On 21 December 1866, the US Army suffered its worst defeat in the western Indian Wars up to that time. (Custer’s defeat at Little Bighorn would later surpass it) William J. Fetterman, a Captain at Fort Phil Kearney, was given the mission to relieve a wood cutting party who had been attacked by Indians, possibly led by Red Cloud and/or Crazy Horse. In fact, the attack on the woodcutters was a diversion and Captain Fetterman and his 81 man detail were led into an ambush. All 81 were killed. Traditional history gives the idea that Captain Fetterman was out to make a name for himself and had said, “With 80 men, I could ride through the entire Sioux nation.” For a deeper and somewhat contrarian view to the traditional story, click here. Regardless, of Captain Fetterman’s intentions, he was ill-prepared for the far better led Indian force. He and his men paid for it.

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