Fetterman Massacre reenactment honors anniversary of battle

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BANNER — Dec. 21, 2016, was the 150th anniversary of the Fetterman Massacre, also known as the Battle of the Hundred in the Hand, at Fort Phil Kearny State Historic Site.

The reenactment of the battle was originally scheduled to occur Dec. 18, but due to inclement weather was canceled and rescheduled for April 30.

Days before the rescheduled reenactment, a storm brought snow to the region, which Fort Phil Kearny State Historic Site retired superintendent Bob Wilson said was the reason for a small turnout of actors. He said to imagine the real scale of the battle, attendees would have to multiply the number of soldiers by four, and the Native Americans by 200.

Actors for the reenactment included Kearny Frontier Regulars, cavalry units out of Casper and Billings, Montana, and infantry from Denver, Colorado. The Native American actors were mostly the Real Bird family of Crow Agency, Montana. Crow rancher, educator and poet Henry Real Bird assisted Wilson with the narration of the battle.

A film crew from Wyoming and Montana Public Broadcasting Service were also in attendance to shoot footage for a documentary they are collaborating on about the Bozeman Trail.

The audience gathered on the hill where Cap. William Fetterman and Lt. George Grummond lost their lives 150 years ago.

The reenactment was complete with muzzleloader fire, hand-to-hand combat, fallen soldiers, whooping and battle cries.

In the actual battle 150 years ago, 81 soldiers fought against more than 1,500 Native Americans. Fetterman, Grummond and Cap. Frederick Brown were in command of the military who lost their lives to the cooperative efforts of more than 100 Arapaho, more than 600 Cheyenne, more than 300 Oglala and more than 800 Minnicoujou Lakota warriors.

Wilson said the battle began with a Native American attack on a wood train bound for Story to gather wood for the rest of the winter. The natives had two decoys from each tribe lure the soldiers over Lodge Trail Ridge, out of sight of Fort Phil Kearny, into an ambush along the path of the Bozeman Trail.

Many of the soldiers were green recruits who had never shot their rifles, which Wilson said likely led to their demise. Had they been experienced with their weapons, he said they probably could have made it out alive despite the overwhelming odds.

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By |May 9th, 2017|

About the Author:

Kristin Magnusson grew up in a rural town near Louisville, Kentucky. In 2003, she moved to Denver to earn a bachelor’s degree in multimedia studies and broaden her horizons. In 2009, Kristin moved to Sheridan , where she worked in video, as a ranch hand and veterinary assistant. In April 2016, she started a new adventure at The Sheridan Press.

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