Friday, January 15, 2016

The Wagon Box Fight

 A remarkable battle in the early days in Wyoming was fought August 2, 1867 about five miles west of Fort Phil Kearny.  Here an estimated 300 to 1,000 Sioux Indians under Chief Red Cloud, attacked a handful of soldiers and civilians. Expecting an easy victory, the Sioux instead suffered a defeat.

Red Cloud

     In the summer of 1867, Indian forces, attempting to repeat the Fetterman victory, attacked woodcutters and soldiers camped about five miles from the Fort.  During initial stages of the battle, twenty-six soldiers and six civilians took cover inside an oval of wagon boxes used as a stock corral.  Armed with new rapid-fire breech loading  Springfield Model 1866 rifles, the soldiers and civilians commanded by Captain James Powell held off the massed warriors until a relief force arrived from the fort.  

Fort Kearny learned of the fight from its observation station on Pilot Hill and about 11:30 a.m. 103 soldiers under the command of Major Benjamin Smith sallied out of the fort to relieve the soldiers in the wagon boxes. Smith took with him 10 wagons driven by armed civilians and a mountain howitzer. He proceeded carefully and when he neared the wagon box corral began firing his cannon at long range. The attackers were forced to withdraw, and Smith advanced without opposition to the corral, collected the soldiers there, and returned quickly to Fort Kearny. Additional civilian survivors, who had hidden in the woods during the battle, made it back to the fort that night.

Three men were killed and two wounded inside of the corral, while Indian casualties were estimated at from five to sixty or more killed and five to one-hundred-and-twenty more wounded.


  1. An untreated wound from the 1866 Springfield 50-70 would have been almost universally fatal. The wagon box fight lead many in the war Dep. to believe that the "Trap door" was the weapon for the Army. It was to lead to the replacement of the Spencer with the Springfield as a "cost cutter" and lead directly to the loss of half of the seventh Cav. ten years later.---Ray

  2. Red Cloud was the real deal. Crazy Horse's chief, and the Scourge of the Bozeman Trail.

    Ft. Kearny was sited on the planes, about 5 miles from the Big Horn Mtns, and wood. The need for wood meant that they had to send people out cut, and the Indians regularly attacked.

    X2 on Ray, above.