W7Y - July 2015

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Casper, WY

  • Commemorating the Sesquicentennial of the Platte bridge fight in which Lt. Caspar Collins (Casper, Wyoming's namesake) lost his life.
  • Hope is to make contact with a group in Hillsboro OH, Lt. Collin's home town.
  • 25 July, 2015. Most Event Starts at Noon in front of the Meuseum.
  • The W7Y team will be active July 25th. SSB and CW will all be used on as many as 3 bands at a time. Operating positions will be positioned on the grounds of the old fort.

Below is what was posted on the QRZ page - created by B. Lutz KC7YRA

(QRZ - where this page was originally hosted - does not allow linking. So, it's been copied here so it can be shared)

Welcome to historic Fort Caspar!! * QSL info below *

In 1860, the site of current Casper Wyoming was home to a very small outpost in the middle of an expansive west. The Oregon, Mormon, California, and Santa Fe trail were in full swing, with each one converging upon the post. Privately owned, the station existed to support the 1,000 foot long bridge over the North Platte River and act as a stop upon the now famous Pony Express mail route.

As a money making venture, the fort was wildly successful. All wagons that crossed were required to pay a fee. If a family were too poor or stubborn to pay, they would have to ford the nearly 1/4 mile wide river. Unfortunately, this resulted in many fatalities.

The Platte River Bridge Station

In 1861 with immigrant traffic increasing, there was heightened pressure to protect the area from violent attacks by Cheyenne and Lakota Indian bands. With the settlers seen as encroachment upon their ancestral land, the native population had increasingly turned toward large forceful attacks. The area was also newly wired with telegraph lines which connected the west for the first time in history. The U.S. military decided the strategic value of the facility was too high, so they purchased the outpost and named it Platte Bridge Station.

The fort survived in relative obscurity until July of 1865. A war party made up of over 2,000 Cheyenne and Lakota warriors descended upon the area in hopes of destroying the bridge and slowing the westward migration. Using a technique later famously used to defeat Custer and the Battle of Little Bighorn in 1876, a small group of several dozen natives made a loud movement toward the bridge.

Fearing damage they might do, Anderson, the post commander, ordered a small detachment to ride out and push the indians away. Through either fear or personal differences, Anderson's four officers all refused the assignment by placing themselves on the sick/injured roster. The stage was set for an unsuspecting victim to take the brunt of failed politics.

20 year old Caspar Collins, a 2nd Lieutenant with the Ohio Volunteer Cavalry, had arrived at the fort the day before. He was traveling from his previous assignment further west at Fort Laramie. Anderson ordered the young officer to lead the detachment. Through protests from other officers, Collins followed orders and led 25 other men over the bridge on horseback.

Once across the bridge, they gave chase to the small band of warriors, not knowing the true scale of the party. Once over a bluff, the trap was sprung. Now iconic warriors Red Cloud and Roman Nose were present and active in the fighting. Though 20 soldiers would eventually escape the attack, Lt. Collins was killed after being struck in the head by an arrow. Seeing the attack, Anderson refused to allow support soldiers to intervene nor a mobile howitzer to be placed into operation. Several ranking members of the fort protested before Anderson had them arrested and stripped of command.

Once the war party completed fighting with Collins' group, they destroyed over 1,000 feet of telegraph line linking Platte Bridge to the outside world. Anderson had not thought of asking for reinforcements before the lines were cut. He ordered a repair party to go fix the system, but they were attacked and another trooper killed.

The raiding party then turned their sights several miles southwest of the fort onto a mule team arriving. Though they circled the wagons in a small ravine and held off the attackers for several hours, the indians would eventually overrun the teamsters and kill them all. This was officially named the Battle of Red Buttes.

Total, 27 soldiers and Collins were killed, with an estimated 60 natives killed in fighting. The military, recognizing Collins' bravery, would rename the post as Fort Caspar. Despite all of the bloodshed to protect the area, the fort was abandoned just two years later.

I know what you're asking though, "If the fort was spelled CaspAr, why is the current town spelled CaspEr?" It was simply a typographical error when the town was chartered. The town would forever be slightly detached from the namesake.

The W7Y team will be active from July 24th through the 26th. SSB,PSK, and CW will all be used on as many as 3 bands at a time. Operating positions will be positioned on the grounds of the old fort.

Routes converging on what would become Casper.

In this map, Casper can clearly be seen as the place where all of the westward migration trails would converge.

Ft. Caspar, Wyoming
Not everyone moved on.
  • QSL via K7PLA direct. U.S.= SASE, DX= SAE and $2*