Fort Laramie in Goshen County, Wyoming — The American West (Mountains)
Military Justice: Punishment Harsh and Certain
Fort Laramie National Historic Site
As long as you behaved yourself and performed your duty as a soldier, you got along alright.
Few soldiers completed their enlistments without experiencing the military justice system. Minor infractions resulted in “company punishment,” non-regulation punishments that usually consisted of extra duty assignments, restrictions to quarters, and unpleasant fatigue details.
Court martial routinely imposed fines, confinement, and hard labor sentences for crimes committed. Losing or selling government property, being absent without leave, using abusive language, and conduct “prejudice of good order and military discipline” were common offenses here.
Alcohol was responsible for most breaches of discipline at Fort Laramie. Fists flew with monotonous regularity, particularly after paydays when soldiers could afford to purchase a drink. The post surgeon lamented:
Paymaster Gibson arrived this morning and paid the troops in the afternoon. As a necessary consequence the number of patients in the Hospital was at once increased; with nothing, however more serious than a broken rib or two, several sprains, and bruises with a few scalp wounds . . .
Brutal, degrading, and panful punishments were regularly imposed
Morning guard mount involved much pomp and ceremony. Enlisted men detailed to guard duty were marched to the parade ground and inspected. Once satisfied, the sergeant of the guard assigned guards to supervise prisoner labor details, patrol the area around the fort, and man established guard posts beside critical buildings.
Men performed guard duty as frequently as once or twice a week, relieving each other every two hours for the duration of their 24-hour shift. During relief they rested on a simple wooden “rack” with straw mattresses, fully clothed with the exception of hat, gloves, and weapon.
The guardhouse in front of you was built in 1866 to hold 40 prisoners in the cells below and house the guard detachment on the upper floor. Furniture was not provided for prisoners and cells were unheated. Prisoners ate, slept, and frequently performed all necessary human functions in the guardhouse.
Erected by National Park Service.
Location. 42° 12.088′ N, 104° 33.434′ Click for map. Marker is located at Fort Laramie National Historic Site. Marker is in this post office area: Fort Laramie WY 82212, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Administration Building (within shouting distance of this marker); Reading, ‘Riting, and ‘Rithmetic (within shouting distance of this marker); Parade Ground (within shouting distance of this marker); General Sink (Latrine) (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); The Queens of Soap Suds Row (about 300 feet away); The “New” Guardhouse and Adjacent Barracks (about 300 feet away); Captain’s Quarters (about 300 feet away); Guardhouse (about 400 feet away). Click for a list of all markers in Fort Laramie.
More about this marker. A photograph at the lower left of the marker shows “Prisoners cut[ting] wood under guard at Fort Grant, Arizona, 1885.” At the upper right of the marker is a photograph of “The officer of the day inspect[ing] the guard mount at Fort Wagner, South Carolina, 1865.”
Also see . . . Fort Laramie National Historic Site. (Submitted on August 10, 2015, by Bill Coughlin of North Arlington, New Jersey.)
Categories. • Forts, Castles •
Credits. This page originally submitted on , by Bill Coughlin of North Arlington, New Jersey. This page has been viewed 139 times since then and 67 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8. submitted on , by Bill Coughlin of North Arlington, New Jersey. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016.