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Fort Laramie was a significant 19th century trading post and diplomatic site located in the U.S. state of Wyomingmarker. During the middle 19th century, it was a primary stopping point on the Oregon Trail and the Mormon Trail and was, along with Bent's Fortmarker on the Arkansas Rivermarker, the most significant economic hub of commerce in the region. In the 1840s it was taken over by the United States Army to protect travelers on the Oregon, California and Mormon trails.

Today, the remaining structures are preserved as the Fort Laramie National Historic Site by the National Park Service.

Name Origin

In 1815 or 1816, Jacques La Ramee and a small group of fellow trappers settled in the area where Fort Laramie would later be located. He went out alone to trap in 1819 or 1820 and was never seen again. Arapahoe Indians were subsequently accused of killing La Ramie and putting his body in a beaver dam near the mouth of Sybille Creek. Among other places (including a Wyoming city, river, and mountain), the fort was named “Laramie” in his honor.

Fur Trade

The fort was constructed in the 1830s during the fur trade. One of the principal trappers was William Sublette, and the fort was therefore called Fort William for a period of time. It was later named Fort John after John B. Sarpy, a partner in the American Fur Company. The fort's location along the lower Laramie River near its mouth on the North Platte River made it a convenient stop for travelers on the overland emigrant trails following the North Platte River west from Nebraska.

Frontier Army Post

The fort was purchased from Bruce Husband, an agent of the American Fur Company, for $4,000 in June of 1849 by U.S. Army Lt. Woodberry on behalf of the United States Government. Three companies of cavalry arrived at the fort that same month, and Company ‘G’, 6th Infantry, which was the post’s permanent garrison for many years, arrived on August 12, 1849.

The fort was taken over by the Army largely to protect and supply emigrants along the emigrant trails. In 1851, the first Treaty of Fort Laramie was signed, resulting in relatively peaceful relations between the whites and the Native Americans during the 1850s, though troops from the fort made up the small force that was killed during the Grattan massacre of 1854 under the command of Second Lieutenant John Lawrence Grattan. During the increasing strife of the 1860s, the fort took on a more military posture.

Fort Laramie itself was never seriously threatened by Indian attacks during the quarter-century of intermittent warfare sparked by the Grattan massacre. However, a number of civilians were killed in the immediate area and their property destroyed or stolen during this period of hostilities on the plains. The last known death occurred in March of 1877 on the Big Bitter Cottonwood Creek.

The earliest surviving photograph of Fort Laramie, taken in 1858 by Samuel C. Mills, shows the remains of the old adobe walled fur trade fort (Fort John) flanked by a cluster of scattered wood and adobe buildings around the parade grounds.

Civil War

With the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861, the troops at Fort Laramie were withdrawn to fight the Confederate Army in the east. To take their place, a series of volunteer regiments soon arrived at Fort Laramie, serving until they were finally mustered out in 1866.

Bozeman War, 1866-68

In the late 1860s, the fort was the primary staging ground for the United States in the Powder River Country during Red Cloud's War. The resultant peace agreement reached in 1868 was the second Treaty of Fort Laramie.

Great Sioux War of 1876-77

The discovery of gold in the Black Hills touched off another period of conflict with the Lakota and Northern Cheyenne during the Great Sioux War of 1876-77. During this period of conflicts, Fort Laramie served as a major staging point for supplies and troops.

Final Years

After the completion of the transcontinental railroad, the fort's importance decreased rapidly until it was decommissioned in 1890. The original abandonment order was issued in 1889, and four of the infantry companies stationed there at that time went to Fort Loganmarker, near Denver, Colorado that fall. In March, 1890, about 30 cavalry soldiers and civilian mechanics under the command of Lt. C. W. Taylor arrived at the fort and removed doors, windows, flooring, and any other material from the buildings that was thought to be of value to the government. The last soldiers left Fort Laramie on April 20, 1890. All but one of the structures were sold at auction to private citizens, and the entire military reservation, which was nine miles long and six miles wide, was opened up to homesteaders for settlement on October 5, 1891.

Popular Culture

  • In the 1950s, a fictionalized account of life at the fort during the 19th century was depicted in the CBS radio program Fort Laramie.

  • Fort Laramie is one of several stops in the Oregon Trail series.

File:Fort_Laramie_NHS-Gate.jpg|Entrance to Fort LaramieFile:Fort Laramie NHS Calvary Barracks.jpg|Calvary barracksFile:Fort_Laramie_NHS_Commanding_Officers_House.jpg|Commanding Officers HomeFile:Fort_Laramie_NHS_Bachelor_Officer_Qtrs.jpg|Bachelors Quarters

See also


  1. L. G. Flannery (1928), A Short History of Old Fort Laramie
  2. Griske, op. cit., p. 55
  3. Griske, op. cit., p. 55
  4. Griske, op. cit., pp. 55, 63
  5. Griske, op. cit., pp. 56, 57

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