Fort Laramie National Historic Site
"I am beginning to think the soldiers . . . know better how to handle pick and shovel than they do a gun . . ."Private George W. McAnulty,Fort Laramie, W.T., 1878 " . . . nothing worries a soldier more than doing the dirty [work] about the post."Private Paul Lindsley Mulford,7th U.S. Cavalry
The daily routine of the frontier army enlisted man was a highly regimented, never-ending cycle of drills, guard duty, roll calls, inspections, and fatigue details. Isolation, boredom, and monotony most often defined his existence.Fatigue details were a major source of discontent among the troops. Complaining that they were used more frequently as cheap labor than as soldiers, they derisively referred to military posts as "government workhouses."Typical fatigue details included constructing and maintaining roads, telegraph lines, and buildings, lime-making, cutting and milling wood, garbage and night soil disposal, water-hauling, and putting-up hay. Especially unpopular was cutting and storing ice. Ice cutting work was heavy, hard, and invariably performed during the coldest part of the winter. The soldiers' clothing often got wet and froze in contact with the chill air, making it nearly unbearable to wear.Ice Houses
The depressions you see are the remains of an icehouse, one of which is highlighted in the photograph to the left. Soldiers cut blocks of ice from the Laramie River and hauled them by wagon to the icehouses. The ice was stored between layers of straw or sawdust insulation.Constructed partially underground with thick, solid walls and no ventilation, these structures held up to 150 tons of ice. If carefully rationed by the commanding officer, this ice supply could last until September.