The Worst Christmas Party in Wyoming History
Unbeknownst to the merrymakers, just three days earlier, 81 of their former colleagues had been ambushed and killed at Fort Phil Kearney, near present-day Buffalo, Wyoming.
At the time, the Fetterman Massacre was the worst defeat ever suffered by the United States Army as they battled Native American tribes in the west.
John "Portuguese" Phillips was one of the few soldiers to escape the Cheyenne, Lakota and Arapaho warriors. Following the battle, Phillips rode over 230 miles through snow and sub-zero temperatures to deliver the news.
Phillips arrived at Fort Laramie just before midnight on Christmas.
As word of the massacre spread through the Bedlam building, the mood quickly turned from celebratory to somber.
On December 26, the few remaining men at Fort Phil Kearney buried the bodies of their fallen comrades in a trench.
By January 16, two companies of reinforcements arrived from Fort Laramie, many of whom suffered frostbite along the way. Unfortunately for them, the Indians had already bunkered down for the winter.