The Cavalry Barracks
Fort Laramie Furnishing Study
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Evidence of Original 1876 Furnishings

Aside from stove-pipe holes in chimneys, nail holes on walls showing where shelving or book strips were once located, and such other shadow clues, there is no firm evidence of how this structure was furnished in the summer of 1876, as regards objects definitely or even traditionally related to use in the 1874 Cavalry Barracks.

The furnishings and contents of this barracks, as lived in by K Company, 2nd U. S. Cavalry, in August 1876, must, for lack of positive evidence, be based on:

a. Army Policies and Regulations for barracks as of August 1876.

b. Furnishings and contents that could, or would, have been in the building in relation to the room utilizations and occupants discussed in Part C.

c. Furnishings and contents of other western cavalry barracks in the same era.

Barracks accommodations for enlisted men had been the focus of much dissatisfaction for many years prior to the summer of 1876. Some improvements had been made, but for the most part they were still relatively barren, cheerless and somewhat crowded. The comfort of its rank and file was not given much consideration by the high command of the mid-1870s.

Barracks furnishings provided by the army were limited to iron bunks, some water barrels and buckets, home-made shelves, tables, chairs, and benches, wooden footlockers, and iron cooking and heating stoves. Other articles were either made by the men or purchased out of the company fund. This fund was originally and primarily intended for purchasing foodstuffs not included in the issue rations. However, many other articles were bought with this money. "Items are often necessary to purchase," wrote a first sergeant in Dakota, "which do not actually benefit the mess table . . ., but which the government does not provide." [6]

Examples of the variety of objects and uses for which the company funds were used are found in the company fund account book of Company F, 5th Infantry, for the years between 1874 and 1882:

repairing water tank in company quarters

4 dozen Japan cups, 7 dozen spoons, water cooler (2), stove blacking, basket, butter plates, crockery, clock (and repair of clock), vinegar cruets, copper boiler, ice chest, metronome, coffee boiler, tin plates and cups, coffee mill (3), matches, newspapers, 5 doz. bowls, 3 tin dippers, 2 doz. knives and forks, 2 doz. table spoons, butcher knife, "mess furniture," basket and spade, meat chopper, sprinkler, 6 water barrels, 90 yards calico. [7]

Furnishings Provided for by Regulations and Policies (as of August 1876)


Before May 25, 1876, there were no army-wide specifications for types and supplies of heating stoves and cooking ranges. However, such specifications were issued on May 25, 1876, and, since Fort Laramie was relatively easily supplied from Omaha—first via rail to Cheyenne, thence by wagon freight to the post—it is possible that the new stoves were in place in the 1874 cavalry barracks as of August 1876.

A total of seven stoves was authorized for one company of men living in a barracks of the 1872 pattern:

2 large stoves, wood heater No. 2, in each dormitory (upstairs bunk room)

1 large stove, wood heater No. 2, in the messroom

1 large stove, wood beater No. 2, in the dayroom

1 small stove, wood heater No. 1, for the 1st Sergeant's room

1 small stove, wood heater No. 1, in the company orderly room

1 small stove, wood heater No. 1, in the saddler's shop (originally intended as library room on 1872 Plan)

1 Army cooking range No. 2, in the kitchen, with complete out fit of "furniture" listed and described in the "Stoves and Ranges for Army Use"

All of these items are illustrated, with detailed specifications in Appendix 3. [8] While these early army stoves and ranges were contracted for, they were later produced at the Rock Island Arsenal beginning in 1878. [9]

Arrangement of stoves in the rooms assigned is illustrated in several of the dormitory and kitchen photographs included in the illustrations. An 1875 post order at Fort Laramie did specify the safety precautions to be taken in connection with stove use:

Flooring and other woodwork adjacent to stoves will be protected from the radiation of heat by zinc, tin sheet-iron or bricks, and piping will be properly secured by wires. No ashes should ever be placed in receptacles or vessels of wood, nor, after being removed from stoves or fireplaces, ever be deposited within ten feet at least of fences, fuel combustible, or framed work. [10]


As of mid-summer 1876 no other lighting than candles was officially provided for barracks illumination. Lard oil lamps and lamps burning sperm oil (an expensive fuel) were permitted but not provided. Kerosene, naphtha, benzine, and other volatile fuels had long been in use in lamps designed for them, but the fire-conscious and conservative army command prohibited their use as of August 1874. Candles were part of the ration issue, but the quantity was miserly. Long a minor irritation, the use of candles and lack of decent lights for the barracks was reported on in 1879:

The adamantine (candle) is the kind now issued to troops, at the rate of twenty ounces to one hundred rations, which gives to a company of 40 average strength, 15 pounds monthly or 3 candles daily, to furnish light for the 1st Sergeant's, squad, mess and kitchen rooms, all of which require lighting. With this allowance, it is reasonable to expect that the soldiers will find their quarters dark, cheerless, and uninviting, and that they should ask for more light; the sombre stove now used for heating barracks and around which they gather in the long winter evenings, gives not that blaze of light and cheer they were wont to enjoy in former days from big wood fires in spacious fire places, that lighted and warmed their rooms. [11]

No single type of candle holder seems to have been standard, but the 1879 Report on Lighting mentioned,

the pattern of brass candlestick used by Army officers many years since. It has a cylindrical tube, into which is put the candle by compressing a spiral spring intended to push it up as burned away; a cap section, slightly conical at the top, and open, is adjusted to the upper part of the main tube, which holds down the candle.

To this candle holder is adjusted a parabolic reflector with an opening out on one side, through which passes the candle tube, so that the candle flame shall be in the focus, which is about 3/4 inch from its vertex—over the flame is cut a circular opening, about 1-1/2", for draft and passage of smoke. [12]

Several types of candlesticks were most likely used by the men of K Company, the common, japanned sheet metal type likely being the most numerous.

Lard oil lamps, fuel for them, and extra candles and candle sticks could be purchased for use in the barracks from the company fund surplus. Individual soldiers also no doubt acquired their own, privately owned lamps (lard oil) and candle holders—and it is likely that the first sergeant had as good a sperm or lard oil lamp as could be obtained, he being the principal enlisted man of the company. The dayroom, as its name implies, was not meant for much use at night, and therefore was probably not as well lit as were the kitchen, first sergeant's room, orderly room, and dormitory rooms.

Water Supply and Fire Suppression Equipment

Lacking a piped-in water system in 1876, the barracks water supply was brought to the building in the water wagon from the Laramie River and stored in barrels. For fire suppression, Fort Laramie General Orders No. 58, December 7, 1875, stipulated:

Twelve buckets and two barrels to each company (barracks), to the band, and to the quartermaster, and commissary storehouse, will be kept constantly filled with water to be used only in case of fire.

Water for cooking, drinking, and washing was likewise maintained in barrels in several barracks rooms, especially the kitchen and washrooms. Smaller kegs and water coolers were placed in such locations as the dormitory, mess, and day rooms.


Barracks furniture, for which the company commander was responsible was quartermaster property and attached to the post. Limited to iron bunks, stoves, and roll-your-own-chairs, stools, benches, tables, and packing cases, it was standardized as of August 1876 only for stoves and bunks. Shelves and built-ins were added and removed as the occupants came and went, as explained in the following 1873 comment:

The outgoing garrison (or company), always hard up for lumber, and regardless of the comfort of its successors, appropriates many of the shelves and other useful fixtures provided by the quartermaster during their stay . . . . Pieces of stove furniture, to which some chronic (company) cook has become attached, disappear, and even articles which from their nature cannot be carried, are wantonly destroyed. [13]

Reference to the "shelves and other useful fixtures" provided by the Post Quartermaster refers to the authorization of quartermasters to use lumber from packing cases and other non-priority sources for making chairs, tables, benches, shelves, and the like for use in the barracks. Such "furniture" was very plain and entirely utilitarian and its construction and quality depended on the skills and material available for its manufacture. The tables and shelves seen in several of the accompanying illustrations show the plainness of these shelves and tables. General Orders of the Army No. 31, March 21, 1870, provided authority for the manufacture of barracks furniture at the post. [14]

No regulation as to supply of such a common item of comfort as chairs for the barracks was issued until 1877 (one for each non-commissioned officer and six for each twelve enlisted men), and specifications for barracks chairs were not prepared until after 1880.

Iron bunks were the only other item of standard army furniture issue for enlisted barracks in mid-1876. Before 1872, nearly all barracks bunks were made of wood by the post quartermaster: two tiers high, with each tier wide enough to accommodate two men. This was the origin of the Indian Wars term of "bunkie" for a soldier's best friend or closest comrade. In 1871, a board of officers convened to make recommendations on bunks reported in favor of adopting a single iron bunk, and in the same year the Quartermaster Department purchased iron bunks (trestle bedsteads) from three sources: Miles Greenwood Co., Cincinnati, Ohio; Snead & Co., Louisville, Kentucky; and the Composite Iron Works, New York, New York. After 1872, the composite bunks became the standard army issue. [15] Photographs show three types of bunks:

1. The Snead or Greenwood bunk of two trestles made of flat wrought iron bars.

2. The well documented Composite bunk, with the USA shield in the center.

3. A variation of the Composite in which the foot-board trestle is slightly lower and lacks the USA shield.

The Composite bunk was the most widely used after 1871, and should be the type used in furnishing the 1874 Cavalry Barracks. It is well illustrated in a Composite Iron Works Company advertisement included in Appendix 4 along with the War Department's narrative specifications published May 31, 1876.

Furnishings and Contents, from Room Utilizations and Occupants Kitchen

The central furnishing item here, was, of course, the cooking range. The range shown in the accompanying photograph in the illustrations is a later type than the No. 2 Army Cooking Range of 1876, but the photograph does provide data on boilers, pans, coffee pots, a line for drying towels and aprons, wash pans, a wooden hook strip for hanging utensils, and the presence of a wooden box for stove fuel. The white mess jackets worn in the photo were introduced some time after the 1870s, but the cooks no doubt used some kind of aprons. No hot water tank, with pipes running out, would have been in use in this barracks kitchen as of 1876, as water came in barrels from the river. Considering that coffee was served with virtually every meal, and that most foods were boiled or stewed, the kitchen was most likely supplied with at least two barrels of potable water. At least one plain table, a couple of chairs, and some shelves would have been present.

If an 1876 No. 2 Cooking Range cannot be located or fabricated, a large civilian iron cooking range of 1874-76 would do as well.

An icebox may have been in the kitchen, as the ice ration included 20 to 30 pounds of ice a week per company. Such ice, however, could just as well have been used in the dormitory drinking water keg or "cooler."

Since the cooks were up early and finished work late, at least two lard oil lamps would likely have been in the kitchen.

No standard army cookbook had yet been printed, but the 1879 Army Cook Book includes many recipes that were already of long standing use in 1876. Examination of this 1879 cookbook will provide clues as to the condiments and other-than-staple cooking items likely present in Company K's Fort Laramie kitchen in 1876.

Each company was issued three corn brooms and two scrub brushes each month, and it is likely that at least one broom and one scrub brush were in the kitchen, or perhaps in the adjacent storage room. [16]

The Fort Laramie Medical History indicates that the kitchens had benches (home-made) in addition to work-tables. A large (3-5 gallons) oil can, with pouring spout, for lard oil to fuel the lamps, would also Likely have been kept in the kitchen.

Cook's Room

The first, or "boss," cook had this little room to himself, where he slept and kept his belongings. A hook strip with shelf above was probably on the wail, and he likely had hooks, or nails, on the inside of his door for hanging aprons and other gear. While the occupant was first cook in the barracks, he was also a cavalryman (usually ranked as a private, as cooks as such had no rank) and his room would have contained his personal and issue clothing and equipment.

The Part B, Operating Plan, indicates that normal visitor flow will allow only a glimpse of the cook's room door area. If this door is kept nearly closed, and curtains of unbleached muslin, calico, or a blanket are hung over any window opening into the room, it need not be furnished. However, as this is the first room occupied by a soldier to be discussed, the supposed contents will be itemized.

The room's contents would likely have included the following items:

1 Composite iron bunk and bedding (see Appendix 4)

1 Wooden footlocker, pattern of 1875 (described in Dormitory Section)

The cook would have owned or had issued to him all or most of the following that would have been in evidence in his room:

1. Dress helmet, plumed, pattern of 1872.

2. Overcoat, with cape — mounted length (could have been the older single breasted model of the 1860s, or, the newer double-breasted type of 1872).

3. Campaign hat, black with yellow cord, pattern of 1875 contract (one of these is in the Fort Laramie collections).

4. Forage cap, pattern of 1872.

5. Dress blouse, pattern of 1872.

6. White, wrist-length "Berlin" gloves.

7. Boots, as depicted in 1872 (until sometime after 1876, soldiers could purchase any sort of boots desired, as long as they were plain and black).

8. Shoes, ankle-high "Jeffersons," rights and lefts.

9. Sabre, pattern 1860 "Light Cavalry," on a

10. Sabre belt, which also should have had arranged on it the pistol cartridge box (Civil War cap pouch); the 1874 pattern leather "Dyer" pouch, for 40 carbine cartridges (leave the usual two 20-round leather cartridge loops off, as these were for field service, which the cook did less of); and the 1874 (or earlier modified "old" pattern) revolver holster for .45 Colt revolver.

11. Carbine sling, and swivel, pre-1874.

12. Carbine, model 1873 Springfield .45.

13. Canteen, Civil War pattern, but cover could be canvas or blanket goods — cloth strap of cotton webbing, 1-1/4" wide.

14. Haversack, of 1872 or 1874 pattern (oval mess kit inside), 1-1/2" cotton web strap, or a short home-made strap to hang on a saddle; 1874 model knife, fork, and spoon, plus small brownstained coffee sack, also in haversack.

15. Two 20-round leather carbine cartridge loops, pattern of 1874.

16. Trousers, mounted, of sky blue jersey, pattern of 1874 or 1876.

17. Shirt, 1872 or 1876 type, grey flannel or navy blue. Underwear and socks would have been either in a draw-string dirty clothes bag, if soiled, or in the footlocker.

The names of the men of K Company detailed as cooks in August 1876 are not mentioned on the muster roll. One of those privates listed as "present" should be selected and his name stenciled on the footlocker in black. Padlocks were supplied by the men and were of no special type other than what was commercially available in mid-1876.

Storage Room

The storage room was used mainly to store company property (other than arms and ammunition) not in current use; such as winter gear, tools, field gear (tents and canvas), extra saddles, supplies of repair equipment, and the large wooden packing chests in which company property was moved when the unit changed posts. Being just off the kitchen, it was also used to store bulk ration items.

Like the cook's room, this one would usually only be glimpsed by visitors, according to the Part B Plan of Operation, even if the door were open. In actual use it is more likely that this room door was secured by a stout padlock. The key was kept by the first sergeant to prevent thefts and "midnight requisitions" of material.


No pre-1880 illustrations or descriptions of messrooms have been found. Long benches and tables, adequate to seat about 60 men, would have been present. All were made at the post of available lumber. Iron table-ware, "tin" plates, and cups were the common mess gear, but Company K might have purchased its own mess china, as this was a common practice. Some units used the issue tinned sheet-iron mess kits. [17] Vinegar cruets, salt and pepper shakers, and condiment bottles would have been present on the tables. The tableware itself most likely would have been present, set upside down. The common army practice was to set the table up for the next meal at the end of each meal. An Army Wood Heater No. 2 would have been present, as would candles and/or company-fund-purchased lard oil lamps on wall brackets or hung from the ceiling. A wood-box would have been placed near the stove. A hook strip would have probably been in place on at least two sides of the room. The tables were commonly scrubbed clean with sand. Oilcloth, purchased with company fund money, was at times used as a table cloth.


The dayroom was most likely a rather drab, dull place, lacking much in the individual and group intimacy of the dormitory or squad room. However, like the other barracks rooms, it did to a degree reflect the tone and personality of the company of soldiers who used it in August 1876. The utilizations and location of the room indicate that it likely contained some or all of the following:

1. No. 2 Army Wood Heater (regulation), and iron poker and ash shovel.

2. A water barrel, for fire suppression, and six buckets (post orders), and perhaps three or four fire axes.

3. Wood box for stove fuel.

4. Trash bucket.

5. Wooden boxes for spittoons, filled with sand or sawdust.

6. A lard oil lamp or candle.

7. Ash can — tin, for the stove, made from a 5-gallon can; or, of sheet metal, for the purpose.

8. Hook strip and a shelf or two, possibly.

9. A calendar could have been on the wall, along with lettered notices that the magazines and newspapers on the table were not to be removed from the room.

10. Newspapers and magazines of the day, and, considering the company had recently spent some time at Omaha Barracks, it is likely that the company subscribed to an Omaha paper. Since the library room is presumed to have been used as a saddler's shop in August 1876, the newspapers and magazines would have been in the dayroom.

11. A home-made wooden the wall, near the presumably written letter-box for mail could have been on orderly room door, as letters were here.

12. Writing paper and pen and ink could have been out on a table, supplied by the company fund for the use of all.

13. Some games material may also have been supplied from the company fund, such as checkers and cribbage.

14. One or two home-made tables and some benches would also have been present.

15. A bulletin board would likely have hung on the wall, near the orderly room door, for posting of all types of orders, courts-martial results, lists of names on guard and duty rosters, official (and unofficial) announcements and notices, and the like. Xeroxes of original orders, and the like, or "mock-ups" from examples in the area collections should be used here.

16. Considering the recent campaign experiences of Company K, 2nd Cavalry, and the prevailing methods of manifesting respect and concern for the military dead in regular army units during the 1870s, it is suggested that a modest "memorial" to a recently fallen K trooper would quite likely have been in evidence at some focal point in the barracks, in this case the dayroom. Pvt. George Schneider was the only man of this company killed in action with Indians in the March 17, 1876, attack on the Cheyenne—Sioux camp on Powder River. His "memorial" might well have been hung on the dayroom wall. The "memorial" would have consisted of a photograph of Schneider surrounded with a drape of black crepe, including a large black rosette below, and a neatly lettered little legend: "Our Comrade Private George Schneider, killed by Indians, Crazy Horse Fight, March 17, 1876, Powder River, Montana, Territory." [18]

No detailed descriptions or illustrations of an 1870s (or later) dayroom have been found. However, like other rooms in some barracks, it may have had muslin or other curtain hangings on the windows.

Noncommissioned Officers

The orderly room was the nerve center of the company. It was the unit's administrative and executive headquarters. First Sergeant Gleason, who was routinely assisted by at least one private detailed as company clerk, presided over the room. In extra busy times, such as when pay and muster rolls were being prepared, or when other aspects of the even-then ubiquitous paperwork load of reports, requisitions, descriptive lists, and other hand-copied, multi-copy forms and reports were required, one or two extra men were likely detailed to aid the sergeant and the company clerk. Captain Egan signed most of the company documents and no doubt conferred with his first sergeant in the orderly room. From the activities that were carried on there, all or some of the following items would have been present:

1. Army Wood Heater No. 1, with stove tools (present by Regulations).

2. Fuel box for wood.

3. Shelves: at least two (one for the unit's small circulating library and one for official manuals and record books).

4. Record Books: Company Clothing Account, Company Order, Company Descriptive, Company Morning Report, Company Letter, Company Sick Report, and Company Fund. [19]

5. Official Manuals and Publications: Army Regulations (amended 1863 edition), Cavalry Tactics (10), Target Practise (3), Ordnance Manual (1), Paymaster Manual (1), Army Record Pamphlet (1), Mustering Regulations (1), Signal Service Drill (1), O'Rourke's Sword Exercises (4). [20] Some of these manuals were likely checked out to members of the company.

The books in the company's library collection very likely did not exceed forty to fifty books. These books could be borrowed by the members of the unit. Since the library room was likely in use as the saddler's shop at that time, these books were probably kept in the orderly room. [21] One then-quite-recent book that would likely have been in the company library because of its particular interest for 2nd Cavalry soldiers was a history of the regiment published a year before:

Theodore F. Rodenbough, From Everglade to Canyon With the 2nd Dragoons (New York, 1875).

Other books in the library might have been on Civil War subjects, hunting, geography, and some novels of the times. [22]

6. Some home-made wooden "pigeon holes" may have been hung on the wall, above one of the tables, for a variety of different returns, reports, and the like.

7. Tables, according to the 1863 Regulations, were provided two to each office. [23]

8. At least one good civilian office chair would likely have been present for the first sergeant's routine use and for Captain Egan when he was in the orderly room. In addition, two to four home-made chairs or benches would have likely been in the room.

9. At least one lard oil lamp would have been on the wall, on the sergeant's desk, or hung from the ceiling. A candle or two might also have been present.

10. A field desk, much-used from many trips into the field and changes of station.

11. A footlocker (1875) or wooden chest on the floor for storage of company records.

12. A box spittoon on the floor.

13. A waste or trash box or basket.

14. Articles of War posted on the wall.

15. A K Company guidon, "relic" of Civil War battles, with frayed edges and bullet holes could well have been on the wall, most likely without the staff.

16. The set of stencil plates for marking property.

17. Hook strip on wall for coat hooks.

18. Office supplies: foolscap and other papers, pens, ink, sand, blotter, desk and/or wall spikes (for papers), desk calendar, and "in" and "out" boxes for papers.

19. Map of Dakotas, Wyoming, Nebraska, and Montana (Maynardier) on wall.

20. Form blanks of several kinds were required in various periodic reports. The following supplies of these were on hand as of 31 August 1876:


Muster & Pay Rolls (32), Monthly Returns (4), Returns of Men Joined Co. (22), Returns of Deceased Soldiers (0), Recruiting Party Returns (0), Enlistments (5), Re-Enlistments (15) Furloughs (10), Descriptive Lists (18), Final Statements (87), Discharges (25), Certificates of Disability (42), Non-Commissioned Officers' Warrants (3), Inventory of Effects of Deceased Soldiers (3), and Descriptive Lists of Deserters (24). [24]

Some form of curtain or window hanging may have been on the windows.

Noncommissioned Officers — Orderly Room

The first sergeant's private room opened on the orderly room. In August 1876 this was John Gleason's home and personal domain. Although this room is not included in the Part B Operating Plan, its suggested contents will be included:

1. Stove: an Army Wood Heater No. 1, and tools (provided by Regulations).

2. Wood box for stove fuel.

3. Lard or sperm oil lamp, on table or wall bracket.

4. Candle and candlestick, near bunk.

5. "Bull's eye" hand lamp/lantern, for sperm or lard oil, not kerosene or other volatile fuel oils. [25] Use of kerosene, benzine, naphtha, alcohol, or other highly volatile lamp fuels, was strictly forbidden in barracks (and other military buildings) all through the 1870s.

6. Table, home-made, of moderate size.

7. Chair: not "issue," but a fairly decent and comfortable wooden chair of the times, perhaps cushioned.

8. Hook strip, supporting shelf, and covered with a calico, blanket, or canvas hanging.

9. Mirror, Plain wood framed.

10. Tin comb case, on wall under mirror.

11. Wash-stand (really a small home-made table), with a towel rack on one side (tooth brush, cup, soap and dish, tin basin, and tin water pitcher).

12. Slop jar "thunder-mug."

13. Footlocker, pattern of 1875.

14. Laundry bag for dirty clothes.

15. Chest, wood, well reinforced, large enough to hold about 70 Colt revolvers (model 1872-73, caliber .45, with 7-1/2" barrels), with strong hinges, back, and lock. [26]

16. Some of the manuals in the Dayroom objects list might have been in Gleason's room, especially since he had only been first sergeant since May 8 and was still fairly new to the position and its administrative responsibilities.

17. First sergeant's warrant, appointing John Gleason to the position, could have been on the wall, as could his corporal's and sergeant's warrants and his first (1872) discharge, with "Excellent" character. [27]

18. Iron Composite bunk, pattern of 1872, with a civilian feather tick in addition to the straw-filled bed-sack, a good pillow (not a straw-filled issue pillow-sack), and an issue blanket. Although sheets were not issue items then, the first sergeant, as the highest paid soldier in the unit, may well have bought himself a muslin sheet at the post trader's store. His other blanket(s), rubber poncho, and the like, can be presumed to be in storage.

19. Gleason might have had some reading material, other than manuals, in his room. As Gleason came from Massachusetts, perhaps a Boston newspaper of fairly current date would be appropriate.

20. A small piece of used carpet could have been on the floor or perhaps a buffalo robe or tanned elk hide.

21. Laundry bag (no army specifications on these) with owner's name stencilled on.

22. Fishing gear. [28]

23. Incidental, non-military furnishing objects here could have included: tin tobacco humidor, matches, pipe, writing gear, letters, a water or whiskey glass, coffee cup (a good one, not tin), waste basket, carpet slippers, some decorative Indian "trophy," and a curtain of some kind at the window.

24. A stout pocket notebook (new), with owner's name and unit designation lettered on the cover, for use in making roll calls, taking notes, and the like.

25. Dress Uniform: Same as for other men (pattern 1876-84), except, perhaps, made of finer "sergeants' cloth"; and with first sergeant's yellow chevrons (three bars and a lozenge) on each sleeve above the elbow, and one diagonal yellow half chevron on each sleeve, below the elbow, for his completion of one 5-year enlistment. [29] A yellow stripe, one inch wide, down the trouser outseams, from hip to end of each leg, designated the wearer as being a sergeant.

26. Arms, accouterments, and military equipment would have included the same items as for each of the other troopers: 1873 Springfield carbine, .45 Colt, pattern 1872-73, 1860 sabre, sabre belt, revolver holster, pistol cartridge box, carbine sling, "Dyer" pouch for carbine cartridge, and the like.

27. Boots, commercially made, of finer than G.I. issue leather (French calf) and workmanship, but still plain and black and about 14"-15" high.

28. Spurs, issue, "yellow metal" (brass), hung on a peg, nail, or hook.

29. Box spittoon.

30. Sergeants and officers often purchased Sharps, Remington, and other rifles for personal use and then frequently had them chambered for the standard 1873, .45 calibre carbine and rifle cartridge so that Government issue cartridges could be used in these precision rifles. Tubular telescope sights were added to one such rifle, a Sharps, by Sgt. John Ryan, M Company, 7th Cavalry, in the spring of 1876, who carried this weapon on campaign and used it at the Little Bighorn. Sergeant Gleason, or his immediate predecessor, John McGregor, might well have owned such a special rifle.

31. For field service a loop cartridge belt, made of leather and/or canvas loops on a leather belt (perhaps an obsolete sabre belt, with the older flying eagle belt plate, may have been made up for the sergeant by a saddler, tailor, or cobbler, as this was very common practice prior to issuance of the 1876-77 canvas loop belts late in 1876 or early the next year). A large knife, perhaps in an Indian sheath, would have likely hung on this belt.

32. Gleason's immediate predecessor as first sergeant, McGregor, drowned in the Laramie River May 7, 1876, while in pursuit of deserters. He was found ten days later and buried in the post cemetery May 18. Some of his belongings, perhaps in a footlocker, might still have been in the first sergeant's room. The company had been relatively busy in the late spring and summer of 1876 (see Appendix for narrative of events taken from muster rolls), and McGregor's belongings might not yet have been disposed of. The usual disposition of deceased soldiers' belongings was through an auction held in the barracks. The proceeds were then forwarded to the next of kin.


The armory room was kept closed and locked under close security. The first sergeant usually kept the key to this room. No candles or lamps were allowed and it was not heated. Arms and ammunition, other than what was individually in the hands of company members, were the most important items. Subtracting the 68 enlisted men and three officers from the total of arms and ammunition known to have been charged out to K Company, 2nd Cavalry, as of April 30, 1876, the following ammunition and extra arms and ordnance stores would have been in the armory:

1. Carbines, model 1873, Springfield, .45 (25). [30]

2. Revolvers, model 1872-73 Colt, .45 (2).

3. Sabres, model 1860 "Light Cavalry" (5).

4. Saddles, black leather-covered "McClellan" (2).

5. Caliber .45 carbine ammunition, ball: 5-1/2 cases. Presuming about 20 rounds (total @ 1,400) in the hands of each man, the remaining 5,600 rounds would have been kept in six 1,000-round wooden ammunition boxes.

6. Caliber .45 carbine ammunition, blank: 3 cases for a total of 3,000 rounds. [31]

7. Caliber .45 revolver cartridges, ball: 3 full and one nearly full cases; figured at 2,400 rounds per case, for a total of 9,500 rounds. Cases believed same as for carbine shells.

8. Caliber .45 revolver cartridges, blank: one case, for a total of 2,400 rounds, for practice firing. [32]

9. One or two large, stout packing boxes, for storing and shipping company ordnance property.

10. Shelves, on book strip, for small boxes and other items; pegs or nails on strip.

11. Gun rack, of stand-up type, built into or against the wall, to accommodate carbine-length long arms.

12. One double-barreled muzzle-loading, percussion shotgun, medium quality, with damascus or " twist" barrels. Company property purchased from the company fund, available to unit members for bird and small game hunting, to be accompanied by: a brass commercial powder flask, a leather shot pouch and dispenser, several boxes of percussion caps, at least one small cannister of commercial black powder, an iron wad-cutter, and a civilian hunting or game bag.

13. Wooden cleaning rods, for carbines; at least four or five of them would have been on hand. The 3-piece steel cleaning rods for carbines were not issued until 1879, and the earliest model 1873 Carbines had no aperture in the solid butt plate for the sectional cleaning rod. [33]

14. A bottle or can of fine emery powder, and some fine emery cloth.

15. Arms Cleaning Box, as supplied one per company by the Spring field Armory in 1875-76, contained the following:

2 quart cases of anti-corrosive and lubricating oil.
1 box (40 ounces) scouring material, marked "I."
1 box (16 ounces) polishing material for leather, marked "II."
1 box (40 ounces) whiting.
1 chamois-skin, about 2 feet square.
1 wire scratch brush. [34]

More detailed descriptions of the contents of the cleaning kit box were issued in 1878, and probably would have applied in 1876, as the overall contents are the same:

On the underside of the cover of each box is posted the following printed notice . . .

This box contains

Two quart cans of anti-corrosive and lubricating cosmoline oil.

One box holding 40 ounces scouring material, marked 1 (Arabic instead of Roman numeral), composed of 12 ounces paraffin, 18 ounces flour corundum, 6 ounces cosmoline oil, 4 ounces lamp-black, melted together;

One box holding 16 ounces leather polish, marked 2, composed of 13 ounces bayberry tallow, 3 ounces lamp-black, melted together;

One box holding 40 ounces compressed whiting, marked 3;

One chamois skin;

One wire scratch brush. [35]

The army was very particular as to how its soldiers cared for and maintained their issue arms, then as since, admonishing in an 1875 General Order that "Soldiers will not be permitted to take their arms to pieces except in the presence of an officer, nor under any circumstances to deface the metallic or wooden parts by attempts to beautify or change the finish of the exterior." [36] Since Captain Egan's K Company had a reputation for soldierly and regulation military appearance and efficiency, the arms in the hands of its members were no doubt maintained in a clean and regulation manner.

Aside from out-of-service and extra arms, the armory also contained a supply of extra parts and appendages and spare parts for the arms in the hands of the unit members. Each twenty carbines or rifles shipped from Springfield were supposed to be accompanied by:

20 screw drivers, 4 tumbler punches (U.S.), 1 spring vise (U.S.), 2 (each) bridles, 2 bridle screws, 2 breech-block cap-screws, 2 cam-latch springs, 1 extractor, 5 ejector springs, 5 ejector-spring spindles, 2 firing pins, 2 firing-pin screws, 1 main spring, 1 (each) rear spring, 2 rear screws, 20 headless-shell extractors, 1 instruction book (may not have been out as of 1876), 1 wooden wiping-rod (more, before 1879, for the carbines). Sperm oil was used as lubricant on arms. [37]

Other company ordnance stores that would likely have been in the armory were worn-out leather equipment, canteens, haversacks, and the like. Captain Egan was personally responsible for Company K's arms and ordnance gear, and, until relieved of responsibility for broken and worn-out gear by a board of survey, such material would have been kept in the company armory room.

Saddler's Shop (in Library room)

Company Saddler Edward Droege carried on his tasks of repair and maintenance of saddles and other leather horse gear in this room. It is likely that he had previously been a saddler in the cavalry, as he listed "saddler" as his occupation when he enlisted in New York City on June 21, 1875. It is believed he was a brother to Pvt. John Droege, who received a disabling wound at the March 17 fight on Powder River. Their names were the same, they both gave Philadelphia as place of birth, and they both joined the army at the same time and place. John Droege was discharged as disabled (elbow shattered by an Indian bullet), September 11, 1876. Edward deserted October 21, 1876. He was described as having been 5'6" tall, with hazel eyes, brown hair, and a fair complexion. The same physical characteristics were ascribed to John Droege, and his pension application states that he had been in the 1st Cavalry in the late 1860s.

The following items could, or should, have been included in the furnishings for the saddler's shop:

1. Army Wood Heater No. 1, with proper fire tools.

2. Wood box for stove fuel.

3. Long work bench, on window side of room.

4. Hook strip on wall, with wood panel(s) for holding tools.

5. Candle and tin (japanned) candlestick.

6. Leather worker's wooden bench and vise.

7. Post-made bench(es) or stool(s).

8. Materials: Ordnance Memorandum No. 13 (1872), listed the following as a six-month's supply for one company of cavalry: 3 lbs shoe thread, 1 lb patent linen thread, 2,000 each of tacks, No. 6 and No. 12, 1/2 lb beeswax, 2 lbs black wax, 10 lbs bridle leather, 15 lbs harness leather, 8 lbs collar leather, 3/4" copper rivets and burrs, 1 lb each of No. 10 and No. 12.

9. The same Ordnance Memorandum No. 13 (1872) describes the field pouches for a saddler as "a pair of tool-bags made of heavy leather to carry saddler's and (or) smith's tools, to be issued to each cavalry company. They are composed of two pouches, each 14" long, 8" deep, and 8" wide, united by two seat straps passing over the saddle seat and by an ordinary girth, buckling into straps attached to D rings fastened to the bottom of pouches . . . the saddler's tools should be arranged securely in proper loops upright in the pouch; and the 'materials' packed in center." [38]

10. The tools for the saddler were:

12 stitching awls, assorted (with 6 handles)
1 patent handle for stitching awls
1 handled seat awl
12" awl-stub, with handle (not patent)
1 peg awl, with patent handle
1 claw tool
1 common 6-inch compass
2 cut leather creasers of lignum vitae
1 No. 1 edge-tool
1 No. 2 edge-tool
1 draw gauge
1 riveting hammer
1 saddler's hammer
1 half-round 5" knife
1 head knife
2 shoe knives
1 6" splitting knife
1 mallet (5-1/4" long, 2-3/4" in diameter, weight 14 to 16 ounces)
2 papers of No. 4 harness needles
2 papers of No. 5 harness needles
2 papers of No. 6 harness needles
1 paper of Glover's No. 3 needles
1 pair cutting nippers
1 oil stone
1 pricking carriage, with three wheels (Nos. 7, 8, and 10) [39]

In addition, the saddler probably had: 2 spring punches, No. 4 and No. 7, 1 No. 8 hand punch, 1 pair pliers, 1 2-foot rule, 1 rivet set (pair, 1 with center hole and 1 for heading), 1 pair shears with 6" blades, 1 leather handled steel slicker, one 3" screw driver, and a heavy thimble.

The Division of Military History, Museum of History and Technology, Smithsonian Institution, is currently (June 1969) completing research and planning for a life-size diorama of an 1870s era army saddler's shop. Mr. Donald Kloster, who is directing this project, should be asked for a copy of the final plan lay-out, showing the tools, objects, and materials in their proper relation, as he has offered to make this information available. This report recommends following Mr. Kloster's plan for a saddler's shop, to avoid needless duplication of research.


No description or illustration of a barracks washroom of the period has been found. As shown on the proposed visitor tour route, only a small portion of this room would be visible. Visitors are not expected to be taken inside it. The following list of furnishings and objects would have been present:

1. Water barrel (one or two)

2. Large dipper

3. Hook strip on wall

4. Mirrors (two to four)

5. Candle, probably on small shelf in front of mirror

6. Tubs, or half-barrels, for winter bathing, stacked in a corner. The men bathed in the river during the summer.

7. Wash stand: a long built-in of scrap boards, against the wall, with tin wash basins hung on nails from a hook strip

8. Benches (two or three)

9. Barber chairs, made of scrap boards

Since no stove was allowed for the washroom in the regular barrack stove allotment, none is called for.

Dormitory (Second Floor)

As of August 1876, Company K's enlisted strength was 62 men, of whom 44, including four men from Company I who were attached to K, would have been living in the dormitory. Of the remaining, 15 were off on detached service and the rest were either sick in the hospital or in the guardhouse. To accommodate all of the men who would have been present, 60 bunks and footlockers would be required. The first sergeant and the first cook had their own rooms.

Unlike the rooms on the first floor, there is photographic documentation of the dormitory or squad room furnishings. Although most of the dormitory photographs found in the illustrations date from the 1880s or later, they are the best single source for the furnishings and lay out of a dormitory. The furnishing of the Fort Laramie squad room should be based on these photographs.

1. Bunks: The Composite bunk, illustrations and specifications for which are found in Appendix 4, should be used. However, unlike the photographs, the bunks should have wooden slats. The bunk spring shown in the photographs was not adopted until the 1880s.

2. Bedding: Bedding consisted of a bed sack, a pillow sack, and blankets. Specifications for these items are found in Appendix 4 following the Composite bunk.

3. Lighting: As was the case in the other rooms, lighting in the dormitory was provided by lamps and perhaps candles. Specifications for standard barrack lamps or lanterns (designed by Quartermaster General Meigs himself) such as those shown in the photographs were not adopted until 1881. Therefore, period lamps, hung from the ceiling or attached to the walls, would be appropriate.

4. Stoves: Two heating stoves, Army Cast Iron Wood Heater No. 1, as shown in the appendices and photographs, would be perfect. However, if such cannot be found, period stoves would suffice. In addition, wood boxes, pokers, ash shovels, and ash buckets were found near the stoves, which were shielded according to Fort Laramie G. O. No. 58, December 7, 1875, quoted above.

5. Hook Strip: A hook strip similar to those shown in the photographs should run around the room approximately six feet from the floor.

6. Wardrobes or Shelves: The full length wardrobes shown in the squad room illustrations were probably not adopted until the 1880s. The simple shelves with muslin or calico curtains also shown in the photographs would have been typical in the 1870s and should thus be employed in the dormitory.

7. Footlockers: Various styles of footlockers are shown in the dormitory photographs. Most of them date from the 1880s, but some are patterned according to the 1875 order which made footlockers standard barrack items. The Fort Laramie footlockers should be modeled according to this order and the man's name stenciled on the side as in the illustration. The order reads:

The Quartermaster Department will provide, in all permanent barracks, a box or a locker for each soldier in which to store his full dress uniform and extra clothing. The box or locker will be of the following dimensions: length 24", breadth 12", height 10". To be constructed of pine, 3/4" thick, with iron hinges 10" in length and 1-1/2" in width, together with suitable staple and hasp. Each man will provide his own padlock. The boxes will be permanent fixtures of the barracks. [40]

8. Tables and Chairs: As already noted, there were no standard barrack tables or chairs in 1876. Tables and chairs were either made by the quartermaster department at the post or purchased locally. The chairs shown in the photographs were standard barrack chairs for which the first specifications were published in 1878. They could be used as models.

9. Gun Rack: The circular gun rack shown in the photographs was not adopted until 1880 (Ordnance Note No. 125). In 1876 guns were stored in the squad room in wall racks. No documentation of the style or location of these racks was found; therefore, conjectural racks will have to be designed.

10. Spittoons: Spittoons were standard features in the dormitory. They were made of any available box or shipping tin and usually filled with sand.

11. Water Cooler: A water cooler, which was company property and thus carried the company letter, was found in the dormitory. A cooler such as that shown in the Fort Leavenworth squad room photograph would be appropriate.

12. Water Barrel, Buckets, and Axes: Regulations required that a water barrel, at least six buckets, and axes would be located in the dormitory. All these items were of the period.

13. Miscellaneous: As shown in the photographs, miscellaneous items such as cupboards, a clock, and pictures were found in the dormitory. A wide variety of common and individual items may be selected to add color to the room and a sense of the individuality of the men who lived there.

14. Uniform: The principal uniform pieces have already been discussed in conjunction with the cook's and first sergeant's rooms. A description with illustrations of the uniform as of 1876 plus various ad hoc innovations would be a study in itself and thus go beyond the limits of this furnishings study. Various uniform pieces would have been found in the squad room as shown in the photographs. The following sources are helpful in determining each item of clothing:

a. C. O. No. 92, Adjutant General's Office, October 26, 1872, contains a description of the uniform adopted when the Civil War clothing stocks were depleted or had deteriorated.

b. Don Kloster, Military Collector and Historian, Winter 1962 and Spring 1963. Mr. Kloster discusses clothing, camp, and garrison equipage and his two articles contain many illustrations of various items. The Smithsonian Institution has samples of most clothing articles and has offered to be of as much help as they can.

c. James S. Hutchins, "The Cavalry Campaign Outfit at the Little Bighorn," Military Collector and Historian, Winter 1956, pp. 91-101. This is probably the best study of the period uniform and should be a great help.

d. The Quartermaster records in Record Group 92 at the National Archives is a primary source for clothing items. The following are especially helpful:

1. Annual Reports of the Quartermaster General

2. "Specifications," MS, Preliminary Inventory Number 1341; contains "specs" of many uniform items in addition to other clothing, camp, and garrison articles. Specifications were first adopted in 1875 and added to thereafter. According to Mr. Don Kloster, many specifications adopted after 1875 were simply a standardization of items already in service. More "specs" are found bound in a book entitled Miscellaneous Quartermaster Specifications.

3. The Quartermaster Consolidated Correspondence File is also a valuable source for the various items of clothing, camp, and garrison equipage. The entire listing is found in Quartermaster Form No. 45 as published in the 1881 Regulations of the United States Army.

On January 19, 1876, Captain James Egan submitted a requisition for clothing for Company K. This requisition was filled by August 1876. Egan's requisition is found in Appendix 5 and is an indication of the uniform items on hand among the company at that time.

15. Accouterments: The principal ordnance supplied items have already been discussed in conjunction with the cook's and first sergeant's rooms. Various items classified in accouterments, equipments, and appendages would have been found in the dormitory as indicated in the photographs. Sources in the National Archives, Record Groups 156 and 336, are:

1. Ordnance Memoranda, especially numbers 18 and 19,

2. The Ordnance Notes,

3. And the Annual Reports of the Chief of Ordnance. In addition Mr. James Hutchins' article noted above is valuable.

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Last Updated: 30-Nov-2009