My new frontier historical novel, Bozeman Paymaster: A Tale of the Fetterman Massacre, will be issued by Five Star Publishing in June 2022. I will post a prelude each month before that date to provide historical facts that occur before the story in the book begins. This is the fourth prelude.
On May 16, 1866, Colonel Henry B. Carrington, commanding officer of the Eighteenth U.S. Infantry, received an important visitor at Fort Kearny, Nebraska Territory, where he was preparing to implement his orders to fortify the Bozeman Trail. Lieutenant General William Tecumseh Sherman, commanding officer of the Division of the Missouri, arrived from his St. Louis headquarters to inspect the regiment. Sherman was convinced that Carrington’s mission would be peaceful because of treaty negotiations taking place at Fort Laramie, Dakota Territory. Because of this, Sherman authorized the deployment of wives and family members of the regiment. While at Fort Kearny, the general encouraged the wives to keep journals or diaries.
Henry Carrington’s wife, Margaret Irvin McDowell Sullivant Carrington, aged 35, would follow Sherman’s advice. Margaret was a cousin to Brigadier General Irvin McDowell, an early commander of the Army of the Potomac during the recently ended Civil War. Her father, Joseph Sullivant, founded Ohio State University. Margaret married Henry Carrington in 1851. She had lost four children in childbirth, but now she and her two young sons, aged 6 and 9, were among the families who would travel up the Bozeman Trail to establish Fort Phil Kearny, Dakota Territory. Margaret’s journal was published in 1868 as Absaraka: Home of the Crows. Her first-hand account provides valuable insight into the lives of those impacted by Red Cloud’s War and the Fetterman Massacre.
In May 1866, two other officers’ wives were at Fort Kearny, Nebraska Territory, preparing to accompany their husbands into Sioux country. Sallie Horton was the young wife of the regiment’s chief surgeon, Major Samuel Miller Horton, who was only 29 himself. Lucy Bisbee was the 24-year-old wife of Lieutenant William Henry Bisbee. The Bisbee’s 2-year-old son accompanied them. If either of these wives kept diaries, they were not published.
Other wives and families would join their husbands over the forthcoming months of 1866. One of these would write a memoir of her experiences at Fort Phil Kearny. Newly married Frances Courtney Grummond was only 21 when she arrived at the fort on September 17, 1866, with her husband, Lieutenant George Washington Grummond. He would be one of the victims of the Fetterman Massacre. She would later marry Henry Carrington after his first wife, Margaret, died in 1870. Frances would publish her book, My Army Life and the Fort Phil Kearney Massacre, in 1908. For some reason, the fort’s name in the book’s title contains an extra “e.” Henry probably influenced the writing of the book. The final portion is devoted to reestablishing his reputation following the Fetterman fiasco.