In 1834, where the Cheyenne and Arapaho travelled, traded and hunted, a fur trading post was created. Soon to be known as Fort Laramie, it rested at a location that would quickly prove to be the path of least resistance across a continent. By the 1840s, wagon trains rested and resupplied here, bound for Oregon, California and Utah.
In 1849 as the Gold Rush of California drew more westward, Fort Laramie became a military post, and for the next 41 years, would shape major events as the struggle between two cultures for domination of the northern plains increased into conflict. In 1876, Fort Laramie served as an anchor for military operations, communication, supply and logistics during the “Great Sioux War.”
Fort Laramie closed, along with the frontier it helped shape and influence in 1890. Its legacy is one of peace and war, of cooperation and conflict; a place where the west we know today was forged. We invite you to discover and explore the many crossroads that was, and still is Fort Laramie.
For many years, the Plains Indians and the travelers along the Oregon Trail had coexisted peacefuly. As the numbers of emigrants increased, however, Upper porch, Old Bedlamtensions between the two cultures began to develop. To help insure the safety of the travelers, Congress approved the establishment of forts along the Oregon Trail and a special regiment of Mounted Riflemen to man them. Fort Laramie was the second of these forts to be established.
The popular 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, the Treaty of 1851, 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 soldiers from Fort Laramie were killed. This incident was one of several that ignited the flames of a conflict between the United States and the Plains Indians that would not be resolved until the end of the 1870s.
The 1860s brought a different type of soldier to Fort Laramie. After the beginning of the Civil War, most regular army troops were withdrawn to the East to participate in that conflict, and the fort was garrisoned by state volunteer regiments, such as the Seventh Iowa and the Eleventh Ohio. The stream of emigrants along the Oregon trial began to diminish, but the completion of the transcontinental telegraph line in 1861 brought a new responsibility to the soldiers. Inspecting, defending, and repairing the “talking wire” was added to their duties. During the latter part of the 1860s, troops from Fort Laramie were involved in supplying and reinforcing the forts along the Bozeman Trail, until the Treaty of 1868 was signed.
Fort Laramie NHS is located 3 miles south of the Town of Fort Laramie, off of U.S. Highway 26. For up to date road and road condition information call 1-888-WYO-ROAD.
The Fort grounds are open from 8:00 am until dusk every day of the year. The Fort museum and Visitor Center is open daily at 8:00 am with extended hours during the Summer, May 26 through Septmeber 30.
Also of Interest
Agate Fossil Beds National Monument
Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument
Devils Tower National Monument
Scotts Bluff National Monument
Chimney Rock National Historic Site