Table of Content


The Fort Laramie Saga

[From The Tombstone Epitaph, May, 1984]


1812-1813: Robert Stuart and his party, returning from Astoria, are the first white men to cross South Pass.

1820: Jacques La Ramee reportedly is killed by Indians in the vicinity of the river that henceforth bore his name.

1824: Thomas Fitzpatrick and his brigade of mountain men are the first Americans since Stuart and the Astorians to pass the mouth of the Laramie River.

1834: Fort William is constructed by employees of Robert Campbell and William Sublette at the confluence of the Laramie and North Platte Rivers.

1835: Fort William is sold to the Rocky Mountain Fur Company, whose owners include Thomas Fitzpatrick, Milton Sublette and Jim Bridger.

1836: Fort William is sold to the American Fur Company which, after 1838, is known as Pierre Chouteau, Jr. & Company. The Whitmans and the Spaldings, missionaries on their way to Oregon, stop at Fort William. Mrs. Whitman and Mrs. Spalding are the first white women to cross South Pass.

1837: Alfred Jacob Miller, who is attached to the party of Sir William Drummond Stewart, paints the only know pictures of Fort William.

1840-1841: A rival trading post, Fort Platte, is constructed by Lancaster P. Lupton. Another post on the South Platte became the namesake of the town of Fort Lupton, Colorado.

1841: Fort William is replaced by an adobe-walled pose named Fort John, after John Sarpy, an employed of the "Company". The Bidwell-Bartleson Party, accompany that of Father Pierre Jean DeSmet and Father Nicholas Point, pass Fort John-on-the-Laramie. The Bidwell-Bartleson Party, guided by Thomas Fitzpatrick, is the first true wagon train to cross South Pass.

1845: Colonel Stephen Watts Kearny and his First Dragoons visit the post.

1847-1848: The first of the great Mormon migrations to Utah pass Fort Laramie.

1849: Fort John is purchased by the United States Government and converted into a military post-Fort Laramie. The California gold rush gathers steam.

1850: An estimated 50,000 emigrants pass Fort Laramie on their way west.

1851: The first Treaty of Fort Laramie is concluded between the United States Government and the tribes of the northern plains. Some 10,000 Indians gather at Fort Laramie for the treaty council.

1854: The Grattan "Massacre" occurs some fifteen miles east of Fort Laramie. This marks the beginning of some 30 years of intermittent warfare on the northern plains.

1855: A punitive expedition commanded by General Harney retaliates for the Grattan affair by destroying Little Thunder's village of Brulés on Blue Water Creek, six miles northwest of Ash Hollow.

1856: The Mormon Handcart pioneers pass Fort Laramie.

1857: A confrontation between Mormon authorities in Utah and the United States Government results in the so-called "Mormon War".

1858: Gold is discovered in Colorado.

1860: The Pony Express begins its 18-month existence. One of the teen-aged riders employed is Wm. F. Cody.

1861: The transcontinental telegraph line is completed, effectively putting the Pony Express out of business.

1864: The Sand Creek Massacre is perpetrated on Black Kettle's village of Cheyennes by Colonel Chivington and his Colorado volunteers.

1865: In retaliation for Sand Creek, Cheyenne and Lakota warriors sack Julesburg, Colorado, and shut off communication with Denver from the east for six weeks. Caspar Collins is killed at the Platte River Bridge; a military post subsequently constructed near the site is named Fort Casper in his memory. The Powder River Campaign, conducted by troops commanded by General Connor, fails either to impress or to suppress the Indian threat.

1866: The United States Government constructs forts along the Bozeman Trail to the gold fields of Montana; one of them is Fort Phil Kearny. On December 21, Captain, Brevet Colonel, William Fetterman leads his command into an ambush; the entire command is destroyed. Following the Fetterman "Massacre" John "Portugee" Phillips makes his famous ride to Fort Laramie seeking help; he arrives at Fort Laramie on Christmas Eve.

1867: The Wagon Box Fight takes place near Fort Phil Kearny. Using metal-plated wagons as armor, and armed for the first time with breech-loading rifles, U.S. troops inflict severe losses on attacking Indians attempting to repeat their Fetterman triumph.

1868: The second Treaty of Fort Laramie is signed. The government agrees to abandon the Bozeman Trail forts and specified territory, including the Black Hills of South Dakota, is guaranteed to the Indians. Warriors of the Lakota and Cheyenne put the torch to Fort Phil Kearny while withdrawing troops are still in sight of the abandoned post.

1869: The first transcontinental railroad is completed, leading to the gradual abandonment of the Platte-Sweetwater route.

1874: A survey party reports the discovery of gold in the Black Hills. The report is delivered by messenger to the telegraph at Fort Laramie.

1876: On the Rosebud and Little Big Horn Rivers in Montana a combined force of Lakota and Cheyenne warriors defeat United States cavalry under the command of General George Crook and Lieutenant Colonel, Brevet Major General, George Armstrong Custer. Within a year, however, Indian military power is broken; the tribes either flee to Canada or submit to reservation life.

1878: The Breakout of the Northern Cheyennes occurs. Under the leadership of Dull Knife and Little Wolf, the Cheyennes attempt to return to their beloved north country on the Powder River in one of the epic marches in American history.

1890: Fort Laramie is abandoned as a military post; its buildings are sold at public auction. Toward the end of the year, the Ghost Dance sweeps across the Pine Ridge Reservation, Sitting Bull is killed by Indian Police, and the tragedy of Wounded Knee is played out.

1938: Fort Laramie is officially designated as a National Monument.

Copyright Robert Munkres 1981-2009 All Rights Reserved