Three from the Road #21 – 2010 trip1 |
Eagle Rock at Scotts Bluff National Monument, July 9, 2010
Long serving as a landmark for travelers from native peoples to those following the Oregon, California, and Mormon emigrant trails, Scotts Bluff towers 800 feet above the North Platte River. The trails’ route past Scotts Bluff was through Mitchell Pass, a gap through the Scotts Bluff formations, between Eagle Rock and Sentinel Rock. After 1851, this route replaced Robidoux Pass, eliminating an 8 mile swing south.
Travel over the trails continued unabated in the early 1860s, even after the onset of the American Civil War, until early August 1864, when an Indian war erupted that pitted volunteer soldiers against Sioux, Arapaho, and Southern Cheyenne warriors. For several weeks, all traffic and communications on the trails were stopped. While several military expeditions sought the warring tribes, they failed to bring them into battle. In response, Brigadier General Robert Mitchell established a plan to to fortify each stage station along the Oregon Trail, with troops detailed to them for their defense. Mitchell also decided to establish two forts at strategic points. One, defending the branch road to Denver, was established near Julesburg, Colorado. The second, which came to bear the general’s name, was a sod stockade structure established northwest of Scotts Bluff. The ground plan of Fort Mitchell consisted of a stockade with a sally port, firing loopholes, and a sentinel tower.2
Official records documenting Fort Mitchell’s history are meager, but construction had begun by September 1, 1864, the date General Mitchell visited the site. The general’s aide-de-camp noted that the men of the 11th Ohio’s Company F were hard at work building the sod structure. Captain Jacob Shuman, the first commander of the as yet unnamed post, gave General Mitchell a tour of the site and described his plans for a sod stockade he hoped to have finished before winter set in. By the end of October, most of the work had been completed and the post was named for the general who had ordered its construction.
Although no physical indications of the post remain, nearby Mitchell Pass preserves the name and serves as a reminder that for three years, Fort Mitchell stood guard along the Oregon Trail during an important period in American history.3
Trail rut remnants in Mitchell Pass, Scotts Bluff National Monument, Nebraska, July 9, 2010
Eagle Rock above Park Buildings, Scotts Bluff National Monument, Nebraska, July 9, 2010
- Three from the Road is a series sharing images from places we’ve visited. Initially, each post included thee images, related by a randomly selected location or topic. Posts now may be random choices or pre-planned sequences. This post is in a series sequentially sharing images from our 2010 trip west.
- Fort Mitchell – National Park Service