Here Comes the Cavalry!

 

  Fort D.A. Russell was established in 1867 and named for David Allen Russell, who was a Civil War general killed at the Battle of Opequon.  It was established at a site known as Crow Creek Crossing, to protect workers involved in the construction the of the first transcontinental railroad.  Soldiers also served as guards for telegraph lines, stages, repair crews and surveying parties.

     The fort was always open to the plains, not stockaded, as forts are usually portrayed in old western movies.  The first structures were log cabins for enlisted men.  Tents housed officers through the first winter.

     The earliest buildings were of board and batten construction, insulated with adobe walls.  Rooms were lined with tarpaper and wallpapered.  Since the buildings were shaky, plaster couldn’t be used as it would constantly fall down.  Each barrack had a separate kitchen constructed of logs. There was no plumbing.  Bunks had mattresses filled with hay and two men shared each bunk.  Due to shrinkage of the lumber, the area around the eaves of the buildings was open.

     Desertion was quite common in the early days.  In fact, on one expedition out of the fort, some 65 men deserted by the time the troop reached Lodge Pole Creek, taking government horses and weapons with them. Although some deserters were caught, it was easy to change one’s name, and obtain employment on the railroad or elsewhere for substantially more pay.

     In 1884, the fort was made a permanent installation. The following year a program of building brick structures began. In 1886, the 9th Cavalry of “Buffalo Soldiers” was assigned to the post. At one time the fort was the largest cavalry post in the country. Cavalry remained at the fort until 1927.   

     Officers and the military band were deeply involved with Cheyenne society.  Reciprocal dances, socials, balls, and public gatherings were held.  Many young bachelor officers married young ladies from Cheyenne. 

     Cheyenne also offered a full range of the less savory entertainments such as gambling, drinking and soiled doves.  At times soldiers were restricted to base in efforts to discourage such behavior during Cheyenne’s wild and wooly days.

     In 1930, President Hoover changed the name of Fort D. A. Russell to Fort F. E. Warren, after Congressional Medal of Honor recipient and former Governor and Senator F. E. Warren. Warren received the Medal of Honor for his distinguished action in an assault upon Port Hudson, Louisiana, on May 27, 1863.

     During World War II, the fort served as a training facility for the US Army Quartermaster Corps and a prisoner of war camp was also constructed on the site. In 1958, it became part of the Strategic air Command.

     Fortunately, today the base has been designated a historic area and most of the structures in the historic district have been maintained. It has many large gorgeous brick homes and buildings (a number of which are reported to be “haunted”).   The base is also a protected haven for our native pronghorn antelope.

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One comment on “Here Comes the Cavalry!

  1. joyce wind says:

    thank you for this story and photo. Back in 1881, my great grandfather was there.

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