Sunday, August 6, 2017


As I was thinking about what I wanted to blog about this month it occurred to me that three years ago today I received the cover for what would be my first published book, HOME FIRES. And almost 10 full-length books and numerous novellas later, the thrill of the first cover and first book published is still felt when I look back on August 2014.

So much influenced the story of Cord and Olivia from my studies of Civil War history and the American West during the years that followed, to my studies of the Montana Territory. In the past couple blogs, I've shared about Virginia City and Bannock, Montana, both playing a role in HOME FIRES and the sequel (coming in 2018).  But today I wanted to share about Fort Ellis.

This fort played an important role in the development of Bozeman, Montana and in reuniting Cord Matthews and Olivia Bartlett.

Despite its location in the fruitful Gallatin Valley and the labors of early settlers, the future of Bozeman, Montana was anything but certain in its early years. The town’s dependence on the success of nearby mining camps and attacks by local American Indian tribes left many to wonder if the settlement, found in 1864, would thrive or die.  With the establishment of Fort Ellis three miles east of Bozeman, the town witnessed its first surge in growth and development. 

Fort Ellis was established in 1867 in response to the hysteria caused by the murder of John Bozeman, allegedly killed by Blackfeet Indians.   Under the orders of Brigadier General Alfred H. Terry, commander of the Department of Dakota, Captain Robert S. LaMotte and soldiers under his command in the 13th U.S. Infantry constructed the garrison.  It took two years before Colonel A.G. Brackett arrived with two companies of the 2nd cavalry. The cavalry gave the installation the distinction of being the only early cavalry post in Montana.

The fort was named for Colonel Augustus Van Horne Ellis, who was killed at the Battle of Gettysburg.  The soldiers were charged to protect the agriculturally significant Gallatin Valley, area miners, and white settlers, and those traveling on the Bozeman Trail from “aggressive Indians,” mainly the Sioux and Blackfeet.  

Fort Ellis Courtesy of the National Park Service

At its largest, the fort was comprised of three log officers' quarters, seven troop barracks, a hospital, an ammunition storehouse, office building, guard house, mess hall, store house, two granaries, five stables, a bakery, a laundry, a library, a court room, a sawmill, and various workshops.

There are no reported significant conflicts between the soldiers and Sioux or Blackfeet, but January of 1870 saw one of the most tragic events in the fort’s history. Orders from Lt. General Philip Sheridan came to the fort to strike at the Blackfeet and “strike them hard.”  Major Eugene Baker led Fort Ellis troops in a violent attack against a winter camp on the Marias River.

When the gunfire ceased, 90 women, 50 children and 33 men, most elderly and in 40 degree below zero weather, lie dead. Soldiers burned the lodges, destroyed winter provisions and took 140 women and children prisoner. Before the soldiers could get their prisoners to the fort, they found the captives were infested with small pox. In a despicable act, they left the women and children in the bitter elements without food or adequate clothing.

Upon their return to the fort, Baker and his men found they had mistakenly attacked a friendly group of Blackfeet who had recently signed peaceful agreements with the whites. The horrendous massacre was ignored in the West, while Eastern newspapers did not and reported on the event “…which will leave so dark a stain on our history.” 

Col. Baker and soldiers Courtesy of National Park Service

Fort Ellis did play an important role in the economy of Bozeman and the history of the town. At its peak 400 soldiers resided there, rivaling the population of Bozeman. With the sense of security provided by the fort more women and children settled in Gallatin Valley.

Soldiers squandered their pay at local saloons. Businessmen and ranchers also prospered from government contracts for supplies, horses, and beef. One year after the outpost was established Bozeman grew from a village of a dozen log cabins to a town of 150 people with 40 dwellings, three stores, a hotel, a gristmill, a blacksmith shop and two saloons. By 1870, Bozeman was a community of 574 people.

Soldiers from the fort served as escorts for the Northern Pacific Railroad surveying parties, erected telegraph lines, and built roads.  Among the cavalry units stationed at Fort Ellis was the Second United States Cavalry. An officer from the Second, Lt. Gustavus C. Doane, became well known for his exploration of Yellowstone National Park (the first scientific expeditions of Yellowstone).
The post’s importance waned by the 1880s, and in 1886 the government decommissioned the Fort Ellis. All buildings affiliated with the post were eventually demolished or relocated.   

Fort Ellis Marker

As mentioned above, Fort Ellis plays a significant role in my debut publication, HOME FIRES, and in the next installments of the series.  Both the benefits and tragedies of having a fort nearby are felt by the Matthews’ family, as it was by the early settlers of Bozeman, Montana.

Malone, Michael P, Roeder, Richard B. et al. Montana: A History of Two Centuries.  University of Washington Press:  January, 1991.

Cord Matthews sets his sights on the open Montana Territory when the War Between the States rips everything from him including his own heart, Olivia Bartlett. Cord builds a new dream, but a ghost from his past won’t let him forget what his heart wanted most.
Olivia Bartlett, forced to flee her Virginia home and the man who owns her heart, finds new purpose as a nurse to the wounded at Fort Laramie, Wyoming Territory.  But war and separation haven’t diminished her love for Cord Matthews, or her stubborn belief he is coming for her. When tragedy steals another loved one and danger threatens her life, Olivia flees to Montana Territory, seeking refuge.
Reunited on the Montana frontier, can Cord and Olivia hold tight to their love despite the guilt each carries for a past they can’t change and defeat a danger who seeks their destruction?

Kirsten Lynn is a Western and Military Historian. She worked six years with a Navy non-profit and continues to contract with the Marine Corps History Division for certain projects. Making her home where her roots were sewn in Wyoming, Kirsten also works as a local historian. She loves to use the history she has learned and add it to a great love story. She writes stories about men of uncommon valor…women with undaunted courage…love of unwavering devotion …and romance with unending sizzle. When she’s not writing, she finds inspiration in day trips through the Bighorn Mountains, binge reading and watching sappy old movies, or sappy new movies. Housework can always wait.


  1. Thank you for a very interesting post. I love getting these tasty little bites of history at "Sweethearts". So heart-wrenching regarding the Blackfeet horror.

    1. So glad you found it interesting, Gini! The Blackfeet massacre was indeed a black stain on history.

  2. Kirsten, I had no idea HOME FIRES was your first published work. You're certainly off to a great start with your series.
    This was such an interesting blog about Fort Ellis, the mistaken killing of innocent and friendly Blackfoot Indians and I love hearing about Montana.
    I want to wish you continued success and many wonderful adventures ahead.

    1. Thank you so much Sarah! I was so beyond thrilled when this story was published and Cord and Livy are special to me for many reasons. Thanks a million for stopping by and reading the post.

  3. Kirsten, I had not heard about Fort Ellis or the massacre of innocent Blackfeet. Thanks for informing us about that tragedy. Sadly, it was not the only such "mistake" in our history with Native Americans.

  4. Too true, Lyn, this massacre was just one stain. Glad you stopped by!

  5. That is so sad to think we did that to our Am. Indians. Totally heart wrenching. I get so upset when I discover the things we did to them. :-(


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