Fort Laramie 1849-1859

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By the 1850s, the trickle of westbound emigrants had become a flood. Few episodes in history can rival the drama that unfolded along the emigrant routes. Tens of thousands of people choked the dusty trails with masses of bawling farm and draft animals.

Destruction followed in their wake. As thousands of wagons passed over the trails, game was killed and driven off, depriving the Indians of subsistence. Emigrants’ livestock destroyed the grass for several miles in all directions. The trail corridor scarred the land, and remains visible over one hundred and fifty years after its carving.

Soldiers and emigrants desired good relations with the Indians, and in 1851 a peace council secured safe passage for travelers and compensated the Indians for their trail-related losses. The Fort Laramie Treaty of 1851, called the “Horse Creek Treaty,” was the largest known gathering of Northern Plains tribes in history. More than 10,000 people from virtually all of the plains Indian nations gathered at Horse Creek to make peace with the whites and end intertribal warfare. The headmen of each tribe and representatives of the U.S. government met and pledged peace to each other from that time forward. Unfortunately, the peace would last but a few short years.

The Platte River Ferry incident and the Grattan Fight brought peace to an abrupt end, and the resulting Northern Plains Indian wars would rage for the next 25 years. By the late 1850s, waning emigration and rising tensions with the Indians had changed Fort operations against the Northern Plains tribes.

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