Overland Travel During the 1850s

“The new decade thus dawned with the army firmly situated at three sites adjacent to the Oregon Trail—Forts Kearny, Laramie, and Drum . . . This permanent federal presence materially altered the pattern of overland travel during the remainder of the 1850s. Most obvious was a substantial increase in trail traffic since vast quantities of supplies were constantly freighted to the various forts. Further, with reinforcements, troop rotation, and official inspections a part of the normal routine of military life, there was a great deal of military movement on the trails unrelated to escorts, patrols, or punitive campaigns. The need for swift and reliable communication between military posts virtually guaranteed that a more effective postal service would be forthcoming. Finally, the inevitable ‘supply’ towns quickly appeared near the permanent forts, conveniently providing the soldiers—and all passing travelers—with opportunities to spend their money on such things as liquor, gambling, and carnal pleasures.”