On September 11, 2016, I spent the day at Fort Phil Kearny, Wyoming, touring the interpretive center, walking the remains of the old fort, and tromping the nearby battlefields. I had this opportunity because I was attending the annual meeting of the Wyoming State Historical Society in nearby Buffalo. At that meeting the society awarded Bear Claws, The Iron Horse Chronicles–Book Two, the first place award in the category of fiction for 2016.
Fort Phil Kearny was built by the U.S. Army in 1866 on the Bozeman Trail to protect travelers heading to the Montana goldfields from attack by the plains Indian tribes that resisted the encroachment on their final good hunting grounds. Red Cloud’s War made life miserable and dangerous for the travelers and the military defenders for two years before the Sioux, Cheyennes, and Arapahos prevailed and drove the soldiers away. They promptly burned the fort down. No original structures remain at the site, but a marvelous layout of the dimensions with identification markers for the buildings and facilities enables the visitor to gain a valuable picture of the installation.
More fights occurred at Fort Phil Kearny between the Indians and the Army than at any other post on the western frontier. The largest loss of life (81) by the Army occurred five miles from the fort when the Fetterman Massacre took place on December 21, 1866, at what is now known as Massacre Hill. This loss was not surpassed until Custer’s Last Stand a decade later. Red Cloud’s War is the only one which the Indians are considered to have won.
I am writing a novel about the Bozeman Trail and the incidents that happened along it in 1866. Therefore, it was particularly enjoyable to once again visit the sites where the action took place and to talk with knowledgeable people in Buffalo and at Fort Phil Kearny. The site is a Registered National Historic Landmark operated and maintained by the Wyoming Division of State Parks and Historic Sites and is supported by the Fort Phil Kearny/Bozeman Trail Association, which I have joined.
You can learn more by visiting: http://www.fortphilkearny.com/