Steve Miller has produced a fascinating illustrated story of the Battle for Fort Phil Kearny set in the Plains Indians Wars. Here is the first installment of this series.
What follows is a battle scenario that I will be creating as I go along. It may be thought of as “Alternative History” in that everything is as it was as the start of the “Deer Rutting Moon” to the Sioux, or November 1866 as we would know it. It is not a war game in the sense that it has no rules and right now I do not know how it will end; I will be making it up as it flows. I would expect it to have some seven to eight scenes or “episodes”, each of which will be accompanied by one or more photographs although it may turn out to have somewhat more. I hope you will enjoy following along.
Setting the Stage
The scene of the “battle” is Ft Phil Kearny, Dakota Territory (currently in northern Wyoming. The date is November 3, 1866. Four companies of the 18th US Infantry Regiment arrived at this site and began construction of the fort in mid-July of this year, its purpose to guard the Bozeman Trail which ran from southeast Wyoming at Fort Laramie to the gold fields in western Montana. Almost from the start, Sioux under Chief Red Cloud (who had vowed to close the Bozeman Trail) began harassment attacks on details assigned at the various “satellite” sites, the pinery (located about 5 miles west of the fort and the hayfield site, about 4 miles east of the fort. In addition, the Sioux launched frequent raids on the herds of cattle, horses and mules that grazed daily in the fields surrounding the fort. When raids succeeded in driving off livestock, a patrol of mounted infantry (since no cavalry troops had been assigned to Ft Phil Kearny to this point) would pursue, usually unsuccessfully. Until this day, however, Red Cloud had elected to avoid making any major attack on the fort itself, husbanding his strength as he gathered more bands to his banner.Now with over 2000 warriors nearby, that is about to change.
At 0900 hours that morning, the wood train had departed the fort for the pinery; the train consisted of 25 wagons, each driven by a civilian teamster, and was escorted by a platoon of roughly 20 soldiers. Already at the pinery was the weekly work party of 20 timber cutters, also escorted by a 20-man platoon. Remaining at the fort were 9 officers, 3 surgeons and the remainder of the 4 infantry companies and the regimental band, altogether about 320 men. In addition there were about 100 civilians, some of them quartermaster employees, some contractor personnel and some just en route either up or down the Bozeman Trail.
About 1000 that morning, large numbers of Sioux warriors appeared on the slopes of the hills surrounding the post. The guard was called out to man the ramparts, and when additional parties of Sioux joined the earlier ones, the entire garrison was called out to man the ramparts around the walls.
The army had responsibility for the main portion of the fort, while the Quartermaster (QM) area (to the left in these photos) was to be primarily the responsibility of the civilians (quartermaster and contractor employees), supplemented by a couple of infantry platoons.
What followed were some two hours of long range skirmishing, with few casualties to either side.
This is the situation shown in the first set of photos. Your vantage point is from north of the fort, facing the main gate and looking generally southwest, over the fort and towards the Big Horn Mountains in the background.
In the photo above a couple of army wounded are being helped to the post hospital.
Watch the Charge Civil War Wargaming and Diorama Blog for the future installments in this series!
- Part 1: click here
- Part 2: click here
- Part 3: click here
- Part 4: click here
- Part 5: click here
- Part 6: click here