the Government can grant in honor of his memory.

I enclose [a] rough map indicating the movements, and reference to the map already furnished will greatly assist the General Commanding in his judgement of the localities referred to.

The facts are as follows.

At 1 o'clock P.M. a messenger reported the wood train attacked about four miles west. Simultaneously with this report Indians appeared upon Lodge Trail Ridge and their pickets rode within two miles on the north branch of Piney Creek, evidently to watch the movements of the garrison.

I ordered every horse mounted, placing Brevet Lieutenant Colonel Fetterman, 18th U.S. Infantry in command of one company with Lieutenant Bingham's company of regular cavalry, with orders to take the road, relieve the wood party, and crowd the Indians across Piney Creek, giving him instructions that I would in person take the Mounted Infantry and endeavor to cut off all retreat.

I left first, with twenty one mounted infantry, three orderlies and Lieutenant Grummond, as I was familiar with the formation of the country, and knew there was no outlet for the attacking force, except across Lodge Trail ridge, or between that ridge and Peno Head, about nine miles distant from the fort.

Upon reaching the crossing of the Creek, I found ice formed, but pushed on, having to dismount in three feet of water to open the way my horse being thrown in breaking the ice. Upon clearing the way I pushed on, ascending the eastern slope of Lodge Trail Ridge, making direct for the head of Peno Creek.

The Indian pickets fell back, except three on the highest ridge. Four miles out four Indians appeared in the road, to my right.

They were pickets, but a party of thirty two were in a ravine close by them.

At the same time I saw on the hills across the Creek, over one hundred Indians descending to the Creek, followed by Lieutenant Colonel Fetterman's command, which had promptly carried out the original order on the left.

Delivering a sharp fire at the small party in my way, who instantly fled, I pushed on at a gallop, west, and along the ridge. While crossing an intervening ravine, the party on the summit of Lodge Trail Ridge disappeared.

Quick firing was now heard on the left, and I could see several large parties operating in the valley of the West Fork of Peno Creek, and retiring before the advance of Fetterman's command. They seemed to have noticed my appearance and to have returned but again retired as I advanced.

Upon descending the ridge to take the main valley of Peno, and cut off the body operating on the West branch, I found to my surprise fifteen cavalry dismounted and without an officer. I passed through them ordering them to mount and follow upon the gallop.

Upon turning the point marked "A" upon the map, I was confronted by a large force of Indians who, retiring before Captain Fetterman's command, attempted to cut off my detachment or stop its advance.

But six men turned the point with one, one, a young bugler of the 2nd Cavalry, who told me that Lieutenant Bingham had gone down the road around the hill to the right. This seemed impossible, as he belonged to Captain Fetterman's command. I sounded the recall, on his report, but in vain. One of my men fell and his horse on him. The principle chief operating during the day attempted to secure his scalp, but dismounting, with one man to hold horses, and reserving fire, I succeeded in saving the man and holding the position until joined by Fetterman, twenty minutes after.

The cavalry that had abandoned him had not followed me, though the distance was short, but the Indians, circling around and yelling, nearly a hundred in number, with one saddle emptied by a single shot fired by myself, did not venture to close in.

Upon the appearance of this force, the Indians broke in every direction. I moved to the right towards Lieutenant Bingham's reported movement, and soon met Lieutenant Grummond, with three men, hotly pursued by Indians. He informed me that he had met Lieutenant Bingham, after descending the ridge, and accompanied him with the idea that the cavalry were close behind, but that while chasing a dismounted Indian, and cutting him with their sabres, they were surrounded and Lieutenant Bingham was cut off.

After an hours search we found Lieutenant Bingham's body, and that of Sergeant Bowers. The latter was still living, but not scalped. He died before an ambulance arrived from the fort, having been cleft to the brain.

Severe weather and coming night prevented further pursuit, the Indians breaking for the mountains and Tongue river valley.

My total casualties were
One officer killed
One Sergeant killed
One Sergeant and four Privates wounded.
Three horses were killed and five wounded.

The Indians loss was not less than ten killed, besides wounded, and several of their ponies and Indians on foot were seen before dark, working down the valley, or over the hills.

Reference is had to Brevet Lieutenant Colonel Fetterman's report also. He knew little of the country, but carried out his instructions promptly. Captain Brown, who accidentally joined him, knew the ground, and the result would have been a good fight, if he had retained Lieut. Bingham's command.

By hard riding, I reached the point I had hoped to attain, the Indians fleeing before me, but by the decease of Lieutenant Bingham, all clue is lost to his leaving his Commanding Officer, or his object. If he left to join my party, he neglected to report to me. His Sergeant says his horse ran away with him, and the Lieut. told him he could not hold him.

It is due to the Cavalry to say, that they were mostly recruits, and are all ready to take the next chance.

My Regimental Quarter Master, Lieutenant A.H. Wands, by mistake joined the wrong party supposing I took the road to the woods, but did good service.

Captain Brown, always quick after an Indian skirmish, and whose operations September 23rd 1866, deserve public mention, went as a volunteer and greatly contributed to the success of Captain Fetterman's movements.

Much was done. The loss of Lieutenant Bingham makes all seem lost, but the winter campaign is fairly open and will be met.

I do, however, most urgently ask for Officers. As Brevet Captain Bisbee leaves, Captain Brown also, I am to be left again with six Officers for six companies, including Adjutant and Commissary.
Potter, Fenton and others should come at once. If Captain Burrows goes before relieving Board and Captain Kinney's resignation is accepted, the upper post will suffer also.

This is all wrong. There is much at stake. I will take my full share, but two Officers to a company is small allowance enough with mercury at zero and active operations on hand.

I am
Very respectfully
Your Obedient Servant

Henry B. Carrington
Colonel 18th U.S. Infy.
Comd'g. Post

Justice to myself requires that I make this mention, as the official report of General Cooke, Department Commander, from facts therein assumed, concludes

1st Want of discipline at the post.
2nd Want of confidence on part of officers.
3rd That Officers and men went "helter skelter" in pursuit upon an Indian alarm.

It omits to mention that Captain F.H. Brown, 18th Infantry, and long my Quarter Master, was responsible for his trains, - that standing orders enjoined upon him, at all times, to make requisition for Military force to protect and relieve them. – that he was furnished with the force required for their protection against all ordinary attacks, - that the trains being corralled closely to the fort, he rode to the top of the hill with a few men, to ascertain the extent of the danger, and to see if further force was necessary.

He had been relieved as Quarter Master, and Lieut. Matson had been appointed his successor.

While ordered to close his business forthwith and join his company at Fort Laramie, but full of impulse to fight Indians, he rode from the corrall to the train without my authority or knowledge. Hence he was with the train when Lieutenant Colonel Fetterman joined it.

Lieutenant A. H. Wands of my staff, who overtook Lieutenant Colonel Fetterman, was ordered to join me, but was delayed to change his horse, and by mistake joined Lieutenant Colonel Fetterman, having been informed by the sentinel that I had gone in that direction.

As will be seen by the report, the Indians on this occasion were in considerable force, probably three hundred.

From the 6th to the 19th of December, Indians appeared almost daily about the wood party, or within sight of the Fort.

December 19th the pickets on "pilot hill" reported the train as corralled and threatened by a large force. I sent Brevet Major Powell with a detachment to relieve the train. He did his work, pressed the Indians towards Lodge Trail Ridge, but having peremtory [sic] orders not to cross it, he returned with the train, reporting the Indians in large force, and that if he had crossed the ridge, he never would have come back with his command.

On the morning of the 20th, very early, I had both saw mills at work upon three inch plank, and at 9 o'clock with sixty infantry and twenty cavalry, and the ordinary train guard I went myself to the woods to test the animus and force of the Indians; and to build a bridge across Piney Creek, to facilitate the passage of the wagons off Pine Islands, and two channels up to the divide from which the trains moved to and from the fort.

Trees were felled as stringers, the bridge, forty five feet long and sixteen feet wide was built, the wagons were loaded, and the train reached the fort at 6 o'clock P.M. without casualty. I saw no Indians and no fresh trail upon the snow which had fallen the night before.

December 21st anticipating that Indians might have seen my work, I gave the wood train additional guard, which, with the axe-men (soldiers) and armed teamsters, made not far from ninety men.

The picket on pilot hill reported the wood train to be corralled about a mile and a half from the fort. The movement made to support the train will appear from the following official reports.

Head Quarters Post.
Fort Philip Kearney D.T.
January 3rd 1867.

Asst. Adjutant General
Department of the Platte
Omaha N.T.


I respectfully state the facts of fight with Indians on the 21st ultimo. This disaster had the effect to confirm my judgment as to the hostility of Indians, solemnly declares by its roll of dead and the number engaged, that my declarations from my arrival at Laramie in June, were not idle conjecture, but true.

It also declares that in Indian warfare there must be perfect coolness, steadiness and judgment. This contest is in their best and almost their last hunting grounds. They cannot be whipped or punished by some dash after a handful, nor by mere resistance of offensive movements. They must be subjected, and made to respect and fear the whites.

It also declares with equal plainness that my letter from Fort Laramie, as to the absolute failure of the treaty, so far as relates to my command, was true.

It also vindicates every report from my pen, and every measure I have taken to secure defensive and tenable posts on this line.

It vindicates my administration of the Mountain District, Department of the Platte, and asserts that the confidence reposed in me by Lieutenant General Sherman, has been fully met.

It vindicates my application, so often made, for reinforcements and demonstrates the fact if I had received those assured to me by telegram and letter, I could have kept up communications and opened a safe route for emigrants next Spring.

It proves correct my report of fifteen hundred lodges of hostile Indians on Tongue river, not many hours ride from this post.

It no less declares that while there has been partial success in impromptu dashes, the Indian, now desperate and bitter, looks upon the rash white man as a sure victim, no less than he does a coward, and that the United States must soon come to the deliberate resolve to send an army equal to a fight with the Indians of the Northwest.

Better to have the expense at once, than to have a lingering provoking war for years. It must be met, and the time is just now. I respectfully refer to my official reports and correspondence from Department Head Quarters for verification of the foregoing propositions, and proceed to the details of Fetterman's massacre.

On the morning of the 21st ultimo at about 11 o'clock A.M. my picket on Pilot hill reported the wood train corralled, and threatened by Indians on Sullivant Hills, a mile and a half from the fort. A few shots were heard. Indians also appeared in the brush at the crossing of Piney, by the Virginia City road. Upon tendering to Brevet Major Powell the command of Company "C", 2nd U.S. Cavalry, then without an Officer, but which he had been drilling, Brevet Lieutenant Colonel Fetterman claimed, by rank, to go out. I acquiesed [sic], giving him the men of his own company, that were for duty, and a portion of "C" company, 2nd Battn. 18th U.S. Infantry.

Lieutenant G.W. Grummond, who had commanded the mounted Infantry, requested to take out the cavalry. He did so. In the previous skirmish Lieutenant Grummond was barely saved from the disaster that befell Lieutenant Bingham, by timely aid.

Brevet Lieutenant Colonel Fetterman also was well admonished, as well as myself, that we were fighting brave and desperate enemies who sought to make up by cunning and deceit, all the advantages which the white man gains by intelligence and better arms.

My instructions were therefore peremtory [sic] and explicit. I knew the ambition of each to win honor, but being unprepared for large aggressive action, through want of adequate force (now fully demonstrated) I looked to continuance of timber supplies to prepare for more troops, as the one practical duty. Hence two days before Major Powell, sent out to cover the train under similar circumstances, simply did that duty, when he could have had a fight to any extent.

The day before, viz: - the 20th ultimo, I went to the Pinery and built a bridge of forty five feet span to expedite the passage of wagons from the woods into open ground.

Hence my instructions to Brevet Lieutenant Colonel Fetterman, viz: - "Support the wood train, relieve it and report to me. Do not engage or pursue Indians at its expense. Under no circumstances pursue over the ridge viz; Lodge Trail Ridge, as per map in your possession."

To Lieutenant Grummond, I gave orders to report to Brevet Lieutenant Colonel Fetterman, implicitly obey orders and not leave him.

Before the command left, I instructed Lieutenant A.H. Wands, Regimental Quarter Master, and Acting Adjutant, to repeat these orders. He did so. Fearing still that the spirit of ambition might override prudence, (as my refusal to permit sixty mounted men and forty citizens to go for several days down Tongue river valley after villages, had been unfavorably regarded to Brevet Lieutenant Colonel Fetterman and Captain Brown,) I crossed the parade and from a sentry platform, halted the cavalry and again repeated my precise orders.

I knew that the Indians had, for several days, returned each time with increased numbers, to feel our strength and decoy detachments to their sacrifice, and believed to foil their purpose was actual victory until reinforcements should arrive and my preparations were complete.

I was right. Just as the command left, five Indians reappeared at the crossing. The glass revealed others in the thicket, having the apparent object of determining the watchfulness of the garrison, or cutting off any small party that should move out. A case shot dismounted one and developed nearly thirty more who broke for the hills and ravines to the north.

In half an hour the picket reported that the wood train had broken corral and moved on to the Pinery. Nor report came from the detachment. It was composed of eighty one Officers and me including two citizens, all well armed, the cavalry having new carbines, while the detachment of infantry was of choice men, the pride of their companies.

At 12 o'clock firing was heard towards Peno Creek, beyond Lodge Trail Ridge. A few shots were followed by constant shots, not to be counted. Captain Ten Eyck was immediately dispatched with infantry and the remaining cavalry and two wagons, and ordered to join Colonel Fetterman at all hazards.

The men moved promptly and on the run, but within little more than half an hour from the first shot, and just as the supporting party reached the hill overlooking the scene of action, all firing ceased.

Captain Ten Eyck sent a mounted orderly back with the report that he could see and hear nothing of Fetterman, but that a body of Indians, on the road below him, were challenging him to come down, while larger bodies were in all the valleys for several miles around.

Moving cautiously forward with the wagons, evidently supposed by the enemy to be guns, as mounted men were in advance, he rescued from the spot where the enemy had been nearest, forty nine bodies, including those of Brevet Lieutenant Colonel Fetterman and Captain F.H. Brown. The latter went out without my consent or knowledge, fearless to fight Indians with any adverse odds, and determined to kill one at least before joining his company.

Captain Ten Eyck fell back slowly, but not pressed by the enemy, reaching the fort without loss.

The following morning, finding genuine doubt as to the success of an attempt to recover other bodies, but believing that failure to rescue them would dishearten the command and encourage the Indians who are so particular in this regard, I took eighty men and went to the scene of action, leaving a picket to advise me of any movement in the rear and to keep signal communication with the garrison.

The scene of action told its story. The road on the little ridge where the final stand took place was strewn with arrow heads, scalps, poles and broken shafts of spears. The arrows that were spent harmlessly from all directions, showed that the command was suddenly overwhelmed, surrounded and cut off while in retreat. Not officer or man survived. A few bodies were found at the north end of the divide over which the road runs just below Lodge Trail Ridge.

Nearly all were heaped near four rocks at the point nearest the Fort, these rocks enclosing a space about six feet square, having been the last refuge for defence. Here were also a few unexpended rounds of Spencer cartridge [sic].
Fetterman and Brown had each a revolver shot in the left temple. As Brown always declared he would reserve a shot for himself as a last resort, so I am convinced that these two brave men fell, each by the other's hand, rather than undergo the slow torture inflicted upon others.

Lieutenant Grummond's body was on the road between the two extremes, with a few others. This was not far from five miles from the Fort, and nearly as far from the wood train. Neither its own guard nor the detachment could by any possibility have helped each other, and the train was incidentally saved by the fierceness of the fight in the brave but rash impulse of pursuit.

The officers who fell believed that no Indian force could overwhelm that number of troops well held in hand.

Their terrible massacre bore marks of great valor and has demonstrated the force and character of the foe, but no valor could have saved them.

Pools of blood on the road and sloping sides of the narrow divide showed where Indians bled fatally, but their bodies were carried off. I counted sixty five such pools in the space of an acre, and three within ten feet of Lieut. Grummond's body.

Eleven American horses and nine Indian ponies were on the road, or near the line of bodies, others, crippled, were in the valley.

At the northwest or further point, between two rocks, and apparently where the command first fell back from the valley, realizing their danger, I found citizen James S. Wheatly and Isaac Fisher of Blue Springs Nebraska, who, with "Henry rifles", felt invincible, but fell, one having one hundred and five arrows in his naked body.

The widow and family of Wheatly are here. The cartridge shells about him, told how well they fought.

Before closing this report, I wish to say that every man, officer, soldier, or citizen, received burial with such record as to identify each. Fetterman, Brown and Grummond lie in one grave. The remainder also share one tomb, buried, as they fought, together, but the cases in which they were laid, are clearly placed and numbered.

I ask the General Commanding to give my report, in absence of Division Commander, an access to the eye and ear of the General in Chief.

The Department Commander must have more troops and I declare this my judgement, solemnly and for the general public good, without one spark of personal ambition other than to do my duty daily, as it comes, and whether I seem to speak too plainly or not, ever with the purpose to declare the whole truth, and with proper respect to my superior officers who are entitled to the facts, as to scenes remote from their own immediate notice.

I was asked to "send all the bad news". I do it as far as I can. I give some of the facts as to my men whose bodies I found just at dark, resolved to bring all in viz: -


Eyes torn out and laid on the rocks.
Noses cut off.
Ears cut off.
Chins hewn off.
Teeth chopped out.
Joints of fingers. [sic]
Brains taken out and placed on rocks with other members of the body.
Entrails taken out and exposed.
Hands cut off.
Feet cut off.
Arms taken out from socket.
Private parts severed and indecently placed on the person.
Eyes, ears, mouth, and arms penetrated with spear heads, sticks and arrows.
Ribs slashed to separation with knifes.
Sculls [sic] severed in every form from chin to crown.
Muscles of calves, thighs, stomach, breast, back, arms and cheek, taken out.
Punctures upon every sensitive part of the body, even to the soles of the feet and palms of the hand.

All this only approximates to the whole truth.

Every medical officer was faithful, aided by a large force of men, and all were not buried until Wednesday after the fight.

The great real fact is that these Indians take alive when possible and slowly torture. It is the opinion of Dr. S.M. Horton, Post Surgeon, that not more than six were killed by balls. Of course the "whole arrows", hundreds of which were removed from naked bodies, were all used after removal of the clothing.

I have said enough. It is a hard but absolute duty. In the establishment of this post I designed to put it where it fell the heaviest upon the Indian, and therefore the better for the emigrant. My duty will be done when I leave, as ordered to my new Regimental Head Quarters, Fort Casper.

I submit herewith list of casualties marked "A". I shall also, as soon as practicable, make full report for the year 1866, of operations in the establishment of this new line.

I am
Very respectfully
Your Obedient Servant

Henry B. Carrington
Col. 18th Infantry

The schedule referred to is embraced in the following order of January 1st 1867, announcing the military reservation in a form doing honor to the dead.

Head Quarters Post.
Fort Philip Kearney D.T.
January 1st 1867.

General Order
No. 1

I.   The Military Reservation at Fort Philip Kearney D.T. is hereby established and declared as follows, to wit. – Beginning at a stake two hundred feet due east from the Burial Mound erected in honor of those who fell in "Fetterman's Massacre", thence due north to Big Piney Creek, or Fork, and to the north bank thereof; thence with said north bank and along said steam five miles; thence southward at right angles, five miles; thence at right angles five miles eastward to the place of beginning, the same containing twenty five square miles, more or less.
II.   The Colonel Commanding at the opening of another year, can only say, that he shares with every officer and man in the deep sorrow which all feel at the loss that the garrison has met, in the Massacre of the 21st of December. It is [a] matter of gratitude that the bodies of all who fell were recovered, were suitably cared for, and buried by their friends. That they fought bravely, and to the last need not be said. The Officers who fell had served well before, and were ever eager to strike a foe when opportunity offered. Among non commissioned who fell, were many who were the pride of the garrison. Some, were veterans of many fights, who were not many weeks from the expiration of their second term of service in the Army, and could be daunted by no danger. As a feeble tribute to their memory, their names are published in this order, so that the records of the Post shall bear them in remembrance, so long as the Post shall remain. Captain W. J. Fetterman, 2nd Battn. 18th U.S. Inf. Bvt. Lt. Col. U.S.A. Captain Frederick H. Brown, 1st Bttn. 18th U.S. Infantry Lieutenant Geo. W. Grummond, 2nd Battn. 18th U.S. Infantry.

Captain Fetterman, son of Captain George Fetterman of the Army, was born in garrison, and was instinct [sic] with the ambition of a soldier. His character was pure and without blemish. He was a refined gentleman and had distinguished his regimental record and honored his own name by duty well done.

Captain Brown, entered the 18th U.S. Infantry in 1861, among its first recruits, from sincerely patriotic impulse, and having served for years as regimental Quarter Master, in the field and elsewhere, was reluctant to leave his present field of duty without a successful fight with Indians. His daring had been conspicuous in many skirmishes about the post. If he unwisely despised his foe, he fought to the last, and the facts show that neither Fetterman nor himself were true victims of savage torture.

Lieutenant Grummond had passed through the war with honor, as Captain of the First Michigan Volunteers, as Major and Lieutenant Colonel of the 14th Michigan Volunteers, was Brevetted Brigadier General of U.S. Volunteers, and had already endeared himself to his men and secured the respect and esteem of his Commanding Officer, after joining the 18th U.S. Infantry, in which, at the close of the war, he accepted a commission. His body was found where the fight was hot, and the marks about him showed that he punished many before he fell. He was a true man, worthy of higher rank than he held in the Army, and his memory will not be less precious because he leaves in our care a widow to mourn his untimely loss.

A simple catalogue of other names will remind the regiment and garrison of the loss, and inspire all to new spirit in a struggle with a merciless and desperate enemy.

Transcriber's Note: I have compared the list of names of the soldiers killed as given to the Commission during the investigation with the list of names presented in the book, Absaraka, Home of the Crows by Margaret Irvin Carrington. Differences in spelling, if significant, are presented with Mrs. Carrington's version following the version contained within the investigation proceedings.

Co. "A". 2nd Battalion 18th U.S. Infantry

1st Sergt. Augustus Lang
Sergt. Hugh Murphy
Corporal Robert Lennon
" Willam Dute/Dule
Private Fredk. Ackerman/Acherman
" Wm. Belzler/Betzler
" Thos. Burke
" Henry Buchanan
" Maximillian Dihring/Dehring
" Geo. E. R. Goodall
" Francis S. Gordon
" Michael Harten/Harlen
" Martin Kelly
" Patrick Shannon
" Chas. M./N. Taylor
" Joseph D. Thomas
" David Thorey
" John Thimpson/Timson
" Albert H. Walters/Walter
" John M. Weaver
" John Woodruff

Co. "C" 2nd Battalion 18th U.S. Infantry

Sergeant Francis Raymond
" Patrick Rooney
Corporal Gustave A. Bauer
" Patrick Gallagher
Private Henry E. Aarons
" Michael O'Garra
" Jacob Rosenburg
" Frank P. Sullivan
" Patrick Smith

Co. "E", 2nd Battalion 18th U.S. Infantry

Sergeant William Morgan
" Corporal John Quinn
" Private Geo. W. Burrell
" John Maher
" Geo. W. Waterbury
" Timothy Cullinane/Cullinans

Co. "H", 2nd Battalion 18th U.S. Infantry

1 Sergeant Alexander Smith
Sergeant Ephraim C. Bissell
Corporal George Phillips/Philip
" Michael Sharkey
" Frank Karston
Private George Davis
" Perry F. Dolan
" Asa H. Griffin
" Herman Keil
" James Kean
" Michael Kinney
" Delos Reed
" Thomas M. Madden Regtl. Armorer 18th U.S. Infantry

Co. "C", 2nd U.S. Cavalry

Sergeant James Baker
Corporal James Kelly
" Thos. F. Horrigan/Honigan
Bugler Adolph Metzger/Metzlers
Artificer John McCarty
Private Thos. Amberson
" Thos Broglin
" Nathan Foreman
" Andrew M. Fitzgerald
" Daniel Green
" Chas. Gamford
" John Gitter/Giller
" Ferdinand Houser
" Wm. L. Bugbee
" Wm. L. Cornog
" Chas. Cuddy
" Patrick Clancy
" Harvey S. Deming
" Hugh B. Doran
" Robert Daniel
" Frank Johes/Jones
" Jas. P. McGuire
" John McColley
" Franklin Payne
" James Ryan
" Geo. W. Nugent
" Oliver Williams

Transcriber's Note: Not mentioned in the above list were two civilians also killed 12/21/1866:

James S. Wheatly
Isaac Fisher

III.   A copy of this order will be read before each company and at the first garrison parade, and will also be furnished Department and Division Head Quarters, and forwarded to the Adjutant General of the Army.
IV.   It is deemed proper, in this connection, also to speak of a gallant young Officer, Lieutenant H.S. Bingham, of the 2nd U.S. Cavalry, and Sergeant G.R. Bowers of Co. "E" 2nd Battalion 18th U.S. Infantry, killed on the 6th December 1866. The former, though a comparative stranger was esteemed and honored. Sergeant Bowers had been in many skirmishes since the establishment of this route, and ever with honor to himself and faithfulness to duty.
V.   In final establishment of military reservation the initial point is made monumental. Nearly all whose remains lie in that cemetery are victims of Indian hostilities to our every step since on July 13th the command reached the site of the present Post. It is a fit tribute to the dead that significance be given to their burial place, and that their memory be honored by the act.

By order of

Col. H.B. Carrington
18th Infantry
Comd'g. Post
(signed) W.F. Arnold
1st Lieut. & Brv. Capt. U.S.A.
Post Adjutant

Fort Phil Kearney
January 4th 1867.

Adjutant General
Dept. of the Platte

The mail takes full report of fight December 21st. All bodies recovered. Severe cold and drifting snows, with mercury once at twenty two degrees below zero, have so far prevented Indian depredations. Their losses may also explain this.

The facts disclosed show that the detachment was several miles from the wood-train they were sent to relieve, and pushed over Lodge Tail Ridge in ardor of pursuit, after orders three times given not to cross that ridge. I found Lieutenant Grummond's body. Also Fetterman and Brown – evidently shot each other.

(sd) H.B. Carrington
Col. 18th Infantry

I mention here one fact which occurred at that precise locality, which illustrates the character of Indian operations about us, and explains how so many casualties occurred in connection with the wood party. On one occasion Brevet Captain Bisbee, Brevet Lieutenant Colonel Fetterman, and Captain Ten Eyck and two officers, with Fetterman, asked permission to go out and visit the wood train and received it, taking a small cavalry escort. All but Captains Ten Eyck and Bisbee, had just reached that country.

They descended to the Island just as the last wagon came from it, and upon entering the creek, received a volley of from fifteen to twenty Indian rifle shots, from behind a log only fifty paces from where they were standing, as Captain Bisbee measured it. They entered the ravine considerably in advance of their escort. A messenger supposing all to be killed, notified me, and I went with a party to their rescue.

They had skirmished with the Indians, and by retreating down the Island, had reached the mainland and bluff, when I reached them seven miles from the post.

I should explain the system adopted in the management of my wood train, during the Indian troubles, which in my judgement guaranteed protection whenever there was due conformity to orders.

The train, varying from twenty four to forty wagons, went in two parallel lines about three hundred feet apart, after leaving the "mill gate", until they reached the Pinery, with mounted pickets on either flank, especially on the crest of "Sullivant Hills", with orders, upon an Indian alarm, for the front wagons to turn in, left and right, and halt, and all other wagons to move on the trot or run, the mules to pass within each wagon in advance, thus making an instant corrall. This corrall was formed every time attack was made on the trains after I assumed command of the post, and the trains thus threatened never suffered loss.

At 7 o'clock P.M. of that day I hired two citizens to take dispatches to Laramie.

Upon reaching Fort Reno, Brevet Brigadier General Wessel gave the courier a telegram to Brevet Brigadier General Palmer, Commanding at Fort Laramie, with substance of information furnished him.

The courier[s] reached the telegraph station at "Horseshoe Creek" and forwarded General Wessel's dispatch to General Palmer, so that it reached Laramie about 2 o'clock P.M. He immediately advised Department Head Quarters. The courier reached Laramie about 11 P.M. with my dispatches, the operator at Horseshoe, not being willing to risk accuracy in so long a message.

The telegram relieving me from command is marked as having been received at Laramie at 2 o'clock P.M. on the 26th. I learned that my dispatches from Laramie went early in the morning of the 26th.

From the fact that General Cooke immediately telegraphed to General Palmer, to know how General Wessels could have this information, as Colonel Carrington was at Fort Philip Kearney, beyond him, and from the "hour date" given, I believe that I was relieved by General Cooke before the receipt of my dispatch. Other information could only have been derived incidentally from my courier, while but a few days before, Major Van Voast had been ordered to Fort Casper, with Head Quarters of the first Battalion, then the 18th Infantry, its books and records; to command that post.

Thus it would seem that the purpose of changing my post occurred simultaneously with report of the massacre, before receipt of my telegram.

This change restored the "Mountain District", increasing its force by six companies (four of them of my own regiment) all under the command of an experienced Officer and gentleman, Brevet Brigadier General H.W. Wessels, but a junior officer of my own regiment.

Relative to the massacre of December 21st, and to make more definite than set forth in my official report the exact movements of Brevet Lieut. Col. Fetterman, I add these facts.

The picket on Pilot Hill, having reported the train as having broken corrall and moved forward on its daily mission, I entertained no apprehension of further danger.

Fetterman's command had been joined by Grummond's, just west of the ordinary ferry crossing. It moved in good order.

I remarked the fact that he had deployed his men as skirmishers and was evidently moving wisely up the Creek and along the southern slope of Lodge Trail Ridge with good promise of cutting off the Indians as they should withdraw repulsed at the train, and his position giving him perfect vantage ground to save the train if the Indians pressed the attack.

It is true that the usual course was to follow the road directly to the train, but the course adopted was not an error unless there was then a purpose to disobey orders.

Upon inquiry I found he had no surgeon, and sent Dr. C.M. Hines with two orderlies to the wood train, instructing him, if not needed, to join Fetterman and return with him.

There was no danger of casualties except at the train and in Fetterman's movement towards cutting off retreat of the enemy, and the Indian force South of Piney, could not oppose his connection with the train, which had already repulsed attack.

Dr. Hines came back quickly, reporting the train to have passed safely on, that Brevet Lieutenant Colonel Fetterman had crossed Lodge Trail Ridge towards Peno Creek, and that Indians were on the western slope, and between him and Fetterman, so that he could not join him. Brevet Lieutenant Colonel Fetterman evidently disregarded those that were on that slope (if he saw them) and was led off into Peno Valley, perhaps after the party who had been at the Ferry crossing, and had attempted precisely the same decoy practiced December 6th 1866.

When Brevet Lieutenant Colonel Fetterman was last in sight from the post, his command was moving westward along the slope of Lodge Trail Ridge, and apparently in good order, with no indication that it would pass over it.

My office orderly soon told me that the sentry at the door reported firing.

I went to the top of the house, on which was a lookout, and heard a few shots, apparently in the direction of Peno Creek. With my glass I could see neither Indian nor soldier.

I think I counted six scattering shots at first, succeeded by more rapid firing. I directed the orderly, then in front of the house to notify the Officer of the day, - had sentry call the Corporal of the guard, and the guard formed immediately, - sent one man who was bringing boards into the unfinished part of the house, to the Quarter Master's office, to have wagons and ambulances hitched and to immediately go and notify every unarmed man the Quarter Master's employ, to report at once to the magazine for arms.

Lieutenant Wands, Captain Ten Eyck, and another Officer whose name I do not recollect, were in sight from the top of the house.

I directed Captain Ten Eyck to be prepared to move out at once. I called Lieutenant Wands to the top of the house to watch the firing, and went in person to hasten and organize the detail that was to move. It moved in a very few minutes. I rejected some men from the detail after it was formed, taking those only who had [the] most ammunition, and had reported promptly, not waiting to have any boxes re-supplied.

Having sent already a messenger to the Cavalry, I sent, immediately after Ten Eyck moved, the remainder of Company "C", 2nd U.S. Cavalry, dismounted, (nearly thirty men in all) having the new carbine, requiring them to fill their pockets with all the surplus ammunition they could carry.

In the first wagon that reported, I placed three thousand (3,000) rounds Springfield, and two (2) cases of Spencer, to give this command, and also Fetterman's, additional ammunition. I sent "Williams", master of transportation in charge of the wagons and ammunition with forty two (42) men, these quickly following the details that had already left.

The whole garrison was placed under arms, all work suspended, arms stacked before quarters, to answer to the assembly.

This occupied but a very few minutes, and I joined Lieutenant Wands upon the house, to watch indications of the position of the parties out.

There had been a short lull in the firing, (namely only scattered shots here and there,) succeeded by a very brisk firing, apparently by file, at first, and quite regular, and an occasional volley, followed by indiscriminate firing gradually dying out in a few scattered shots.

Being satisfied that the affair was occurring beyond the range of Brevet Lieutenant Colonel Fetterman's instructions, I became apprehensive of disaster and directed Brevet Captain Arnold, Post Adjutant, to determine and report to me at once, the number of men remaining at the Post, soldiers and citizens, who were armed, to determine whether I had any force to spare for further operations outside.

He reported the number at one hundred and nineteen including guard, as per the following report.

Head Quarters Post
Fort Philip Kearney, D.T.
December 21st 1866.

Col. H.B. Carrington
18th Infantry
Comd'g. Post


I have the honor to report one hundred nineteen men (119) present, armed and equiped [sic], available for the defence of the Post, at 12 o'clock M. this day.

Company "A" 2nd Battn. 18th Infy. 16
Company "C" 2nd Battn. 18th Infy. 13
Company "E" 2nd Battn. 18th Infy. 13
Company "H" 2nd Battn. 18th Infy. 13
Company "K" 2nd Battn. 18th Infy. 23
Company "C" 2nd U.S. Cavalry 8
Mounted Infantry 11
Guards 32
Total 119

I am very respectfully
Your Obdt. Servt.

(sd) W. T. Arnold
1st Lieut. & Bvt. Capt. U.S.A.
Post Adjutant

I sent couriers to the wood party to withdraw it, (timber or no timber,) and, as before stated, notified Captain Ten Eyck by courier, and in writing, that their return would give me fifty additional men to spare.

From the fact that Brevet Lieutenant Colonel Fetterman, had for two weeks, daily, at retreat, drilled his company in loading and firing by file and by numbers, and from the character and position of the firing, I believe that he must have fallen short of ammunition before the last catastrophy [sic] occurred. If he moved without inspection of his command, he still should have had an ample supply for any contingency in the relief and protection of the train. But it is no less certain that, as when he was out before, he wasted fire at long range, Lieutenant Bingham having that day fired revolvers at several hundred yards distance.

While Captain Ten Eyck was out, I caused to be examined the Sergeants of the companies which had furnished him details of infantry and cavalry, and the aggregate of ammunition reported to be with the party of Brevet Lieutenant Colonel Fetterman, was two thousand and eight hundred (2800) rounds. I had but a few days previously issued three thousand (3000) rounds to each company to be kept by the Officers, or in the Sergeants room and the general standard of supply to each man was forty (40) rounds. This occasionally was depleted by small expenditures with the wood train during the day, but my standing order forbade them to fire at any game whatever, without special consent.

At the same time the garrison was so organized that every officer and soldier, every citizen or citizen employee and teamster, and every Clerk in the Sutler's store, had his loop hole or place at which to report at a general alarm by night or day.

I will now give a more definite idea of the passage of time during the skirmish.

Upon my return from the Pinery, the night previous, it was uncertain whether the train would go out in the morning on account of the Snow, which I had found quite deep in the woods, but just before guard mounting, or nearly 10 o'clock A.M. I concluded to send it with a strong guard as before mentioned. It was nearly 11 o'clock when the picket reported the train corralled. Brevet Lieutenant Colonel Fetterman moved with his infantry, certainly within fifteen minutes, I think less. Lieutenant Grummond mounted so quickly as to join Colonel Fetterman at the river crossing, as before mentioned, about thirteen hundred yards distant from the post..

Just about dinner call, or near 12 o'clock M. my attention was called to the firing. Captain Ten Eyck moved very rapidly (and then I determined the strength of the command as stated). Captain Ten Eyck reached the summit of the hill, where he first halted, in about half an hour.

Sample, the orderly whom he sent back to me, arrived at Head Quarters a little after one o'clock, perhaps half past.

All firing ceased as far as I could hear any, just before Captain Ten Eyck's advance reached the top of the hills, so that the duration of the firing was somewhat less than one hour. I should judge, about thirty five to forty five minutes.

The communication from Captain Ten Eyck, and the response was quick. He had my own orderly with a superior horse, and my own horse being saddled, he went back as quickly.

The message by the courier, from Captain Ten Eyck was in substance, as follows.

The Captain says "he can see or hear nothing of Fetterman, but the Indians are on the road challenging him to come down, and large bodies were in all the valleys several miles around. He would like to have me send artillery if I could. Captain was afraid Fettermans [sic] party was all gone up."

I sent no gun because they had no men to handle it, and if he were compelled to fall back, I was prepared to support him to better advantage, and I deemed the gun useless to him.

My reply was as follows.


Forty well armed men with three thousand rounds, ambulances, &c . left before your courier came in.

(You must unite with Fetterman, fire slowly and keep men in hand. You could have saved two miles towards the scene of action, if you had taken Lodge Trail Ridge.

I order the wood train in, which will give fifty more men to spare.)

H.B. Carrington
Col. Comd'g."

Subsequent facts showed that the gun was not needed, and that before it could have left the Fort, the Indians had retired, and he was securely moving to the rescue of the bodies of the dead.

Before attending to certain published material touching this examination, I will say that my monthly return of the Mountain District, Department of the Platte, on the 13th of October, when the district ceased to exist, exhibited the following as the garrison of the three posts of the command.

At Fort Phil Kearney, including myself, district, regimental, battalion and post staff, 7 officers, and for duty, including those on extra or daily duty, as clerks or otherwise, 308 Officers and enlisted men.

The nominal aggregate present was 339, and the aggregate proper of the command, including ten commissioned officers (absent) and soldiers absent, the sick and those in arrest was three hundred and ninety eight men. Those in arrest I put on duty to avail myself of the relief of the guard and every able bodied man.

The number of serviceable horses at said post was thirty seven, and unserviceable thirteen.

At Fort Reno, aggregate present for duty one hundred and thirty seven, Total present one hundred and fifty two, including two officers, and total belonging to the command one hundred and seventy four with no horses.

At Fort C.F. Smith, aggregate for duty one hundred and fifty nine, and three officers. Total present, one hundred and sixty seven. Total belonging to the post, one hundred and seventy nine. Total serviceable horses thirty eight, unserviceable, eight.

I add in this connection that the aggregate at Fort Phil Kearney included the leader and band of the 18th Infantry (the leader and twenty four men) the non commissioned staff, and a few unassigned recruits.

With the exception of the recruits of Company "K", duly organized, forty five (45) in number, and Company "C", 2nd Cavalry, about sixty (60) strong, which came in small detachments, and armed as I have before stated, partly with old rifles and partly with Star Carbines, no addition was made to the garrison at Fort Philip Kearney until I was relieved from command by the arrival of Lieutenant Colonel Wessels, with two companies of 2nd Cavalry, and three companies of the 18th Infantry proper. During the same period, although said company "K" had been ordered to report to me for garrison duty, I was authorized by General Cooke, if I thought practicable, to send it to Fort Smith. They were perfectly raw recruits from the general depot, could not be sent without other escort. It was impracticable to send them and they were placed under instruction.

Fort Smith, therefore, was never reinforced.

When General Wessels moved from Old Kearney to take command of Fort Reno, he brought with him also Company "I", forty three strong, of the same character with Company "K", and Fort Reno received no other reinforcements until one company of the 18th Infantry proper, which came with Major Van Voast, was detached to strengthen its garrison.

Each of the posts was deficient in small arms. I had left one mountain howitzer at Reno, sent one to Fort Smith, and at Fort Phil Kearney there was one twelve pound howitzer (field) and three mountain.

The Springfield rifles used by my mounted men on the march were very much injured by use on horseback, so I deemed it necessary to estimate for one hundred to put the eight companies of the command in possession of perfectly serviceable arms.

A few had been carried off by deserters, a few had been lost on the march, both numbers small.

I received from Major Van Voast at Fort Laramie, Eight thousand (8000) rounds of small arms ammunition, sent on urgent request, and subsequently sixty thousand (60,000) from Leavenworth. I telegraphed for one hundred thousand more. Major Van Voast also sent me, with the eight thousand rounds, ammunition for my guns.

I now return to the published report of the Secretaries of War and of the Interior, as to the massacre at Fort Philip Kearney.

I first refer to letter of P. St. Geo. Cooke, Brevet Major General Commanding dated: -

Head Quarters
Department of the Platte
Omaha Neb.
December 27th 1866

The following are extracts, viz: -
"1st Col. C's statement, that with teamsters he had December 21st, but one hundred and nineteen (119) men left in the fort, requires the statement that his December 10th report shows an aggregate present of four hundred and seventy five"

My statement, as already shown officially, was literally true, and General Cooke could have made no allowance for wood train and its guard, neither for the dead who fell with Fetterman, nor for any force sent out to support Fetterman.

"2nd I hope regular communication can be kept with Fort C.F. Smith, and that we may be able to chastise Indians who may insult the posts, but with great caution. The Officers are not equal to their stratagems in the broken ground they know so well, their numbers, it seems now certain are so very superior."

"Colonel Carrington is very plausible, an energetic, industrious man in garrison, but it is too evident that he has not maintained discipline, and that his Officers have no confidence in him. Some of his acts, officially reported, such as shelling woods where Indians had appeared on a previous day, may have by this time, settled his appreciation by Indians."

My statements are these.

1st   Because the country was broken; because most of the officers had not been with me in reconnoisances [sic], and had recently arrived at Post, entirely unused to Indian warfare; because I knew the Indians to be in large numbers, I would not authorize them to make hazardous adventures. When Fetterman and Brown asked for fifty mounted men to go with fifty citizens, on a trip to Tongue river, to destroy Indian village [sic]. I showed them by my morning report, for which I sent in the person of Adjutant Bisbee, that I should thereby absolutely break up my mail parties and my pickets, and then lack eight horses to supply the number desired.

When citizens sent me a similar request, I answered that said citizens with a Lieutenant and fifty men, had not been able to protect the same citizens in fulfilling a hay contract for a winter's supply for my stock, and were therefore unequal to the punishment of their enemies, and the destruction of Indian villages.

I did (as I believed) fail to have the confidence of some officers. Few came from Omaha, or Laramie, without prejudice, believing I was not doing enough fighting. Most of those who had no confidence in my judgment, as to Indians, have paid the penalty of their lives, for their want of confidence.

Of the Officers who marched from Kearney and went through the whole campaign with me, Captain Ten Eyck alone remains at Fort Philip Kearney. He assisted in surveys and long commanded [the] post. Lieutenant Matson came soon after and is also at that post. These, with Captain Powell, are the only Officers who were there at the time of the massacre and are still there.

Fetterman and Powell did not arrive until November, the former expecting to have command of [the] post, and the 27th Infantry, and that I would join the new 18th Infantry.

Lieutenant A.H. Wands, (my last Adjutant,) was able to serve most of the campaign. Lieutenant and Brevet Captain W.H. Bisbee, who entered my regiment in 1861, as a private soldier, was appointed Sergeant Major, and by my request under the law of 1861, was appointed 2nd Lieutenant, marched with me from Fort Kearney as Adjutant 2nd Battalion, and served the whole summer, (until he had orders, in December, to report at Department Head Quarters,) as Post Adjutant was also with me. As Adjutant, he never reported "irregularities" or "disorder" that he was not at once empowered to correct. He differed from my views of discipline, in physical and verbal abuse of soldiers, requiring my issue of General Order No. 38, already cited. I stand by that order.

Brevet Captain Arnold came with Company "K", late in November. Other line officers came just after the massacre.

2nd   I did, with thirty men and howitzer, shell woods where Indians had appeared on a previous day because the block house of the wood choppers had been besieged a whole night by Indians, as per written report of Post Commander, one soldier being shot through a loop hole; because two men had been killed and another wounded near by, and having been advised by a messenger that Indians were still in the pine woods and thickets, two hundred feet below the ridge on which the block house stood, where infantry could not operate against Indians, unless in numbers and cautiously, the men also asking to return to post, unwilling to work thus exposed, I did go out and shell the forest below, clear it out and restore confidence to the working party.

3rd   The tender of Major Van Voast, with five companies, to lead a short winter expedition above Reno, not far from my post, when the same number of men would have been invaluable to me was first approved and finally disapproved as the force was too small, too uncertain for the risks and suffering.

I was expected to surprise Red Cloud in his winter camp, by telegram of September 27th 1866, and was advised that "Two or three hundred infantry, with much suffering perhaps might thus accomplish more than two thousand troops in summer", and again by telegram of November 12th, was reminded that "I had four companies of infantry and some cavalry available for punishing a long arrear [sic] of outrages."
4th   As to discipline of my command, I simply refer to my previous testimony, and to the work done in five months. I had at first, little drill or parade, except at roll call, but I had willing obedient soldiers. Drunkenness was rare. The post was quiet and orderly at all times. My men went from guard duty to hard work, and from hard work to guard duty, without a murmur. Often they could not have two consecutive nights in bed, and were always subject to instant call. The want of discipline was not in the soldiers nor their commander. It was in Officers coming fresh to the command, who were unequal to the wiles of Indians and despised my caution, and personal knowledge of the broken ground, which the Indians knew better than all of us, but which I had made by business to study and explore, all summer.

5th   A letter from same Head Quarters, dated Jan. 14th 1867, refers. –

1st   "To the impossibility of obtaining from so remote a post reports so soon as desired and expected."

I fully concur and have experienced his difficulty. It says

2nd   Colonel Carrington has before December 21st made no expedition against Indians. All his skirmishes have been with war parties attacking his supply train, or appearing in sight of the fort."

I remark that this is true, and it took all the men I had to do this and prosecute my legitimate work. – Again quoting. –

"I am informed that on these occasions it was the custom of Officers and men to sally forth, mounted, or on foot, much at their discretion, and in confirmation of this, I enclose (C.) a report of Brevet Lieutenant Colonel Fetterman of the Affair of Dec. 6th. He says

"When his command of thirty men reached the wood party, surrounded by Indians, four miles from the post, he was joined by Captain F.H. Brown, with a couple of mounted infantry, who had already started for the relief of the train and was overtaken by 2nd Lieutenant Wands, 18th U.S. Infantry."

I have already said that the report was a schedule of mine, and mine is not in the pamphlet.

Captain Brown went with some Quarter Master's employees. He had been relieved as Quarter Master and was closing his papers, but, as was his custom when responsible for the trains, watched them closely.

His official report is in my hands for examination. He reached the train before Fetterman and says "he there volunteered to join him."

I have before explained lieutenant Wand's accidental error in joining the wrong party, and refer to order heretofore recited for proof that I suppressed, even by guards at the gate upon an alarm, (more than once directing them in person) the very natural impulse, for new men on the frontier, to chase the first Indian that appeared.

I have no positive knowledge who General Cooke's informant was, and therefore do not give my opinion. My reports do not show the facts cited. Again. –

"The size and composition of the party massacred, indicate that they were all mounted cavalry and infantry, to just the number of horses in hands of infantry."

My 13th October report 1866, when the district was abolished, and already referred to, shows less than half that number of serviceable horses then at the post. The infantry had nearly that number in May, never after were resupplied, but their horses turned over to the Cavalry as they required them. Again –

"That the horses were kept saddled."

They were saddled at daylight. I wished to be quick as the Indians, and therefore always ready for them. I never lost man or animal by being thus ready, but repeatedly foiled Indians, by sending a force out instantly upon their appearing.

Being upon oath to state the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, I do say frankly, that I know of nothing in my official correspondence with General Cooke, while he commanded the Department of the Platte, nor in my personal experience during eight months spent in opening the route to Montana, that confirms the conclusions said reports involve.

I do however remark that a disappointed candidate for a sutlership, a disappointed applicant for a place under my Quarter Master, and a disturbed emigrant, furnished for the Kearney Herald, the Leavenworth Times, the New York Tribune and the Washington Chronicle, entirely false statements as to myself and command, and gave impressions to the public which, from the first occupation of the line, have been calculated to do mischief, and that only.

Fort Phil Kearney was established amid hostilities. Fifty one skirmishes have occurred. No disaster other than the usual incidents to border warfare occurred, until gross disobedience of orders sacrificed nearly eighty of the choice men of my command. I now know, that dissatisfied with my unwillingness to hazard the post, its stores, and the whole line for an uncertain attempt to strike Indians in their villages, (many times my numbers,) at least one of the Officers sacrificed deliberately determined, whenever obtaining a separate command, to pursue the Indians after independent honor.

Life was the forfeitIn the grave I bury disobedience. But I will vindicate the living and stand by my acts and record. It will stand as a simple fact that in the face of constant night and day attacks; and in the heart of Indian country, the posts ordered to be established, were established during 1866, and that they will control the great highway to the north west, whenever the aims or policy of the United States shall fully appreciate and take measures to develop the line so established.

Upon being relieved, I moved to Fort Casper, with regimental Head Quarters, staff and Officer's families, with mercury at 38° below zero, (the second day,) and having more than half my escort of sixty men frosted the first sixty five miles, requiring two amputations at Reno.

From my courier's first departure, December 21st with report of the massacre of that date, I received no direct communication from Department Head Quarters while General Cooke was in command.

A communication to Brevet Brigadier General I.N. Palmer, gave notice that I would be relieved upon the arrival of Brevet Brigadier General Wessels with troops, and would take command at Casper.

I never saw Special Order No. 126, Head Quarters Department of the Platte, December 26th 1866, until my arrival at this post, when it appears in the pamphlet already referred to.

The following are correct copies of my communications to General Grant and Department Head Quarters, and correct the typographical errors found in the published pamphlet.

Received at Office United States Military telegraph, War Department Washington D.C.
December 26th 1866

Fort Philip Kearney D.T.
December 21st 1866

By courier to Fort Laramie
December 26th


I send copy of dispatch to General Cooke, simply as a case when in uncertain communication, I think you should know the facts at once. I want all my Officers. I want men. Depend upon it, as I wrote in July, no treaty but hard fighting is to assure this line. I have had no reason to think otherwise. I will operate all winter, whatever the season, if supported; but to redeem my pledge to open and guarantee this line, I must have reinforcements and the best of arms up to my full estimate.

Your Obedient Servant

(sd) H. B. Carrington
Col. 18th U.S. Inf.

General U.S. Grant
E.S. Parker, Colonel and A.D.C.
Copy forwarded to Secretary 27th

Fort Philip Kearney D.T.
December 21st 1866

Do send me re-inforcements forthwith. Expedition now any force is impossible. I risk everything but the post and its stores. I venture as much as anyone can, but I have had today a fight unexampled in Indian warfare, my loss is ninety four killed.

I have received forty nine bodies, and thirty five more are to be brought in, in the morning, that have been found. Among the killed are Brevet Lieutenant Colonel Fetterman, Captain F.H. Brown, and Lieutenant Grummond. The Indians engaged were nearly three thousand, being apparently the force reported as on Tongue river, in my dispatches of 5th November and subsequent thereto. This line, so important, can and must be held. It will take four times the force in the spring to reopen it, if it be broken up this winter. I hear nothing of my arms that left Leavenworth September 10th. The additional Cavalry ordered to join me has not reported; their arrival would have saved us much loss today.

The Indians lost beyond all precedent. I need prompt reinforcements and repeating arms. I am sure to have, as before reported, an active winter, and must have men and arms. Every Officer of this Battalion should join it. Today I had every teamster on duty, and but one hundred and nineteen men left at post. I hardly need urge this matter, it speaks for itself. Give me two companies of cavalry at least, forthwith, well armed, or four companies of infantry, exclusive of what is needed at Reno and Fort Smith.

I did not over estimate my early application of a single company. Promptness will save this line, but our killed shows that any remissness will result in mutilation and butchery beyond precedent. No such mutilation as that today, is on record. Depend upon it that the Post will be held so long as a round or a man is left. Promptness is the vital thing. Give me Officers and men. Only the new Spencer arms should be sent. The Indians are desperate. I spare none, and they spare none.

Henry B. Carrington
Col. 18th U.S. Inf.
Comd'g. Post

All communications to the Associated press, as to my operations during the year 1866, which started from Fort Laramie, were without my knowledge or authority, and in no instance have the extracts found in the papers, been countenanced by me. My dispatches sent to Laramie were generally entrusted to the Post Commander for transmission.

I close by stating, not having seen the evidence already taken, that if further testimony should be deemed necessary, there are at this post the following witnesses.

A. Sample, Orderly, who went out with Captain Ten Eyck, and was the courier on that occasion, and who was out in the affair of December 6th with Bvt. Lieut. Col. Fetterman, when the Cavalry deserted him.

D. Harman, who was with me December 6th when surrounded by Indians, and who, the same day, on the way thither, bore an order to Lieutenant Grummond to "Keep with me and obey orders or return to the post"

John Murray, Hospital Attendant, who was with me in care of the killed, on both occasions.

John Edwards, Clerk at the Headquarters, who was present and heard me give Lieutenant Colonel Fetterman his orders Dec. 21st 1866.

W. Bailey, for seventeen years on the frontier in charge of the miners and mountaineers, and my most reliable mail carrier.

H. Schiebe, Clerk of Mr. Brown, who knows that Brevet Lieutenant Colonel Fetterman and Captain Brown had previously planned to move actively upon Indians whenever they should be out of the fort with any considerable force.

Others, who are discharged veterans, now waiting transportation, know many corroborative facts.

I have been thus voluminous in testimony because while the suspicion that an officer both lacks the confidence of his own officers and shows utter want of discipline, is both fatal to his reputation, and can be alleged in few words. It requires an actual knowledge of that Officer's system and operations to test the foundation and accuracy of the allegation.

I appreciate the uniform courtesy of the Commission and only regret that I might not, with them, visit the theater of operations, with which I am so familiar.

By President of the Commission

Question. Did at any time friendly Indians approach Fort Philip Kearney, and if so, when, and in what manner?
Answer. Except the Cheyennes already mentioned, no Indians approached the Fort, or any working parties at the woods, hay field, or elsewhere, except with hostile acts and purpose, although, through the Cheyennes, I notified the Sioux that any Indians bearing a white flag and approaching the fort by the road, would be kindly received, and when [t]his was done would be permitted to leave in security.
Question.   Did you at any time receive information that friendly Indians approached Forts Reno or C.F. Smith, with friendly intentions?
Answer.   A portion of the Cheyennes who visited me, visited Fort Reno, were used kindly and behaved well. They also visited Fort Casper. No other Indians visited that post, except to steal stock, and for a hostile purpose. The Crows often visited Fort C.F. Smith, always as friends, were allowed to trade to some extent, and uniformly behaved well. On one occasion a party of Sioux, and it is supposed, with some Arapahoes, joined a train on its route to C.F. Smith, some twenty (20) miles this side claimed to be friendly, explained two or three shots, which they had fired as accidental, but left them and made no friendly visit to the garrison. On one occasion a small party of Sioux visited Fort C.F. Smith, claimed to be friendly, received some provisions, left the fort and killed and scalped one man, returning from where wood was being cut, within half a mile of the fort, and in sight of its garrison. They were promptly pursued but eluded punishment. I know of no other instance where Indians approached either post except as enemies.
Question.   Please state when, and by what order the Mountain District was organized, and the posts established therein?
Answer.   General Order No. 33, issued by General Pope, March 10th 1866, organized the Mountain District. A copy is attached. Special Order No. 40, issued by General Dodge, omitted the Yellowstone Post, as per copy attached. My letter to General Cooke, already quoted, of April 26th 1866, calling attention to this omission, brought the response to proceed under the original order, viz; - No. 33, of General Pope. General Order No. 2, Mountain District, of June 28th 1866, assigned the respective command. A copy is attached. Special Order No. 7, issued by General Cooke at Omaha, same date, made changes corresponding with Order No. 40 of General Dodge, to which I conformed. This was in fact essential, unless General Cooke could increase the force upon that line and I deemed it material to retain Fort Reno. As has already appeared, I desired to open the whole line, and it cannot be questioned, in my own mind, that the firm grasp of the whole line, even in November, would have realized a permanent possession and have brought the Indians to terms of substantial peace.

Henry B. Carrington
Col. 18th U.S. Inf'y.


Head Quarters Department of the Missouri
St. Louis, Mo.
March 10th 1866.

General Order
No. 33

I.   The following movements and disposition of troops in this Department will be made at as early a day as the season will permit.
  1st.    The 2nd Battalion 18th U.S. Infantry, will constitute the garrisons of Fort Reno on Powder River, and the two new Posts on the route between that place and Virginia City, in Montana. The first of these posts will be located near the base of the Big Horn Mountains; the second, on or near the Upper Yellow Stone river, Fort Reno will be removed to a point forty miles west of the present site. At these posts the Battalion will be distributed as follows: - Four companies at Fort Reno, and two companies at each of the other posts. The Colonel of the regiment will take post at Fort Reno. Fort Reno and the new posts between that and Virginia City, will constitute the command of the Colonel of the 18th U.S. Infantry, which will be known as the "Mountain District". The Major of the Battalion will take post at the new Post on or near the Upper Yellow Stone.
  2nd    The 1st Battalion 18th U.S. Infantry will occupy Fort Laramie and the posts between that place and Salt Lake City, as follows. Three companies at Fort Laramie; two companies at Fort Casper; two companies at Fort Bridger, and the remaining company at Camp Douglas. The Major of this Battalion will take post at Fort Laramie.
  3rd    The 3rd Battalion, 18th U.S. Infantry will be disposed as follows: - Three companies at Camp Douglas; two companies at Big Laramie, (to which point Fort Halleck will be removed), two companies at Camp Wardwell; and one company at Fort Sedgwick.
  4th    The 5th U.S. Volunteers will take post as follows: - Two companies at Fort Sedgwick; three companies at Fort McPherson; two companies at Fort Kearney; and three companies at Fort Lyon. Colonel Maynadier, 5th U.S. Volunteers, will take post at Fort Laramie, and exercise command of Forts Laramie, Casper, Bridger, Camp Douglas, Post on Big Laramie, Forts Wardwell, Sedgwick, McPherson, and Kearney. This command will be designated the "District of the Platte".
  5th    The 6th U.S. Volunteers will be distributed as follows: - Two companies at Fort Laramie; two companies at Fort Bridger; two companies at Big Laramie; two companies at Fort Sedgwick; one company at Fort McPherson, and one company at Fort Lyon. The Colonel of the 6th U.S. Volunteers will take command at Fort Sedgwick.
  6th     The 1st Battalion 13th U.S. Infantry will be distributed as follows: - Three companies at Fort Dodge; three companies at Ponds Creek; two companies at Fort Fletcher. The Major commanding this Battalion will take post at Ponds Creek.
  7th    The 3rd U.S. Infantry will be distributed as follows: - Three companies at Fort Larned; three companies at Fort Ellsworth; two companies at Fort Riley, and two companies at Fort Leavenworth. The post of Fort Lyon, Fort Dodge, Fort Larned, Fort Ellsworth, Fort Fletcher, Ponds Creek, and Fort Riley, will be known as the "District of the Upper Arkansas", Head Quarters at Fort Ellsworth. The Head Quarters of the 3rd Infantry are established at Fort Leavenworth, to the command of which the Colonel of the 3rd regiment is assigned.
  8th    The 2nd and 3rd Battalions of the 13th U.S. Infantry, under command of the Colonel of the Regiment, will proceed to the Upper Missouri river, and report to Brevet Major General Sully, at Sioux City, who will dispose of them as follows: - One company at Fort Union, (mouth of the Yellow Stone), one company at Fort Berthold; four companies at Fort Rice; three companies at Fort Sully; two companies at Fort Randall; one company on [James?] River, (mouth of fire steel Creek); one company at Sioux Falls, and three companies to establish new posts on north side of Black Hills, on Big Cheyenne river. These posts will be known as the "District of the Upper Missouri".
  9th    The 2nd U.S. Cavalry will be posted as follows: - one company at Fort Leavenworth; two companies at Fort Ellsworth; one company at Fort Dodge; two companies at Fort Lyon; two companies at Fort McPherson, and two companies at Fort Laramie.
  10th    The 10th U.S. Infantry will garrison the posts in Minnesota as follows: - Two companies at Fort Ripley; two companies at Fort Abercrombie; four companies at Fort Wadsworth; one company at Fort Ridgley, and one company at Fort Snelling. The Colonel of the regiment will take post at Fort Snelling, and exercise general command over the posts occupied by his regiment, under the general designation of the "District of Minnesota". The Lieutenant Colonel, or the next in rank of the field officers for duty with the regiment, will command Fort Wadsworth.
II.      The horses and Canadian ponies, with their cavalry equipments, to be turned in by volunteer regiments, will be distributed as follows.

  Minnesota District  
At Fort Snelling 20
At " Ripley 25
At " Abercrombie 50
At " Wadsworth 100
At " Ridgley 25
  Total 220
  Upper Missouri District  
At Fort Union 25
" " Berthold 25
" " Rice 100
" " Sully 50
" " Randall 50
" Post in Black Hills 100
" Fire Steel Creek 25
" Sioux Falls 25
  Total 400
  Mountain District  
At new Post On or near Upper Yellow Stone 50
" Post at foot of Big Horn Mountains 50
" Fort Reno 100
  Total 200
  District of the Platte  
At Fort Kearney 25
" " Casper 50
" " Bridger 50
" Camp Douglas 100
" Big Laramie 50
" Fort Wardwell 50
  Total 325
  Upper Arkansas District  
At Ponds Creek 50
" Fort Fletcher 50
  Total 100

    The Commanding Officer of each of these posts to which these horses are assigned, will detail an officer and sufficient number of men, either whole companies or detachments from companies, as he may consider best, to take charge of the horses and constitute the mounted force of the post until cavalry companies are supplied. For the care, both of horses and equipments, the Officer in command of the mounted force will be held responsible.
III.      The movements and distribution of the troops herein designated for the District of Minnesota will be made in accordance with this order, by the senior regular officer in the District, when the troops arrive at Fort Snelling. The troops for the District of Upper Missouri will in like manner be distributed by Brevet Major General Sully, Commanding the District; or, in his absence, by the Colonel of the 13th U.S. Infantry. One of these officers will take post at Sioux City, or Fort Randall, to receive and distribute the force. Major General G.M. Dodge is charged with carrying out this order for the Districts of the Upper Arkansas, Platte and Mountain.
IV.      As soon as the troops herein designated reach the stations assigned to them, the volunteer troops now there will be relieved and sent to the proper rendevous [sic] for muster out of service. All other volunteer troops serving in the Department excepting those serving in New Mexico, and the 5th and 6th U.S. Volunteers, herein assigned to stations, will be mustered out of service on the receipt of this order.
V.      The Officers herein charged with the duty of posting the troops, will take care that the horses and horse equipments are delivered at the several posts in accordance with this order, the best horses and equipments being selected.
VI.      Brevet Brigadier General L.C. Easton, Chief Quarter Master, Department of the Missouri, will take the proper measures to have the necessary transportation ready to carry out this order.
VII.      As soon as these dispositions of troops are made, all military districts heretofore established by Department orders, will be considered broken up and replaced by those designated in this order, except the District of New Mexico, which will remain as at present organized.
By command of Major General Pope
(sd) J. P. Sherburne
Asst. Adjt. General

Head Quarters, District of Nebraska
Omaha N.T.
March 28th 1866

Col. H.B. Carrington
Comd'g. East Sub. Dist. of Neb.
Fort Kearney N.T.


The following extract from instructions received by General Wheaton concerning the distribution of troops, as designated in General Order No. 33, Head Quarters Department Mo. of March 10th 1866, is furnished for your information and guidance, telegraphic orders concerning the important points in the same, having been sent you on the 16th inst.

Special Orders
No. 40

Head Quarters Kansas and the Territories.

I.      2nd Battalion 18th U.S. Infantry under command of Colonel Carrington, will move immediately. Two companies relieving the garrison at Powder River. Four (4) companies establishing new Posts on or near Piney Fork of Clear Fork of Powder river, to hereafter be known as Fort Reno. Two companies establishing the new Post at crossing of Big Horn, at or near mouth of Rotten Grass Creek, to be called Fort Ransom. A temporary supply of tools, rations, and Quarter Master's stores will be taken from the Posts in District of Nebraska, to last until yearly supply arrives, and which will leave there in a short time. The water power saw mill at Powder river, will be taken to Piney Fork Post, and put up and placed in running order. The District Commander will see that the Battalion is supplied with the best horses and equipments, and transportation in the District, as provided in Order 33. Troops will immediately move so as to be able to move from Fort Laramie on first grass. James Bridger will be employed and taken as guide. -:-:-:-:-:-:--:-:-:-:-:-:--:-:-:-:-:-:--:-:-:-:-:-:--:-:-:-:-:-:--:-:-:-:-:-:--:-:-:-:-:-:--:-:-:-:-:-:--:-:-:-:-:-:--:-:-:-:
III.      The 5th U.S. Vol. Infantry, will move immediately to their posts, excepting the two companies at Powder river, and the two companies at Fort Sedgwick. The two companies at Powder river will move, as soon as relieved by the 2nd Battalion 18th U.S. Infantry, to Fort McPherson. You will furnish immediate estimates for the transportation the movement ordered will require, and state whether all the tools you will need until the yearly supply is received, can be selected at Kearney for your command.
The horses required by General Order 33, for use of your command until cavalry arrives, will be procured at Laramie, among those now there, and to be turned in, before your command reaches that point.
When you relieve the two 5th U.S. Vol. Inf. Companies, now at Fort Reno, order the Omaha scouts, now there, to Fort Laramie, with a view to their being sent in for muster out. You will be joined at Fort Laramie by the celebrated guide Bridger, who has already conducted hundreds of wagons over the route to Montana, upon which you are to erect new military posts.
Before you arrive at Fort Reno, there will probably be a change, in Department and District lines. Until further orders you will please make all reports and returns to these Head Quarters, moving with the least possible delay to the execution of these instructions and submitting weekly reports of your progress. I am Colonel With much respect Your Obedient Serv't. (sd) J. G. Lewis Capt. A.D.C. & A.A.A. Genl.

Head Quarters Mountain District
Department of the Platte
Fort Reno, Powder River, D.T.
June 28th 1866.

General Order
No. 2

I.      Pursuant to instructions from Department Head Quarters, the disposition of troops in the Mountain District, Department of the Platte, will conform to the original order establishing the District.
II.      Assignment to Posts will until further orders be as follows, additional Officers being furnished to each post as soon as the proper Officers report.
  1st.   Old Fort Reno will be temporarily garrisoned by a detachment of thirty men from Company "B", 2nd Battalion 18th U.S. Infantry, under the command of Lieutenant T.S. Kirtland 18th U.S. Infantry.
  2nd   New Fort Reno, will be garrisoned by Companies A.B.C. & H. 2nd Battalion 18th U.S. Infantry, under command of Captain Ten Eyck, 18th U.S. Infantry.
  3rd   Fort Ransom will be garrisoned by Companies D. and G. 2nd Battalion 18th U.S. Infantry, under command of Captain and Bvt. Lieutenant Col. N.C. Kinney, 18th U.S. Infantry.
  4th   Upper Yellowstone Post will be garrisoned by Companies E and F, 2nd Battalion 18th U.S. Infantry, under command of Captain, and Bvt. Major Henry Haymond.
III.      Detailed instructions will be furnished before distribution of the command, relative to the respective posts, their places and disposition, the support of mail and other communications, and the general policy to be pursued in dealing with emigrants and Indians.
IV.      The Battalion Adjutant will proceed to Battalion Head Quarters, established at Upper Yellow Stone Post by the provisions of General Order No. 33, Head Quarters Department Mo. and will retain command of Company "E" 2nd Battalion, 18th U.S. Infantry, until the arrival of some Officer belonging to the Detachment assigned to that post, when he will be relieved of said command by the Officer so reporting.
V.      A detail of two Officers from the 2nd Battalion, 18th U.S. Infantry, for the general recruiting service of the Army will be announced as soon as advices are received of their return to the command, of the proper Officers to supply the vacancies involved in such detail.

By order of

Col. H.B. Carrington Comd'g. District (sd) Fred Phisterer 1st Lt. & Regt. Adjt. 18th Inf. Bvt. Capt. U.S.A., A.A.A. Genl.

Head Quarters Dept. of the Platte,
Omaha Nebraska
June 28th 1866.

General Orders
No. 7

The 2nd Battalion, 18th U.S. Infantry will take post as follows.

Two companies at Fort Reno, on Powder river. Four companies about eighty miles nearly north of Reno, on the new route to Virginia City, Montana, and on the waters of Powder river or Tongue river. This Post will be known as Fort Philip Kearney.

Two companies at the crossing of Big Horn river, on the same road, and about seventy miles beyond Fort Philip Kearney, to be known as Fort C.F. Smith.

The Colonel of the regiment will take Post at Fort Philip Kearney, and will command the Mountain District.

By order of

Brigadier General Cooke
(sd) H.G. Litchfield
Brevet Major U.S.A.
Aide de Camp

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