Tag: Fort Laramie

The Allure of Fort Laramie ~ by Amanda Cabot

When you picture a western fort from the nineteenth century, do you envision small, perhaps even dilapidated wooden buildings surrounded by a wooden stockade?  I did until I visited Fort Laramie.  It was the summer of 2004, only a few months after my husband and I had moved from the East Coast to Cheyenne.  We needed a break from the unpacking, picture hanging, and other tasks associated with moving into a new house, so we headed for the Fort Laramie National Historic Site.

Old Fort Laramie store foundation

Foreground: foundation of barracks; background: part of officer’s row, including the post trader’s store (the one-story building in the center back)

It was not what I expected.  There was no stockade, the buildings were far from primitive, and the way they flanked the central parade ground made it reminiscent of a New England village, not one of the military forts those old Westerns made popular.

Old Fort Laramie dining room

Nothing primitive about this dining room.

Old Fort Laramie birdbath

An in-ground birdbath.

As we entered the Visitor Center, the surprises continued, and I found myself fascinated by the elegant lifestyle the officers and their wives experienced during the last decade of the fort’s existence (the 1880s).Houses were surrounded by picket fences, many yards had flower gardens, and women strolled along the boardwalks carrying parasols.  There were even birdbaths.  Of course, since this was Wyoming with its famous winds, the birdbaths weren’t the typical basin-on-a-pedestal style that you might expect.  Instead, they were circular depressions in the ground. As I said, it was not at all what I had expected, but what I saw started my brain whirling, and I knew this would not be my only visit to the fort.

Old Fort Laramie Officers Row

Partially reconstructed officers’ housing and Old Bedlam (the two-story white frame building)

Old Fort Laramie Burt house

Andrew and Elizabeth Burt’s home. The red SUV in the background was definitely not there when they lived at the fort!

There’s a lot to see.  While many of the buildings have been destroyed, a number have been restored to their former glory to give visitors a sense of what life was like at the fort that was a major landmark on the Oregon Trail.  The most famous of those buildings is Old Bedlam, the oldest military structure in Wyoming.  Curious about the nickname?  It was originally constructed for bachelor officers’ housing, and those officers were a little … shall we say rowdy?  Later in its existence, it was used as post headquarters, and only a few years ago it was the site of a wedding.  I suspect the guests were better behaved than those bachelor officers of 150 years ago.One of the restored houses is the one where Lt. Col. Andrew Burt and his wife Elizabeth lived during their two tours of duty at the fort.  If you’ve never heard of the Burts, their story is told in Indians, Infants and Infantry: Andrew and Elizabeth Burt on the Frontier by Merrill J. Mattes, a book I highly recommend to anyone who wants an authentic view of life at nineteenth century forts.  The author used Elizabeth’s Burt’s diaries and letters to create a story filled with fascinating details of real life.

What does all this have to do with my current release?  Absolutely nothing.  A Stolen Heart is set in a charming town in the Texas Hill Country, not on a military fort.  Its hero is a sheriff, not a soldier.  Its heroine is a schoolteacher who becomes a confectioner, not a woman dealing with tasteless dried potatoes.  But Fort Laramie is such a wonderful place that I couldn’t resist taking this opportunity to tell you more about it.  If you visit Wyoming, I hope you’ll consider spending a day at Fort Laramie.  It’s well worth the detour.

And now to the highlight of the post: the giveaway.  I’m offering a signed copy of either Summer of Promise, which takes place at Fort Laramie during its elegant decade, or my new release, A Stolen Heart, to one commenter.

 

A stolen Heart

The future she dreamed of is gone. But perhaps a better one awaits . . .

From afar, Cimarron Creek seems like an idyllic town tucked in the Texas Hill Country. But when former schoolteacher Lydia Crawford steps onto its dusty streets in 1880, she finds a town with a deep-seated resentment of Northerners—like her. Lydia won’t let that get her down, though. All will be well when she’s reunited with her fiancé.

But when she discovers he has disappeared—and that he left behind a pregnant wife—Lydia is at a loss about what to do next. The handsome sheriff urges her to trust him, but can she trust anyone in this town where secrets are as prevalent as bluebonnets in spring?

The book is available at Barnes & Noble, and Christian Book Distributors.

 

Amanda CabotBestselling author Amanda Cabot invites you into Texas’s storied past to experience adventure, mystery—and love. She more than thirty novels including the Texas Dreams trilogy, the Westward Winds series, the Texas Crossroad trilogy, and Christmas Roses. A former director of Information Technology, she has written everything from technical books and articles for IT professionals to mysteries for teenagers and romances for all ages.  Amanda is delighted to now be a fulltime writer of Christian romances, living happily ever after with her husband in Wyoming.

Find her online at:
AmandaCabot.com
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Capt. William J. Fetterman: Fatal Hubris

Kathleen Rice Adams header

 

William J. Fetterman, Capt., U.S. Army

William J. Fetterman, Capt., U.S. Army

“Give me eighty men and I’ll ride through the whole Sioux Nation.”

So said Capt. William J. Fetterman in late 1866 as he assumed command of a U.S. Army detail tasked with defending a woodcutting expedition against Indians in the Dakota Territory. A fellow officer had declined the command after mounting, and failing to sustain, a similar effort two days earlier.

Fetterman overestimated his abilities and severely underestimated his opponent.

Born in Connecticut in 1833, William Judd Fetterman was the son of a career army officer. In May 1861, at the age of 28, he enlisted in the Union Army and immediately received a lieutenant’s commission. Twice brevetted for gallant conduct with the First Battalion of the 18th Infantry Regiment, Fetterman finished the Civil War wearing the brevet rank of lieutenant colonel of volunteers.

After the war, Fetterman elected to remain with the regular army as a captain. Initially assigned to Fort Laramie with the Second Battalion of the 18th Infantry, by November 1866 he found himself dispatched to Fort Phil Kearny, near present-day Sheridan, Wyoming. Since the post’s establishment five months earlier, the local population of about 400 soldiers and 300 civilian settlers and prospectors reportedly had suffered fifty raids by small bands of Sioux and Arapaho. In response, the fort’s commander, Col. Henry B. Carrington, adopted a defensive posture.

Red Cloud, ca. 1880 (photo by John K. Hillers, courtesy Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library)

Red Cloud, ca. 1880 (photo by John K. Hillers, courtesy Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library)

Fetterman immediately joined a group of other junior officers in openly criticizing Carrington’s protocol. Although the 33-year-old captain lacked experience with the Indians, he didn’t hesitate to express contempt for the enemy. His distinguished war record lent credence to his argument: Since the Indian raiding parties consisted of only twenty to 100 mounted warriors, the army should run them to ground and teach them a lesson.

Fetterman’s voice and continuing raids eventually convinced the regimental commander at Fort Laramie to order Carrington to mount an offensive. Several minor scuffles, during which the soldiers proved largely ineffective due to disorganization and inexperience, merely bolstered the Indians’ confidence. Carrington himself had to be rescued after a force of about 100 Sioux surrounded him on a routine patrol. Even Fetterman admitted dealing with the “hostiles” demanded “the utmost caution.”

Jim Bridger, at the time a guide for Fort Phil Kearny, was less circumspect. He said the soldiers “don’t know anything about fighting Indians.”

On December 19, an army detail escorted a woodcutting party to a ridge only two miles from the fort before being turned back by an Indian attack. The next day, Fetterman and another captain proposed a full-fledged raid on a Lakota village about fifty miles distant. Carrington denied the request.

On the morning of December 21, with orders not to pursue “hostiles” beyond the two-mile point at which the previous patrol had met trouble, Fetterman, a force of seventy-eight infantry and cavalry, and two civilian scouts escorted another expedition to cut lumber for firewood and building material. Within an hour of the group’s departure from the fort, the company encountered a small band of Oglala led by Crazy Horse. The Indians taunted the army patrol, which gave chase … beyond where they had been ordered not to go.

The great Sioux war leader Red Cloud and a force of about 2,300 Lakota, Arapaho, and Northern Cheyenne waited about one-half mile beyond the ridge. In less than twenty minutes, Fetterman and all eighty men under his command died. Most were scalped, beheaded, dismembered, disemboweled, and/or emasculated.

Plaque at the site of the battle (courtesy Phil Konstantin)

Monument at the site of the battle (courtesy Phil Konstantin; used with permission)

The Indians suffered sixty-three casualties.

Among the Sioux and Cheyenne, the event is known as the Battle of the Hundred Slain or the Battle of 100 in the Hands. Whites know it better as the Fetterman Massacre, the U.S. Army’s worst defeat on the Great Plains until Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer made a similar mistake ten years later at Little Big Horn in Montana.

Whether Fetterman deliberately disobeyed Carrington’s orders or the commander massaged the truth in his report remains the subject of debate. Although officially absolved of blame in the disaster, Carrington spent the rest of his life a disgraced soldier. Fetterman, on the other hand, was honored as a hero: A fort constructed nearly 200 miles to the south was given his name seven months after his death. A monument dedicated in 1901 marks the spot where the officers and men fell.

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A war of another kind erupts within the pages of Prodigal Gun, the only novel-length western historical romance ever nominated for a Peacemaker Award. A Texas fence war pits cattlemen against sheepmen and barbed wire, bringing a notorious gunman home sixteen years after the Confederate Army declared him dead. The book is available in trade paperback and all e-formats at virtual bookstores everywhere. (An excerpt is here.)

 

 

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