Fort Phil Kearny

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Fort Phil Kearny was an outpost of the United States Army that existed in the late 1860s in present-day northeastern Wyoming along the Bozeman Trail. Built in July 1866 under the direction of Colonel Henry B. Carrington of the 18th U.S. Infantry, it was named for General Philip Kearny, a popular figure in the American Civil War. The fort should be distinguished from the similarly-named Fort Kearny in Nebraska, which was named for Kearny's uncle. The fort today is commemorated by the State of Wyoming as the Fort Phil Kearny State Historic Site.

The fort was located along the east side of the Bighorn Mountains in present-day northern Johnson County, approximately 15 miles north of Buffalo. Along with Fort Reno and Fort C. F. Smith, the fort was established along the Bozeman Trail in the Powder River Country at the height of the Indian Wars to protect prospective miners travelling the traill north from the Oregon Trail to present-day Montana. Fort Phil Kearny was the largest of the three stockaded fortifications along the trail. It enclosed an area of 17 acres (69,000 m²) with a fort wall that was 8 feet (2 m) high, 1,496 feet (456 m) in length, and tapered in width from 600 feet (180 m) on the north to 240 feet (73 m) on the south. Construction of the stockage required more than 4,000 logs. In 1867, the building construction required over 606,000 feet (185 km) of lumber and 130,000 bricks.

The fort played an important role in Red Cloud's War. The area around the fort was the site of the Fetterman massacre and the Wagon Box Fight. By 1868, the Union Pacific Railroad had reached far enough west that emigrants could reach the Montana gold fields through present-day Idaho, rendering the dangerous Bozeman Trail obsolete. All three forts along the trail were abandoned as part of the Treaty of Fort Laramie (1868). Shortly after, it was burned by Cheyenne Indians.

The land on which Fort Phil Kearny and two other adjacent, related sites (specifically the site of the Fetterman massacre and the site of the Wagon Box Fight) sit was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1960.

The future of the site is in doubt as of 2005, as the current owner of most of the site, ChevronTexaco, has decided to sell the 26,000-acre ranch on which the site sits. While the state of Wyoming has offered to do a land swap with ChevronTexaco in order to preserve the 1,350 acres nearest to the historical sites, ChevronTexaco declined the offer. The two parties, however, are continuing to negotiate a plan to save the site's historical integrity, and ChevronTexaco has said that it is interested in preserving the site.

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