Wild West History Association Dedicated to the history and lore of the American West
Wild West History Association Dedicated to the history and lore of the American West
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Thomas Fitzpatrick

 

(1799 - February 7, 1854)

 

Born in Ireland in 1799, Fitzpatrick became a sailor in 1816, arrived in the United States, jumped ship and headed to St. Louis, Missouri. Here he answered an advertisement for adventurous young men to explore the Missouri River. Fitzpatrick's career as a mountain man began.

 

On this trapping expedition, Thomas noticed a movement among the rocks. His gunfire alerted the others in the party of an impending attack. Although four trappers were killed, the result could have been much worse.

 

Another Blackfoot attack was averted when Fitzpatrick gathered 10 fur trappers and headed to an indian encampment. The volleys from the 11 men seemed like an army. The Indians scattered and broke camp.

 

On his way to the Pierre's Hole Rendezvous with packhorses in tow, Fitzpatrick was ambushed by 30 Gros Ventres. Leaving the packhorses behind, Thomas forced his horse up a step slope. The resulting falling rocks slowed the pursuit of his attackers. When his horse gave out, Thomas found refuge in a hole, covered it with brush. This disguise foiled the pursuit. Without horses, Fitzpatrick walked to Pierre's Hole living only on roots and berries. The hardship of this journey turned his hair white.

 

At the Battle of Pierre's Hole during the excitement of the battle, Fitzpatrick's gun exploded tearing off two fingers. The friendly Nez Perce who fought beside Thomas during the battle gave him the name "Broken Hand".

 

Later, Fitzpatrick was captured by the Pawnee. When asked his name, Thomas held up his left hand. The bravery of "Broken Hand" was known far and wide. The Pawnee released their prisoner.

 

After the fur trade industry waned, Fitzpatrick became a scout and guide. In 1841, he led one of the first wagon trains to Oregon. He guided Father DeSmet and his group to Oregon with the missionary commending Fitzpatrick's ability. He also guided Fremont's second expedition in 1843 and when the large party split-up, Thomas was placed in charge of the second group. Later, he guided Stephen Kearney through the Rocky Mountains and at the beginning of the Mexican War.

 

In 1846 because of his experience and knowledge of the area, Fitzpatrick was appointed Indian Agent for the tribes on the headwaters of the Arkansas. He was instrumental in a number of peace treaties including the 1851 Fort Laramie Treaty.

 

As Indian Agent, Fitzpatrick traveled to Washington D.C. where he contracted pneumonia and died.

 

Thomas "Broken Hand" Fitzpatrick is buried in the Congressional Cemetery in Washington D.C.

 

 

Gravesite Map

 

Information compiled by Steve Grimm

Books About Thomas Fitzpatrick

 

Broken Hand: The Life of Thomas Fitzpatrick by LeRoy R. Hafen

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© Wild West History Association - a non-profit 501(c)(3) corporation

http://www.WildWestHistory.org