Fort Sanders, Wyoming, near where the present city of Laramie arose, is the location for significant incidents in the first two books of The Iron Horse Chronicles. Unfortunately, not much remains of this installation. U.S. Highway 287 runs through the old parade ground, which is now surrounded by numerous industrial facilities. Fort Sanders, initially known as Fort Buford, was renamed for Civil War General William Price Sanders, who was killed at the Siege of Knoxville.
Fort Sanders was erected by the U.S. Army in 1866 at a site chosen by General Grenville M. Dodge, the Union Pacific Railroad’s Chief Engineer. Dodge wanted a fort located on the western side of the Laramie Range of the Rocky Mountains to protect the railroad and its workers from Indian raids. The Army had built Fort Halleck on the north face of Elk Mountain farther west to protect the Overland Trail, but the route of the railroad passed too far away from that fort to make it useful. The Army dismantled much of the materials of Fort Halleck and used them to construct portions of Fort Sanders. Only the remnants of two dilapidated structures still exist: the powder magazine and the guard house. Neither building is readily accessible. A turnout on US 287 provides the visitor with the above signboard describing the original installation and providing a brief history.
In Eagle Talons, the first book in the trilogy, Will Braddock and Jenny McNabb return to Fort Sanders after their escape from the Cheyenne village on Lodgepole Creek. In Bear Claws, the second book, Will witnesses the confrontational meeting between General Dodge and Thomas “Doc” Durant, who was vice president and general manager of the Union Pacific. Durant was the equivalent of a CEO in a modern corporation, and he was therefore Dodge’s boss. General Ulysses S. Grant, touring the west on a campaign trip prior to his election as President of the United States, refereed the incident and decided that the route proposed by Dodge was more beneficial to the country than one advocated by Durant. Grant also let Durant know that he expected Dodge to retain his position as chief engineer until the railroad was completed. Durant had no choice other than to comply, because Grant was assured of being elected president and as such would control the purse strings that provided government funding to the Union Pacific.
The disgruntled Durant is sitting on the fence, partially hidden behind the tall white-bearded General Harney in Andrew J. Russell’s famous photograph. Russell posed the participants following the meeting that took place in the Fort Sanders Officers Club. Grant is wearing civilian clothing and a straw hat, with his hands on the picket fence in the center of the picture. General Philip Sheridan stands hat-in-hand to the left of the small sapling next to the woman in the white dress. Dodge is visible in the open doorway.