Fort Caspar Museum Honors Fallen Soldiers of 1865 with New Headstones: A Tribute to the Past

By Trish Svoboda

The Fort Caspar Museum Association and Fort Caspar Museum invite the public for a dedication ceremony to honor nine soldiers from the 11th Kansas Volunteer Cavalry who lost their lives while stationed at Platte Bridge, now known as Fort Caspar, in 1865. New cenotaph headstones have been installed as a tribute to these individuals. In most cases, their remains have not been found as they were laid to rest along the old telegraph route that they were assigned to safeguard.

This free event will feature speeches by Elizabeth Jennings, a resident of Casper and a descendant of Private Adam Culp of the 11th Kansas Volunteer Cavalry, who is commemorated with one of the nine headstones. Colton Sasser, a fellow Casper resident, Army veteran of the Afghanistan war, and Purple Heart awardee, will discuss the importance of paying tribute to veterans of the past and the relevance of their service in today’s context. After the speeches, a folded flag will be presented to the families of the deceased soldiers. Attendees are encouraged to explore the museum and view a special exhibit featuring a tintype portrait of Private William Bonwell and his unfinished letter to his mother. This letter was sent to Bonwell’s family after he was killed in a conflict with Native Americans on June 3, 1865. Private Bonwell is among the nine soldiers commemorated with a headstone in this initiative.

The placement and dedication of these nine headstones mark the initial stage of a multi-tiered project aimed at paying tribute to all those who lost their lives while serving at Fort Caspar. This endeavor began in the 1970s with the installation of eleven headstones for soldiers from the 11th Ohio Volunteer Cavalry. The project remained incomplete until it was resumed in 2021 to secure headstones for members of the 11th Kansas Volunteer Cavalry, 6th West Virginia Veteran Volunteer Cavalry, 6th Michigan Cavalry, 7th Iowa Cavalry, 6th U.S. Infantry, 18th U.S. Infantry, and additional soldiers from the 11th Ohio Volunteer Cavalry. Upon completion, the site will feature approximately 50 headstones, complemented by a walkway and a bench for reflection.

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