Fort Fetterman was a wooden fort constructed in 1867 by the United States Army on the Great Plains frontier in the Dakota Territory approximately 11 miles northwest of present-day Douglas, Wyoming. It was located high on the bluffs on the south side of the North Platte River. It served as a major jumping-off point for the start of several major military expeditions against warring Native American tribes and soldiers there helped protect pioneers on the Bozeman Trail. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
European-American civilization was advancing across the frontier along the line of the Union Pacific Railroad. The fort was built as a major supply point for the army's operating against the American Indians. Completed in July 1867, the new military post was named Fort Fetterman in honor of Capt. William J. Fetterman, who was killed in a fight with Indians near Fort Phil Kearny in December 1866. With the completion of Fort Fetterman, Fort Caspar was abandoned and its garrison moved into the new fort in August. As it was on the south side of the Platte, Fort Fetterman was excluded from the provisions of the 1868 Treaty of Fort Laramie, which resulted in the abandonment of all forts further to the north: forts Reno, Phil Kearny, and C.F. Smith). Thus, Fort Fetterman became the northernmost military post in eastern Wyoming. It was important to the protection of the Bozeman Trail and other routes for settlers.
With its remote location, the post was not considered a desirable place to be stationed. Desertions were frequent, and the winters long and hard. Supplies had to be brought in by wagon from Fort Laramie to the southeast or from Medicine Bow Station on the railroad. Soldiers had to carry water up the steep bluffs from the river or nearby creek. The soil proved to be ineffective for sustaining gardens, so fresh vegetables were not available.
During the mid-1870s and onset of the Black Hills War with the Lakota, Cheyenne, and Arapaho tribes, the monotony of camp life was broken by a series of major military expeditions, including Maj. Gen. George Crook's Power River Expedition of 1876 and Col. Ranald S. Mackenzie's 1876 campaign against Dull Knife. Fort Fetterman remained active until 1882, when it was abandoned by the Army as the Indian Wars had subsided. A small community (Fetterman City) was started around the empty fort by Charles Henry King and others as an outfitting point for area ranchers and for wagon trains. When the town of Douglas was established eleven miles away in 1886, Fetterman City rapidly declined.
State Historic Site
The old fort deteriorated from neglect. Today, the partially restored site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is administered as an historic site by the State of Wyoming. Visitors can walk an interpretive trail to view the ruins of the fort's buildings. An officer's quarters and an ordnance warehouse have been restored and contain exhibits, artifacts and dioramas about the fort's history, Fetterman City and area Native Americans.
- Fort Fetterman
- Wyoming Tales and Trails
- Fort Fetterman - Wyoming State Historic Site
- Fort Fetterman at the Wyoming State Historic Preservation Office
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