No announcement yet.


No announcement yet.

The "Long Ride" Ft Laramie to Ft Casper, WY

  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • The "Long Ride" Ft Laramie to Ft Casper, WY

    A week ago a band of stalwart and hardened troopers completed the "Long Ride" a 150 mile march from Ft Laramie to Ft Casper, WY in honor of the last ride of Capsar Collins and the men of the 11th Ohio who rode that same route 150 years ago.

    A full and detail AAR is coming soon (once we all recover from the event). For now I will say it was an amazing experience to march not only in the footsteps of Collins and his men, but to also spend a great deal of time following the Oregon/California/Mormon trail that so many Americans followed in their quest for a new start.

    It was an excellent learning experience for all involved, and I will share some of the lessons that we took away from the event in the coming days. We lived out of the saddle as they did, carried rations as they did, and dealt with the heat, the distance and the threat of hostile indians much as they did. Water for people was staged at a couple of locations through the week, as was some feed and hay for horses, but otherwise the ride functioned as the men in 1865 would have.

    I have posted photos on my FB page, and will post some here if there is interest.

    I can't conclude without thanking the organizer of the ride, Steve Dacus. Steve did a masterful job of conceiving, planning and executing this ride, and it wouldn't have been possible without his efforts!

    Take care,
    Tom Craig
    1st Maine Cavalry
    Tom Craig

  • #2
    Re: The "Long Ride" Ft Laramie to Ft Casper, WY

    I would love to see some photos on here Tom and look forward to your AAR.
    Former AC Owner


    • #3
      Re: The "Long Ride" Ft Laramie to Ft Casper, WY

      Same here!

      Jeremy Bevard
      Civil War Digital Digest
      Sally Port Mess


      • #4
        Re: The "Long Ride" Ft Laramie to Ft Casper, WY

        Sounds like it was incredible Tom. I'd love to see pics and look forward to reading the AAR.
        Dave Gink
        2nd US Cavalry
        West Bend, WI


        • #5
          Re: The "Long Ride" Ft Laramie to Ft Casper, WY

          Tom, I have seen the pics on FB. Please post your report. I absolutely envy you. It must have been an incredible experience!
          Jan H.Berger

          German Mess

          "Und setzet ihr nicht das Leben ein, nie wird euch das Leben gewonnen sein."( Friedrich Schiller)


          • #6
            Re: The "Long Ride" Ft Laramie to Ft Casper, WY


            After coordinating with Tom Craig, we have finished the following AAR and debrief:

            “Last Ride” After Action Review


            The “Last Ride” that we completed was designed and advertised on the AC (with permission after being reviewed) as one of the rare authentic/campaign cavalry events that the western US has seen in many years. As participants already knew, the primary objective was to commemorate the last week of Caspar Collins’ life by traveling cross-country along the Oregon Trail (and adjacent military trails further to the south). This event was to be done as authentically as possible while keeping some measure of safety for the reenactors. In the planning stages, emergency plans and other contingency plans were prepared but were purposely not as advertised, or “immediately” available in order to keep the serious level of realism and authenticity desired for this event.

            We knew that this ride would not be for the average rider and that many would not be able to finish it. It is for this reason why the communications and information provided before the event was geared toward shedding as much “negative” light on the event as possible to ensure troopers knew what they were getting into. The planners of the event wanted the reenactors to experience as much of the heat and lack of water as possible while still providing needed water and watering options for both trooper and mount.

            While not all the route was on the “Plan A” route, it was surprising the percentage of access we did get for the ride. Only the first and last days were plagued with “road riding” due to only one or two land owners that did not allow us to cross their land; which of course, then made us follow the road further than we wanted to.

            With that being said, below are the good and bad aspects of the ride from registration to leaving the main event at Ft. Caspar.


            The event coordinator, Steven Dacus, arrived with all registered members of the 11th OVC and Chris Bopp (picked up at the airport the day before) at Ft. Laramie about 08:00. The agreement with the museum for letting us camp on the NPS grounds was to offer three demonstrations/lectures to the public at 10:00, 12:00, and 14:00.

            While event emails and notifications specified that all reenactors need to be on location and ready to go by 17:00, there were multiple reenactors who arrived much later than the final deadline of 17:00. The reason for this deadline was to ensure vehicles were properly accounted for and the shuttle drivers were not waiting around while everyone was trying to organize their mounts and gear. This lead to the shuttle drivers having to wait on location longer than anticipated.

            However, after all arrived and checked in, all troopers did a great job in squaring away their own gear and tack. By nightfall, most troopers were ready to wake up and ride out first thing in the morning.

            Per the event information packets that were sent out, the event would provide dinners & breakfasts, but each trooper would have to pack his lunch for the week. Some comments were made about the dinner Sunday night as not being enough and/or were surprised that what was provided was less than expected. To these comments, there were more than 30 lbs of meat that was ready to be cooked (which the cooks prepared more than half). The cooks stopped preparing the food when the troops stopped eating the cooked meat.

            Authenticity Standards & Enforcement:

            The event information packets and subsequent emails explicitly stated high uniform and tack standards in order to create the authentic look and feel that this event was striving for. However, many troopers arrived and rode with clothing, tack, and gear that did not meet these standards that were communicated to all registered.

            These standards, however, did not get enforced upon checking in or on the morning of departure. This was a decision that geared the authenticity of the event more toward behavior and attitude rather than uniforms and tack.

            Day 1: Fort Laramie to Herb Johnson’s Stock tanks:

            First call was sounded just before dawn and all troopers did a great job of securing their gear and preparing for the first long day of riding. Since there was not any opportunity to drill as a unit due to late arrivals the night before, the need to conduct some minor drill before departing Fort Laramie was accommodated. After Drilling for just under an hour, the column was moved out of the Fort Grounds just after 08:00.

            The first 15 miles of the first day followed the original Oregon Trail which was a modern day country dirt road (“Tank Farm Road”). This was the first long stretch without water and it showed that multiple troopers did not arrive properly hydrated or in shape to conduct the ride. Within the first few hours of the ride, troopers were visually already fatigued during the trot and especially while dismounted walking that was attempted a few times during the day. In expectation of encountering Indians Andrew Staker and Daniel Phister were sent to be forward scouts. While covering the first half of the first day, the troopers were getting used to their mounts, gear, and general demeanor. One of the Colorado troopers horses got loose and had to be run down in addition to Casey’s (the civilian packer) horse bucking him off. Unknown at the time, Casey had cracked his ribs during this incident and continued to ride the rest of the week. It took the entire column to catch his horses.

            By the time the column reached register cliffs and the Oregon Trail Ruts, it was clear that the column was behind schedule and too thirsty to enjoy an educational stop. Therefore, it continued a few more miles to the halfway watering hole along the Platte River in Gurnsey, Wy. The troopers dismounted in the shade and filled their canteens in the Platte and used the purification tablets to clean the river water. The “lunch” break lasted about an hour after which the column remounted and continued to cover the last half of the day.

            Right after the lunch stop, the column had to follow the barrow ditch of the Gurnsey Hwy for 1.45 miles until it reached a gate to access the field on the other side of the fence. This hwy shoulder was very difficult traveling and would have been better if avoided. However, due to land owner access, this was not an option.

            After getting off the shoulder of the Hwy, the column was able to follow a 921 yard section of the telegraph line that still had poles and insulators (early 20th Century insulators). After arriving on Wendover Rd, the column had to follow the dirt road for 6.36 miles until reaching the second water for the day at cottonwood creek (where Wendover Rd. Dead ends at the railroad tracks). At this point it was clear that at least two individuals were going to have to fall out at our overnight location due to heat stress, exhaustion, and one individual who had an injured knee.

            After getting water for the second time in the day, the column continued on an old two track for 7.15 miles toward the first overnight location which was on Herb Johnson’s ranch. Just before arriving at the campsite, and while following the power lines, Steve Dacus halted the column at a fork in the trail. He went up one of the branches of the trail to confirm that he was on the right one. During this time, the main column had lost where Steve had gone and once the signal was passed down to continue, they were not able to see Steve Dacus and had to track him down the fork in the trail by looking at his horse’s shoe prints in the dirt. While closing in on the campsite, a remote Oregon Trail Marker was passed that seemed to be “in the middle of nowhere”. This first campsite consisted of an open field with one stock tank that had an algae bloom inside of it. The tank had a hydrant with a potable water source that was piped to the tank. While the stretched out column was arriving at the campsite, Dave Patterson’s horse laid down and had to be coaxed back on its feet.

            Upon arriving at the location, the land owner showed up and assessed the degree of our use of his land and water. The troopers gave him a ham as a thank-you and all troopers quickly prepared their beds and attempted to prepare dinner. Due to the surprisingly exhausting day and the degree to which everyone was trying to adjust to the event, little dinner was eaten and the ham designated as the dinner for the night was barely used.

            While preparing camp, the first arrival of the support vehicles showed up to take the first three casualties:

            1. David Patterson due to severe heat stress
            2. Steve Dacus Sr. due to an injured knee
            3. Andrew German due to exhaustion. Ian Howe ended up taking Andrew’s horse since Ian’s horse had thrown a front shoe early in the day.

            After the troops settled in, the NCO’s and CO’s met to go over the casualties of the day and discussed how to prevent them for the remainder of the trip (it was only the end of the first day with much more ground to cover over the course of the remaining week). A concern was mentioned that traveling 15 miles without water for trooper or mount was too risky and not worth the “authenticity”. After discussing that there was more water available throughout the next day, it was agreed to keep with the current plan for the next day.

            During the night, the horses that were hobbled had fun raiding peoples beds and grain sacks. Additionally, a light rain fell and caused the eastern troopers to scramble for cover but the expected heavy rain never came.

            Closing notes on day 1: It was clear that at the pace the column was moving, a 4 mph rate of travel was not possible and an arrival to the campsite by 15:00 was out of reach. The first two days, the column averaged 2.5 mph (including stops) and averaged a moving speed of 3.5-4.5 mph. It is worth noting that the column had difficulty in keeping closed ranks in addition to the slow pace. This was an issue up until the last two days of riding. Additionally, the decision to pass multiple potable water sources while finally filling canteens in the river was questioned as an inefficient decision. The reason this decision was made was to try and stick to the goal of the trip and fill canteens at the “Same” watering locations where the original 11th Kansas troopers may have had. This standard of the trip was greatly loosened to improve morale through the rest of the week with clean potable water sources when possible.

            Day 2: Herb Johnson’s Stock tanks to Esterbrook Hwy:

            First Call was sounded just before dawn and the troopers quickly packed their gear and ate a quick breakfast. The ham that should have only lasted one dinner lasted through the entire breakfast and only half was used by the time the column moved out. The rest of the ham was secured in a place to be enjoyed by the local coyotes.

            While the ham didn’t seem to be consumed as planned, the coffee was used much faster than anticipated. Someone (who never came forward), had put the pot of coffee on the fire. However, the pot did not have ANY water in it, but rather a large bag of coffee grounds that represented 50% of the coffee planned for the entire trip. This was only noticed after troopers were perplexed with flames coming from inside the coffee pot, to which most just thought it was “normal” for Wyoming coffee to flame from the spout. It was up to the curious Chris Bopp to lift open the lid to find the canvas bag of coffee had burned up and was the source of the flames, while the dry coffee was charred to the bottom of the coffee pot. Since the bag was too hot to lift out, trooper Bopp added water into the pot to make the first ever “Wyoming Roast” coffee. This coffee was a thick/dark brew with a strong carbon aftertaste that resembled 1.5 gal of espresso rather than “normal” coffee. After this amazing new way to brew coffee was discovered, troopers ensured this method was NOT used for the remainder of the trip.

            The column moved out without the pack horses being fully ready. This was discovered 3.99 miles into the morning at the first watering hole (stock tank) of the day. The column halted for sufficient time for the two pack horses to catch up. The stock tank that the column first watered in was being protected by cattle that had to be pushed out for the troopers to water. There were beautiful flowers in the tank and the windmill pumped more water into the tank. Here they watered horses and filled canteens.

            The column then proceeded to continue north to North Casa Road and then west toward Hwy 319. While the column followed along Hwy 319, Trooper Bopp’s horse fell on its side while crossing a small drainage ditch. After rising to its feet, Trooper Bopp’s left foot had become trapped in the stirrup. The horse then started to run up the ditch and out in the open, dragging trooper Bopp beside him. Bopp had enough sense (while being dragged at relatively high speed across the plains) to sit up and try to pry his foot loose. Just as the horse was changing gaits into a faster canter, it ran directly into Caleb Horton, who promptly stopped the horse.

            After proceeding 11.2 miles from the start of the day, the column passed under I-25 and began an off-road route that would last the rest of the day. Right after crossing I-25, trooper Dan Burtz (Eye infection guy) determined that his horse (who was kicked just before the start of the ride) was unable to make the rest of the ride. Dan was left at the I-25 underpass and was picked up by Steve Dacus Sr a few hours later. After losing Dan, the column had to scale a small bluff that exhausted the horses quickly and caused many saddles to slide back on the horses. After stopping at the top of the hill to readjust tack, the column continued on the ridgeline which offered a stiff breeze and a great view. After dropping down on the other side of the ridgeline, the column followed a specific section of the Oregon trail that was clearly marked by white flexible markers. These markers were followed for most of the day.
            The “mid-day” stop was 20.8 miles into the ride in an area that offered no shade. Here the column drank water that was stashed at the site and broke for lunch for about an hour.

            After rehydrating and eating lunch, the column proceeded for the second “half” of the day by first following a pipeline right of way down into a small creek that was used to water the horses for the next many miles as indications of previous dry creeks suggested that the next water would be our campsite more than 10 miles out (This thankfully ended up being false as the column passed a total of three active creeks by the time the overnight location was reached).

            Upon proceeding up the other side of the creek, the first rattle snake of the trip was encountered. Sgt. Gary Gwin heroically darted out in front of the column, drew his pistol (loaded with “snake shot”), drew a deadly bead on the viper, and with a resounding “click”, the pistol failed to fire. Sgt. Gwin tried to shoot the snake with the following 4 cylinders with the same effect. Finally, with the 6th cylinder, the cap fired and the round left the barrel with an un-impressive “sizzle”. While it was a good show, the snake is probably unharmed to this day.

            After being saved by certain death from the deadly viper, the column moved Northwest straight to Sheep Mountain that was visible the entire afternoon. These last 14.2 miles were long, hot, and completely exhausted the column to the point where the packers took a significant lead with Lt. Dacus in the front and it began to string out over about of a mile from front to back. It was also during this point in the day that the new “fence detail” was assigned to Ian Howe and Chris Bopp. After having stayed behind to replace each gate that was crossed, it became evident that Bopp’s horse was “herd bound” and definitely didn’t like being away from the rest of the column. With continued effort, Bopp’s horse, Hustler, got better with the gate duty assigned to him.

            At mile 35.0, the lead element of the column (Two packers and Steve Dacus) ran across a nice wide/shallow stream with a freshly mowed field with medium sized oak trees. It WAS the perfect overnight location. However, while the column had permission to pass through, it did not have permission to camp and the planned overnight spot was still 5.36 miles away.

            Knowing the morale of the men and the sheer mutiny that would ensue if the column passed up such a “perfect” camping location so close to dusk (7:00pm), Steve Dacus, told the packers that no matter what we would camp at this unplanned overnight location. Lt. Dacus proceeded to go across the creek and gain elevation to get a cell phone signal. While trotting up the road a truck/trailer was coming down the road. Steve Dacus stopped the truck and asked for the assumed landowner (Mrs. Forgey). Steve was then informed by the driver that the column was not on the Forgey ranch but on the Clausen Ranch (1.5 miles further north than planned). Lt. Dacus then proceeded to beg with the land owner (Via phone provided by random truck driver) to allow this random column of Civil War Cavalry to camp on his land. The land owner consented and Steve returned to the creek crossing where the column had gathered itself, reformed and had gone across a shabby bridge in which the column was later told “Do NOT go across that bridge, it’s not safe for horses”.

            Having been turned around back to the beautiful grass field, all troopers seemed to be elated that we were stopping at this unplanned overnight location. Horses quickly were unsaddled and enough light was left to make a proper meal with the rice, ham, and hard tack that the pack horses had been carrying the entire way. The land owner showed up to which he was given one of the hams that were surplus.

            Having made it through the entire day and safety arriving at the second overnight spot of the trip, Trooper Bunker decided to withdraw from the column the next morning due to some injuries that were getting worse during the ride.

            “The Vote”:

            After the troops settled in and prepared their beds, a “meeting of the minds” was called first by the remaining CO’s & NCO’s. While taking a realistic evaluation of the condition of the men and mounts, in addition to reviewing the slower pace than anticipated, it was clear that the next day’s ride would not be possible (especially adding the fact that the column was still 5.36 miles short of Day 2’s planned route) which would have to be added to the following day’s travels.

            Talk soon became geared to an unplanned rest day which the column would be trailered to a certain point (possibly day 3’s halfway point) to catch the column up to being back on schedule. The leadership initially wanted to give each trooper an option to ride the entire way on Day 3 (an option for the hard core guys) or ride half way. These options soon were identified as impossible as there was only one person in the column who knew the route (Lt.Dacus), therefore having two split columns on the trail at the same time was not possible.

            Then leadership’s discussion changed into giving troopers an option to ride the entire route OR be trailered to Campsite #3 for an entire day of rest. This would be possible as the column who chose to ride could be led by Steve Dacus while the others could be trailered by support staff who already knew the location of the campsite. Once these two options were agreed upon, leadership felt it would be best to give the “vote” to the troopers rather than have the CO’s make an arbitrary decision.

            Some other deciding factors that were communicated were that Day 3’s route would be longer than Day 2 (to make up the shortage of stopping too soon), and that the route was much more hilly and rocky than the previous two days.

            Right at sunset, with the sky growing dark and the cooking campfire glowing on the troopers faces as they gather around, these two options were given:

            1. Be trailered in the morning to Campsite #3 for a full day of Rest
            2. Ride the entire route with the expectation to get into campsite #3 after 21:00.

            The facts were laid out and each trooper spoke his mind on what he would do. With multiple troopers changing their answer with the flow of discussion (and maybe a little peer pressure), all but one packer had voted to take a “rest day”.

            With the decision made, all the men finished their dinners, watered their horses, and sank into their bedrolls for what they knew would be a better night’s sleep with a much later wake-up call. Meanwhile, Steve Dacus climbed the hill to the east to get cell signals to call for support vehicles for the large shuttle of Cavalry that had not been planned.

            Day 3: The “Rest Day”:

            The troops enjoyed an hour or so extra of sleep and were ordered to be ready for the first trailer load by 08:00. Steven Dacus rode up to the main hwy on his horse to ensure the shuttle drivers took the right access road. While only one truck/trailer was expected, a convoy of two truck/trailer combos with a 12 passenger van arrived to make the biggest effort possible for the first shuttle of the morning since the 12 passenger van was only available for one more trip.

            A total of 11 horses and riders loaded up and headed for Campsite #3 for a day of rest. While en-route, the convoy stopped at a local convenience store to take advantage of acquiring much needed electrolytes. The unit got 1-2 Gatorade bottles per trooper.

            After arriving at campsite #3 (arguably the best camp site of the week), the horses were placed in the corrals and the troops prepared their beds and shelters as they wished. The Phister boys fashioned a stable shelter with their shelter-halfs and sabers that stood the wind. After about three more hours the last (2nd) shuttle came with the remaining troops and packers. After all the horses were secured in the corral, wire was used to “lock” the gates shut in case of an Indian raid. The chances of an Indian raid were increased when signs with “SRC” were seen on the access road which indicated that the Shell River Encampment was nearby.

            Chris Bopp, Caleb Horton, Steven Dacus, Tom Craig, and Tyrel Phister took advantage of the nearby stream and bathed in the creek to wash off the three days of “crud” that had built up.

            Sgt. Gwin was put in charge of cooking a “decent” dinner since there would be sufficient time to cook. St. Gwin did a superb job in making ham, rice, and onions taste delectable.

            After dinner had been eaten and cleaned up, a lone indian (ComesReady), was seen slowly walking down the road toward the cavalry camp. No other Indians were seen nearby. The Indian walked into camp without slowing down, walked straight to the cooking fire and laid a large juicy steak on the fire to cook and eat. At first, the Indian would not talk much, but after a while it was learned that he was looking for BadHand’s band that were suspected of being in the Powder River Basin. He also mentioned that another village led by Two Bears was about 6 miles to the south of the cavalry camp and were preparing a raid for the night.

            After cooking his steak, ComesReady motioned to Steven Dacus to talk alone off to the side. At this point he “broke” his first person impression and stated that he was the only rider who had been following the cavalry column and he had been waiting at Campsite #2 to raid the cavalry, however the cavalry never showed up (This was due to stopping short of the goal and camping on the Clausen Ranch instead). He proceeded to tell of his adventures that day that had brought him through 16 locked gates that had also been welded to make it near impossible to cross. Instead of the planned 25 miles on day 3, he estimated that he traveled more than 42 miles to find a way around the fences and came out on Boxelder Canyon road 12 miles further south than anticipated. He had run out of water halfway through the day and was forced to slurp water from a stagnant pond to stay hydrated. After hearing the ordeal ComesReady had been through Steven Dacus offered a reminding Gatorade and offered a corral for his horse so he didn’t have to worry about getting loose or tangled. ComesReady took the Gatorade but denied the corrals. A plan was settled on that allowed him to ride with the Cavalry column the rest of the way into Ft. Caspar.

            While these discussions were going on, a detail was sent out in search of the Indian pony. It was found and the troopers painted a “U.S.” on the Indian Pony. However, after hearing of the day of Hell that ComesReady had endured, the troopers soon turned from shenanigans to offering anything and everything to ComesReady out of respect of what he had been through.

            After the best dinner thus-far in the week, the troops bed down for the night. Late into the night the “Sierra” Indians arrived in the back of a pickup truck and tried stealing the horses that were securely locked inside the corrals. One savage was heard yelling “Barbed Wire! That’s Cheating!”. While they tied ribbons on the cavalry horse’s manes to indicate that they were stolen, the actual logistics of doing so would have been far more difficult. Therefore, all the troopers continued to sleep soundly knowing that their horses were secure. In the morning half of the horses had a “stolen” ribbon and Sgt. Gwin had an arrow by his head.

            Day 4: Mormon Canyon and Hat 6 Road:

            The morning after the “rest” day came and first call was sounded. The column quickly saddled their horses (still with the “stolen” ribbons in their manes) and took them down to the creek for one last drink of water. It was here, that the rate of troopers leaving items behind became noticeable. Many troopers left picket pins, ropes, and one left a greatcoat. They tried anything to ease the burden to their mount. Everyone knew that they still had a full 30 mile (or more) day ahead of them.

            The column left the VR ranch and continued west along the high grasslands of the medicine bow mountain range. They went further up the backside (Southside) of the mountain away from the camp in beautiful country. Unlike the rest of the week, the column kept a tight formation with much greater increased speed. The hills that the column was riding in was unlike the sagebrush covered prairie of the previous days, but rather rolling grass hills with deep cuts/ravines on either flank. About 4.3 miles into the ride, the town of Casper (the final destination) could be seen in the vast distance, some 30 “linear” miles away. This boosted the morale of the column which resulted in a much faster rate of travel for the rest of the day.

            About 5.6 miles into the ride, the column started to descend into Mormon Canyon which would take them to the Platte Valley. The column followed a two-track which lead to a hay field that was being baled at the time the column passed by. The land owner motioned the lead trooper (Steve Dacus) to come to him. The landowner ended up being Mr. Heiser, which meant the column was on the wrong side of the fence. Mr. Heiser kindly let us pass through his land and cross back onto the VR ranch and continue down Mormon Canyon.

            After covering about 10.3 miles so far on day 4, the column had fully descended from the mountains and onto the foothills of the Platte Valley. They continued along some power lines and after 13.8 miles (while following a short section of a gravel county road), a land owner and his son came “zooming” out of their ranch house and came up to the lead of the column (Steve Dacus and Comesready). They asked “What ARE YOU DOING?” Steve Dacus explained what the column was and what they were doing and the rancher exclaimed “Well, what are you doing with the cows?”. With a hesitant and confused face, Steve and Comesready didn’t know what cows the rancher was talking about. “What cows?” Comesready said. “Those Cows”, stated the rancher while pointing to the distant cavalry column. It was at this moment that Steve Dacus and Comesready knew that the landowner had mistaken the column of cavalry troopers with a herd of cows. Once he realized his mistake he left the column alone and drove down the road.
            The column then continued west and at mile 14.2, reached the steepest and rockiest section of the trail. In order to drop down into Deer Creek, the column had to dismount and traverse a steep, rocky, slippery hill that descended into Deer Creek. Once part of the column reached the bottom, a small detail (including Clay Howe) was sent up to the top to assist the civilian packers in leading the pack horses safely down the treacherous rocky hill. Once at the bottom, the column watered quickly and was soon ready to head out.

            The column crossed Deer Creek (Just a few miles upstream from where the original Deer Creek Station was) and continued past the VR Ranch and onto the Banner Ranch (Owned by the family of one of the members of the 11th OVC). After rising out of Deer Creek, a small herd of cattle were nearby and the men witnessed bovine intercourse which seemed to raise the men’s spirits. At about 17.4 mile into the day, the men started to sit tall in the saddle, straighten their hats and uniforms……why? Because good looking women were discovered among a rocky outcropping just before arriving at the lunch stop. The pace noticeably quickened as well.

            Just before reaching the lunch stop, Ian Howe’s spencer carbine lost the screws on the saddle ring/bar and the gun was caught by the carbine thimble. 18.3 miles into the day, the column finally reached the lunch stop for the day which was in the front “yard” of Con Trumbull’s house. The family was gracious enough to offer their “Garden” to keep the horses in and all troopers quickly took the saddles off and bits out. Bags of dried fruit and pieces of hard tack quickly came out. Potable water was available through the garden hoses connected to the sides of the houses and men and horse seemed to enjoy the midday break.

            While resting, many locals and media types had been invited by the Trumbull family to document the weary riders and proceeded to take pictures of the men resting in the shade. During this period, Captain Craig swapped horses with Andrew Staker. This was a good swap as the Captain finally had a horse that could go and didn’t need to “peddle” continually.

            Just before leaving the lunch stop, the world famous Bob Szabo arrived with his van and was able to quickly get two pictures of the entire column in formation (with the packers and Indian guide also in the picture). After taking the wet plate photograph, the column headed west a little ways to water the horses for what was planned as the last watering opportunity of the day.

            Heading out at a fast trot, the column had to follow Hat-6 Road for a few miles in order to cross two small creeks that are known to be near impossible to cross out in the open due to the boggy/muddy terrain of the creek. Once these obstacles were passed, the column was able to cross off the shoulder of the road and onto the “Lone Star” ranch. Here the troopers were met with a herd of curious wild horses that followed them for some time and eventually fell behind.

            After having covered 22.9 miles, the column reached an unplanned water hole (stock pond) that was a welcome site but which one had to proceed cautiously due to the boggy mud that needed to be crossed to access the pond. The column gladly rode up into the water and enjoyed a water break. Lt. Steve Dacus even dismounted in the ankle deep pond and poured the cold water over his horse to cool off the heat laden mount.

            While attempting to leave the shoreline, many of the horses found that their feet had sunk into the mud and had to exhaust more effort than anticipated to break free and get to dry land. Dan Burtz borrowed horse, however, didn’t judge correctly, and fell into the pond. Dan fell to his butt, up to his chest in the pond. The horse (Buck was his name) tried rising to his feet only to stumble and fall back close to Dan who was also trying to rise to his feet. After this exchanged occurred 3-4 times, both man and beast reached a stable footing and both walked out of the stock pond. Dan soon realized that he had caked his carbine in mud and lost his saber in the pond. The column was frantically trying to find the lost saber in the silty, opaque water and soon identified the saber knot that had been floating on the surface of the water which indicated the location of the saber, which was pushed deep into the muddy bed of the pond. Many didn’t know it at the time, but this seemed to be the “last straw” for Dan as he “quit” just a few more miles down the trail.
            After the rodeo at the last watering hole of the day, the column reformed and marched out for the last extended distance of the entire ride. With less than a half day’s travel left, the column’s speed noticeably picked up and ended up moving at the trot for most of the remaining 10 miles before the column reached I-25. During this time, the column paralleled the road (Hat-6 Hwy) and Clay Howe’s horse (Cody) became lame due to a stone that had been lodged in his hoof. It was here that Dan also decided to leave the column and stay with Clay. A rider/messenger was sent to catch up with the lead column (Steve Dacus and Comesready) to ask for a shuttle/trailer to pick up Clay and Dan. Steve Dacus contacted the support staff and a truck/trailer was soon dispatched to pick the two troopers up. In the meantime, Pete went back to Dan to try and talk Dan into continuing the march and not quitting, but to no avail. Pete tried talking to Dan up until the point that the truck/trailer came and they loaded up. By this time, Pete was significantly behind the column (who had reached the police escort). Therefore, Pete was obligated to load up with Clay and Dan and be driven to Campsite #4 ahead of the main column.

            Upon reaching I-25, a Casper police escort was waiting. The law enforcement officers trailed behind and lead in front of the column while crossing over the I-25 overpass and continuing on through Hwy 20/26 and onto the north side of the Platte River. While being escorted by local law enforcement, the last rattle snake of the trip was spotted on the shoulder of the road. Comesready’s horse nearly escaped the fangs of the viper and Gary lamented at his “dud” snake loads that he had been so proud of but ended up being worthless. About the same time, Ian Howe’s pistol holster completely fell off of his saber belt, dropping to the ground. With the progressed pace and constant trotting, the stitching in the holster couldn’t take any more; and neither could Ian. This ended up being his “last straw” and it was clearly read on his face that he was done!

            After crossing the two major highways, the column passed over the Platte River bridge and rode into a small open field along the Platte River and arrives at the last overnight campsite on the ride. With large cottonwood trees to picket to and a fresh bale of hay that was staged there, the column celebrates finishing the last full day of the ride. Horses were quickly unsaddled and Gary rapidly started on another gourmet dinner for the troops.

            Spirits were high, men were congratulating each other on their successful finish of the last full day of riding and even nature seemed to celebrate with them with a rare glimpse of a “Gaggle” of pelicans on the far side of the river.

            The day ended with a fantastic meal of “cracklins”, ham, and rice. Jokes and entertaining stories were told and retold about the previous 4 days and the men settled down to their best sleep of the trip. After covering 34.4 miles that day, the men felt a large sense of accomplishment. They had completed something that most civil war cavalry reenactors had never done before.

            Day 5: Ride through Casper

            First call was sounded later than normal and the men enjoyed enough time to have their last cup of coffee (made in each man’s individual cups) and some warmed up “cracklins” and rice. The men saddled up for the last time of the long ride and headed out by 08:00. The column headed south back across the Platte River and again across Hwy 20/26. Then they proceeded to follow an old abandoned rail line that had been converted into a gravel pathway through town. However, the gravel used on this pathway was course and sharp. Most of this route was spent in the shoulder in as much grass/brush as possible to avoid the paved road to the right and sharp gravel trail to the left.

            Upon arriving at Beverly Street, the column again received a police escort to cross I-25 to the north and to the river. 6.78 miles into the ride, having received a police escort, the troops were able to wade out into the North Platte River and water their horses at the halfway point for the day.

            It was at this point that four members of the column who had signed up for the live shoot needed to be transported to the firing range for this event. Therefore, Sgt. Gwin was put in charge of the column to stage on the north side of the river in an open area of trees to tie the horses to and rest until the others returned.

            After securing the horses to the trees, Steve Dacus, Tom Craig, Chris Bopp, and Frank Blaha were transported in the back of police cars to the shooting range to participate in the live fire competition. After 3.5 hours, the competition was over and the men returned to the resting column who had already saddled and was ready to head out on the last leg of the ride to be competed at Ft. Caspar.

            The second half of the “trail” went right through the heart of town along the “River Parkway” which was a gravel/paved pathway that followed the river through town. Many nerves were rattled while having to cross bridges with heavy traffic on them. During these dangerous times, Steve Dacus and Comesready blocked the nearest lane of traffic to protect the riders when passing along the bridge. After having to cross multiple bridges, many troopers thought that they would NEVER get away from the terrifying bridges and sidewalks next to heavy traffic areas when finally….in the distance….the troops caught a glimpse of the final destination (Fort Caspar) in the distance. The pace quickened and men stood taller. Laughter began and whispers of “we made it” echoed through the column. As they approached the fort, the column dropped down into the pedestrian tunnel that just had concrete poured just a few days before. In the tunnel the troopers caught a glimpse of hundreds of people who were lining the fort grounds in anticipation of the column’s arrival. As the men broke on the other side, the fort side, of the pathway, the cheers from the awaiting crowd got louder. The infantry soldiers that were already garrisoning the fort were called out to form up for the cavalry’s arrival. Comesready, the weary traveler, and Steve Dacus, the navigator throughout the trip were in the front of the column, with Capt. Tom Craig right behind. The column steered toward the right and back to the left, following the access trail to the parade grounds of the fort. Just before reaching the parade grounds, the cavalry troops rode through a mass of the public who continually moved making a pathway to follow. Toward the end of this mass of people, the native American reenactors (the very ones that had raided the campsite two nights before) created a wall in front of the column while blowing their bone whistles as a “welcome home”. They quickly moved out of the way, opening a clear pathway to the small parade grounds of the fort. The Captain called “Left into line” and all those who had finished the ride, and who had just received a hero’s welcome, formed up for the last time. With a short “congratulations” from the Lt. and a Cheer from the Captain, the troopers who had come more than 120 miles in four days were dismissed.

            Lessons learned along the “Last Ride”

            The trip as a whole went well and as expected. However the following is a brief list of the lessons learned that should be considered for the next similar type event:

            1. Mileage:If the same group of riders were going to go on a similar trip, I would reduce the mileage to 15 miles per day. While a seasoned group of riders could have done the entire route as planned, having even one or two novices in the group slowed the column down enough that 15 miles per day would have been the “perfect” distance to still allow enough time to cook dinner at night. A counter argument, however, would argue that if a seasoned group who knew each other could go the full distance easily, but a group of strangers (if even seasoned troopers) would have a similar slow pace at first. Future events must consider the cohesiveness and history of the group.

            2. Horse blankets and sore backs: By the end of the 5th day, a little more than half of the horses suffered to some degree from sore backs. Some had open sores; others had fluid pockets building up under the hair. It became obvious what so many seasoned troopers try to teach the younger ones about saddling and proper riding. While most cavalry reenactors can get away with improperly tacking out a horse for a weekend reenactment, improperly tacked out horses on this ride were the first to develop sores and sensitive backs. I would have rode with two saddle blankets rather than one. In conjunction with this line of thinking, Sunday and/or even Monday morning should have set aside time to cover proper saddling and saddle packing. Doing this may have prevented a few horses from getting sore backs. This was a tough call because we didn't know each other at that point and didn't want to hurt the feelings of others. In future events of this caliber, avoiding insulting riders knowledge and simply ensuring everyone knows how to properly saddle and secure gear will be done.

            3. Strung out Column: While most reenactments suffer to some degree from the “accordion” or “caterpillar” effect, trying to keep closed ranks during this ride proved difficult. There were many horses with a wide variety of paces that had not rode together nor had they been paced. After weeding out the weaker members and riding by file, everyone kept tighter ranks for the remainder of the trip.

            4. Authenticity: While the communication before the event was said to be excellent and “clear”, more than of the troopers who checked in for the ride came bearing gear and clothing that did not meet the uniform requirements of the ride. This is the same dilemma that every reenactment has. While the leadership (Steve Dacus and Tom Craig) could have strictly enforced the standards that were communicated to all riders, it was determined to not worry about it and try to keep the authenticity to behavior and etiquette rather than tack and clothing.

            5. Water: Many complaints were raised as to why the column passed up excellent sources for tap water out of a sink/hydrant and elected to fill canteens out of the bacteria infested Platte River. This occurred again on the second day with the same complaints. It was the goal of the ride to keep the experience as much to the original soldiers as possible; which included getting water from the river rather than garden hoses just a few hundred yards away. While I (Steve Dacus) relented and placed more potable water than planned after the near mutiny the first day, I would still keep with the original plan but communicate more clear that that would be the case.

            6. Food: The command staff fielded a few (not many, but a few) complaints about the food choice along the ride. Months of discussion and planning went into the food menu for the ride and (like the water) the goal was to be as authentic as possible. Beans were out due to the time required to soak and any “normal” meat was out due to the likelihood it would rot in the pack saddles. Therefore the command staff settled on long grain rice, smoked/cured ham, and hard tack. While the pre event communications were clear that authentic meals will be provided, it was clear that some troopers didn’t really understand the bland reality of the meals planed for the week.

            7. Pre-qualification of troopers: Soon into the first day, it was clear that some troopers shouldn’t have come along at all due to their lack of fitness or inappropriate attitude. While some degree of pre-qualification was attempted before the event by requiring all riders to send pictures of their impressions and a brief outline of their experience, it was difficult to properly evaluate the ability of a trooper to finish the ride with good spirits. This ride has convinced me that if a similar ride is attempted again, it would be necessary to pre-qualify all who register. However, the execution of such an idea is much more difficult.

            8. Route: While there was some grumbling during the stints that the column had to ride on the grassy shoulder of the road, I am pleased with the degree to which we avoided direct road travel. With more than 60 landowners that needed to be coordinated with and even more that said “no”, the final route was a good balance of original ground and remote riding. Such a ride in the same area would be difficult to do again, however.

            Closing Remarks:

            I feel that the “Last Ride” was a success and from all the comments and thoughts that were communicated soon after its completion, it is one that was enjoyed by most and will be remembered for years to come. No one in the column could remember an event that covered the amount of ground that was covered in such an authentic way that it was covered (tactics, food, water, route, etc). I am excited to hear more thoughts, questions, and fun accusations regarding this event as we can all learn from what we experienced on the high Wyoming plains during the summer of 2015.

            Steve Dacus
            11th Ohio Volunteer Cavalry

            - - - Updated - - -

            Here are a few pics for your viewing pleasure, for the rest, I would recommend looking at Tom Craig's FB post:

            Steven Dacus
            Casper, Wyoming
            11th Ohio Cav (6th Ohio Cav: 1st Bat)


            • #7
              Re: The "Long Ride" Ft Laramie to Ft Casper, WY

              It truly was an epic experience and an amazing adventure. If I can figure out how to post the pictures here I will be happy to. I also plan to post some additional "lessons learned" about cavalry and long distance events in general here on this forum.

              Take care,
              Tom Craig
              1st Maine Cavalry
              Tom Craig


              • #8
                Re: The "Long Ride" Ft Laramie to Ft Casper, WY

                That may have been the best AAR I've ever read. Halfway through, hell, I wanted to ride. Thank you for sharing so much about the event.
                Bob Welch

                The Eagle and The Journal
                My blog, following one Illinois community from Lincoln's election through the end of the Civil War through the articles originally printed in its two newspapers.


                • #9
                  Re: The "Long Ride" Ft Laramie to Ft Casper, WY

                  I'm still having trouble adjusting to being back in the 21st century after doing the ride. That event was a great experience that gave me a better appreciation of what the original cast endured day after day than I have ever had before. I was surprised at how little I felt like grumbling about the monotony but believe I was still viewing everything from the eyes of an easterner new to the sights in the west. Every day provided new vistas and beautiful sights that kept me engaged in what was happening. The only real down side to the ride was the time it took to sort out the column and get into one solid cohesive unit. The final long day of riding to the outskirts of Casper was great because we could all move together at the various gaits which enabled us to reach camp in a reasonable amount of time.

                  My hat is off to Steve Dacus for even conceiving this ride and then being crazy enough to put it into execution. I met some great people there and had a fantastic time.
                  Chris Bopp


                  • #10
                    Re: The "Long Ride" Ft Laramie to Ft Casper, WY

                    A very interesting observation was that the folks who finished the ride seemed to really get into the routine of it by the 4th day. Before the ride I used to wonder how anyone could ride or walk from MO to OR, or CA or UT. Now I get it. It would be a hard and dangerous journey, but after the first week, if you were still alive I'm sure it wasn't too awful.

                    That said, we eastern guys had the novelty of the scenery, and the relative security from real Indian danger. The original cast rode that same ground again and again, and were not at all safe from attack.

                    Take care,
                    Tom Craig
                    1st Maine Cavalry
                    Tom Craig


                    • #11
                      Re: The "Long Ride" Ft Laramie to Ft Casper, WY

                      Absolutely amazing! I envy you for the experience! Great report!
                      Jan H.Berger

                      German Mess


                      "Und setzet ihr nicht das Leben ein, nie wird euch das Leben gewonnen sein."( Friedrich Schiller)


                      • #12
                        Re: The "Long Ride" Ft Laramie to Ft Casper, WY

                        Not sure if this will work, but here is a link to my photos from the ride on my FB page. The album is "public" so you don't need to be friends with me to see it.

                        Take care,
                        Tom Craig
                        1st Maine Cavalry
                        Tom Craig


                        • #13
                          Re: The "Long Ride" Ft Laramie to Ft Casper, WY

                          What's that about .......All plans change after first contact???????????

                          WISH I had been there! This is the sort of thing I am preparing to do.
                          John Jingo