Fort Laramie National Historic Site
As long as you behaved yourself and performed your duty as a soldier, you got along alright.Sergeant Perley S. Eaton, 3rd Cavalry
Few soldiers completed their enlistments without experiencing the military justice system. Minor infractions resulted in "company punishment," non-regulation punishments that usually consisted of extra duty assignments, restrictions to quarters, and unpleasant fatigue details.Court martial routinely imposed fines, confinement, and hard labor sentences for crimes committed. Losing or selling government property, being absent without leave, using abusive language, and conduct "prejudice of good order and military discipline" were common offenses here.Alcohol was responsible for most breaches of discipline at Fort Laramie. Fists flew with monotonous regularity, particularly after paydays when soldiers could afford to purchase a drink. The post surgeon lamented: Paymaster Gibson arrived this morning and paid the troops in the afternoon. As a necessary consequence the number of patients in the Hospital was at once increased; with nothing, however more serious than a broken rib or two, several sprains, and bruises with a few scalp wounds . . .
Brutal, degrading, and panful punishments were regularly imposed prior to the Civil War. Prisoners could be strung up by their thumbs or force marched about the post for hours with heavy logs or weighted knapsacks on their backs. Flogging and branding were common punishments for desertion during this period.Guard Mount
Morning guard mount involved much pomp and ceremony. Enlisted men detailed to guard duty were marched to the parade ground and inspected. Once satisfied, the sergeant of the guard assigned guards to supervise prisoner labor details, patrol the area around the fort, and man established guard posts beside critical buildings.Men performed guard duty as frequently as once or twice a week, relieving each other every two hours for the duration of their 24-hour shift. During relief they rested on a simple wooden "rack" with straw mattresses, fully clothed with the exception of hat, gloves, and weapon.The guardhouse in front of you was built in 1866 to hold 40 prisoners in the cells below and house the guard detachment on the upper floor. Furniture was not provided for prisoners and cells were unheated. Prisoners ate, slept, and frequently performed all necessary human functions in the guardhouse.