STARTING THE BOZEMAN TRAIL

From:
ONE HUNDRED YEARS WITH THE SECOND CAVALRY
By Joseph I. Lambert, Major, Second Cavalry
Copyright 1939 Commanding Officer, Second Cavalry, Fort Riley, Kansas
Capper Printing Company, Inc.

IWIn 1865 the United States Government wanted to build a wagon road east of the Big Horn Mountains into the mining districts of Montana and Idaho. The country through which this road was to pass was the hunting grounds of the Sioux and Cheyennes. Red Cloud, the chief of the Sioux, entered a most emphatic protest, declaring it would drive away the game. It was the best buffalo range on the continent, and these animals furnished the Indians with food, clothing, and skins for their lodges. During the fall of 1865 a council was proposed to Red Cloud to effect an agreement whereby the road might be constructed, but he refused to participate.

Another council was proposed the following June, and this time Red Cloud, along with several other Sioux chiefs, attended. Throughout the conference there was violent opposition to the building of the road by most of the Indians present. Anticipating success of his effort, the government initiated plans to go ahead with the work while the meeting was still in progress. Hearing of the movement of the troops into the disputed country, the majority of the chiefs, under Red Cloud, withdrew from the session, refusing to accept the presents sent by the government.

Nevertheless, it was decided to go ahead and build the forts along the route, which was known as the Bozeman Trail. Colonel Henry B. Carrington, of the Eighteenth Infantry, was given charge of the work, which included rebuilding old Fort Reno, on the Powder River, Fort Phil Kearney at the forks of the Big and Little Piney, and Fort C. F. Smith on the Big Horn.

Company C left Fort Laramie under command of Lieutenant Horatio S. Bingham, October 23, 1866, en route to Fort Phil Kearney, Wyoming, and arrived at this place November 2. Six companies of the Eighteenth Infantry under Colonel Carrington had occupied the post since its beginning in July. Construction was still in progress, necessitating logging operations some seven miles from the post. So closely had the Sioux drawn their lines about the garrison that hay could not be cut or trees felled without a heavy guard accompanying the workmen. In fact, this post was generally in a state of siege. From the arrival of the troops until the close of the year, Red Cloud’s warriors killed one hundred fifty-four persons, wounded twenty, and drove away hundreds of head of stock belonging to citizens of the area.

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