Thursday, June 15, 2017

North to Montana, and the Indian Wars

Sunday, June 11,

'Time to say goodbye to Devils Tower and wander our way further north.

We hadn't been on the road very long when we dropped down over a little rise to see this view...

 brrrrrrrrrrrrrr, us Texans aren't really ready for that!
Home for the night,  Deer Park, just outside Buffalo, WY.

The park turned out to be perfect for our one night stop. A nice little laundry room, a level site right on their central green area, and a trail along with a huge mowed meadow that worked for our evening ball toss with the dogs.

They really offer a variety of activities and housing choices. They have a few cabins, and there's a small playground for little ones, along with horseshoe pits.

We toured the town of Buffalo in the afternoon and what a nice little town it is.
They've really played up their western heritage. Everything is very clean and it's clear they are proud of their history. A few things really caught our attention.

One such item was this statue of Nate Champion in front of the museum.

This cowboy had the kind of grit it took to ranch in the old west, but big money and big ranching got the best of him in the end.

This article in American Cowboy describing his ordeal is worth a read . . .  The Story of Nate Champion. The situation described in the article was apparently pretty common at the time as we found the Nate Champion story referenced in several museums as an example of the situation that existed for small cattle ranchers at the time.

As usual, we're going to miss a big local event - the annual Longmire Days celebration. Anyone who's read Craig Johnson's series about Sheriff Longmire, or watched the series (now on Netflix) will get the picture. The little town in the stories is modeled after Buffalo. Their annual celebration brings the cast of the show and fans together for a week of activities. It sounds like fun! . . but we'll be in Nevada by then! If anyone's interested, here's the Chamber of Commerce's page with the key info.

In the morning we loaded up the wagon and headed for the freeway heading north toward Sheridan to find the on-ramp was being patrolled by a wild turkey! What a rare sight! We've gotten used to all the rolling green grassland dotted with cattle and antelope, but this is the first turkey sentry we've seen, and right in town!

Monday, June 12
On our way north to Sheridan, WY, we stopped first at a monument recalling the Fetterman Fight.

To put this in perspective historically, a full ten years before the infamous Battle at Little Big Horn the settlers and U.S. Army were engaging in armed battle with local tribes across the northern plains.

The Fetterman Fight was one such battle. In December of 1866, Sioux, Cheyenne and Arapaho warriors engaged a force commanded by Capt. William J. Fetterman. The soldiers had been sent out to rescue a wagon train.

Using a decoy plan, something the Indians weren't noted for doing before, they lured the soldiers into an ambush. All 81 men in Fetterman's command were killed within 30 minutes. Only The Battle of the Little Big horn stands as a worse defeat for the U.S. Army, and victory for the Plains Indians.  The monument noting the details of the battle overlooks beautiful rolling grass covered hills. It's hard to envision the shooting, yelling smoke and chaos that must have taken place.

Unfortunately The Fetterman Fight was not the only incident of its kind. A treaty had been signed that allotted certain lands to the Indians and left a corridor open for settlers to travel, as well as for hunting. The idea at the time was that the military would be responsible for keeping the settlers out of the agreed upon Indian lands, then GOLD was discovered in the Black Hills of South Dakota, a large piece of the land deeded to the tribes, and that turned the agreement upside down.

In 1866 Fort Phil Kearny was established at the forks of Big and Little Piney Creeks. One of three forts along the trail, the mission of the post was three-fold - protect travelers along the Bozeman trail, prevent inter-tribal warfare among the Native Americans, and to draw the Indian forces away from the development of the railroad line that was under construction in southern Wyoming.

Site of Fort Phil Kearney
By 1868 the Union Pacific Railroad had reached a point to the west where travelers could bypass the trail forts and all the risk, and in the Treaty of 1868 the U.S. government agreed to close the forts. Fort Phil Kearny was burned shortly thereafter. It was in terrible shape by then anyway, having been built from green logs and green lumber. After drying for only a year the wood had shrunk so badly the walls all had huge cracks, and many structures were deemed unsafe for occupancy.

Shiner and a wagon box
The current buildings and structures on the site of the original fort are reconstructions, and do help to give visitors a feel for the place. Frequent sighting devices around the perimeter of the site make it easy to identify specific landmarks and the sites of specific events.

A short gravel road from the site of the fort leads visitors to the Wagon Box fight. Here, soldiers took refuge in a corral made of wagon boxes - Shiner lends scale - not a very large shelter as you can see, and though this was high ground, they had no shelter other than the boxes.

The Connor Battlefield State Historic Site, only a short distance north, is another memorial to the events of those days.

This was the site of the Battle of Tongue River, between the Army and the Arapaho.
This was the single most important military engagement of the Powder River Expedition of 1865 because this particular battle caused the Arapaho to ally with the Sioux and the Cheyenne. The alliance thereby creating the large force that overcame the Army in the Fetterman Fight, a year later.

The Conner Battlefield site is located along the tongue river, and has been developed into a very nice park and campground. One of those hidden jewels we really enjoy.
Conner Battlefield monument

The Tongue River curves around the park, which is beautifully maintained. Lots of trees, a few graveled pull-through sites and some tent sites and picnic spaces. $11 a night for a pull-through right on the river. No hook-ups. The park does have restrooms and water is available.

This area is dripping in history - one could do a tour here focusing on military history, another on the Native American aspect, and another focusing on the pioneer perspective.

To view them all at once is of course more realistic, but hard to process as there is so much information to digest. . . so many brave and hardworking individuals. No good guys and bad guys, just everyone trying to do what they thought was best at the time.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Leave us a comment! We love to hear what you have to say! Unfortunately this section no longer supports Explorer, but we'd love to hear from you if your browser is supported.
If you have a question and your email address is not attached to your profile, we will respond here in the comments.