The Online Encyclopedia of Wyoming History

Visiting the site of Wagon Box Fight

Visiting the site of Wagon Box Fight

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.

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.