F.E. WARREN – The end of the Civil War allowed the United States Government to refocus its priorities, one of which included uniting the Western States and Territories with the rest of the country via a transcontinental railroad. While the socioeconomic impact of the Civil War initially halted the development of the railroad, as the war naturally forced a reprioritization of government resources, President Andrew Johnson’s administration sought to continue the development of the transcontinental railroad by the Spring of 1865. However, many believed the construction of a railroad which would unite the East and West Coasts of the country required more than supplies and laborers. Due to previous confrontations with bands of Arapaho, Cheyenne, and Sioux Indians, railroad workers insisted that government protection from the Indian tribes and the establishment of American-civil law in the Western Territories were needed to complete the Union Pacific Railroad.
Indian interference with the government’s westward expansion compelled Lieutenant General William T. Sherman, at the request of President Johnson, to establish the Department of the Platte on March 5, 1866. While the newly-constituted department held a multitude of responsibilities, to include: protecting emigrant routes, securing mail transportation, and establishing law and order, General Sherman stated that its primary purpose was to provide “ample protection to the working parties, and to afford every possible assistance in the construction of the [rail]road.” The establishment of the Department of the Platte ultimately gave the U. S. Army the authorization to protect the government’s interests, including the development of the Union Pacific Railroad.
To ensure mission success, General Sherman ordered the establishment of multiple U. S. Army Forts throughout the Department of the Platte’s theatre, which ranged from Iowa to the Utah Territory. In the Spring of 1867, General Sherman ordered the construction of a post “at some point of the railroad, near the Eastern Base of the Black Hills,” with the capacity to house an Infantry Regiment of 2500 soldiers. With the establishment of the townsite Crow Creek Crossing, later renamed Cheyenne on the eve of July 4, 1867, Brigadier General Christopher C. Augur, Commander of the Department of the Platte, and Grenville M. Dodge, Chief Engineer for the Union Pacific, agreed that the development of an army fort near Crow Creek would meet General Sherman’s requirements, as the nearby townsite was deemed a major railroad hub by the Union Pacific and was located within the vicinity of General Sherman’s guidance. While General Augur insisted that the depot be built fourteen miles west of the townsite, closer to water and an abundance of timber, Mr. Dodge, an ardent supporter of Cheyenne, contended that the fort be established closer to the town, so that it could provide the people of Cheyenne with protection, employment opportunities, and economic support.
General Augur and Mr. Dodge ultimately came to an agreement and, on July 21, 1867, Colonel John D. Stevenson and three companies from the 30th U. S. Infantry Regiment, arrived at Crow Creek. Ordered by General Augur, Colonel Stevenson travelled from Lawrence Fork (Western, Nebraska) to establish a new U. S. Army fort to protect the development of the transcontinental railroad, as well as the town of Cheyenne. The 30th Infantry Regiment established camp about a half-mile north of the townsite. As Colonel Stevenson and his troops began scouting the official location for the new military installation, the people of Cheyenne welcomed their new neighbors. And so, with the help of Mr. Dodge, a new relationship emerged between the town of Cheyenne and the United States military, a relationship that continues 152 years later.