In the midst of the Indian Wars on the western frontier, the Wagon Box Fight stands out for its unlikely outcome. On August 2, 1867 Chief Red Cloud and an estimated force of 1,000 Sioux Indians attacked a group of woodcutters and soldiers camped outside of Fort Phil Kearny. Severely outnumbered, twenty-six soldiers and six civilians took refuge behind the cover of wagon boxes and managed to hold off the initial attack until relief forces from the fort arrived. While the Sioux forces lost between five to sixty warriors with another estimated five to 120 injured, the soldiers and civilians sustained only three deaths and two injuries. Historians attribute much of the success of the men fighting behind the wagon box corral to their weaponry—new, rapid-fire breech loading rifles. Following the crushing defeat of Captain Fetterman’s forces just months earlier, the Wagon Box Fight proved a significant victory for the military in the battles along the Bozeman Trail. Today, visitors can walk in the footsteps of history and see the exact locations where battle maneuvers took place. Interpretive signs tell the story of the battle from the perspectives of both the military and Indian groups. Take an afternoon to explore the Wagon Box Fight and the nearby Fetterman Battlefield and Fort Phil Kearny where trails, tours, and museum exhibits transport visitors back to a time when cultures clashed in conflict on the western frontier.
Last modified: June 16, 2021