Fort C. F. Smith (Fort Smith, Montana)

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This article is about the fort in Montana. For the fort in Virginia, see Fort C. F. Smith (Arlington, Virginia).
Fort C. F. Smith Historic District
Fort C. F. Smith (Fort Smith, Montana) is located in Montana
Fort C. F. Smith (Fort Smith, Montana)
Fort C. F. Smith (Fort Smith, Montana) is located in the US
Fort C. F. Smith (Fort Smith, Montana)
Nearest city Fort Smith, Montana
Coordinates 45°17′59″N 107°54′59″W / 45.29972°N 107.91639°W / 45.29972; -107.91639Coordinates: 45°17′59″N 107°54′59″W / 45.29972°N 107.91639°W / 45.29972; -107.91639
Area 307 acres (124 ha)
Built 1860
NRHP Reference # 75000163[1]
Added to NRHP October 10, 1975

Fort C. F. Smith was a military post established in the Powder River country by the United States Army in Montana Territory on August 12, 1866, during Red Cloud's War. Established by order of Col. Henry B. Carrington, it was one of five forts proposed to protect the Bozeman Trail against the Oglala Lakota (Sioux), who saw the trail as a violation of the 1851 Treaty of Fort Laramie . The fort was abandoned in 1868 and burned by the Sioux under Red Cloud.[2][3]


The U.S. Army was ordered to build forts to protect the Bozeman trail after travel had become hazardous for any but the largest and best-armed parties. Colonel Henry B. Carrington was given command of the effort, planning Fort C.F. Smith at the crossing of the Bighorn River, Fort Phil Kearny to the east of the Bighorn Mountains, and Fort Reno on the Powder River. A fourth fort on the Clark Fork River was never built.[3]

Originally named Fort Ransom, the post was renamed in commemoration of Gen. Charles Ferguson Smith. It included a 125-foot square stockade made of adobe and wood for protection, with bastions for concentrated defense. Two companies of the 18th Infantry Regiment (approximately 90-100 officers and men) were stationed at Fort Smith during 1866, and during 1867 the garrison consisted of 400 men of the 27th Infantry.

A large Sioux party unsuccessfully attacked haycutters guarded by 20 soldiers near the Fort in the Hayfield Fight in 1867. The Army abandoned Fort C.F. Smith as a condition of the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868.

The site of the fort is located on private land, on what is today the Crow Indian Reservation. It is just outside the town of Fort Smith, Montana. Since most of the fort's buildings were made of adobe, as of 2010 the foundations of the structures can still be seen as low mounds rising a foot or two off the pasture. By looking carefully, the arrangement of buildings around the perimeter of the old parade ground can be discerned. A stone monument in the approximate center of the parade ground (placed in the 1930s) commemorates the fort. A wooden sign, in poor repair, marks the Bozeman Trail.

Fort C.F. Smith was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975. It is included within Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area, with 307 acres (124 ha) including six contributing sites.[1]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b National Park Service (2009-03-13). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 
  2. ^ Olson, Virgil J. (January 24, 1975). "National Register of Historic Places Inventory - Nomination Form:Old Ft. C.F. Smith and related sites" (PDF). National Park Service. Retrieved 7 March 2012. 
  3. ^ a b "Fort CF Smith Part 1 The Establishment". Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area. National Park Service. Retrieved 7 March 2012. 
  • Frazer, Robert W. Forts of the West. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1965.
  • The Bozeman Trail: Historical Accounts of the Blazing of the Overland Routes, Volume II, by Grace Raymond Hebard, et al. digitized at - participant report.

Further reading[edit]

Barnes, Jeff. Forts of the Northern Plains: Guide to Historic Military Posts of the Plains Indian Wars. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2008.

External links[edit]

  • Fort C.F. Smith and subsequent articles at Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area