Fort Laramie 1859-1869

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The 1860s were tumultuous years for the nation and Fort Laramie. On the eve of the Civil War, Fort Laramie stood as a vital supply and communications link between the east and west coasts.

Almost 500,000 Americans now lived west of the Rocky Mountains. Rapid, dependable communication between east and west have become a necessity. The first transcontinental express mail service was launched in the spring of 1860; the celebrated Pony Express. Yet shortly after the first hoofbeats were heard, workmen began stringing miles of galvanized iron wire to tie the nation together. With the completion of the Transcontinental Telegraph in October, 1861, messages now flashed almost instantly from shore to shore.

At the outbreak of the Civil War, troops were withdrawn from most western forts and sent east. Volunteer units at Fort Laramie faced the daunting task of keeping hundreds of miles of telegraph line and the Central Overland mail route open and operating.

Between 1864 and 1868, Indian attacks on miltary outposts, telegraph stations, mail stages, and civilians increased. The opening of the Bozeman Trail infringed on Indian territorial rights. When three new forts were built along the trail in 1866, the Indians struck back. By 1868, Red Cloud and his Sioux warriors had forced the abandonment of the “bloody Bozeman” and driven the federal government to the peace table once more.

The Fort Laramie treaties of 1868 held the promise of lasting peace on the plains. Resrvations were organized, and promises were made to keep out trespassers. Once again, peace was fleeting. The pattern of empty promises and broken treaties continued.

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