Old Fort Laramie
Fort Laramie History
was located at the Crossroads of a Nation Moving West. In
1834, where the
Cheyenne and Arapaho traveled, traded and
hunted, a fur trading post was created. Though it was not a
military fort at first, it was called Fort William and soon
became known as a place of safety, as settlers moved across
By the 1840s, wagon trains rested and
re-supplied here, bound for
Fort John was constructed, replacing the original wooden
stockade of Fort William. Built of
Fort John stood on a bluff overlooking the Laramie River. It
was named for John Sarpy, a partner in the American Fur
Company, but was more commonly called Fort Laramie by employees and travelers.
Fort Laramie, the military post, was founded in 1849 when
the army purchased the old Fort John for $4000, and began to
build a military outpost along the
Oregon Trail. For many years, the Plains
Indians and the travelers along the
Oregon Trail had coexisted peacefully. As the numbers of
emigrants increased, however, tensions between the two
cultures began to develop.
insure the safety of the travelers, Congress approved the
establishment of forts along the
Oregon Trail and a special regiment of Mounted Riflemen to
Fort Laramie was the second of
these forts to be established.
view of a western fort, perhaps generated by Hollywood movies,
is that of an enclosure surrounded by a wall or stockade.
Fort Laramie, however, was never
enclosed by a wall. Initial plans for the fort included a
wooden fence or a thick structure of rubble, nine feet high,
that enclosed an area 550 feet by 650 feet. Because of the
high costs involved, however, the wall was never built.
Fort Laramie was always an open
fort that depended upon its location and its garrison of
troops for security.
In the 1850s, one of the
main functions of the troops stationed at the fort was patrolling
and maintaining the security of a lengthy stretch of the
Oregon Trail. This was a difficult task because of the small
size of the garrison and the vast distances involved. In 1851, a
treaty was signed between the United States and the most
important tribes of the Plains
Indians. The peace that it inaugurated,
however, lasted only three years. In 1854, an incident involving a
passing wagon train precipitated the Grattan Fight in which an
officer, an interpreter, and 29