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First Name: William

Last Name: Fetterman

Birthplace: CT, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Army (1784 - present)

Middle Name: Judd

Date of Birth: 1833

Date of Death: 21 December 1866

Rank: Captain

Years Served:
William Judd Fetterman

•  Indian Wars (1775 - 1924) intermittent
•  American Civil War (1861 - 1865)


William Judd Fetterman
Captain, U.S. Army

William Judd Fetterman was born in 1833. His place of birth is in dispute. Some say he was born in Fort Trumbull, CT, and others believe he was born in New London, CT. His father was a career U.S. Army officer of Pennsylvania German ancestry.

Military Career

Fetterman enlisted in the Union Army in May 1861 in Delaware, and was promptly commissioned a First Lieutenant. He served with the First Battalion of the U.S. 18th Infantry Regiment throughout the war and was twice brevetted for gallant conduct, finishing the war as a Lieutenant Colonel of Volunteers.

After the war, he chose to remain in the Regular Army and was assigned as a Captain in the Second Battalion of the 18th Infantry Regiment. In November 1866, the Regiment was stationed at Fort Phil Kearny, tasked with protecting immigrants traveling to the gold fields of Montana Territory along the Bozeman Trail. Fetterman allegedly boasted that with 80 soldiers, he could "ride through the Sioux Nation."

On 21 December 1866, a large band of Cheyenne and Sioux - which included Crazy Horse - under the leadership of Red Cloud attacked a wood train near the Fort. Despite his unfamiliarity with frontier conditions and the methods of Indian fighting, Fetterman took command of a composite reaction force consisting of the former Battalion Quartermaster, Captain Frederick Brown, 2nd Lt. George Grummond, 49 enlisted troops of the 18th Infantry, 27 men of the 2nd Cavalry, and 2 civilian scouts, ironically totaling 80 men. Ignoring his orders not to venture beyond Lodge Trail Ridge (out of sight and support distance from the Fort), Fetterman pursued a small band of Sioux and was lured into an ambush. He found himself facing approximately 2,000 Indians. Within 20 minutes, Fetterman and his command had been wiped out.

The Fetterman Massacre, as the encounter became known, was second in notoriety only to Custer's disastrous defeat in 1876. It led to the dismissal of Fetterman's Commanding Officer, Henry B. Carrington, who was initially blamed for the disaster, but was eventually exonerated.


In 1867, the Army designated a new outpost in the Dakota Territory as "Fort Fetterman" in honor of the slain officer.

There is a Fetterman Street and Fetterman Drive in Laramie, WY.

In the Media

The actor Robert Fuller played the role of Fetterman in the episode, "Massacre at Fort Phil Kearny," which aired on 26 October 1966, on NBC's anthology television series, Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre. Others who appeared in the segment were Richard Egan and Phyllis Avery as Colonel Henry Carrington and his wife, Margaret Carrington, Robert Pine as Lieutenant Brown, and Carroll O'Connor as Captain Ted Eyck.

Death and Burial

Captain William Judd Fetterman died on 21 December 1866 in Wyoming. He is buried at the National Cemetery at the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument.

He had never married and left no heirs. His pension was sent to his mother.

Honoree ID: 2486   Created by: MHOH




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