In August 1873, the Red Cloud Agency was moved from the North Platte River to the White River, near what is now Crawford, Nebraska in the northwest corner of the present-day state. The following March, the U. S. Government authorized the establishment of a military camp at the agency site. Home to some 13,000 Lakotas, some of them hostile, the Agency was a source of tension on the Great Plains.
The camp was named Camp Robinson in honor of Lt. Levi H. Robinson, who had been killed by Indians while on a wood detail in February. In May, the camp was moved 1.5 miles (2.4 km) west of the agency to its present location; the camp was renamed Fort Robinson in January 1878. Fort Robinson played a major role in the Sioux Wars from 1876 to 1890. The Battle of Warbonnet Creek took place nearby in July 1876. Crazy Horse surrendered here with his band on May 6, 1877. On September 5 that year, he was fatally wounded while resisting imprisonment. A historic plaque marks the site of his death.
In January 1879, Chief Morning Star (also known as Dull Knife) led the Northern Cheyenne in an outbreak from the agency. Because the Cheyenne had refused to return to Indian Territory, where they believed conditions were too adverse for them to survive, the army had been holding them without adequate food, water or heat during the severe winter to try to force them into submission. Soldiers hunted down the escapees and killed most over the next several weeks. The event marked the end of the Sioux and Cheyenne Wars in Nebraska.
In 1885, the 9th Cavalry Regiment, nicknamed the Buffalo Soldiers, was stationed at Fort Robinson. This was an all-black unit. During the next several years, the fort was enlarged and military training was a major activity. From 1889-1890, Second Lieutenant Charles Young served here and later was reassigned to the regiment. A black pioneer officer who had graduated from West Point, he was the highest-ranking black in the US Army throughout his career and achieved the rank of colonel. From 1887-1898, the fort served as regimental headquarters. The post gymnasium and theatre, built in 1904, provided entertainment for the soldiers.
In 1919 at the end of World War I, Fort Robinson became the world's largest quartermaster remount depot. It was used as a breeding and training center for horses and mules for the military. In addition, stallions owned by the military were used to breed with local stock to improve it. During World War II, the fort was the site of a K-9 corps training center. Later it was used to hold a German prisoner-of-war camp.
After 74 years of military use, Fort Robinson was transferred to the United States Department of Agriculture in 1948 for use as a beef cattle research station. The USDA closed its research station in 1971.
A new chapter of Fort Robinson's history began in 1955. The US Army excessed a portion of the fort, which was acquired by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission to be used as Fort Robinson State Park. The park encompasses 22,000 acres. The following year, the Nebraska State Historical Society opened the Fort Robinson Museum at the fort.
The fort was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1960. The fort is part of the Fort Robinson and Red Cloud Agency historic district, which includes Fort Robinson and the site of the second Red Cloud Agency (about 1.5 mi (2.4 km) to the east). The district also includes the Camp Camby site and the 1886 Percy Homestead.
The fort is managed by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, with some individual buildings operated by the Nebraska State Historical Society and the University of Nebraska. A quartermaster's stores building is now used as a playhouse by Chadron State College.
The Trailside Museum of Natural History is located inside Fort Robinson State Park. It is operated by the University of Nebraska State Museum.
Read more about this topic: Fort Robinson
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