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Visiting Fort Reno and Cantonment Reno, Outposts on the on the Bozeman Trail

Visiting Fort Reno and Cantonment Reno, Outposts on the on the Bozeman Trail

Two military posts were built a few miles apart during the Indian Wars near the strategic Bozeman Trail crossing of Powder RiverFort Reno in the 1860s and Cantonment Reno in the 1870s. The first was one of three forts whose existence provoked the Lakota and Cheyenne tribes into what became known as Red Cloud’s War. The second was an important Army base for campaigns against the Indians a decade later.

For info and mapped directions on how to visit the Reno sites and seven other Indian Wars sites in Wyoming, visit http://www.wyohistory.org/travel/historic-indian-wars-sites and download the QR-coded brochure, “Travel Wyoming’s Indian Wars Sites with WyoHistory.org.”

To hear three minutes of audio information about each of the sites, smartphone and tablet users can download the free app, TravelStorysGPS at http://www.travelstorysgps.com/, go to the Indian Wars tour, and find three minutes of audio information about each of eight historic sites from Fort Laramie to the Connor Battlefield north of Sheridan.

Here are some questions to raise during the bus ride:

  • Make a list of the animals seen along the way, both domestic and wild.  Which ones would benefit trail travelers, and which ones would be a hindrance? Which were of the most importance to the Indians in the region?
  • Where is the Bozeman Trail? When was it built? Why was it built?
  • Where is the Powder River Basin located? Why was this area important during the 1860s and 1870s?
  • How many forts were built to protect the Bozeman Trail? What were their names? Were all of them located in what’s now Wyoming?

Arriving at Fort Reno:

  • There isn’t a lot to see here, just sagebrush, horizons, the Bighorn Mountains to the West and the line of trees to the east along Powder River. What would there have been to see here in the 1860s? The 1870s?
  • Where was the fort exactly? (Hint: Look for the stone monument out in the sagebrush east of the county road.)
  • When was the fort built? What materials were used in its construction? Was it always called Fort Reno?
  • What were the names of the tribes who lived and hunted in this area? How do you think they felt about the fort?
  • Soldiers at the fort had many jobs to do.  List some of those jobs and describe them.  Which job would you like to have?  Which one would you try to avoid if you could?
  • Was there anyone else camping or living near the fort?  Who were they?  Why were they there? 
  • What is a cantonment? Why is it different from a fort? What was Cantonment Reno? When was it built and where was it located? What was its purpose?
  • Who was Gen. Patrick E. Connor? What was his mission? When did it occur? Was he successful?
  • Who was Col. Henry B. Carrington? What was his mission? When did it occur? Was he successful?
  • What is Red Cloud’s War?

Back in the classroom after the visit:

  • Pretend you were a soldier stationed at Fort Reno. Write a letter to your family describing the fort. What did the buildings look like? How many were there? What were some of the daily activities you engaged in? What wildlife did you see nearby? What did the landscape look like? What did you eat?
  • Pretend you were an Indian living in the Powder River Basin. Explain why this area was important to you and your tribe. Was Fort Reno helpful to you or a hindrance? Why?

Note to teachers:

This lesson addresses a number of the Wyoming State Social Studies Standards detailed in the 2013 draft of Wyoming Social Studies Content and Performance Standards, benchmarked for the ends of grades 2, 5, 8 and 12. All are available at http://edu.wyoming.gov/sf-docs/publications/DRAFT_2013_Social_Studies_Standards.pdf?

More specifically, the lesson addresses Content Standard 4, Time, Continuity and Change, under which students analyze events, people, problems, and ideas within their historical contexts, and Content Standard 5, People, Places and Environments, under which students apply their knowledge of the geographic themes (location, place, movement, region, and human/environment interactions) and skills to demonstrate an understanding of interrelationships among people, places, and environment.

Under Content Standard 4, the lesson addresses standards SS5.4.4. SS8.4.4 and SS12.4.4, which call for students to discuss, identify or describe historical interactions between and among individuals, families, and cultural/ethnic groups, and standards SS5.4.5, SSD8.4.5 and 12.4.5, which call for students to understand the difference between primary and secondary sources, and how to use them in their research.

Under Content Standard 5, this lesson addresses the Human Place and Movement standards SS2.5.3, SS5.5.3 (which specifically mentions American Indians and the Oregon Trail), SS8.5.3 and SS12.5.3, and the Environment and Society standards SS2.5.4, SS5.5.4, SS8.5.4 and SS12.5.4, which call on students to understand how people in Wyoming adjust and have adjusted to their physical and geographical environment.