Antoine of Oregon - James Otis

Fort Laramie

Fort Laramie is on the west side of a stream known as Laramie's Fork and about two miles from the Platte River. It is a trading post belonging to the North American Fur Company, and built of adobe, by which I mean sun dried bricks, with walls not less than two feet thick and twelve or fourteen feet high, the tops being well guarded by long, sharp spikes to prevent an enemy from climbing over.

This fort, if it can be called such, is simply a wall inclosing an open square of twenty-five yards each way, along the sides of which are the dwellings, store-rooms, blacksmith shops, carpenter shops, and offices all fronting inside, while from the outside can be seen only two gates, one of which faces the north and the other the south.

[Illustration] from Antoine of Oregon by James Otis

Just south of the fort is a wall inclosing about an acre of land, which is used as a stable or corral, while a short distance farther on is a cultivated field, the scanty crops of which give good evidence that the soil is not suitable for farming.

About a mile below Fort Laramie, and having much the same appearance as that fortification, although not so large, is Fort John, which is in possession of the St. Louis Fur Company.

[Illustration] from Antoine of Oregon by James Otis

We were given quarters inside Fort Laramie, which was much to our liking, for it would have been more than disagreeable had we been forced to camp outside the walls, where were, when we arrived, at least three thousand Sioux Indians. Their buffalo-skin lodges dotted the plain all around the fort until one could have well fancied there were three times the real number in the neighborhood, and it was as if their tepees were countless, although John Mitchell was told that they had no more than six hundred.

I learned shortly after our arrival that the Sioux had gathered here for the purpose of making ready to attack the tribes of the Snakes and Crows, and they had but just finished their war dance when we came up, seemingly having no regard for the violent storm which was raging.

Even as we drove into the fort the water was descending from the clouds in torrents, but there were hundreds of these savages dancing and singing, and in various ways striving to show their joy because a war was about to be begun against their enemies.