private in the Fourth Infantry, Charles Howard served
as photographer for the Stanton Expedition in 1877,
traveling throughout eastern Wyoming, western Nebraska
and into the Black Hills of Dakota Territory.
Charles Howard was born, according his enlistment
record, about 1842 in Rockingham County, Virginia.
He enlisted in the army in Cleveland, Ohio on June
16, 1875 and was described as 5 foot 5 inches tall,
with hazel eyes, brown hair and a dark complexion.
From Cleveland, he was sent to Newport Barracks,
Kentucky and then forwarded to Fort Omaha, Nebraska.
A musician by trade, Howard was assigned to the
Fourth Infantry Band stationed at Fort Bridger,
located in the southwestern corner of Wyoming Territory.
He left Omaha on September 7 with 158 other recruits
and traveled by rail to Carter Station. From there,
the company of recruits marched the eleven miles
south to Fort Bridger, arriving on the afternoon
of September 10, 1875.
Where Private Howard learned his darkroom skills
or obtained his camera is not known. He was soon
active however, producing landscape views of the
Black River Valley and the nearby Church Buttes
in the Green River badlands, as well as views of
Fort Bridger. Howard also produced tintype portraits
for officers, soldiers and their families at the
Life for Private Howard at Fort Bridger was probably
typical of the experience of most soldiers stationed
at frontier posts. Private Howard's duty with the
regimental band however did afford him a few privileges
and an occasional opportunity to travel off the
garrison. In July 1876, for example, he and other
bandsmen were invited to Ogden, Utah Territory,
to perform at the town's centennial celebration.
Private Howard was then granted three days leave
in Salt Lake City. Here he could have obtained additional
photography supplies at establishments such as the
Art Bazaar, the studio of the noted photographer
Charles Savage, before returning to Fort Bridger.
The Stanton Expedition
In the spring of 1877, Captain William S. Stanton,
Chief Engineer for the Department of the Platte,
began preparations for his continued work mapping
the major roads in Nebraska and Wyoming. Hearing
of Private Howard, Stanton wrote to the commanding
officer at Fort Bridger requesting the services
of the soldier. "I have thought it would be
an excellent opportunity to get a set of photographic
views of the posts and the most characteristic features
in the scenery of the regions visited," Stanton
wrote, "including views in the Black Hills
and at the large Indian encampments." The engineering
officer also noted that the photographic expedition
might also be "to the advantage and perhaps
profit of the man himself."
Private Howard was detailed for duty with the expedition,
departing Fort Bridger on June 27, 1877. His camera,
chemicals and developing equipment were forwarded
to Cheyenne shortly afterward, where the expedition
assembled on July 5 to make final preparations for
their departure. In Cheyenne, Howard produced his
first photographs of the expedition, including a
view of the Cheyenne Army Depot. From this collection
of warehouses, army supplies were unloaded from
rail cars and shipped overland to military posts
throughout Wyoming. He also made a least four images
at nearby Fort D. A. Russell. Stanton's expedition
departed on July 11, mapping the road north towards
the Black Hills.
Cavalry Camp near Fort Fetterman, Wyoming Territory.
Photograph by Private Charles Howard,
September 1877. Courtesy Signal Corps Collection (RG
111), Still Pictures Branch, National Archives.
expedition spent two weeks at Fort Laramie and then
continued north, arriving in Deadwood on August
11. The expedition then surveyed the road west from
Deadwood. Shortly after crossing into eastern Wyoming,
the expedition camped near Sun Dance Hill, near
present Sundance, Wyoming. Several members of the
survey part climbed to its summit and Private Howard
photographed the prominent landmark. The expedition
arrived at Cantonment Reno (Fort McKinney) on August
26, where Howard produced several photographs of
the post and its buildings. The expedition then
headed south to Fort Fetterman. Arriving on September
4, Howard also produced images of this post. The
expedition then headed south to Rock Creek Station
on the Union Pacific Railroad and then returned
to Fort Laramie.
The Stanton Expedition next traveled to Camp Robinson
and the Red Cloud Agency, arriving on September
30 just over three weeks after the famed Oglala
war leader Crazy Horse had been fatally bayonetted.
Private Howard produced some of his most important
images of the expedition during their four days
at Camp Robinson. He appears to have also made a
quick trip to nearby Camp Sheridan and the Spotted
The expedition then headed north to the Black Hills
again, this time mapping the northern extension
of the Sidney-Deadwood trail. They returned along
another Black Hills trail, arriving back at Camp
Robinson on October 25, the same day that the Oglala
left the Red Cloud Agency for their new home on
the Missouri River, escorted by two companies of
the Third Cavalry. With winter rapidly descending
on the northern Great Plains, the Stanton Expedition
departed Camp Robinson on October 28, heading south
to Sidney Barracks through four to six inches of
snow. The weary party arrived in Sidney on November
2 where Private Howard produced one of his final
photographs of the expedition. After four months
in the field, the soldiers had mapped some thirteen
hundred miles of trails through western Nebraska,
eastern Wyoming and the Black Hills of Dakota Territory.
"I have made quite a collection of negatives
this season," Private Howard wrote to a friend
at Fort Bridger, "but had a pretty rough trip
After the Expedition
Following the disbandment of the Stanton Expedition,
Private Howard was ordered to Omaha where he remained
for some eight months, printing his photographs.
By early 1878, he had opened his own photographic
studio on Douglas Street and began producing his
images as large format prints as well as stereoviews
and carte-de-vistas. His catalog of views listed
78 images for sale. While in Omaha, Howard apparently
met photographer D. S. Mitchell who had recently
established the Great Western Photograph Publishing
Company with his partner, Joseph H. McGowan. Howard
apparently joined the firm under the name Mitchell,
McGowan & Company who marketed and sold Howard's
views as a set of 43 stereocards called "Military
Posts and Indian Views."
The photographic partnership broke up in the fall
of 1878. McGowan moved to North Platte and Mitchell
opened a new gallery called the Bee Hive Studio
on Sixteenth Street in Omaha. Lacking funds to complete
his survey of military roads, Stanton decided not
to attempt another summer of field work and released
Howard from his service in Omaha. In July 1878,
the photographer/soldier was transferred back to
his old company, now stationed at Fort Sanders near
Laramie, Wyoming. At Fort Sanders, he continued
to take photographs and he reprinted many of the
original Mitchell, McGowan & Company images,
suggesting that he may have kept some of the negatives
when the partnership was dissolved.
Charles Howard completed his enlistment and was
discharged from the Army in June 1880. What became
of him or his negatives after this remains a mystery.
No further documentation of this soldier/photographer
has yet been found.
Examples of Photographs
Only a small number of Private Howard's original
photographs have survived. Here are the known examples:
From Fort Bridger, circa. 1875-77
• Black Fork Valley at Fort Bridger. Brigham Young
• Officers' Quarters, Fort Bridger. American Heritage
• Portrait of Nelson and Edgar Carter, Carter
Collection, Wyoming State Archives.
• Portrait of unidentified child, Carter Collection,
Wyoming State Archives.
From Stanton Expedition, 1877
• Fort Laramie. Denver Public Library and National
• Old Bedlam, Fort Laramie. American Heritage Center.
• Indian Graves near Fort Laramie. Smithsonian Institution.
• Sundance Hill. Denver Public Library
• Fort McKinney. U.S. Military Academy
• Fort Fetterman. Nebraska State Historical Society
• Camp of 2nd Cavalry, Fort Fetterman. Three known
copies: Signal Corps Collection (RG111), National
Archives; Daughters of the US Army Collection (RG315),
U.S. Army Military History Institute; private collection.
• Group of Officers, Fort Fetterman. American Heritage
• Camp Robinson. U.S. Military Academy and South
Dakota Historical Society.
• Red Cloud Agency. Wyoming State Archives.
• Crow Butte. Denver Public Library
• Arappahoe Chiefs, 'Group'. Denver Public Library
• Gen. Bradley's Quarters, Camp Robinson. Denver
• Group of Officers, Camp Robinson. Denver Public
• Post Sutler Store, Camp Robinson. Denver Public
• Red Dog's Village. Nebraska State Historical Society.
• Beef Issue, at Red Cloud Agency. Nebraska State
• Little Big Man's Tepees, Red Cloud Agency. Smithsonian
• Camp Sheridan, Nebraska. U.S. Military Academy
and Smithsonian Institution.
• Sioux Village on White River. Smithsonian Institution
and Denver Art Museum.
• Minneconjoux Village. Denver Art Museum.
• Beef Issue at Spotted Tail's Agency, Neb. Princeton
University and U.S. Military Academy.
• Spotted Tail's Family. U.S. Military Academy and
Museum of New Mexico
• Crazy Horse's Grave. Bourke Collection, U.S. Military
• Sidney Barracks. Denver Public Library
• Unidentified group, possibly of surveyors on Stanton
Expedition. Private collection. Sold on ebay Dec.
From Fort Sanders, circa. 1878-80
• Officers Quarters, Fort Sanders, Wyoming. American
• Unidentified 3rd Cavalryman. Private Collection.
Published in: Douglas C. McChristian, Uniforms,
Arms, and Equipment: The U.S. Army on the Western
Frontier, 1880-1892, vol. 1 (Norman, OK: University
of Oklahoma Press, 2007) p. 16 (figure 1.4).
Reprinted Photos by Other Photographers
• Portrait of Brigadier General George Crook, taken
in January 1877 in Cheyenne, Wyoming Territory,
by D. S. Mitchell. Reprinted by Private Charles
Howard. Wyoming State Archives.
• Portrait of Young Man Afraid of His Horses, probably
taken in the fall of 1877 at the Red Cloud Agency,
Nebraska, by D. S. Mitchell. Reprinted by Private
Charles Howard. American Heritage Center.
• Unidentified Apache. Original image taken on Wheeler
Expedition, 1872; reprinted by Charles Howard, Fort
Bridger. Cowan Auctions, June 2007.
1. Register of Enlistments, U.S. Army, vol. 74 p.
91 (microcopy 233 roll 39); Regimental Returns,
4th Infantry, National Archives.
2. Stanton to Flint, June 14 and June 15, 1877,
Press Copies of Letters Sent, Chief of Engineers
Records, Department of Platte (RG 393), National
3. Details of the expedition's movements is based
on "Annual Report of Captain W. S. Stanton,
Corps of Engineers, for the Fiscal Year Ending June
30, 1878," Annual Report of the Secretary of
War, Appendix RR, serial set volume 1846 (Washington,
4. Private Charles Howard to James Carter, dated
"Sydney", Neb., Nov. 3, 1877, Carter Papers,
5. Register of Enlistments, loc. cit.; Federal census
for 1880, Fort Sanders, Albany Co., Wyoming (T9
roll 1454 p. 54B), National Archives.
• "Soldier With a Camera: Private Charles Howard's
Photographic Journey Through Eastern Wyoming, 1877,"
by Ephriam D. Dickson III, Annals of Wyoming,
vol. 77 no. 4 (Autumn 2005) pp. 22-32.
• "Crazy Horse's Grave: A Photograph by Private
Charles Howard, 1877," by Ephriam D. Dickson
III, Little Big Horn Associates Newsletter,
vol. XL, no. 1 (Feb. 2006) pp. 4-5.
• "Capturing the Lakota Spirit: Photographers
at the Red Cloud and Spotted Tail Agencies,"
by Ephriam D. Dickson III, Nebraska History,
vol. 88 no. 1&2 (Spring-Summer 2007) pp. 2-25.