Wyoming’s Worst Walk of Shame: The Story of Colonel Thomas Moonlight
The Battle of the Platte Bridge is one of the most infamous events in Wyoming history. The fight, which pitted United States Army soldiers against a coalition of Cheyenne and Lakota Sioux warriors may have never happened were it not the actions of a drunken buffoon.
In 1865, Colonel Thomas Moonlight was the commanding officer at Fort Laramie. The first of his many mistakes took place on May 19th when he led 500 cavalry men in search of the nearby Native tribes. Unfortunately, his troops had been sent marching in the wrong direction and returned empty handed.
One week later, Moonlight managed to capture two Oglala warriors and hung them at the Fort. In spite of warnings from his own men, Moonlight insisted that their bodies would be left hanging from the gallows for everyone to see.
As expected, the effigy enraged the nearby tribes, causing tensions to escalate. In June, Moonlight and 234 soldiers left Fort Laramie on a mission to round up their enemies. Once again, Moonlight made a grave mistake.
Moonlight's fast and furious charge quickly exhausted the cavalry horses, causing many men to turn back. Those that remained faced an even more humiliating fate. On June 17th, their horses were captured by a Lakota raid. Moonlight and his men were forced to walk 60 miles back to Fort Laramie.
To make their walk of shame even more disgraceful, Moonlight was drunk during the raid and had forgotten to place a guard on the cavalry's horses.
Finally, on July 7th, Moonlight was relieved of his command and discharged from the Army.
Sadly, the damage was already done and, on July 26th, the uprising at the Platte Bridge resulted in the killing of 29 Army soldiers.