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.
|Gallatin County, east of Bozeman, Montana|
Fort Ellis, July 1871
|Built||August 27, 1867|
|Built by||U.S. Army|
|Demolished||August 2, 1886 (decommissioned)|
Great Sioux War of 1876-77
|Garrison||U.S. Army 2nd Cavalry, 7th Infantry|
The fort was established by the War Department to protect and support settlers moving into the Gallatin Valley of Montana. 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 after Fort Ellis was built.
Fort Ellis was an important post during the prominent Indian Wars 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. 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's troops 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 among themselves for those dollars
- 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
Since the post was located on prime agricultural land, many settlers in Bozeman petitioned to have the post closed after the arrival of the Northern Pacific Railroad in 1883. The civilians wanted to open the 26,000-acre military reservation to private settlement. Documents indicate that the post would likely have remained active for several more years but since Generals Sherman and Sheridan struggled to find posts to close for fiscal reasons in the face of strong political pressure, they seized the chance with local support, to close this post. 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.
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.
- Bonney, Orrin H. (1970). Battle Drums and Geysers-The Life And Journals Of Lt. Gustavus Cheyney Doane, Soldier And Explorer Of The Yellowstone And Snake River Regions. Chicago: Swallow Press. p. 21.
- Miller, Don C.; Cohen, Stan (1978). Military and Trading Posts of Montana. Missoula, Montana: Pictorial Histories Publishing Company. p. 58. ISBN 0-933126-01-8.
- Donovan, James (2008). A Terrible Glory. USA: Hatchette Book Group, USA. p. 97. ISBN 978-0-316-15578-6.
- Rust, Thomas. Settlers, Soldiers and Scoundrels – Economic Tension in a Frontier Military Town. Military History of the West. 30. pp. 117–138.
- Siebel, Dennis (1996). Fort Ellis, Montana Territory (1867–1886) – The Fort that Guarded Bozeman. Bozeman, Montana: Gallatin County Historical Association. p. 47.
- Rust, Thomas (2015). Lost Fort Ellis: Frontier History of Bozeman. Charleston, SC: History Press. p. 135.
- Siebel, Dennis (1996). Fort Ellis, Montana Territory (1867–1886) – The Fort that Guarded Bozeman. Bozeman, Montana: Gallatin County Historical Association. p. 44.
- Bonney, Orrin H. (1970). Battle Drums and Geysers-The Life And Journals Of Lt. Gustavus Cheyney Doane, Soldier And Explorer Of The Yellowstone And Snake River Regions. Chicago: Swallow Press.
- Rust, Thomas. Settlers, Soldiers and Scoundrels – Economic Tension in a Frontier Military Town. Military History of the West vol. 30 no. 2 (2001) pp. 117–138.
- Rust, Thomas (2004). Fort Ellis: A Documentary History. Gallatin County Historical Society. ISBN 1492292095.
- Rust, Thomas (2015). Lost Fort Ellis: Frontier History of Bozeman. History Press. ISBN 9781626199798.
- Smith, Phyllis (1996). Bozeman and the Gallatin Valley. A History. Helena, MT: Falcon Press Publishers. ISBN 1-56044-540-8.
- "Fort Ellis and Gustavus C. Doane Collection, 1865–1930". Montana State University. Retrieved 4 January 2009.
- Scott, Kim Allen (2007). Yellowstone Denied-The Life of Gustavus Cheyney Doane. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press. ISBN 978-0-8061-3800-8.
- Siebel, Dennis (1996). Fort Ellis, Montana Territory (1867–1886) – The Fort that Guarded Bozeman. Bozeman, Montana: Gallatin County Historical Association.
Media related to Fort Ellis at Wikimedia Commons