1 War: 1000 Acres

Before Custer there was Fetterman!

Fort Phil Kearny was one of 3 U.S. Army forts established along the Bozeman Trail in 1866. Named after deceased Civil War General Philip Kearny (pronounced car-nee) the fort’s mission was to protect travelers along the Bozeman Trail against Indian attack.

The Lakota Sioux Indians led by Red Cloud viewed the building of this fort in the middle of their sacred hunting grounds as a threat to their very existence. The Lakota also felt the fort was build in direct violation of an earlier treaty that stipulated this land belonged to them. This fueled a war with the Lakota, Cheyenne, and Arapaho Indians led by Red Cloud that eventually led to Captain William J. Fetterman’s entire command of 80 men being wiped out on December 21, 1866. This was the worst defeat suffered by the U.S. Army in the West before Col. George Armstrong Custer’s defeat at the Battle of the Little Bighorn 10yrs later. redcloud

Fort Phil Kearny was burned by the Indians when the Army abandoned it in 1868. Today you can visit the fort grounds and enjoy the scenery of the surrounding hills that has changed little in the past 147yrs. There is also a visitor’s center with a small museum with fort and Indian artifacts, and a bookstore.

Fees: Wyoming Residents $2.00, Non-Residents $4.00, Ages 17 and Under: FREE

Fort Phil Kearny State Historic Site is located at 528 Wagon Box Rd., Banner, WY 82832.  Exit 44 off of Interstate 90.

The Fort Phil Kearny staff in the Interpretive Center and Gift Shop will introduce visitors to the context of the Indian Wars and Bozeman Trail and can guide them through a viewing of the Fort diorama that depicts, to scale, the complete Fort as it would have looked in the fall of 1866. Visitors can then enter the original Fort site, through reconstructed stockade walls, and experience the expansive grounds of the largest stockaded Fort in the west.  Corner posts and signs inform visitors where original buildings would have stood, and stockade sections demonstrate exactly how the wall was built to protect soldiers, civilians (including families), and supplies from Native American warriors, as well as large populations of hungry Timberwolves.

Throughout the Fort grounds, interpretation invites visitors to understand Fort life, the colorful characters that resided therein, and appreciate the contrast of a busy Fort operation in such an isolated location. Pets are welcome on site grounds!  Please keep all pets on a leash at all times and pick up after them.  No pets are allowed inside the Interpretive Center building.


10 Replies to “1 War: 1000 Acres”

  1. I am in the early states of building my own diorama of Ft Phil Kearney. The above photograph looking out over the mountain howitzer and caisson toward the Big Horn Mountains would be perfect for me to use to paint the background for the shawdow box I will eventually be making . Is there any way for me to be sent a copy of that photo (hopefully one with the tops of the mountains not chopped off.) Thanks.
    I’m also the same one who is trying to contact Mr Wilson to get some ideals for making my diorama based on the diorama you have there.

  2. hi am trying to help a young soldier in afghanistan who is doing a study of the fetterman massacre and fort phil kearny he is planning a diorama when he returns we need any information on the sawmill that was used and its location any help would be greatly appreciated thanks

  3. My wife, her son (my step-son) and myself had the great pleasure of arriving on the August 2nd date of the Wagon Box anniversary. Coming from Troy, Missouri, I very much anticipated my opportunity to see the Fetterman site as well as the Box Wagon site, but was surprised to see AND experience the PASSION of the interpreters, and amazed at the personal knowledge…especially Karen in the visitor’s center! JUST amazed! Not only passion, but she took TIME to explain events! I’ve been involved in education for years teaching at Missouri Baptist University. I’ve been involved as a battalion commander of more that 500 living-historians…hard corp historians who were dedicated to proper interpretation of historical events and the passion demonstrated for Ft. Kearny and the events associated with the site were comparable to any I have ever experienced! I’m SO VERY impressed…and THANKFUL! This was TRULY a great experience and one that I would recommend to EVERYONE! I’ve been to Gettysburg, Antietam, Yorktown, Guilford Courthouse, Chickamauga, Shiloh, you name the place…I’ve probably been there; toured more that 36 countries and hundreds of historic sites that almost to a person would consider more historically significant than these sites…but I believe that this would be an error. The staff here does a phenomenal job! What a brilliant, brilliant experience…and GREAT gift shop and selection of books!!!! Thank you so, so much!

  4. Pierre Cazeau was killed near Ft. Phil Kearney on July 18, 1866 by the surprise attack by the Indians on his 5 men and him. They were all killed and mutilated. My gt. gt. Grandma and her 5 children were present and had to hide in a draw til the soldiers from the fort came and rescued them. Her name was Charlotta Weasel woman. Her children were Julia Marshal, and Millie, Susie, Anna and Peter, all Cazeaux’s children. They went to Hamburg , Iowa for about 14 years and then returned to the Pine Ridge Reservation, where their family resided.

    1. Nancy! What an extraordinary tale! Thank you for sharing – just this summer we were speculating on what became of those who hid from that attack… If you’d care to visit more about the event, I’d love to take your information! -M. Stoll

  5. I learned about the Bozeman Trail and the Forts build along the way to protect the wagon trains in History class in High School in West Virginia never dreaming that I would ever live anywhere close enough to see the actual trail ruts as I do here near Virginia City, MT. I created the Bozeman Trail Comemmorative Chuck Wagon Cook Off event last summer to honor all the brave people who utilized the trail and all the soldiers and their families who helped protect the use of the trail. This year Mr. Wilson and some of the Kearney’s Frontier Regulars came in August to lend some authenticity and educational information to the event. It was stupendous to see the Mountain Howitzer be fired and watch the military maneuvers necessary to accomplish the task. It was a huge success all weekend and I really appreciated everyone that participated in the event. I plan on coming down next year to Fort Phil Kearney. I am in the process of working with some area business people to establish an interpretive center and signage here in Virginia City at the trail head. The trail was very important to this area in bringing gold prospectors, homesteaders and merchants to the area. If you have any information or ideas that would be helpful in this planning process, I would greatly appreciate your assistance. Looking forward to coming to your area soon.


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