Fort Laramie was a high point on the trip west, an oasis of fresh food and visitors between St. Louis and the mountains. Founded by William Sublette and Robert Campbell, St. Louis businessmen, the private post lay a strategic point to take advantage of the mountain trade, a crossroads of old Indian trails, the east-west of which later became known as the Oregon Trail. It was christened Fort William, supposedly after Sublette and William Marshall Anderson, a greenhorn along with Sublette, but was known as Fort Laramie virtually from its construction because of the nearby Laramie Mountains and the Laramie Fork of the North Platte River.
Miller saw the fort only three years after its construction and described it as being approximately 150 feet square, though archeological evidence suggests that it was closer to 100 by 80 feet, with walls about fifteen feet high. (Perhaps the company enlarged the structure after its original construction.) Miller pictured it in this sketch with bastions at the diagonal corners and a blockhouse above the door. The loopholes suggest the presence of the cannon, which Miller said filled the Indians with “a moral horror.” (DeVoto, 1947, p. 446)
Miller’s exotic sketches and paintings are the only known visual records of the fort, because the original wooden stockade was torn down in 1840, before any other artist had the opportunity to see it, and replaced with a larger adobe structure. They show the stockade in the middle distance with scores of Indians camped around it and an American flag flying high above the walls. This may be the sketch that Miller made while at the fort. The perspective and the trio of Indians in the foreground are characteristic of a number of the different paintings of the fort. (Ross, 1968, text accompanying plate 49; McChristian, 2009; and Warner, 1979, pp. 1– 24, 87 – 91)
UR: Fort Laramie or Sublette’s Fort —near the Nebraska or Platte River
The artist; Carrie C. Miller, Annapolis, MD; Porter Collection; [M. Knoedler and Co., New York]; present owner