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Visiting the Connor Battlefield

Visiting the Connor Battlefield

The Connor Battlefield is a park on Tongue River in Ranchester, Wyo., marking the spot where Brig. Gen. Patrick Connor and about 475 U.S. troops and Pawnee scouts in August 1865 attacked a village of 500 Arapaho under the leadership of Black Bear and Old David. The Arapaho suffered 63 killed, and the troops burned their lodges and drove off most of the horse herd. Today the park offers picnic grounds, a campground and a monument to the event.

For info and mapped directions on how to visit the Connor Battlefield 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?
  • What was the Powder River Expedition? When did it take place? What was its purpose?
  • 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 what’s now Wyoming Territory? Was Fort Connor one of them?

Arriving at Connor Battlefield:

  • What do you see when you arrive?
  • What fight occurred here? When did it happen? Why did it happen?
  • Where was Fort Connor? What was its purpose? Who was it named for?
  • How many columns of troops were involved in the Powder River Expedition? How many troops were in Connor’s column? Were there any other people in his column? What was the size of his column in relation to the others?
  • Were all of the columns involved in battles?
  • What happened to Connor’s column? To the others?
  • Who was Black Bear? What happened to his village and his people?
  • Was the Powder River Expedition successful? Why or why not?

Back in the classroom after the visit:

  • Pretend you were a soldier who traveled with Connor during the Powder River Expedition. Write a letter home describing what happened.
  • Pretend you were a soldier who traveled with one of the other columns. Write a letter home describing what happened to you and your fellow soldiers. What made your experience different from a soldier who traveled with Connor?
  • Pretend you were an Arapaho who lived in Black Bear’s village. Describe your experiences during and after Connor’s attack.

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.