The Great Wyoming Christmas Miracle – The Ride of John (Portugee) Phillips

The Great Wyoming Christmas Miracle – The Ride of John (Portugee) Phillips

On the morning of December 21, 1866, a wood train out of Fort Phil Kearny was attacked by a band of Sioux. Young Lieutenant Colonel William J. Fetterman rushed to the rescue. Fetterman, who had reportedly boasted that he could ride through the entire Sioux nation with 80 men, was sadly mistaken. Fetterman and his entire command were wiped out.
John (Portugee) Phillips

Fort Phil Kearny was now undermanned, running out of ammunition, and in a position that the fort could be lost with any type of attack. They needed help, but the nearest fort to get help would be Fort Laramie, over 200 miles away. John (Portugee) Phillips volunteered to ride for help, and the rest is legend. 

Phillips was given one of fort commander Carrington’s prize thoroughbreds to make the ride. It was more than 20 below zero when he started the famous, Paul Revere of the west, ride. Starting through hostile territory on the night of the 22nd he reached Fort Laramie on Christmas night. Phillips stopped at Horse Shoe Station long enough to resupply, warm up, and send a telegram, to Fort Laramie then went on. When he stumbled into a Christmas night party at Bedlam, the prized horse dropped dead and Phillips was nearly frozen. So goes the story.
Fort Laramie in the distance
As the years pass the story has proved to be a bit less than true. Phillips did make the ride, but not alone. Instead, he was accompanied by one, and sometimes two, men and no records show that Colonel Carrington’s horse, Dandy, dropped dead on arrival at Fort Laramie. Phillips was paid $300 for the ride and given a fine horse.
Bedlam - the back door
Today there is a monument to Phillips just east of Fort Phil Kearny.
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