History and Militia
September, 1819, Colonel Henry Atkinson, then of the Sixth Infantry,
established a military camp near the site of the Council Bluff where Lewis and
Clark first held a council with the Indians. Subsequently Fort Atkinson was
established on this bluff.
was the first military post and the first settlement of consequence on Nebraska
soil. A regiment of Infantry and another of riflemen made up the garrison. The
fort was abandoned on June 15, 1827.
The present village of Fort Calhoun adjoins the site of old Fort
of whites from Indians and of warring Indian tribes from each other later made
the establishment of other forts necessary.
July, 1847, old Fort Kearney was established on the west bank of the Missouri
river fifty miles south of Omaha, where Nebraska City was afterward located. Lieutenant-Colonel Ludwell E. Powell and five
companies of soldiers wintered there, but this fort was abandoned in May, 1848,
and its name was given to Fort Childs which had Just been established on the
Platte river about five miles from the present site of the city of Kearney.
block house at Old Fort Kearney was used as a newspaper office in 1854, the
News of Nebraska City being printed there.
The new Fort Kearney was permanently
established in July of 1848, after one or two trial sites had been abandoned.
Its name was given in honor of Brigadier-General Stephen W. Kearney who died
October 8, 1848. This fort was one of the defenses of the stream of west-bound
adventurers and settlers for many years. It was abandoned on May 17. 1871.
During this time it was occupied by both regular and volunteer troops—the First
Nebraska regiment being among the latter.
1850 a military road was established which connected Fort Leavenworth in Kansas
with Fort Kearney.
policy of the government was to have a string of forts to protect the Oregon Trail.
Laramie, now in Wyoming, was the most famous of all Nebraska territory's forts.
It was established by fur traders as
early as 1834, and was sold to the United States June 26, 1849.
was abandoned as a military post on April 27, 1890.
1855 two forts were located in Nebraska Territory. Fort Grattan at Ash Hollow,
188 miles west of Fort Kearney, was established on September 8, and almost immediately
(October 1) abandoned.
Fort Pierre, now in South Dakota, was established
July 7, 1856, and abandoned May 16, 1857.
Nebraska having established a territorial government in 1854,
a proclamation of Acting-Governor T. B. Cuming of date December 23. 1854,
recited that settlers were continually threatened by Indian depredations and
recommended that two regiments of volunteers, one north and one south of the
Platte be organized.
Cuming appointed the regimental officers.
in 1855 – General John M. Thayer was commissioned as
J. H. Hanscom as colonel of the First regiment, and John W. Boulware as colonel
of the Second regiment.
July 30, 1865, Governor Izard ordered General Thayer to raise a volunteer
company, which, with the “First Company” was to be stationed near Fontanelle, Dodge County,
to protect the lives and property of settlers until the federal government
should afford adequate protection. A
company was, accordingly, stationed in that vicinity, another at Elkhorn City,
and another at Tekamah.
January 23, 1856, the legislature passed an act organizing the Nebraska volunteer
militia. The organization was to consist of one brigade on either side of the Platte River.
The first major general and brigadier generals were to be chosen by the
legislature in Joint convention and after that by the commissioned brigade and
company was to elect its own officers. On January 24, 1858, the legislature in
joint session elected John M. Thayer major general, L. L. Bowen brigadier
general of the First brigade, and H. P. Downs brigadier general of the second
brigade. On July 1 or 2, 1859, General
Thayer headed an expedition to deal
with Pawnees who had been troubling
settlers In the vicinity of West Point and
beyond. A detachment of the United States Fourth artillery regiment joined this
beginning of the Civil war found Nebraska Territory with only Fort Kearney and
Fort Laramie maintaining: garrisons, and the necessity for protection from the
Indians as imperative as ever.
Nebraska furnished 3.307 men and officers to the Union Armies. The First
.Nebraska volunteer regiment was organized in June and July, 1861, as an
Infantry regiment, with 1,370 officers and men.
July 30, 1861, Colonel John M. Thayer and the First Battalion left for Missouri. The rest of
the regiment joined the First battalion in August and were in service during
the winter at Fort Donelson and the
battle of Shiloh.
November, 1863, the regiment was transferred to the cavalry service and later
was sent to Arkansas.
January, 1864, the veterans were granted a furlough and returned at once to
Omaha. Upon the expiration of the furlough in August, they were ordered to Fort
Kearney, arriving there on August 23, 1864.
regiment was reorganized by an order dated January 31, 1866, under the name of
First Nebraska cavalry, and was engaged in scouting and fighting Indians until
It was mustered out on July 1, 1866
December, 1861, the Nebraska battalion of what became known as the Curtis horse
regiment was recruited at Nebraska City and Omaha. After being in active service in Kentucky
until June 25, 1862, this regiment became the Fifth Iowa cavalry and served
until the close of the war.
Nebraskans were enlisted in the companies recruited in neighboring states. In addition to white troops from Nebraska,
there were in the government service two companies of Indian scouts, one of
Pawnees and one of Omahas. These served
during the latter part of the war.
the absence of the Nebraska troops at the front, there was great need of
protection from Indians. An additional
fort was established on September 27, 1863; near Cottonwood Springs in what is
now Lincoln County
about six miles from Maxwell on the south side of the Platte. The first name of this fort was Cantonment
Fort McKean. This was changed to Post of
Cottonwood in February, 1864, to Fort Cottonwood in May. 1864, and to Fort
McPherson February 20, 1868.
1873 a portion of this reservation was set aside for a national cemetery in
which have been buried over 700 of those who died on the frontier—pioneers and
McPherson was abandoned as a military post in 1880.
meet the necessities of the frontier on July 31, 1862, Governor Saunders issued
an order requiring "all male residents of the territory between the ages
of 21 and 45", to enroll forthwith in Independent militia companies of not
less than thirty-five nor more than sixty-four persons each.
this time government recruiting officers had been sent into Nebraska to fill up
regiments credited to other states.
This was resented by many Nebraskans because of the need of protection
August 18, 1862, Governor Saunders issued a proclamation notifying such
recruiting officers to desist immediately, and forbidding all citizens of the
territory to enlist in any regiment not recruited under his authority.
September, 1862, upon representations of Acting-Governor Paddock concerning
the necessity for frontier defense, federal officers came to Nebraska to
organize the Second regiment of Nebraska cavalry.
regiment was mustered in with R. W. Furnas as colonel and was sent to do
frontier work. On September 3, 1863,
this regiment took part in an engagement with Indians at Whitestone Hills, now
in South Dakota. Their enlistment was for nine months, at the expiration
of which the regiment was mustered out.
August, 1864, Sioux and Cheyenne Indians raided settlements in Nebraska, and
Governor Saunders called out four companies of militia and a detachment of
artillery. The most conspicuous
depredation of this time occurred at Plum Creek, now Lexington, and is known as
the Plum Creek massacre.
great was the excitement that Adjutant General W. H. S. Hughes on August 22
called on all able-bodied men in the territory between the ages of 18 and 45 to
enroll themselves in the militia.
companies called out by Governor Saunders furnished their own horses and
rendered important service in guarding the overland trail.
of these companies served n the active campaign against the Indians, under
Major General S. R. Curtis. Under
General Curtis, also, Captain (afterwards Major) Frank J. North, of Platte
County, served with his company of Pawnee scouts. At
intervals from this time until the spring of 1877 Major North and his Pawnee
scouts were of the greatest service to the military authorities and settlers on
Sidney (formerly Sidney barracks) was established December 13, 1867, as a
sub-post of Fort Sedgwlck, Colorado Territory.
It became an independent post November 28, 1870, and was abandoned June
Omaha, four miles above Omaha, was established December 5, 1868. It
was known as Omaha barracks until 1878.
Since September 16, 1896, when the
troops were withdrawn after Fort Crook became an accomplished fact,
it has served as a quartermaster's depot, and afterwards as a U. S. signal
warfare on the border was characteristic of the period during the building of
the Union Pacific railroad.
the close of the civil war, more regular troops could be spared for frontier
September 6, 1874, Fort Hartsuff was established on the north side of the
Loup River, seventy-six miles from Grand
Island, and abandoned May 9, 1881.
May 8, 1874, Fort Robinson was established at the Red Cloud agency, about three
miles from the present site of Crawford. There is no longer an Indian agency at
Niobrara, at Valentine, Nebraska, was established April 22, 1880, and abandoned
October 22. 1906.
August 1, 1911, all but 1,093.50 acres of this military reservation were
transferred to the department of the Interior to be thrown open to settlement.
land reserved by the war department was to be held for military purposes and
reserved for an experimental farm.
University of Nebraska has had this land under easement for use as an experimental
sub-station. A recent act of congress has opened this land to settlement, but
the university is given the privilege of purchase at $1.25 an acre. The
legislature of 1915 will be asked for an appropriation for this purpose.
January 11, 1912, part of the original Niobrara
reservation was set aside by the department of the interior as a bird
first act concerning a military establishment after Nebraska became a state was
the act of February 16, 1869, establishing the office of adjutant general as a
March 4, 1870, an act authorizing the raising of troops on extraordinary
occasions was approved. This was
repealed by the military code of February 28, 1881. This code provided for the
establishment of the Nebraska
National Guard, and re-established the office of adjutant general which had
been abolished in 1871. This act has
been variously amended.
the close of the border wars, the Nebraska national guards have had a
comparatively peaceful existence. They were called out to guard the northern
border of the state in the winter of 1890-91 during the Sioux disturbance
following the battle of Wounded Knee.
services have been necessary at the scenes of such calamities as a riot at
smelting works in Omaha. May 21, 1880; a strike at Omaha, March 11, 1882; a
threatened riot in the capitol at the outset of the Boyd-Thayer contest,
January 8, 1891; strike at South Omaha stock yards, August 10, 1894; escape of
convicts from the penitentiary March 14, 1912; and the Omaha tornado of March
May 2, 1898, the First and Second regiments of Nebraska
national guards were ordered to Lincoln to be
mustered into the United
States service for the Spanish-American war.
May 16 the First Nebraska volunteers left Lincoln for the Philippines.
May 17 recruiting for the Third Nebraska volunteers was ordered.
May 19 the Second Nebraska volunteers left for Chickamauga.
July 18 the Third Nebraska, with William J. Bryan as colonel, left Omaha for
Jacksonville, Florida. Later the
regiment went to Cuba. It returned to Nebraska in May, 1899.
First Nebraska volunteers served in the Philippines until June 22, 1899. The regiment took part in many battles, and
lost 64 members from wounds and disease.
was mustered out on August 23, 1899, and arrived in Lincoln
on a special train which was furnished by citizens of Nebraska, on September 14.
Second Nebraska volunteers were mustered out of the service at Fort Omaha
on October 24, 1898, having spent their whole term of service outside Nebraska at Chickamauga Park.
Guard is now organized into two regiments of Infantry called the Fourth and fifth
regiments, a signal corps of one company, and an engineer corps of one company.
Nebraska Blue Book