Conflicts & the Military on the Plains

From the 1720 battle between the Spanish and Native Americans to the Cold War missile silos of the recent past, this tour takes you to a variety of battlefields and military fortifications across Nebraska.

Fort Atkinson

A few miles north is Ft. Atkinson (1819-27), the first U.S. military post west of the Missouri River. The fort's location at the "Council Bluff" was recommended by Lewis and Clark in 1804. It was established to assert U.S. influence…

Fort Atkinson

Civilization came to the west bank of the Missouri with the establishment of Fort Atkinson in 1820 about a half mile southeast of here. Named after its founder, General Henry Atkinson, this western-most Fort protected the frontier's developing…

Fort Atkinson

From 1820 to 1827, the nation's largest and most westerly military post occupied this site, the earlier scene of Lewis and Clark's Council Bluff. In late 1819, troops under Colonel Henry Atkinson established Cantonment Missouri along the…

Fort Hartsuff State Historical Park

Fort Hartsuff State Historical Park is comprised of a portion of the original 1280-acre Military Reservation. The nine original permanent buildings on the Park grounds are constructed of grout, a mixture of gravel, lime, and cement similar to…

Fort Hartsuff, 1874-1881

The North Loup Valley provided a route for the Sioux raids upon the Pawnee. In 1872 white settlers moved into the valley. Sioux depredations at Sioux Creek in October 1873 and at Pebble Creek in January of 1874 prompted the settlers to request…

Japanese Balloon Bombs

During World War II the Japanese built some nine thousand hydrogen-filled, paper balloons to carry small bombs to North America, hoping to set fires and inflict casualties. The first was launched November 3, 1944. The balloons rose to about 30,000…

Atlas D Missile Site A

During the height of the Cold War, the Soviet Union launched the world’s first artificial satellite, Sputnik I, in October 1957. A perceived “missile gap” led to the massive construction of Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) sites in the…

Atlas D Missile Site A

During the height of the Cold War, the Soviet Union launched the world’s first artificial satellite, Sputnik I, in October 1957. A perceived “missile gap” led to the massive construction of Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) sites in the…

U.S. Air Force Atlas Missile Site

The Atlas-F ICBM (operational 1961-65) was an important component of national defense during the Cold War. Twelve Atlas sites, one located half a mile west, were manned by the 551st Strategic Missile Squadron, Lincoln Air Force Base. On November 22,…

Fort McPherson and North Platte

A few miles west of here on the south side of the Platte River is the site of Fort McPherson, 1863-1880. During the Indian troubles of the middle 1860's, troops of the post were occupied in keeping the telegraph lines in operation and the mail…

The Fort Robinson Cemetery

The first recorded interment in the Fort Robinson Cemetery was James Brogan, July 2, 1875; the last was Fred Lester, June 13, 1945. Among the 258 interments listed in the cemetery records are two officers, Markland Williamson and James A. Swift; two…

Post Headquarters, 1905

The Post Headquarters was constructed in 1905. The Post Commander's office was located here, along with other administrative offices, post office, and the Fort's telephone exchange. An ornate auditorium on the second floor was often used…

Officer's Row, 1874-1875

These officers' quarters with adobe brick walls are the oldest original building at Fort Robinson. The post surgeon noted they had dirt floors and complained over delays in shipping heating stoves. A frame lean-to at the rear provided kitchen…

German P.O.W. Camp

This camp, constructed to house three thousand men, received the first German prisoners of war in June, 1943. Most of the soldiers were members of the Afrika Korps. The prisoners were allowed to work on farms and ranches in the area and received a…

Fort Robinson and the Railroad

In January 20, 1885, Congress granted the Fremont, Elkhorn and Missouri Valley Railroad a right-of-way through the Fort Robinson Military Reservation. Later this line was acquired by the Chicago and North Western. With direct rail access in 1886, the…

Fort Robinson

In March, 1874, the U.S. Government authorized the establishment of a military camp at the Red Cloud Agency on the White River. Home of some 13,000 Indians, many of whom were hostile, the Agency was one of the most troublesome spots on the Plains.…

Flagstaff, 1890

This flagstaff, 105 feet high, is constructed of metal pipe with a ladder and crow's nest for buglers. It was originally on the other side of the 1905 headquarters near the highway, having replaced an earlier flagstaff blown down by an 1889…

Buffalo Soldiers at Fort Robinson

Black soldiers of the Ninth and Tenth cavalry regiments (called "buffalo soldiers" by the Plains Indians) garrisoned Fort Robinson for eighteen years and played an important role in northwestern Nebraska's history. Organized in 1866,…

Adobe Officers' Quarters

These duplex officers' quarters, of adobe brick construction, were completed in 1887 when Fort Robinson became a cavalry regimental headquarters. This structure has been restored by the Nebraska State Historical Society, and furnishings…

Officer's Row, 1909

Consisting of four double sets and one single occupancy dwelling for the post commander, these were the last officers' homes constructed at Fort Robinson. They represent the culmination of Victorian military architecture, with fancy fireplaces…

1909 Brick Barracks

Of the fifteen enlisted men's barracks of log, adobe, or fired brick, only this structure remains at Fort Robinson. It housed men of the 8th and 12th Cavalry and the Quartermaster Remount Service. A similar structure near the brick…

1887 Barracks Row

During the 1887 expansion of Fort Robinson 6 adobe barracks were built on the south side of the parade ground. Later 2 frame barracks were added. Each building had a dormitory area 170 by 30 feet, a kitchen wing 70 by 30 feet, and housed a single…

Fort Omaha

A military post was first established here in 1868 and named Sherman Barracks after the famous Civil War general, William Tecumseh Sherman. The post's name was soon changed to Omaha Barracks and, in 1878, to Fort Omaha. In 1879, General George…

Atlanta Prisoner-of-War Camp

During World War II, a prisoner-of-war internment camp was located directly north of here. The camp had its beginning in a request by the Holdredge New Industries Committee for a federal conscientious-objector camp to help relieve the severe war-time…

Prisoners of War in Hitchcock County

In January 1944 German prisoners of war from the Indianola camp came to a side camp here to help area farmers complete the 1943 corn harvest. Over the next two years the Palisade camp was activated and deactivated as needed to supply labor to harvest…

Prisoners of War in Dundy County

In May 1944 German prisoners of war from Camp Atlanta, Nebraska, were sent to a side camp near here to help area farmers complete the 1943 corn harvest. Seven farmers employed forty-four Germans, who harvested some ten thousand bushels of corn. Six…

Fort Niobrara

When a Sioux Indian reservation was established north of here in Dakota Territory in 1878, early settlers in the region grew fearful of attack. They requested military protection, and in 1880 Fort Niobrara was built a few miles east of present-day…

Bellevue Rifle Range

From 1886 through 1894 the U.S. Army's Department of the Platte leased this site to provide marksmanship training for Fort Omaha soldiers. Each year in late summer, the range also hosted troops from other Great Plains posts for the department…

Fairmont Army Air Field

Construction began on the Fairmont Army Air Field September 17, 1942. Located east of here, it was one of eleven built in Nebraska during World War II. The 1,980-acre field began as a satellite of the Topeka Army Air Base. Early in 1943 the name was…

Fairmont Army Air Field

Fairmont Army Air Field, located 3 1/2 miles south, was one of eleven army air force training fields built in Nebraska during World War II. The 1,980-acre field provided final training for the 451st, 485th, 504th, and 16th Heavy Bombardment Groups…

McCook Army Air Base

McCook Army Air Base, activated April 1, 1943, was one of eleven Army Air Force training bases in Nebraska during World War II. The base was under the command of 2nd Air Force Headquarters, Colorado Springs, Colorado, and provided final training of…

Bruning Army Air Field

Bruning Army Air Field, located northeast of here, was one of eleven army airfields in Nebraska during World War II. Construction began in September 1942 on 1,480 acres of farmland, for which the government paid twelve landowners $73,400. The field…

Scottsbluff Army Airfield

During World War II, the U.S. Army Air Forces operated a satellite airfield at this site. In the fall of 1942 twenty-eight farms were vacated so construction could begin. Some 600,000 cubic yards of concrete for three runways was poured in forty-five…

Lincoln Army Air Field/Air Force Base

Lincoln Army Air field was constructed in 1942 on the former Lincoln Municipal Airport. The 2,750-acre property was leased to the army by the City of Lincoln. The base provided technical training for aircraft mechanics, basic training for army…

Indian Captives

Sixteen-year-old Laura Roper, Mrs. Lucinda Eubanks, and children, Isabelle 3, and William 6 months, were captured by Indians at "The Narrows," Little Blue River, on Aug. 7, 1864. Laura and Isabelle were released to the Army at Hackberry…

1864 Indian Raids

During the Civil War many regular troops were withdrawn from Plains military posts to fight in the east. The Sioux, Cheyenne and Arapaho, seizing this opportunity, attempted to drive white settlers from their land.Beginning on August 7, 1864, the…

Conflict of 1867

Near here are graves of pioneer whites caught up in the conflict between native Americans and white settlers. On July 24, 1867, Indians attacked the home of Peter Campbell near here. Campbell and his eldest son were helping a neighbor with his…

The Pebble Creek Fight

In 1872-73 white settlers were moving into the North Loup Valley. Their presence sparked occasional conflicts with Lakota Sioux wandering down from the north to hunt or raid the Pawnee Reservation near Genoa. On January 18, 1874, Sioux passing…

Fort Laramie-Fort Robinson Trail

Near here are ruts left by the famed 1874 Sioux Expedition, a U.S. military force sent to establish Camps Sheridan and Robinson. The 1868 Treaty of Fort Laramie had guaranteed food and supplies to the Sioux and other tribes in exchange for lands…

Old Fort Kearny

The increase in overland travel after 1842 resulted in the establishment of a chain of military posts across the West to protect the travelers. Early in 1846 the first of these posts was built by the army in this location near the mouth of Table…

Battle Creek

Near this site, July 12, 1859, Nebraska Territorial Militia and U. S. Army Dragoons, totaling 300 men, under the joint command of General John Milton Thayer and Lieutenant Beverly Holcombe Robertson, prepared to attack a large Pawnee village.…

Fort McPherson

The fort near here was established on the Oregon Trail on the south side of the Platte River in October 1863, on the eve of intensified Indian raids on the Plains. Built next to the well-known Cottonwood Springs and McDonald ranche, it commanded a…

Fort McPherson

The fort was established on the Oregon Trail on the south side of the Platte River in October 1863, on the eve of intensified Indian raids on the Plains. Built next to the well-known Cottonwood Springs and McDonald ranche, it commanded a strategic…

The Cheyenne Outbreak

On September 9, 1878, after a year of suffering on an Oklahoma reservation, some 300 Northern Cheyenne Indians began a trek back to their homeland. Dull Knife's band of 149 Indians were captured and taken to Fort Robinson. For months they…

K-9 Training Area

In September 1942 the Fort Robinson War Dog Training Center was established. Barracks, classrooms, administrative offices, and other support buildings were located west and north of here. To the east and north was a sprawling kennel area housing…

Fighting in the Buttes

After escaping from Fort Robinson on January 9, 1879, the Cheyennes climbed the buttes to the south and fled through this area, pursued by Third Cavalrymen. Soldiers and Cheyennes fought sharp engagements west of here on January 11 and 13. The…

Camp Sheridan and Spotted Tail Agency

About ten miles north are the sites of Spotted Tail Agency and Camp Sheridan. Named for Brule Sioux Chief Spotted Tail, the agency was built in 1874 to supply treaty payments, including food, clothing, weapons, and utensils, under the terms of the…

The Villasur Expedition, 1720

In June 1720 a Spanish military force led by Sir Pedro de Villasur left Santa Fe, New Mexico, to gather information on French activities near the Missouri River. The contingent included 45 veteran soldiers, 60 Pueblo Indian allies, some Apache…

Massacre Canyon

The adjacent stone monument erected in 1930 was first placed about a mile south of this area. Originally on the highway overlooking the canyon, it was moved to this location after the highway was relocated. Massacre Canyon is the large canyon about…

The Calamus Valley

The source of the Calamus River is spring-fed Moon Lake, 60 miles northwest of here. The river was named after a common marsh plant eaten by muskrats. Archeological evidence indicates that prehistoric Indians camped in the valley as early as 3,000…

The Flight of the Cheyennes

Just before 10 P.M. on January 9, 1879, the 130 Cheyennes held in the cavalry barracks made their desperate bid for freedom. After disabling the soldier guards, they fled across this ground to the White River beyond. Under heavy fire from pursuing…

Red Cloud Agency

Red Cloud Agency was established here in 1873 for Chief Red Cloud and his Ogalala band, as well as for other northern plains Indians, totaling nearly 13,000. Their earlier agency had been located on the North Platte near Fort Laramie. The agencies…

The Tobin Indian Raid

Railroads played an important role in the settlement of the Great Plains. Their construction was particularly damaging to the Indian way of life, since railroads helped the military to patrol rapidly along their lines, and villages and farming…

Naval Ammunition Depot

The U.S. Naval Ammunition Depot, known locally as "the NAD," was the largest of the navy's World War II inland munitions depots, occupying almost 49,000 acres of Adams and Clay County farmland. Construction began in July 1942; loading,…

The Alliance Army Air Field

In the spring of 1942 the U.S. Army selected a site one mile south of here for an airfield. The dry climate and open landscape afforded ideal flying conditions. Ample water, cheap land, and Alliance's new power plant, new hospital, and railroad…

Lost Airmen of WW II

On August 3, 1944, a C-47 transport carrying twenty-eight men of the U.S. Army Air Forces crashed in a ravine six miles southwest of Naper during a severe storm. There were no survivors. It was the largest single military air disaster in Nebraska…

Ainsworth Army Air Field

Ainsworth Army Air Field, completed on November 30, 1942, was a satellite of Rapid City Army Air Field and under command of the Second Air Force. The field was one of eleven Army Air Force training bases built in Nebraska during World War II. The…

Kearney - Fort Kearny

For the next fifty miles east-bound travelers will be passing from the semi-arid Great Plains into the country of eastern Nebraska. Near here are located the city of Kearney and Fort Kearny, for which it was named. The fort was established in 1847…

Post South Loup Fork "Fort Banishment"

On the South Loup River southwest of here was the site of the U.S. Army's Post South Loup Fork. This small outpost of Fort Kearney was established in May 1865 by Company "E", Seventh Iowa Cavalry, under the command of Capt. Jams B.…

Company A - First Nebraska Volunteer Infantry 1861-1866

When the outbreak of war between the states became imminent in the spring of 1861, the citizens of Plattsmouth were quick to respond to the impending crisis. Without waiting for President Lincoln's call for volunteers, Dr. Robert R. Livingston…

Sioux Army Depot

Sioux Army Depot was established on 23 March 1942 as Sioux Ordnance Depot. It was the only U.S. Army Ammunition Depot in Nebraska during World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. The depot was initially under the command of the U.S. Army…

Fort Sidney

Sidney Barracks, when established in 1867, was a temporary camp with one permanent structure, a blockhouse located to the north. In 1869 the Fort was relocated at this site and in 1870 the name was officially changed to Fort Sidney. The primary…

Midair Collision of B-17 Bombers

As eight B-17F "Flying Fortresses" returned to Harvard AAF after training exercises on August 28, 1943, three collided. One crash-landed and two were demolished. Fourteen airmen died, including co-pilot Carl Hansen, whose parachute failed.…

Harvard Army Air Field

Harvard Army Air Field, located two miles northeast, was one of eleven army air forces training fields in Nebraska during World War II. The 1,759-acre base included runways, hangars, barracks, and fuel and munitions storage. Construction began in…

The Soldiers' Monument

On March 27, 1879, George G. Meade Post 19, Grand Army of the Republic, Department of Nebraska, was founded in Sutton by twenty former Union soldiers. The G.A.R. was a national fraternal organization created to provide for the welfare of Union…

Fort Kearny

The growth of overland emigration to Oregon after 1842 resulted in the establishment of military posts across the West to protect travelers. The first post, Fort Kearny, was established in the spring of 1848 "near the head of the Grand…

Fort Robinson-Camp Sheridan-Pine Ridge Indian Agency Road

Following the 1874 establishment of military posts near the Red Cloud and Spotted Tail agencies for the Oglala and Brule Sioux, the army laid out a forty-two-mile road to transport military and Indian supplies between the agencies and posts. Oglala…
Recommended reading for the tour.

Buecker, Thomas R. Fort Robinson and the American West, 1874-1899. Lincoln: Nebraska State Historical Society, 1999.

Buecker, Thomas R. "One Soldier’s Service: Caleb Benson in the Ninth and Tenth Cavalry, 1875-1908." Nebraska History. Summer 1993: 54-62. http://www.nebraskahistory.org/publish/publicat/history/full-text/NH1993Caleb_Benson.pdf

Goeres, Vince. Wings Over Nebraska: Historic Aviation Photographs. Lincoln: Nebraska State Historical Society Books. 2010.

Kooiman, Barbara M. Aviation Development in Nebraska. Nebraska State Historical Society State Preservation Office and Nebraska Department of Aeronautics. Mississippi Valley Archaeology Center at University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. 2000.

Mattes, Merrill J. The Great Platte River Road: The Covered Wagon Mainline via Fort Kearny To Fort Laramie. Lincoln: Nebraska State Historical Society, 1969.

Penry, Jerry. Nebraska’s Fatal Air Crashes of WWII. Milford: Blue Mound Press. 2009.

Powers, Thomas. The Killing of Crazy Horse. New York: Vintage Books, 2011.

Schubert, Frank N. "Ten Troopers: Buffalo Soldier Medal of Honor Men Who Served at Fort Robinson." Nebraska History. Winter 1997: 151-157. http://www.nebraskahistory.org/publish/publicat/history/full-text/NH1997TenTroopers.pdf

Schubert, Frank N. "The Violent World of Emanuel Stance." Nebraska History. Summer 1974: 203-220. http://www.nebraskahistory.org/publish/publicat/history/full-text/NH1974Stance.pdf