William J. Fetterman

William J. Fetterman


Fetterman was probably born in New London, Connecticut, although there is some uncertainty. His father was a career Army officer of Pennsylvania German ancestry. Fetterman enlisted in the Union army in Delaware in May 1861 and was promptly commissioned a first lieutenant. He served with the First Battalion of the US 18th Infantry Regiment throughout the Civil War and was twice brevetted for gallant conduct, finishing the war a lieutenant colonel of Volunteers. After the war, he chose to remain in the Regular Army and was assigned as a captain in the Second Battalion of the 18th Infantry Regiment. In November 1866, the regiment was stationed at Fort Phil Kearny, tasked with protecting immigrants traveling to the gold fields of Montana Territory along the Bozeman Trail.

, and 2 civilian scouts, ironically totaling 80 men. Ignoring his orders not to venture beyond Lodge Trail Ridge (out of sight and support distance from the fort), Fetterman pursued a small band of Sioux and was lured into an ambush. He found himself facing approximately 2,000 Indians. Within 20 minutes, Fetterman and his command had been wiped out.

The Fetterman Massacre, as the encounter became known, was second in notoriety only to Custer's disastrous defeat in 1876. It led to the dismissal of Fetterman's commanding officer, Henry B. Carrington, who was initially blamed for the disaster, but was eventually exonerated.

Fetterman's grave is in the National Cemetery at the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument. He had never married and left no heirs. His pension was sent to his mother.

In 1867, the army designated a new outpost in the Dakota Territory as "Fort Fetterman" in honor of the slain officer, as well as Fetterman Street and Fetterman Drive in Laramie, Wyoming.


*Brown, Dee, "The Fetterman Massacre", University of Nebraska Press, 1971. ISBN 0-8032-5730-9.

External links

* [http://www.friendslittlebighorn.com/Fetterman-Battle.htm Fetterman battle on Friends of the Little Big Horn site]
* [http://www.friendslittlebighorn.com/Fetterman-Battle-Photos.htm Fetterman battlefield photos]

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