On our first full day in Wyoming on our 2010 trip, we visited the site of a 19th century U.S. Army post, Fort Fetterman. Little remains of the fort today other than a restored officer’s quarters and an ordnance warehouse. The site is now a Wyoming State Historical Park.
Fort Fetterman (historical marker)
The federal government established Fort Fetterman on July 19, 1867. Situated on the south bank of the North Platte River at the point where the Bozeman Trail left the river and turned north, the fort’s purpose was to protect emigrants and control the Sioux and other tribes who resented the miners and settlers passing through their lands. The Bozeman Trail, which passed through the northeast quadrant of present day Wyoming, pierced Sioux, Cheyenne, and Arapaho hunting territories. By 1866 warfare broke out between Indians and whites along the Bozeman Trail. In response, the government built a series of army posts: Forts Reno, Phil Kearny and C. F. Smith. The most dramatic episode of “Red Cloud’s War” occurred December 21, 1866 near Fort Phil Kearny. The Sioux and their allies killed Captain William J. Fetterman and a detachment of 80 men. Fort Fetterman, constructed the following summer, was named in honor of the fallen captain. In the summer of 1868, the government’s peace commissioners abandoned the northern posts and yielded the Bozeman trail as part of the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868. The army did not evacuate Fort Fetterman, however, which experienced only minor skirmishing throughout the conflict. The 1873 Post Commander described the fort: “this being one of the most remote and … one of the most uninhabitable posts in the Department …”. The two sides remained at peace until the Sioux War of 1876 when the army launched three expeditions under the command of General George Crook from Fort Fetterman. The military abandoned Fort Fetterman in November 1882, selling many of its buildings. The old post became the nucleus for a hell-raising cattle town. Eventually that, too, declined when Douglas was founded in 1886.