Below Lodge Trail Ridge

The Ranch Below Fetterman's Masacure (watercolor) 9 x 16 SOLD

 

I began painting it at the Oregon State Fair this summer. When the light got bad in the evening I switched to clay and propped the painting up behind me. It caught the attention of a lovely woman and her teenage daughter. It reminds them of a ranch they know. After much discussion she bought another two big sky paintings and asked to purchase this one on completion. Last week she saw the completed painting for the first time and bought it. I’ve never been quite so pleased with a sale.Visiting the mountain west this summer, my husband and I toured two American Indian War Battle sites.  The first was that of the Fetterman Massacre which happened about ten years before Custer’s Last Stand.  The view is from but not of the site of the Fetterman Massacre in Northern Wyoming near Fort Kearney.

Fort Phil Kearney was set up in the northern Rockies to guard the Bozeman Trail. The Bozeman Trail (northwest from the Oregon Trail), passed through Wyoming, and on to the gold diggings in Virginia City, Montana. Unfortunately the trail crossed traditional Sioux hunting grounds. Sioux war chief,  Red Cloud, vowed to defend the territory. Washington, however, ordered the trail kept open at all costs.

In 1866, Colonel Henry Carrington, in command of the 18th Infantry Regiment, was sent to build and garrison a series of posts along the trail. Captain William Fetterman joined the regiment.

The Sioux harassed the fort and posts, particularly parties detailed to work outside the fort and those traveling between the forts.  Red Cloud and Roman Nose of the Cheyenne assembled several thousand warriors to remove the U.S. Army from the trail. Red Cloud’s plan was to send small parties of warriors to attack the wood trains and lure the soldiers off to meet the main band of warriors.

On December 6th, a wood train was attacked by a large party of warriors. When Carrington came out to retaliate he was met by an imposing force of Cheyenne warriors including Red Cloud and Roman Nose. He retreated to the fort, leaving too dead and five wounded. Carrington forbade any of his men to pursue fleeing Indians in the future.

Two weeks later, Red Cloud staged another strike on the wood train. But this time, Carrington was not sucked in. There was just one day of wood cutting left for the winter. Carrington prepared to send out a Captain Powell to reinforce the wood train, but Fetterman demanded the right to lead the rescue. Carrington yielded. Fettreman rounded up 79 men and – with the exact number he had bragged that he could wipe out the whole Sioux nation – set off to meet the foe. Carrington’s orders to him were, “Relieve the wood train. Under no circumstances pursue the enemy beyond Lodge Trail Ridge!”

As Fetterman’s men approached the the wood train, the warriors began to break off from the assault and flee from Fetterman’s approach. The soldiers chased them up the side of Lodge Trail Ridge. As they reached the crest of the ridge a second party of warriors, swung around on Fetterman’s rear. Fetternan and his men were surrounded by nearly 2000 men.

Fetterman attempted to ascend the ridge he had just come over and hide behind the cover of some rocks. But Indians were massing up that side of the ridge too. Within minutes all 80 of Fetterman’s men were dead.

Lodge Trail Ridge is now Wyoming State Historical Site.  (More information about the massacre, Fort Kearny, and the Bozeman Trail can be found at the official site for The Fort Kearny State Historical Site.)  A hiking trail leads along the ridge, and despite the markers and other information about the massacre remains beautiful. This is the view west from the lower end of the ridge.

 

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