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Records Relating to Investigations of the Ft. Philip Kearny (or Fetterman) Massacre
Testimony of Lt. A.H. Wands
M740 roll 1 of 1
National Archives & Records Administration



Lieutenant A.H. Wands, being duly sworn, testified as follows.

Question   What is your age, name, and occupation?
Ans.   A.H.Wands, 1st Lieutenant, 18th U.S. Infantry. I am twenty eight (28) years of age.

     
Ques.   Where were you stationed and on duty on and immediately prior to Dec. 21st, 1866?
Ans.   I was stationed at Fort Phil Kearney, Dakota Territory, five months prior to that date.

     
Ques.   At what time did the Government first station troops at, or in the vicinity of Fort Phil Kearney?
Ans.   About the 15th day of July 1866. I reached that post on the 26th of the same month.

     
Ques.   What route did you take going to Fort Phil Kearney at that time. What Indians did you see, and what was their disposition?
Ans.   I travelled with a small Government train from Leavenworth, via Laramie, Bridger's Ferry and Fort Reno, generally known as the new route to Montana. I was Quarter Master in charge of the train.

I saw no Indians except "Standing Elk's" band of Sioux, which I met just below Laramie, until I reached Crazy Woman's Fork of Powder river, twenty six miles north west of Fort Reno. "Standing Elk's" band were apparently friendly.

On reaching Crazy Woman's Fork, about noon of the 20th day of July 1866, Lieutenants Templeton and Daniels of the 18th Infantry, rode ahead to select a camping ground. This was necessary on account of previous trains having consumed the grass along the road. To the best of my belief, they went about a mile ahead, and to the right of the train.

The moment the head of the train reached the stream, Lieutenant Templeton dashed back alone. My horse, which Lieutenant Daniels had ridden that day, coming in riderless along side of Lieutenant Templeton's horse, with the saddle under him.

Lieutenant Templeton was closely pursued by several mounted Indians. One of them was so close that he had his spear drawn, ready to thrust as he passed my ambulance, which was at the head of the train. I immediately turned the ambulance and corralled the train. The train was surrounded by about one hundred (100) Indians, most of whom were mounted. They fought us in this corrall about three quarters of an hour, during which time they approached so near that the wagon covers were filled with arrows as well as bullets.

After this length of time, I broke corrall and moved about a mile to a high hill, and again formed a more compact corrall, with a much better position.

The Indians continued the fight until about half past seven o'clock in the evening, when a large government train appearing in sight, the Indians fled.

As soon as it became a little dusk, Chaplain White, and a soldier, managed to escape and carry the news back to Fort Reno. We were unmolested during the night. I should have stated that just as Captain Burrows came in sight, about two miles away, a soldier a short distance ahead of the train, was met, killed, and scalped by the retreating Indians.

Next morning, about sunrise, a party was sent to look for Lieutenant Daniels' body, which was found about a mile from the point where the train was first attacked, scalped, horribly mutilated, and with twenty two (22) arrows sticking in his body. Captain Burrows turned our train back to Fort Reno, deeming it unsafe to proceed with so small an escort. I wish here to state that our force consisted of eleven (11) soldiers armed with Springfield muskets, myself and another officer armed with the Henry rifle, with eleven (11) wagons. Nine soldiers accompanied the detachment unarmed. The teamsters were also not armed. Lieutenant Templeton of the 18th Infantry, had charge of all the soldiers.

The Commanding Officer at Fort Laramie was well aware of the strength of our party, and stated to us there was no danger on the road, as a satisfactory treaty had just been concluded. This was the general belief of all with whom we conversed at Fort Laramie. No other loss occurred to our force in that fight. Indian loss was not known-several were dismounted and blood, robes, and moccasins, were found in the morning showing they must have suffered some.

     
Ques.   What band of Indians was this?
Ans.   I do not know.
     
Ques.   What is the distance from Crazy Woman's Fork to Fort Phil Kearney?
Ans.   About thirty six (36) miles.
     
Ques.   What is the distance from Fort Laramie to Fort Phil Kearney?
Ans.   Two hundred and thirty eight (238) miles.
     
Ques.   At what time did you proceed from Fort Reno to Fort Phil Kearney?
Ans.   Left Fort Reno, July 23rd with a large government train numbering nearly two hundred (200) wagons. We saw no more Indians until we reached Cedar Fork, fourteen miles east of Fort Phil Kearney. At that point, a large number of Indians appeared, standing on a hill a short distance from the road. Several of these Indians advanced holding up papers. A party was sent to meet them, and examined their papers-Found the papers were letters from Colonel Carrington informing pilgrims and travellers, that this was a band of Cheyenne Indians, claiming to be friendly, ant that their chiefs had been to Fort Phil Kearney, and had signed a treaty of peace, and cautioning travellers to beware of them, but at the same time to treat them kindly as long as they made no hostile demonstration.

Each of these chiefs (some six or eight) had one of those letters. A man of our train, who could speak the Sioux language a little, was used as an interpreter. We asked them what they wanted. They asked for provisions, and we told them to wait until we got into camp a few miles ahead, then the chiefs might come to camp and we would talk with them. They followed us to camp, and Captain Burrows, the Officer in command, gave them a quantity of sugar, coffee and hard bread, which apparently satisfied them, and they left the camp. During the night, the proprietor of a train some seven miles in the rear, rode into our camp and stated that this train had been fighting Indians all the afternoon, and requested an ambulance to go back to the train for a wounded man, which was sent with a guard, back to his train.

The ambulance returned with the dead body of Mr. Dillon, proprietor of an ox-train, who was killed in the fight. It was represented that the number of Indians engaged was from one hundred to one hundred and fifty. No more Indians were seen before our arrival at Fort Phil Kearney.

Ques.   What was the conduct of the Indians at and about Fort Phil Kearney during the summer and autumn of 1866?
Ans.   Two or three days before my arrival at Fort Phil Kearney, a trader called French Pete, was killed, with three or four of his employees, within four or five miles of the Fort.

From August 9th until December 21st Indians attacked wood trains from Fort Phil Kearney, once or twice a week, sometimes for three or four days in succession, but without loss to us with the exception of occasionally killing or wounding a mule.

Our hay party, some six or eight miles from the Post, was also attacked several times.

A detail of soldiers, cutting timber and wood, seven miles from the Post, were attacked several times, and three of their number killed. In all of these attacks about the Post, about twenty men were killed, as near as I can recollect. No man's life was safe a quarter of a mile from the stockade, during any of this period, as the post was continually watched, and men going out alone were generally killed.

Ques.   Did any of the Indians appear in the vicinity of the post, with any of their women and children during this time, to your knowledge?
Ans.   None appeared, with the exception of eight Cheyennes, who approached on the road from Laramie, September 26th accompanied by one squaw, and holding up papers, which turned out to be the ones given them by Colonel Carrington, in July. These nine Indians claimed to be a deputation from the Cheyenne band in the mountains some distance from the post, requesting permission from the Military Commander, to hunt in that vicinity, and to encamp their band near the Post, and that they might trade at the Post.

These Indians were not allowed to see the inside of the stockade, but were treated kindly, and permission granted them to encamp on a stream three miles from the Fort.

Ques.   What is your estimate of the number of Indians accustomed to attack fatigue parties and wood trains, and appear upon the summit surrounding the Fort?
Ans.   I should judge, from fifty to one hundred generally, sometimes from one hundred and fifty to two hundred.

Ques.   About what number of public animals were driven off and stolen by Indians during the time above referred to?
Ans.   I should judge from three hundred to four hundred horses and mules. All government stock.

Ques.   Of what did the garrison of that post consist, during the time above referred to?
Ans.   It consisted of four companies of Infantry, averaging about seventy men to a company, during the summer and fall. Later in the fall a company of cavalry, numbering about fifty men, arrived at the Post, and about the 1st of December, a new company of Infantry numbering forty men, was added to the garrison.

Nine tenths of all the men composing the garrison, were new recruits, enlisted during the spring of 1866, and had never seen service.

Ques.   What was the character of the discipline of the garrison during this time?
Ans.   All the troops at the post except the number necessary for daily guard duty, were employed during the day in building the stockade, barracks, and store houses. No attention was paid to drill, and the discipline under these circumstances could not be maintained.

Few civilian employees could be obtained and it was actually necessary to use the troops in this manner to build the fort before winter set in.

Ques.   When hostile demonstrations were made by the Indians, what action did the Commanding Officer of the post generally take?
Ans.   A standing order was kept at the post for fifteen horses to be saddled and bridled at all hours of the day. A picket of three men was posted on a high hill near the post, with a flag to give the signal at the approach of Indians. When Indians drove off a herd, or made any demonstration or appearance, one of these men would ride as fast as possible to the fort and state from what direction the Indians were approaching. These horses were then mounted, an officer placed in command and ordered to pursue the Indians and recover the stock if possible.

These orders were carried out in every instance, sometimes recovering stock, but oftener unable to overtake the Indians. But once were the Indians overtaken and stock recovered by force.

Ques.   Were any men sent out to attack the Indians when making hostile demonstrations, except the fifteen mounted men, at any time, and if so at what times?
Ans.   If the picket reported a large number of Indians approaching, an additional force was mounted on every av ailable horse at the post, numbering from forty to fifty, and sent out. This occurred about one third of the number of times.

Ques.   Did you accompany these troops in their attacks upon the Indians, at any time?
Ans.   I did; and with three or four exceptions, every time, numbering at least twenty times.

Ques.   How long have you been in the Army, and have you served in Indian wars before?
Ans.   I have served as a Commissioned Officer since the 23rd day of March 1861. Previous to that time I had served in Florida, as a soldier in the regular army, during the last Seminole war, for about two years.

Ques.   What was the conduct of the troops at Fort Phil Kearney, in fighting Indians, compared with that of those you served with in Florida?
Ans.   The Infantry troops at Fort Phil Kearney behaved well with one exception, they would not reserve their fire, but would fire at long range, and waste their ammunition in that manner. Most of the engagements with the Indians were running fights.

The Indians but twice during these fights prior to the 21st of December, made any stand, but kept up a running fight. In those two fights the infantry, when engaged, behaved remarkably well. On the 6th of December, while pursuing Indians which attacked a wood train, a running fire was kept up about five miles. Brevet Lieutenant Colonel Fetterman was in command of the party on this day, with Lieutenant Bingham of the 2nd U.S. Cavalry, and about thirty five men of his company. He was also accompanied by Captain Brown and myself as volunteers.

After pursuing the Indians about five miles, they were reinforced by a large number and suddenly turned upon us, surrounding us in the shape of a horse shoe. As soon as they turned to attack us, Colonel Fetterman called to our party to halt, but instead of halting, about three fourths of the Cavalry dashed off at full speed in the direction of the fort, through the opening left in the Indian lines.

About nine or ten of the Cavalry remained, and most of these were compelled to dismount by the Officers threatening to shoot them if they did not halt and dismount. We then surrounded by about one hundred and fifty Indians. Those Indians fought us for about three quarters of an hour. The cavalry was not rallied and did not return to the fight. Lieutenant Bingham with this detachment of cavalry met Colonel Carrington on the road, coming to our assistance with a detachment of mounted Infantry, accompanied by Lieut. Grummond.

Colonel Carrington's party was seen by us approaching rapidly at about two miles distant.

The Indians seeing this party approaching, left us, but the approaching party meeting Lieutenant Bingham's command, and supposing it to be the whole command of Colonel Fetterman, joined and dashed down Peno Creek, leaving us to the left about a mile.

At the place where the junction was made with Lieutenant Bingham's detachment, we could not be seen. The Indians seeing the party pass on to our right, returned and fought us for about fifteen minutes longer, wounding one man and three horses. They then retired.

I consider the conduct of the Cavalry on that day, disgraceful, and of such a character as to induce the belief on the part of the Indians, that they could overcome the garrison or any party from the garrison, in an open fight.

Afterwards the Indians succeeded in killing Lieutenant Bingham who had dashed about two miles ahead of his party on Peno Creek, in pursuit of a single dismounted Indian. I do not consider the troops at Fort Phil Kearney, at that time, in the state of discipline and drill then existing at all fitted to fight Indians, for the reason mainly that they had no drill, and had seen little or no service, being mostly recruits.

Question   What demonstrations were made by the Indians at or about Fort Phil Kearney on the morning of the 21st of December last, and what was the report, if any, from the picket post, and what action was taken by the garrison?
Ans.   About 9 o'clock on the morning of December 21st, firing was heard at the fort in the direction of the wood road, and the picket reported that the wood train had been attacked by Indians and corralled about two miles out.

Firing was heard distinctly at the Post. Colonel Carrington, commanding the Post, ordered a detachment of fifty men from the four different Infantry companies, to proceed under command of Lieutenant Colonel Fetterman and relieve the wood train.

The detachment under command of Colonel Fetterman, was formed in proper order, in front of Colonel Fetterman's quarters, when he took command of them, and marched out of the fort. The guard was just then being mounted, and had just been turned over to me as Officer of the day.

The Cavalry Company, numbering about twenty seven men, were all mounted and awaiting orders. At the request of Lieutenant Grummond, who had taken command of Lieutenant Bingham's company, I went to Colonel Carrington and told him Lieutenant Grummond desired to know who was going to take out the Cavalry.

Colonel Carrington then directed me to order Lieutenant Grummond to take command of the detachment of Cavalry, and to overtake and join Lieutenant Colonel Fetterman's command, who were then about one quarter of a mile from the fort.

Colonel Carrington directed me to inform Lieutenant Grummond that his orders were to join Colonel Fetterman's command, report to and receive all his orders from Colonel Fetterman, and also to tell Colonel Fetterman, and to remember himself that this command was to go out and succor or relieve the wood train, bring it back if necessary, or if Colonel Fetterman thought best, take the train to the woods (it being then on its way out,) and bring it back, and under no circumstances were they to cross the bluff in pursuit of Indians. I gave those instructions to Lieutenant Grummond, and while the Corporal of the guard was unlocking the gate, I returned to Lieutenant Grummond and repeated them, and asked him if he thoroughly understood them. He replied he did, and would obey them to the letter.

Lieutenant Grummond left the Post with his detachment of cavalry, and had proceeded about two hundred yards, when he was called back by Colonel Carrington, who was on the sentinels platform at the time, and who called out in a loud voice, repeating the same instructions given Lieutenant Grummond by me, and asking him if he understood them. He replied, I do.

Lieutenant Grummond's command was seen to join Colonel Fetterman, about a mile from the fort. Instead of proceeding to the wood train as ordered, the command crossed Piney Creek to its opposite bank, and proceeded up a long ridge on the opposite side of the creek from the wood train, and about three miles from the crossing, to a point about two miles from where the wood train was corralled. They were then seen to halt on the crest of the ridge, about four miles from the post. There were about forty or fifty Indians riding around the command, firing at them during the march from the crossing of the Creek up the ridges, and the command returning the fire.

About the time the troops were seen resting on this ridge, pickets [sic] reported the wood train had broken corrall and had moved on towards the woods. Colonel Fetterman's command suddenly moved over the ridge and the firing increased.

In about ten or fifteen minutes, and about eleven o'clock in the day, this firing increased until it was a rapid and continuous fire of musketry. Colonel Carrington then directed Captain Ten Eyck, with a detachment of about forty soldiers, being every available armed man at the post, (although there were about seventy five men for whom no arms could be obtained, although requisitions had been made for them four or five months previously, and invoices of arms shipped had been received at least two months previously) to proceed as rapidly as possible to the assistance of Colonel Fetterman. His men were also supplied with extra ammunition in their haversacks.

Captain Ten Eyck left the fort at double quick. This was about 12 o'clock M. Colonel Carrington then directed the wagon masters to muster every available armed man their employ for immediate duty. He also directed an ambulance and three extra wagons to proceed to the scene of action to carry out extra ammunition and bring in the wounded.

These wagons were gotten under way as rapidly as possible, accompanied by about twenty five armed citizens, employees of the government. Before Captain Ten Eyck's party had reached the crest of the ridge overlooking Peno Creek, the firing had entirely ceased except an occasional shot.

As soon as Captain Ten Eyck's party reached the top of the ridge, he sent back a mounted man with information that he could see nothing of Colonel Fetterman's party, and that he could see thousands of Indians, and requested a howitzer to be sent to him. More employees of the Government were mounted and sent to reinforce him. Captain Ten Eyck and party returned about sunset, with the wagons loaded with the dead bodies of the Officers and soldiers of Colonel Fetterman's command, numbering thirty nine, all the wagons would hold, and stated that other bodies could be seen stretched along the road for a mile ahead. The wood train came in loaded with timber about the same time that Captain Ten Eyck's party arrived.

The Indians did not molest Captain Ten Eyck's party, but retired as he advanced to pick up the bodies. On the following morning, Colonel Carrington, with Captain Ten Eyck and Captain Matson, visited the scene of action and brought in the remaining bodies, numbering altogether seventy nine (79) Officers and enlisted men, and two citizens. The bodies were horribly mutilated and there was evidence that before the men were dead, they had been terribly tortured. Since then, no Indians have disturbed the garrison.

Ques.   How many rounds of ammunition were taken out by Col. Fetterman's command?
Ans.   I do not know, except from hearsay. I have understood they had from twenty five to fifty rounds per man. The Cavalry, I have understood, had from fifty to one hundred rounds per man.

Ques.   Did any horses return to the Fort?
Ans.   No.

Ques.   Were any dead horses found on the field?
Ans.   About ten American, and the same number of Indian horses.

Ques.   What were the arms used principally by the men?
Ans.   Infantry, Springfield rifles; Cavalry, Spencer Carbines.

Ques.   Were any empty shells of Spencer ammunition on the ground near where the large number of dead bodies lay?
Ans.   Very few if any. But from that point, to a mile beyond, where the fight evidently commenced, a large number were strewn along the road, and a great many where the dead bodies most remote from the fort lay, and where the heavy fighting commenced.