Date of Award

Spring 1959

Document Type




First Advisor

Rev. John McCarthy


Fort Shaw existed as a military post between the years of 1867 and 1892. The purpose of this thesis is to present the history of the post in its military aspects during that period. Other aspects are included but the emphasis is on the function of Fort Shaw as district headquarters of the United States Army in Montana Territory.

The reasons behind the establishment of Port Shaw in Montana Territory in the decade of the 1860 's reach back beyond the boundaries of both the date and place of its establishment. Events far from its site had an influence on the post's origin and development, as they did on the whole territory. To be sure, the most basic purpose for the establishment of Port Shaw was the same as that for most western array posts, namely, the protection of the settlers. The frontier was fast becoming a place where even the lawless, Indian and white alike, would be brought into submission to society's ideals. With a growing white population and the increasing Indian resentment an eventual clash was inevitable. In Blackfoot country the situation soon became critical.

“Many factors contributed to the unrest that prevailed in the Blackfoot country during the 1860*s. Certainly a major underlying cause was the Civil War."1 The effects of the Civil War on the frontier were felt in several ways. During the war Federal authorities had a tendency to temporize with the unruly tribes and this policy had bred in the recalcitrant Indians, a feeling of contempt for the U.S. Army, an attitude also generally shared by the white residents of the area. It was often said by them that ten cowboys were worth a company of soldiers. Then, too, the Indians went so often unpunished for their frequent wrongs against white settlers and their property that, when they were not punished for such actions, they reasoned it was because the whites were afraid of them.1 This conclusion of theirs did not result in a more peaceful frontier.

All problems connected with the frontier, as well as those of pacifying and civilizing the Indian tribes, were, of course, secondary to those of the war. During the Civil War the most able government representatives were absorbed into the war effort. The field representatives left in the frontier area were for the most part weak, inept and unexperienced in dealing with the Indians and related affairs. For one period of eighteen months there was no Indian agent at all. 2