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Fort Ellis

For the Canadian fort, see Fort Ellis, Nova Scotia.

Coordinates: 45°39′16″N 110°58′35″W / 45.65444°N 110.97639°W / 45.65444; -110.97639

Fort Ellis
Gallatin County, east of Bozeman, Montana
Type Fort
Built August 27, 1867
Built by U.S. Army
Demolished August 2, 1886 (decommissioned)
No Remnants
Garrison U.S. Army 2nd Cavalry, 7th Infantry
Events Marias Massacre
Washburn-Langford-Doane Expedition
Great Sioux War of 1876-77

Fort Ellis was a United States Army fort established August 27, 1867, east of present-day Bozeman, Montana. Troops from the fort participated in many major campaigns of the Indian Wars. The fort was closed in 1886.


The fort was established to protect and support settlers moving into the Gallatin Valley. The post was named for Colonel Augustus van Horne Ellis who was killed in 1863 at the Battle of Gettysburg during the Civil War. Five companies of the 2nd Cavalry and infantry companies from the 7th Infantry Regiment provided the fort's garrison. Nearby Fort Elizabeth Meagher which was established in the spring of 1867 on Rocky Creek was abandoned when Fort Ellis was built.[2]

Fort Ellis was an important post during the prominent Indian conflicts of the 19th century as well as a base of operations for exploring the region now known as Yellowstone National Park. In January 1870 Major Eugene M. Baker led elements of the Second Cavalry against elements of the Piegan tribe, culminating in the Marias Massacre on the Marias River in Montana. In April 1876 Colonel John Gibbon departed Fort Ellis with 400 infantry and cavalry as the "Montana Column" during the summer campaign of the Great Sioux War of 1876-77.[3] Troops from Fort Ellis also participated in the Nez Perce War in 1877.

The fort provided military escorts for a number of prominent expeditions into the Yellowstone region. In 1870, Lieutenant Gustavus C. Doane and five cavalrymen escorted Henry Washburn and eight other civilians from Helena, Montana on the Washburn-Langford-Doane Expedition. Doane would also accompany expeditions in 1871 and 1875, as well as an ill-fated exploration of the Snake River in 1876.

Like many Frontier garrisons, the fort had an ambivalent relationship with the nearby town of Bozeman, located 3 miles to the west of the fort. On 11 December 1867 and again 14 December 1867, soldiers of the 13th US Infantry destroyed buildings in and around the town that were found to be selling alcohol to the soldiers. Through the post's history, the settlers of Bozeman enjoyed the federal money brought to the city by contracts and payroll, but often acted nefariously as they competed amongst themselves for those dollars [4]

Commanding officers

  • 1867 - 1869 Captain R. S. LaMotte
  • 1869 - 1870 Colonel A. G. Brackett
  • 1870 - 1873 Major E. M. Baker
  • 1873 - 1876 Major N. B. Sweitzer
  • 1876 - 1877 Captain D. W. Benham
  • 1877 - 1880 Major J. S. Brisbin
  • 1880 - 1881 Lieutenant Colonel A. J. Alexander
  • 1881 - 1884 Major D. S. Gordon
  • 1884 - 1886 Major G. G. Hunt[5]


Since the post was located on prime agricultural land, many settlers in Bozeman petitioned to have the post closed. Documents indicate that the post would likely have remained active for several more years but since Gen. Sherman struggled to find posts to close for fiscal reasons in the face of strong political pressure, he seized the opportunity to close the post.[4] The post was decommissioned on August 2, 1886 (S.O. No. 73, Headquarters Department of Dakota, Fort Snelling, Minnesota) and was abandoned by the Army by the end of August 1886.[6] After decommissioning, the parade ground was used for sometime by the Montana Militia. As of August, 1924 many of the fort's buildings remained intact, including a two-story house that was the Commanding Officer's quarters. That building today has been renovated and is occupied by the Agricultural Experimental Station operated by Montana State University.[7]

See also


Further reading

External links

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