Sunday, July 17, 2016

Fort Phil Kearny

One way in which I have learned to appreciate the region that I call home, that is, the Great Plains, has been to study its history.  I had the good fortune of taking a class from Craig Miner, the author of West of Wichita: Settling the High Plains of Kansas, when I was an undergraduate. I later studied with L. G. Moses, author of Wild West Shows and the Images of American Indians, 1883-1933, and whose graduate classes emphasized Native American history when I was at Oklahoma State University. I have also, of course, pursued my own reading into the history of this region, and these histories make up a significant number of the books in my collection.

About ten years ago, the students in my second-semester composition class were researching one of the soldiers buried at Fort Leavenworth National Cemetery. Through my assigning this topic and conducting research as I refined the assignment, I came to learn about such things as the Kidder Massacre, Beecher Island, the engagements with the native tribes outside of Fort Wallace in 1867, the massacre of the Cheyenne at Sappa Creek, and the Grattan Massacre.  All of this research eventually led to the Fetterman Massacre, which occurred outside Fort Phil Kearny in December, 1866.

When my wife and I were in Wyoming recently, we spent part of a morning at Fort Phil Kearny and the site of the Fetterman massacre. The land around Fort Phil Kearny is as pretty as Bob Drury and Tom Clavin describe in their book The Heart of Everything That Is: The Untold Story of Red Cloud, An American Legend.

For those who wish to pursue their own research and who wish to learn more about Red Cloud's war, for example, I have to defer to the excellent books that have been written.