CASPER, Wyo. — The Fort Caspar Museum currently displays gravestones in memorial of 11 soldiers who served at the 19th Century military fort. Over the coming months and years, the museum will work to add graves for dozens of other soldiers.
The 11 headstones already placed outside the museum commemorate 11 members of the 11th Ohio Calvary. Local historian Johanna Wickman said the first headstone was placed in 1970, with the others being added over the following year. Although Wickman said she’s glad those markers were placed, the small number of them didn’t sit right with her.
“I’m not sure if they stopped at 11 as some symbolic gesture since they were a part of the 11th Ohio, or if it was for some other reason,” she said, “but what’s bothered me for a number of years is that there were many, many more than those 11 who died out here. And it wasn’t just the 11th Ohio; we had multiple regiments serve here over the years.”
To memorialize more soldiers who served at Fort Caspar, the museum plans to add several more headstones. Currently, the museum plans to add nine for members of the 11th Kansas Calvary, six for members of the 6th West Virginia and another 20 from the 11th Ohio.
“For the vast majority of these soldiers, they have no headstone anywhere,” Wickman said. “In many cases, their bodies were never recovered, and there’s no graves for them anywhere in the country.”
Among the markers that will be added through this project is one for Adam Culp, a soldier stationed at the fort in the 1860s whose descendants remain in the Casper area to this day.
Wickman said she hopes to see the nine headstones for members of the 11th Kansas Calvary added this summer. However, she said it will likely take much longer for the other headstones to be placed.
Fort Caspar Museum is partnering with the office of Veterans Affairs to put together requests that are then sent to the National Archive, Wickman said. Headstones can’t be placed until the National Archive verifies the request, and that can often take as long as a year for a single request.
“The National Archive pulls up the old enlistment records showing when and where they were killed, basically double-checking the info we put on the form,” she said. “Once they do that, then they can order the marble [for the graves]. … Because these are soldiers from the 1800s and not modern day, and with how busy the National Archive is, it can take a really long time.”
Alongside the addition of several more gravestones, Fort Caspar also has plans to beautify the cemetery, located next to the museum. Wickman said the museum will be adding a walking path, benches and other features to make the space more amenable to foot traffic. As part of the traffic, the existing headstones will also be adjusted, rotated 90 degrees to face the museum, Wickman added.
If all goes according to plan, Wickman said the project will hopefully be completed in late 2026 or early 2027.
Because of the museums’ partnership with the VA, Wickman said that if the National Archive verifies and approves the requests, they will receive the headstones for free. However, the museum will still need to pay for the labor to install the headstones as well as for the beautification efforts.
To that end, Wickman said the museum welcomes donations from the public. People can pick up donation forms in person at the museum or online here.
“Even though we don’t have the remains of these soldiers interred here, my hope is that this project will give these soldiers’ families a place to go to pay respects and a place where all of us can recognize and memorialize them,” Wickman said.