“With eighty men I could ride through the entire Sioux nation.” The story of the Fetterman Fight, near Fort Phil Kearney in present-day Wyoming in 1866, is based entirely on this infamous declaration attributed to Capt. William J. Fetterman. Historical accounts cite this statement in support of the premise that bravado and contempt for the fort’s commander, Col. Henry B. Carrington, compelled Fetterman to disobey direct orders from Carrington and lead his men into an ambush by an alliance of Plains Indians.
In the aftermath of the incident, Carrington’s superiors positioned him as solely accountable for the “massacre” by suppressing exonerating evidence. In the face of this betrayal, Carrington’s first and second wives came to their husband’s defense by publishing books presenting his version of the deadly encounter. Although several of Fetterman’s soldiers and fellow officers disagreed with the women’s accounts, their chivalrous deference to women’s moral authority during this age of Victorian sensibilities enabled Carrington’s wives to present their story without challenge.
Tuesday, April 23, 6 pm at the Campbell County Rockpile Museum, Shannon Smith, Executive Director, Wyoming Humanities will give a presentation on Women and the Myth of the Fetterman Fight. She is the author of “Give Me Eighty Men”: Women and the Myth of the Fetterman Fight, winner of the 2009 Wyoming State Historical Society non-fiction book award and is working on a biography of Frances Grummond Carrington, one of the officers’ wives who wrote about her experiences in Wyoming Territory.
In 2013, Shannon was selected as the sixth executive director for Wyoming Humanities, our state’s affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities and one of 56 state and territorial humanities councils. She grew up in Gordon, Nebraska, 15 miles south of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, and attended the University of Nebraska at Kearney where she received a bachelor’s degree in computer science in 1982 and worked for two decades in the software industry in New York City, Boston, and Denver. Shannon returned to the University of Nebraska where she received a master’s in American History in 2001 and began her teaching and writing career focusing on women in the West and in Wyoming in particular. From 2002-2009 she taught at Oglala Lakota College on the Pine Ridge Reservation.
The Campbell County Rockpile Museum is located at 900 W 2nd Street in Gillette. This presentation is free, and open to the public.