Part of our in-depth series exploring Sioux Nation Forts
The Fort Sanders Guardhouse is the single substantially intact building remaining on the site of this military reservation erected in 1866 to protect and defend encroaching modern civilization in the Rocky Mountain West.
Initially, Fort Sanders troops aided emigrants traveling the Lodgepole Trail. Fort Sanders troops also protected the Denver and Salt Lake stage line. In the post’s sixteen-year existence its troops were involved in twenty major skirmishes with Indians, although no battles occurred on fort grounds. Since men garrisoned at Fort Sanders participated in General Custer’s military campaign of 1876, it seems likely some probably fell at the Battle of the Little Big Horn.
In 1867 the Union Pacific Railroad came onto the high plains of southern Wyoming. Surveyors and engineers were particularly vulnerable to Indian attack, and thus needed the aid of Fort Sanders troops.
The establishment of Laramie City in the spring of 1868, situated about three miles north of the Fort Sanders post, prompted the construction of the guardhouse. As Laramie’s economy boomed desertion rates at Fort Sanders soared. Likewise, drunkenness and boisterousness were endemic among the troops stationed at Fort Sanders, and when the guardhouse was completed early in 1869 it was usually full.
After completion of Fort D.A. Russell at Cheyenne late in 1868, the importance of Fort Sanders began to wane.
The War Department maintained Fort Sanders until 1882, when the property and buildings were sold and the post vacated.
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