The same day the Fort Caspar Museum in Wyoming is commemorating the 150th anniversary of Hillsboro native Caspar Collins’ death at the hands of Indians, a local celebration will be held Sunday in Hillsboro.
“An Evening with Caspar Collins” will be held from 6-7 p.m. July 26 on the Highland County Historical Society’s Scott House lawn.
“Bring a lawn chair and enjoy Hillsboro resident Steve Roush as he reprises his role as Collins from last year’s Ghost Walk. Hear the incredible story of one of Hillsboro’s most historical families, who lived in a home which still stands today on Collins Avenue,” the society said in a news release.
“Before he even turned 18, Caspar joined his father, Colonel William Oliver Collins, on a journey west to protect telegraph lines and emigrants, who were suffering from constant Indian raids. On the morning of July 26, 1865, Caspar was to escort a wagon train to the station, clearly a suicide mission. Attacked by an estimated 5,000 Indians, Caspar was killed and mutilated by Lakota and Cheyanne Indians,” according to the release.
Caspar Collins’ body was returned to Hillsboro Cemetery nearly a year later. He has recently been nominated for the Congressional Medal of Honor.
Sunday’s event will conclude with an ice cream social.
While the celebration is going on in Hillsboro, the Fort Caspar Museum in Fort Casper, Wyo., both named for the Hillsboro native, will be wrapping up a three-day commemoration of its own. A group of local historical society members had planned to visit Fort Caspar for event, but they said they couldn’t get enough people to make the trip.
Rick Young, director of the Caspar Museum in Casper, Wyo., says on the museum’s website that the three-day commemoration will be the largest living history event in the Rocky Mountain region during the summer of 2015. It takes place Friday, Saturday and Sunday with all kinds of events including a re-enactment of the Battle of Platte Bridge Station, now Fort Caspar, on July 26, 1865. That was the battle where Caspar was killed.
Caspar Collins, the fort and city’s namesake, spelled his name with an “ar.” In 1865, following Collins’ death, the army renamed Platte Bridge Station in his honor. During the process, his name was misspelled with an “er” and the misspelling carried over when the city was founded in 1888. When the museum was established in 1936, Casper citizens chose to use the correct spelling of his name.
Regimental Commander Williams O. Collins received orders on June 3, 1862 to proceed with three companies of the 6th Ohio Volunteer Cavalry (OVC) First Battalion west from Fort Laramie to South Pass to protect the employees and property of the Overland Mail Company and the Pacific Telegraph, according to the Fort Caspar Museum website. By the end of that year Platte Bridge Station had taken shape.
In July 1863, William Collins organized a second battalion of Ohio Volunteer Cavalry consisting of Companies E, F, G and H. The state of Ohio consolidated it with the first battalion to form the 11th Ohio Volunteer Cavalry. Because his regiment was 50 men short when he recruited the new companies in 1863, William Collins gave Confederate prisoners of war a chance to join. Men enlisted in this manner were known as “Galvanized Yankees.”
Companies A, B, C and D of the 11th OVC were scheduled to muster out at Omaha, Neb. in April 1865. To fill the gap, the 11th Kansas Volunteer Cavalry was sent out. The Kansas troops arrived in the current day Casper, Wyo.on April 19 and established regimental headquarters about six miles from Platte Bridge Station at a temporary tent camp called Camp Dodge. Additional reinforcements in the region included members of both the 3rd and 6th U.S. Volunteer Infantry Regiments, made up of “Galvanized Yankees.”
In response to the 1864 Sand Creek Massacre of Black Kettle’s Cheyenne by Colonel Chivington’s militia in ColoradoTerritory, Plains tribes increased raids along the trails the following spring. In July 1865, Lakota, Cheyenne, and Arapaho gathered to attack Platte Bridge Station.
On July 26, Lt. Caspar Collins led a small detachment from Platte Bridge Station to escort an army supply train traveling from Sweetwater Station. Less than a mile from the bridge, Caspar Collins’ men were ambushed and had to fight their way back to the fort. Five soldiers, including Caspar Collins, were killed in the Battle of Platte Bridge. Sergeant Amos Custard and 24 men with the supply wagons were attacked later that day five miles west of the fort. Only three soldiers survived the Battle of Red Buttes.
A factor in the decline of Fort Caspar was the construction of the Union Pacific Railroad and with it a new transcontinental telegraph line. It reached Cheyenne in the fall of 1867 and would soon spell the end of organized migration along the Oregon/California/Mormon Pioneer Trail corridor. As a result, the army began to establish new military installations to protect the railroad route across southern Wyoming. Hostilities had also increased along the Bozeman Trail, and a new post was being constructed near present-day Douglas, Wyo. When orders were issued to abandon Fort Caspar on Oct. 19, 1867, troops and “all useful materials,” including buildings, were transferred to Fort Fetterman.
Homesteaders and ranchers arrived in the Casper area by the late 1870s, and the grounds of Fort Caspar became part of the CY Ranch. In 1936, Casper, Wyo. citizens and the Works Progress Administration reconstructed Platte Bridge Station using sketches made by Caspar Collins and others in the 1860s.
Editor’s Note: Much of the information for this article came from the Fort Caspar Museum website.
Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522 or on Twitter @13gillilandj.