In 1859-1860 Capt. William Raynolds led scientists, artists and soldiers who mapped much of present Wyoming and Montana. Their maps show a West frozen in time, home to Native people. But the maps were tools too of the nation’s sense of itself and its Manifest Destiny—to dispossess people who already lived here.
U.S. Census taker James Clopper counted 366 people with military connections at Fort Laramie in 1860, and another 300 civilians outside fort boundaries. It weas a diverse group: Soldiers, Indians, traders and freighters lived there; stagecoaches carrying people and mail, westbound young families and a few handcart-pulling Mormons were all passing through.
A major route for emigrants, freighters, the military, stagecoaches and mail, the Overland Trail across present southern Wyoming saw heavy traffic in the 1850s and 1860s. At different stations along the way, coach drivers obtained fresh horses, the wives of station masters fed dusty travelers and soldiers fought attacking warriors.
Thomas Twiss, West Point class of 1826, came to Fort Laramie as a civilian in 1855, tasked with keeping government promises to tribes and keeping peace in all directions. He had an Oglala family on Deer Creek in addition to a family back East—and lived in two worlds for decades.
During World War II, the U.S. Army operated two large and 17 smaller prisoner of war camps in Wyoming. Prisoners worked on farms and in the camps, often for private employers, who paid a going rate for local wages. Some prisoners became friends with their supervisors, others with the farm families they worked for.
Freight, mail and stagecoach passengers endured the rough, dangerous road from Rawlins on the Union Pacific through Lander to the Shoshone reservation for 27 years. “God bless the old stage line; she is doomed,” one postmaster wrote in 1906, when a railroad first reached Lander, “but it beat walking.”
The talking lasted 12 hours. Several times, the Ute negotiators returned to their camp; the soldiers could do little but wait. Each time negotiations resumed, the Utes refused to return to the Utah reservation they’d left five months earlier before crossing Wyoming in the summer of 1906. Civil officials were frantic. But the Utes, disgusted with losing still more of their land to the allotment system, were positive they would not go back.
When Enzo Tarquinio surrendered to U.S. Rangers in Sicily in 1943, he didn’t know he’d end up at Camp Douglas, Wyo. While other POWs worked at farms and ranches, Tarquinio and at least two fellow artist-prisoners painted murals in the officers’ club. Their subjects? Cowboys, Indians, wagon trains and mountain goats.
Rough Riders are usually associated with Theodore Roosevelt, but his was not the only cowboy regiment organized to fight in the Spanish American War of 1898. Wyoming had its rough riders, too, but due to a train mishap and the shortness of the war, they never saw combat.
During the Civil War, varying companies of soldiers from five states served at Fort Halleck on the Overland Trail in what’s now south-central Wyoming. They defended stagecoach stations, passengers, freighters and emigrant trains. Some died in blizzards, some witnessed a legal hanging and some lynched an African-American ambulance driver.