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Visiting Fort Fetterman State Historic Site

Visiting Fort Fetterman State Historic Site

Fort Fetterman was established by the U.S. Army on the North Platte River near present Douglas, Wyo. in 1867. It served as a staging point for Gen. George Crook’s three campaigns against Cheyenne and Lakota Sioux Indians in 1876, near the end of the Indian Wars. The Army abandoned the post in 1882, and the settlement became a rowdy place, full of brothels and bars serving cowboys in the cattle boom. Finally it shut down a few years later when the railroad arrived at Douglas, seven miles to the south.

For info and mapped directions on how to visit Fort Fetterman and seven other Indian Wars sites in Wyoming, visit http://www.wyohistory.org/travel/historic-indian-wars-sites and download the QR-coded brochure, “Travel Wyoming’s Indian Wars Sites with WyoHistory.org.”

To hear three minutes of audio information about each of the sites, smartphone and tablet users can download the free app, TravelStorysGPS at http://www.travelstorysgps.com/, go to the Indian Wars tour, and find three minutes of audio information about each of eight historic sites from Fort Laramie to the Connor Battlefield north of Sheridan.

Here are some questions to raise during the bus ride:

  • Make a list of the animals seen along the way, both domestic and wild.  Which ones would benefit trail travelers, and which ones would be a hindrance? Which were of the most importance to the Indians in the region?
  • Where is the Bozeman Trail? When was it built? Why was it built?
  • Where is the Powder River Basin located? Why was this area important during the 1860s and 1870s?
  • How many forts were built to protect the Bozeman Trail? What were their names? Were all of them located in Wyoming Territory?
  • Was Fort Fetterman one of the forts on the Bozeman Trail? On the Oregon Trail?
  • What waterways are near Fort Fetterman? Why were they important?

Arriving at Fort Fetterman:

  • When was the fort built? What materials were used in its construction? What was its purpose?
  • What buildings do you see when you arrive? Which ones are original? Who is buried in the nearby cemetery?
  • Soldiers at the fort had many jobs to do.  List some of those jobs and describe them. Which job would you like to have?  Which one would you try to avoid if you could?
  • How would you prepare for one of the marches that departed from this fort to the north during the Indian Wars? What season was it when the march began? What clothing would you take? What food? How did you care for your horses along the way?
  • What were some of the differences between this fort and Fort Laramie, Fort Caspar, Fort Phil Kearny or others you may have studied? Any similarities?

Back in the classroom after the visit:

  • Pretend you were a soldier stationed at Fort Fetterman. Write a letter to your family describing the fort. What did the buildings look like? How many were there? What were some of the daily activities you engaged in? What wildlife did you see nearby? What did the landscape look like? What did you eat? How did you obtain your food?
  • Pretend you were a soldier who participated in marches under the command of Gen. George Crook. Write a letter to your family describing where you departed from, when you began the journey, where you were headed and why, and what happened along the way. How did you travel? On foot? By boat? On horseback? By wagon? Tell about any battles that were fought, when and where they happened, and tell who fought whom and what the outcomes were.

Note to teachers:

This lesson addresses a number of the Wyoming State Social Studies Standards detailed in the 2013 draft of Wyoming Social Studies Content and Performance Standards, benchmarked for the ends of grades 2, 5, 8 and 12. All are available at http://edu.wyoming.gov/sf-docs/publications/DRAFT_2013_Social_Studies_Standards.pdf?

More specifically, the lesson addresses Content Standard 4, Time, Continuity and Change, under which students analyze events, people, problems, and ideas within their historical contexts, and Content Standard 5, People, Places and Environments, under which students apply their knowledge of the geographic themes (location, place, movement, region, and human/environment interactions) and skills to demonstrate an understanding of interrelationships among people, places, and environment.

Under Content Standard 4, the lesson addresses standards SS5.4.4. SS8.4.4 and SS12.4.4, which call for students to discuss, identify or describe historical interactions between and among individuals, families, and cultural/ethnic groups, and standards SS5.4.5, SSD8.4.5 and 12.4.5, which call for students to understand the difference between primary and secondary sources, and how to use them in their research.

Under Content Standard 5, this lesson addresses the Human Place and Movement standards SS2.5.3, SS5.5.3 (which specifically mentions American Indians and the Oregon Trail), SS8.5.3 and SS12.5.3, and the Environment and Society standards SS2.5.4, SS5.5.4, SS8.5.4 and SS12.5.4, which call on students to understand how people in Wyoming adjust and have adjusted to their physical and geographical environment.