Fort Caspar
Fort Caspar was a military post of the United States Army in present-day Wyoming, named after 2nd Lieutenant Caspar Collins, a U.S. Army officer who was killed in the 1865 Battle of the Platte Bridge Station against the Lakota and Cheyenne. Originally founded in 1859 along the banks of the North Platte River as a trading post and toll bridge on the Oregon Trail, the post was later taken over by the Army and named Platte Bridge Station to protect emigrants and the telegraph line against raids from Lakota and Cheyenne in the ongoing wars between those nations and the United States. The site of the fort, near the intersection of 13th Street and Wyoming Boulevard in Casper, Wyoming, is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and is now owned and operated by the City of Casper as the Fort Caspar Museum and Historic Site.

History
The area where Platte Bridge Station was located had been the site of various temporary Army encampments over a period of years before the establishment of the fort, or "station" itself. The fort was located on the south side of the North Platte, near the western edge of present-day Casper, at one several local points where the Emigrant Trail crossed from the south side to the north side of the river. In 1847, during the first Mormon wagon train to present-day Utah, Brigham Young commissioned a ferry at the site for later emigrants. The ferry consisted of cottonwood dugout canoes and planking for a deck, with two oars and a rudder. On June 19, Young named nine men to remain to operate the ferry while the remainder of the party continued the journey westward. A group of Mormons returned to the site each summer between 1847 and 1852 to operate the ferry. The ferry was moved to a different spot on the North Platte in North Casper in 1849. It was eventually replaced with a rope-and-pulley system that could make the crossing in five minutes. In following years, trader John Baptiste Richard established a trading post several miles downriver of the crossing. The U.S. Army established its first presence in the area in 1855, erecting Fort Clay near Richard's trading post. In 1859, when the site was part of the Nebraska Territory, Louis Guinard built a competing bridge at the trading post, called the Platte Bridge Station, at the site of the old Mormon Ferry crossing. From 1860”“1861, the Pony Express operated a station at the site. By the middle 1860s, the increasing presence of emigrants and other white settlers in the region began to cause friction with the Lakota and Cheyenne. In response, and partly to protect the new telegraph line, the Army began increasing its presence in the region in 1861 by sending a detachment to guard Guinard's bridge. Many of these troops, who created a series of "stations" along the Oregon trail, were from various state units raised during the Civil War. In 1862 the Army purchased the Guinard's Platte Bridge station.

Battle of the Platte Bridge Station/Battle of Red Buttes
In July 1865, accompanied by survivors of the Sand Creek Massacre which occurred the previous November in Colorado, a party of several thousand Cheyenne and Sioux, approached Platte Bridge Station from the north intending to attack the soldiers camped there. They had previously scouted the area and selected it because the soldiers camped there were not in a fort but camped in tents on the south side of the river. Initially only a small party of Indians showed themselves to the troops, the remainder of the Indians remaining concealed. Knowing that an eastern bound Army wagon train was due to come in, the officers of the post discussed attempting to relieve the post and drive off the Cheyenne and Sioux warriors, so that the wagon train could come safely in. Lieutenant Caspar Collins of the 11th Ohio Cavalry volunteered to lead the effort, with the troops involved in it being from the 11th Ohio Cavalry and 11th Kansas Cavalry. Among those leading the Indian warriors were Red Cloud and the famed warrior Roman Nose. George Bent, the half Cheyenne son of William Bent who survived the Sand Creek Massacre, participated in the battle as a Cheyenne warrior, and later wrote about it in his letters. On the first day the Indians were unsuccessful in luring the troops into an ambush. On the second day Collins and his small troop crossed north over the Platte Bridge to attack a party of hostile Indians who had approached the north side of the bridge. The Indians had shown a few warriors in order to lure the soldiers into an ambush while concealing large bands of warriors near the bridge and over the crest of the hills. When Collins followed the small party of visible Indians into the hills he encountered a large force of Indians but when he attempted to flee to the bridge found his retreat cut off by another large party of warriors. Collins, shot in the forehead with an arrow, was killed during the battle, as were many of his troops, their bodies and those of their dead horses laying along the road for the space of a mile. The battle lasted only a few minutes with the Sioux and Cheyenne suffering only a few casualties. However, they were prevented from crossing Platte Bridge into the Army camp due it being guarded on the south side by a mountain howitzer. The battle became known as the Battle of Platte Bridge Station. The Army officially renamed the post Fort Casper to honor Collins, using his first name of Caspar since an existing post in Colorado was already called Fort Collins, after Collins' father. In response to the attacks, the Army established a permanent garrison of 100 troops at the site. The wagon train itself (Companies D & H, 11th Kansas Cavalry), commanded by Sergeant Custard (Company H), was attacked the same day, the soldiers being transported being completely overrun with only a few survivors. The soldiers were in wagons, without horses, being on their way east. According to the Indians the battle lasted about half an hour with one person escaping, a teamster, 22 troopers killed and 8 Indian warriors. Many Indian warriors were wounded. The Indians, as was their custom, took no prisoners. That battle became known as the Battle of Red Buttes.

Abandonment
The fort was abandoned two years later in August 1867, with the garrison moved to Fort Fetterman at Douglas, Wyoming.

Restoration/Museum
Fort Caspar was partially reconstructed in 1936 using sketches made by Lieutenant Collins in 1863. The fort itself underwent a lot of changes during its occupation, and the current recreation reflects the post in 1863-1865. The City of Casper now operates a museum at the site, which features reconstructed log buildings, including a wooden stockade. The site also includes a replica of the Mormon ferry that was operated there between 1847 and 1849, as well as a model of part of the bridge that later replaced the ferry. In early December members of a living history group portraying a company of the 3rd US Infantry host a historical reenactment at the site.

Building Activity

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