Journey into the Past at Bent’s Old Fort

Trader Camp at Bent’s Old Fort


The National Park Service is offering an opportunity for visitors to “step back in time” and glimpse the sights, sounds, and smells of life as it might have been 172 years ago at Bent’s Fort on the Santa Fe Trail for our Military Encampment.

1847 was a year when things continued to go badly for Bent, St. Vrain, & Company, starting with the assassination of Governor Charles Bent during the Taos Revolt, followed later in the year by the deaths of William Bent’s wife Owl Woman, and his brother George. Due to increased military traffic, game growing scarce, and the rapid spread of diseases among the Plains Tribes, hostilities had exploded along the trail. 1847 also brought former trapper and trader Tom “Brokenhand” Fitzpatrick’s appointment as the first Indian Agent for the Upper Platte and Arkansas Indian Agency, which would be headquartered at Bent’s Fort. His task often put him and his subordinates at odds with the goals of the troops, resulting in a great deal of friction.

On Saturday, August 24th the fort will be occupied by its regular laborers, clerks, cooks, traders, and hunters; however there will be the addition of volunteer soldiers nearby representing Gilpin’s Volunteers. Authorized by the War Department and recruited in Missouri, Gilpin’s men were organized to patrol the Santa Fe Trail while the regular army and other volunteers were still fighting in Mexico. The unit was ill equipped and poorly supplied, and assigned to a thankless job of trying to protect commerce on the frontier. Lt. Col. Gilpin, later Colorado’s first Territorial Governor, had no clear chain of command to report to.

Come learn about these truly citizen soldiers that served in what became Colorado. Participants will be speaking to visitors as if they are living in 1847. Feel free to interact with the soldiers in their camp and the fort’s civilian residents as they go about their daily tasks. See what it took to be a soldier on the frontier. Ask one of the civilians what it was like to have the military nearby. Most of all enjoy your time at the fort as you learn about the fascinating people that once made history here.

The park is open from 8:00 am to 5:30 pm. More information is available at the park’s website, click on “Plan Your Visit,” then “Calendar” or you can stop by or call the park at (719) 383-5026. A Special Event Fee of $5 per person will be charged for all visitors aged 6 and up.

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