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Fort Missoula, MT

Fort Missoula was established as a permanent military post in 1877 and built in response to requests of local townspeople and settlers for protection in the event of conflict with western Montana Indian tribes. It was intended as a major outpost for the region; however, area residents also were quite aware of the payroll, contracts, and employment opportunities Fort Missoula would provide. Fort Missoula never had walls; rather, it was an "open fort," a design common for posts located west of the Mississippi. Open forts required troops to take the offensive and actively patrol the areas to which they were assigned.

Two companies of the 7th Infantry arrived June 25, 1877 to build a post for a single infantry company. Construction had barely begun when the Company Commander, Captain Charles Rawn, received orders to halt the advance of a group of non-treaty Nez Perce Indians. The Nez Perce, led by Chiefs Joseph, Looking Glass and others, simply went around the soldiers' hastily constructed earth and log barricade in Lolo Canyon (later called "Fort Fizzle") and escaped up the Bitterroot Valley.

The soldiers from Fort Missoula, along with other elements of the 7th Infantry and local civilians, attacked the Nez Perce camp at the Battle of the Big Hole, and were defeated and besieged. Capt. William Logan, second in command at Fort Missoula, was killed. After the battle, four companies returned to Fort Missoula. In September 1877 Gen. William T. Sherman visited the fort and recommended expanding the one company post to a battalion-sized post. The 7th Infantry troops were replaced by a battalion of the 3rd Infantry in November 1877. The troops from the 3rd Infantry constructed the majority of Fort Missoula, and also repaired 100 miles of the Mullan Road from Missoula to the Idaho border.

The 25th Infantry Regiment arrived at Fort Missoula in May 1888. The regiment was one of four created after the Civil War that were made up of black soldiers with white officers. In 1896, Lieutenant James Moss organized the 25th Infantry Bicycle Corps to test the military potential of bicycles. The corps undertook several short journeys – up the Bitterroot Valley by bicycle to deliver dispatches, north to the St. Ignatius area, and through Yellowstone National Park – before making a 1,900-mile (3,100 km) trip from Fort Missoula to St. Louis in 1897. The Army concluded that while the bicycle offered limited military potential, it would never replace the horse. The 25th Infantry returned to Missoula by train. When the Spanish–American War broke out in 1898, the 25th was one of the first units called to fight. The regiment served bravely in Cuba and the Philippines, but was reassigned to other posts after the war's end.

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