First Fort on the Bozeman Trail
the spring of 1865, the U.S. Army decided to establish a permanent fort on the Powder
River; deep in the heart of the Plains Indians last great hunting grounds. This would be accomplished as part of a military
expedition that summer intended to punish the Sioux and Cheyenne for attacks along the
Platte River and in Colorado. While the
expedition failed to defeat any significant Indian forces, it did establish a post on
Powder River, near the Bozeman Trail crossing.
by troops of the Sixth Michigan Volunteer Cavalry began on August 14, 1865. Named Fort Connor after the expeditions
commander, General Patrick Connor, the fort consisted of a stockade and crude log
buildings made of cottonwood cut on the river valley below the bluffs it was located on. Later in August, two companies of the Fifth U.S.
Volunteer Infantry relieved the cavalrymen, and served as the garrison until June 1866. During this period, little military activity took
place, since the garrison was too small for offensive operations, and the Indians did not
see them as much of a threat. Few
improvements were made to the post, the most significant event being the renaming of the
fort to Fort Reno in November 1865.
28, 1866, Colonel Henry B. Carrington and the 18th U.S. Infantry arrived at
Fort Reno, relieving the volunteer units. The
original intent was to abandon the site and move the post further north on the Bozeman
Trail, but orders arrived to keep it active, and build a new post to the north (this post
became Fort Phil Kearny, located approximately 60 miles north of Fort Reno.) Carrington left two companies to garrison Reno. Before its abandonment in the fall of 1868,
Renos garrison would vary from a high of 300 men to a low of 125 at the end.
the next two years, Fort Reno stood guard over its section of the Bozeman Trail, and
served as a way station and forwarding supply depot for the two northern Forts, Phil
Kearny and C.F. Smith. There were numerous
small skirmishes around the fort and constant threat of Indian attack, but not to the
level experienced at Fort Phil Kearny. Often
boredom was the most formidable enemy, since the post sat in what seemed a dreary and
inhospitable land to the young soldiers stationed there.
Some improvements in living quarters and buildings were made during 1867,
but it was still not a desirable place to live. The
post cemetery had more burials from illness and accidental death than battle casualties.
spring of 1868, the United States Government agreed to abandon the Bozeman Trail forts and
close the trail to travel as part of the Laramie Treaty.
The forts were abandoned that summer, starting with C. F. Smith, then Phil
Kearny, and finally in late August, Fort Reno. Soon
afterwards, Indians probably burned the fort buildings, and natural elements such as
lighting, prairie fires and erosion took a toll over the years. By the time General George Crook's troops visited
Fort Reno in 1876, all that was left were some adobe walls and building debris.
part of the fort site is administered by the Wyoming State Parks and Cultural Resources
Department. There is a large stone monument
and several interpretive signs marking the site. Please
call (307) 684-7629 for further information.