JR’s Wild West: Fort Laramie Nat’l Historic Site

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Panoramic view of ‘Old Bedlam’

We were cruising on down the road, on our 9 hour drive home from Thermopolis.  I was driving, Erin was sleeping.  Along the side of the road I happened to see a sign for ‘Historic Fort Laramie’.  I had heard a little about Ft. Laramie from our stops near the Fetterman Massacre and Wagon Box Fight sites, as it was where John Phillips rode to, through a blizzard, to deliver the news of the Fetterman Massacre and request reinforcements.

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Our route home just happened to lead us to Historic Fort Laramie

Since Erin was asleep and I was tired of sitting in the car, a chance to stretch my legs and take in some history sounded fantastic.  Erin hates the history I drag her to, so the timing of her nap seemed perfect.  Unfortunately, as we pulled off of the smooth, quiet highway onto the bumpy, noisy country roads to the fort, she awoke, with the usual barrage of questions.  ‘Where are we going?’  “Why are we on this road?’  ‘What are you doing?’ and then the usual protests.  ‘I don’t wanna go there.’  ‘Let’s just go home.’  But I wasn’t having any of it.  I was ready for a break, and I had already missed Fort Phil Kearny, I wasn’t missing another Fort on this trip.  So I parked the Jeep and told Erin if she didn’t want to see the fort she could stay in the car and continue her nap, but she reluctantly came with me, not wanting to be left alone.

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Plague commemorating John Phillips’ ride

Fort Laramie was used for various purposes from the 1830-1890s and has been preserved quite well considering it’s age, as it was decommissioned 125 years ago.  I live just down the road from Fort Kearny, along the Platte River in Nebraska.  It was active from 1848-1871 but was deconstructed after it’s abandon.  Not much of it is left, most of what is there now is just replica.  Half of it’s original grounds is farmland now.  So it’s great to see a fort as genuine as Fort Laramie still standing and open to the public.

Many original buildings still stand; barracks, officer’s quarters, guard houses, the bakery, etc, as well as 11 standing ruins, and several buildings where only the foundations remain.  The parade grounds, surrounded by trees, where soldiers would march, still remain in the center of the grand spectacle.

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Officer’s Quarters ruins

We took a big loop around the grounds, coming in and out of the buildings and ruins where allowed.  It was truly fascinating to get to take it all in.  The grounds and buildings are marked with pertinent information, helping to make sense of it all, as the grounds are huge and the buildings and ruins numerous.

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Jail

One of the biggest treats was going into the old barracks.  Just a grand expanse of open floor, covered in bed after bed after bed after bed.  Living in a time where everyone gets their own room, it’s interesting to step outside of box and think about a literal army of men sharing one room.

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Monument

While Fort Laramie used to have an ideal location, along the Platte and Laramie Rivers, which used to guide emigrant trails, it’s not on such a well traveled road anymore.  Which is why I’m glad I happened to chance upon it.  Because it is a captivating piece of history.  If you are interested in history and are remotely close to passing it’s way, stop by Historic Fort Laramie.

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