1919 Transcontinental Convoy: Wyoming’s Harsh Conditions Prove No Match for the Intrepid Crew

August 12, 1919

The U.S. Army’s Cross-Country Motor Transport Train, four days after arriving in Wyoming and making its first stop in the capital city of Cheyenne, continued to snake its way through the south-central part of the Equality State. After camping for the night on a hillside south of the town of Medicine Bow, the convoy headed back on the road at 6:45 a.m. on August 12.

The convoy had arrived in the vicinity of Medicine Bow the previous day, having taken nearly 12 hours to travel 59 miles (95 kilometers) from Laramie after a two-night stayover in that city. During the course of their journey on August 11, the convoy’s participants encountered both light rain and a hail storm. There were also high winds throughout the day. Along with dealing with the weather, the soldiers on the convoy had to contend with daunting manmade challenges on the route between Laramie and Medicine Bow.

“Wyoming roads west of Cheyenne are poor dirt ones, with weak culverts and bridges,” asserted Lieutenant Colonel Dwight D. Eisenhower in a report on the transcontinental trip that he submitted later that year to the chief of the Motor Transport Corps. The experiences of the convoy on August 11 underlined Eisenhower’s observations about the state’s infrastructure several times over. “Bridges were generally poor,” noted First Lieutenant Elwell R. Jackson in his log entry for the day, “and 12 wooden bridges were reinforced by Engineers with lumber furnished by Wyoming State Highway Dept.”

Despite the hard work, the convoy participants’ time in the Medicine Bow area proved to be a welcome respite. The residents of Medicine Bow treated the soldiers to a barbecue at the town’s celebrated Virginian Hotel. Other activities on that Monday evening included a street dance.

After resuming their journey on August 12 for a 62-mile (99.8-kilometer) trek to the community of Rawlins, the convoy’s participants again found themselves faced with various ordeals both beneath the wheels of the vehicles and from the surrounding air. “Some dangerous trails at natural grades: in general very tedious going,” wrote Jackson.

As Jackson also recounted, the combination of a 40 mile-per-hour (64.4 kph) gale, “extremely dry atmosphere and intense sandy dust entailed considerable hardship.” The soldiers also spent the day using additional lumber from the Wyoming State Highway Department, this time to reinforce a dozen more wooden bridges and rebuild two others.

For more information on the travels of the U.S. Army’s transcontinental motor convoy through Wyoming, please check out https://www.wyohistory.org/encyclopedia/eisenhowers-1919-road-trip-and-interstate-highway-system and http://www.wyomingtalesandtrails.com/lincoln1a.html.

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