On Aug. 2, 1867, a large force of Oglala Sioux attacked woodcutters near Fort Phil Kearny. Soldiers assigned to protect the woodcutters took cover behind a ring of wagon boxes. After the intense battle, both sides claimed victory, and estimates of the dead and wounded varied widely.
For info and mapped directions on how to visit the Wagon Box Site 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 what’s now Wyoming?
- Was Fort Phil Kearny one of the forts on the Bozeman Trail?
Arriving at the Wagon Box Fight site:
- What was the Wagon Box Fight? When did it occur? Are there any buildings at this location? How do you know a battle occurred here?
- Why was it called the Wagon Box Fight? What is a wagon box? How were wagon boxes used in this battle?
- Why was timber from the nearby Bighorn Mountains important in this conflict?
- Other than soldiers and Indians, were there any others involved in this battle? Who were they and why were they involved?
- What made this battle different from others that occurred during Red Cloud’s War?
Back in the classroom after the visit:
- Pretend you were a soldier who was involved in the Wagon Box Fight. Write a letter to your family describing how the fight began, how long it lasted, what weapons you used and why the fight occurred. How many soldiers were involved? How many Indians? What tribes were they members of? What happened to end this fight? How many soldiers were wounded or killed? How many Indians were wounded or killed?
- Pretend you were an Indian who participated in the Wagon Box Fight. How many warriors were involved in the fight? How many soldiers? Why was this battle fought? Look at some of the other questions in the paragraph above and answer them from the perspective of an Indian warrior who participated in this conflict.