Description - Named for a popular Union general killed in the Civil War, Fort Phil Kearny was established at the forks of Big and Little Piney Creeks by Col. Henry B. Carrington of the 18th U.S. Infantry in July, 1866. The Mission of this fort and two other posts along the Bozeman Trail, Forts Reno and C.F. Smith, was three-fold: to protect travelers on the Trail, to prevent intertribal warfare between Native Americans in the area, and to draw attention of Indian forces opposed to Euro-American westward expansion away from the trans-continental railroad construction corridor to the south.
All three Bozeman Trail forts were stockade fortifications, with Fort Phil Kearny being the largest.
Enclosing seventeen acres, the fort wall was eight feet high, 1,496 feet in length, and tapered in width from 600 feet on the north to 240 feet on the south. More than four thousand logs were used to erect the stockade, while over 606,000 feet of lumber and 130,000 bricks were produced in 1867 alone for the extension building construction. During its two year existence, Fort Phil
Kearny was the focal point of a violent war between the U.S. Army and the Sioux, Cheyenne, and Arapaho Indians opposed to intrusions into the last great hunting grounds on the Northern Plains. Besides the Fetterman and Wagon Box battles, many smaller fights took place in the area. By 1868, the Union Pacific Railroad had reached a point to the west where travelers could bypass the Bozeman Trail route by going to Montana through Idaho, thus making the Bozeman Trail forts
expensive liabilities. In the Treaty of 1868, the United States agreed to close the forts and the trail. Fort Phil Kearny was abandoned by the Army in early August, 1868, and burned soon afterwards by the Cheyenne. In 1963, Fort Phil Kearny was designated a National Historic Landmark. Today, portion of the fort site and the Fetterman and Wagon Box battlefields are included within the Fort Phil Kearny State Historic Site boundaries.
- At the Fort location the visitor will find an interpretive center with exhibits, videos, bookstore, and self-guided tours of the fort and outlying sites. The fort tour leads the visitor through the site to
building locations, archaeological remains, and interpretive signs pinpointing the surrounding historic landmarks. A Civilian Conservation Corp. Cabin has been refurbished to depict the quarters of an Officer's wife and a Non-Commissioned Officer's Quarters. In addition to the historic interpretation, this site provides three picnic areas and a restroom for visitor use.
The two satellite sites of Fort Phil Kearny are the Fetterman Fight and the Wagon Box Fight battlefields. These two sites are located within a five-mile radius of the Fort Phil Kearny Visitor Center. Maps to the sites and interpretation are available at the Visitor Center. At both battlefields, the visitor will find an interpretive trail which leads through the battle providing both Indian and White perspectives of the conflict. The visitor may also go to the actual locations of the
skirmish lines and Indian charges and see the weapons and personnel involved. The Wagon Box Fight site provides the visitor with restroom facilities. A picnic area where they may relax and enjoy the beautiful scenery. All interpretive trails and facilities are either partially or fully accessible for the ADA. Guided tours of these three sites for social groups, schools, or special
events may be scheduled through advance reservation.
Recreation - Recreational activities in the state historic site include viewing historic, archeological, interpretive sites. Guided tours are also offered with advanced reservations.
Climate - As throughout the Rocky Mountains, the climate varies drastically depending on elevation. Summers generally offer warm clear days with cool nights. Afternoon thunderstorms are often a possibility in the summer. In the winter, sunshine, with plenty of snow in the higher elevations, are ideal for winter activities. Harsh weather - including wind, cold, and snow - is possible throughout the winter and even throughout the year, in the highest elevations.
Fort Phil Kearny State Historic Site, located just twenty miles south of Sheridan on Interstate 90, Exit 44.