Keep the Bozeman Trail – Sheridan Media

A composite photo showing a recreation of Fort Reno at the site. Diorama at the Hoofprints of the Past museum in Kaycee.

In 1865, General Patrick Conner commanded the Powder River Expedition, intending to find a location to build a fort on the Powder River in Dakota Territory to protect gold miners on the Bozeman Trail. Accompanied by Colonel James Kidd and approximately 600 men, the expedition left Fort Laramie on August 1.

On August 15, 1865, a site was chosen for the fort, on a bluff above the Powder River. The Bozeman Trail, a former Indian and Trapper Trail used by gold diggers who traveled to the Montana gold fields, crossed the Powder River below the site of the new fort, which provided protection for emigrants along the trail. .

The Powder River from the Fort Reno site

Construction began immediately. The new post was initially called Fort Connor. in honor of their commander. Fort Connor became the starting point for soldiers who fought in the Battle of the Tongue River, near present-day Dayton, Wyoming, on August 29, 1865.

At first the fort was only a tent camp, but soon a sawmill was built and other buildings; barracks, warehouses and work buildings were built. The buildings had roofs covered with grass and dirt floors. Leading the soldiers to assimilate their existence to that of a prairie dog.

Later, a log palisade was built, supplemented by log bastions at the northwest and southwest angles. The garrison numbered from 125 to about 300 soldiers during the three years it was in service.

Diorama of the fort at the Hoofprints of the Past museum

In November 1865, the name of the fort was changed to Fort Reno, in honor of Major General Jesse Lee Reno, a Civil War commander. The winter of 1865-’66 was brutal and the garrison suffered 33 casualties, including the commanding officer, Captain George W. Williford, who died of illness in April 1866.

The flagpole with the American flag fluttering proudly in the Wyoming breeze was to be a welcome sight for travelers in the boxcars along the Bozeman. He was talking about protection, a rest area and a place to get news on the upcoming trail.

Protection was necessary. Many Indian tribes resented white men with their covered wagons moving through their hunting grounds. There were attacks on emigrant trains, and cattle and horses were stolen by Native Americans. Trying to bring some kind of peace to the plains was a constant problem for the military.

More info on the fort along the route

In the Cheyenne Leader, September 1867, there is a report on the peace talks between the military and Indian tribes. Peace Commission movements: The peace commission decided To go to North Platte, and from there to Julesburg, and maybe Cheyenne. After seeing all the Indians who can to be encouraged to make their appearance in these places or intermediate points, they will go to Fort Larnard, Colorado, and not to go to Laramie before the treest November. This change of program, (sic) was need by Laramie news. The runners sent across the country of Strong Thompson and others who have come report that tHostile gangs refuse to appear until soldiers have evacuated Fort Reno, Fort Black-smith and strong PHelloI Kearney, the forts of Powder Riworm VSuntry. They also say that they will not separately, but jointly, and that they will hold a council to theirs before doing anything.

This complicates the matter somewhat, and some are starting to argue that the commission is a failure. I don’t think this statement is correct yet, nor the Indian ultimatum, which they put forward to show their continued desire for war. I

It is probable that in Julesburg the leaders of the bands which infested the lines west of there can be met and brought into agreement. The commission is in session today and will leave by tomorrow, and will meet with Spotted Tail at North Platte, leaving for Fort Larned, Colorado, then Julesburg and Denver. Government commissioners are expected to arrive here next week to inspect additional sections of the Union Pacific Railroad, which will be 460 miles from Omaha. – Chicago Tribune 18e.

Fort Reno was only an active fort for three years, and in 1868, as part of the Treaty of Fort Laramie and to end the Red Cloud War, the lands of Power River County were ceded to the Lakota Sioux. .

A little about life in Fort Reno

In the Cheyenne Leader, June 5, 1868, The SpspecialOorder for the Aabandonment of the Upper Post was made public, and the method of withdrawal of supplies and forces is explained as follows: Headquarters Department of Platte, Omaha, Neb., May10,1868. Special order, no.80.

1. Under the command of the General-in-Chief, the military posts of CF Smith, Phil Kearney and Reno on what is known as the Powder River Road will be abandoned. Public ownership of Fort CF Smith will be sold at public auction, and that of Fort Phil Kearney and Fort Reno – starting and ending first with the first – will be transferred to those in lower posts that the department’s chief quartermaster will direct.

2. Upon the sale of the Fort CF Smith property, the troops there will be transferred to Fort Phil Kearney. When ownership is removed from this latter post, troops will go to Fort Reno and stay there until the stores are removed, when all of the command goes to a convenient camp on the railroad near Fort DA Russell. , and will wait for further orders.

3. As soon as the transport arrives at Fort Phil Kearney, the commander will send Major Smith and two companies of the 27th Infantry to relieve the 18th Infantry at Fort Reno.

4. After being relieved at Fort Reno by the 27th Infantry, Major Van Voast, 18th Infantry, with part of his regiment in that post, will proceed directly to Fort Russell and report for further orders. .

5. Brevet Major EB Grimes, Assistant Quartermaster, will visit Fort Phil Kearney, and in conjunction with Brevet Major General John E. Smith, Colonel United States Infantry, will carefully inspect all public property at these stations, and condemn anything that fails. not worth transporting. . Major Grimes is further charged, on special instruction from the Department’s Chief Quartermaster, with overseeing the packing, loading and transportation of all supplies to said posts. By order of the Augur General Brevet.

Cars crossing the Powder River below Fort Reno. Diorama at the Hoofprints of the Past Muesum.

Later, a fire swept through the fort, destroying most of the wooden buildings.

During the Sioux War of 1876, General George Crook and his men returned to Fort Reno in March, but only a few adobe walls and debris remained. However, Crook established a supply base there for 15 days, leaving the expedition’s supply cars and an infantry regiment.

In the Cheyenne Weekly Leader, March 25, 1876, there is a report of Crook’s return. News from northern Wyoming. From our special horn. in Fort Reno, Fort Reno, on Powder River Wyoming.

March 13, 1870, to The Leader: I am sending you the following notes which, if not very important, may be of interest to your readers. We left Fort Fetterman on the 1st, with forty days of supplies, ten companies of cavalry and two infantry, seventy-five teams of mules and two hundred pack mules.

Colonel Stanton commands the reconnaissance group, numbering twenty-five, as fine a corps of border guards as one can assemble in the country. On the night of the 2nd, our herd of oxen was trampled by the Indians. Fifty-two heads were chased away, but recovered by the soldiers; in the attack, a shepherd was slightly injured. On the evening of the 5th, we had another attack from our red friends; we were camped on the Powder River, across from old Fort Reno.

The victims were: a soldier wounded in the cheek. Tuesday March 7. – General Crook left us at Crazy Woman Fork, accompanied by cavalry, scouts and “packs”. We are now encamped on the land where Fort Reno once stood, awaiting the return of General Crook and his command. We have not heard from the general since his departure. Everything is calm here, due to the very cold weather, but we expect trouble anytime and we are prepared for it. Two companies of soldiers and seventy-five teammates are well armed, and would be able to give the Sioux a good deal. I intend to return to Fetterman as soon as General Crook returns to the camp; then send you more news. MM

The site of the old fort is listed in the National Register of Historic Places

A year later, in the Laramie Daily Sentinel, October 1877, a gold digger scours the Bozeman past Fort Reno in search of gold. No gold in the Big Horn country. [From the Greeley Sun] KM Boynton arrived in town on Tuesday, after a long absence in Black Hills and Big Horn country. We published a letter from him several months ago, giving his opinion on the Black Hills mining project and stating that he was about to leave for Big Horn Country. With a party of thirty-five, he left Deadwood on June 16 and headed southwest to old Fort Reno, crossing the Belle Fourche on the way.

From Fort Reno, they followed the old military road along the eastern base of the Big Horn Mountains to Fort CF Smith, located at the mouth of the Big Horn Canon (sic). On their way, they crossed the stream known as Crazy Woman’s Fork, Clear Fork. Piney, Goose Creek, Little Big Horn, and Big Horn. They found no color of gold in any of the streams that head to the Big Horn Mountains.

Game was plentiful. Moose, deer, antelopes, buffaloes and bears were frequently in sight. The land to the east and north of the Big Horn Mountains was a beautiful land, if the winters weren’t too harsh. Mr. Boynton thinks the weed was the best he had seen. Rivers lined with fish. No white has settled in the country. During their entire journey between Fort Reno and Camp Brown, they did not see a single white dwelling, apart from the military camps.

Today, nothing remains of Old Fort Reno. In 1914, a monument marking the site of the fort was erected by the State of Wyoming and the citizens of Johnson County. It sits between Kaycee and Sussex, and there are interpretive signs set up just off the road giving a brief history of the fort.

In the Hoofprints of the Past Museum in Kaycee, there is a diorama of the appearance of the fort from the 1860s. It has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places, a reminder of what it took to tame the plains wild and woolly Wyoming.

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