LARAMIE, FORT, originally constructed in 1834 by fur traders, served as a meeting place for economic exchange between traders, trappers, and Indians. During the 1840s, the post's strategic location near the intersection of the Laramie and North Platte Rivers made it an important way station for emigrants moving west along the Oregon and Mormon Trails. When the increasing flow of westward migrants created conflicts with American Indian peoples, specifically the Northern Cheyennes and the Lakota Sioux, the U.S. Army purchased Fort Laramie and expanded the small log structure into a major military post.
After 1849, Fort Laramie was an important conduit in the U.S. government's western policy. While no major military engagements occurred within its immediate vicinity, the post served as a major staging ground for army expeditions against Indian nations in the Dakotas and Montana during the 1860s and 1870s. The fort was also a crucial hub in the civilian transportation and communication network that linked the Pacific coast with the eastern states. The Pony Express, Deadwood Stagecoach, and Trans-Continental Telegraph all used the fort at one time or another. However, Fort Laramie's most significant contribution to the conquest of the American West was its diplomatic role in the confinement of the Plains Indian tribes onto reservations. Two treaties signed at the fort, the first in 1851 and the second in 1868, paved the way for the transfer of vast expanses of Indian territory to the U.S. government and the relocation of thousands of Cheyennes, Sioux, and other Plains Indian peoples onto permanent reservations.
With the abatement of the western Indian wars during the 1880s, the army abandoned the fort in 1890 and auctioned its buildings to civilians. The federal government reacquired the surviving structures in 1938 and proclaimed the site a national monument, administered by the National Park Service.
Hafen, Le Roy R., and Francis Marion Young. Fort Laramie and the Pageant of the West, 1834–1890. Glendale, Calif.: Arthur H. Clarke, 1938.
Hedren, Paul L. Fort Laramie in 1876: Chronicle of a Frontier Post at War. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1988.
Lavender, David. Fort Laramie and the Changing Frontier: Fort Laramie National Historic Site, Wyoming. Washington, D.C.: Department of the Interior, 1983.