Fort Scott National Historic Site

Fort Scott National Historic Site

Infobox_protected_area | name = Fort Scott National Historic Site
iucn_category =

caption =
locator_x = 150
locator_y = 98
location = Bourbon County, Kansas, USA
nearest_city = Fort Scott, Kansas
lat_degrees = 37
lat_minutes = 50
lat_seconds = 23
lat_direction = N
long_degrees = 94
long_minutes = 44
long_seconds = 02
long_direction = W
area = 17 acres (0.07 km²)
established = October 19, 1978
visitation_num = 25,798
visitation_year = 2005
governing_body = National Park Service

Fort Scott National Historic Site protects 20 historic structures, a parade ground, and five acres (20,000 m²) of restored tallgrass prairie in Bourbon County, Kansas, United States, inside the city of Fort Scott. This site bears witness to this era when the United States was forged from a young divided republic into a united and powerful transcontinental nation. At the fort, the National Park Service preserves, protects, and interprets the nationally significant historic resources related to the opening of the West to white settlement, the Permanent Indian Frontier, the Mexican-American War, Bleeding Kansas, the American Civil War, and the expansion of railroads.


In 1842 Fort Scott was established on the American frontier on the military road between Fort Leavenworth and Fort Gibson. It was established due to the rapid immigration of settlers from the Eastern United States out west. Fort Scott became one of a chain of forts intended to protect the new settlers from the Indians, and protect the Indians from the settlers, as hopes the United States government had of permanent Indian lands west of the Missouri River proved for naught. Fort Scott's most active days were between 1842 and 1853. [Oliva, Leo E. "Fort Scott:Courage and Conflict at the Border" (Kansas State Historical Society, 1996) pg.1]

Army days

The Cherokees of Oklahoma were upset with the presence of Fort Wayne in their proximity. After some delay, it was decided that the soldiers of Fort Wayne would abandon that fort and instead build a new fort between Fort Leavenworth and where Fort Wayne stood. It was hoped it would placate the Cherokee and provide some defense against the rampaging Osages for white settlers and other Indians. On April 1, 1842, some soldiers of Fort Wayne left their fort and on April 22 arrived where Fort Scott would be built, in the Osage Cuestas section of modern-day Kansas. After haggling with the Cherokees to acquire the land, the rest of Fort Wayne's garrison left the fort on May 26 and arrived at the Fort Scott site on May 30. [Oliva pg.1,8,13-15]

Unlike most forts for military use, there were no defensive walls or structure when the fort was first built. Instead, the focus was on building the necessary lodging for the men, animals, and equipment an army post would require. These buildings were on the edges of a 350-foot parade ground. The post quartermaster, Captain Thomas Swords, was in charge of building Fort Scott's structures, and had to deal with the problems of construction of the Kansas prairie, namely having only two bricklayers and three carpenters to rely on, as there were few civilians and most of the soldiers had other duties to perform. Wood was available, but the mill built 1.5 miles away to saw the wood was plagued with lack of wood, skilled labor and working equipment to be truly efficient, and often freak accidents would destroy much of the wood intended for the fort's construction. As a result, only one duplex of the five planned officers quarters (four duplexes and post commandant's house) were built by 1844, and the intended enlisted barracks were not completed as well. Even so, in his 1844 inspection of the fort Colonel George Croghan reported that, in comparison to other frontier forts, he considered Fort Scott "above average". [Oliva pg.17-23,25]

Increasingly, the United States Army was seen as needed more in the Southwest, due to the rising tensions that escalated in the Mexican-American War. Still uncompleted (it still lacked an additional Dragoons' Quarters and the Commandant's House), it was decided, on April 25, 1850, that no more construction would be done at Fort Scott, after eight years and $35,000. By the time it was finished, it was obsolete; three years later, it would be abandoned by the military in favor of the more western Fort Riley. [Oliva pg.28,34]

Life at the fort for the average soldier was "monotonous". Until the permanent structures were built, soldiers had to live in uncomfortable tents. Aside from a few whiskey peddlers and prostitutes, there were few civilians at the fort, save for a few slaves that were owned by officers, including Captain Swords. A shop five miles west in Missouri provided grog, and quite a few courts-martial took place due to some soldiers going AWOL at the shop. Desertions from the fort ranged from 12%-16%, due to boredom, irregular pay, and hatred for military life. There was no combat ever around the fort, making the fort seem more of a frontier village than a military base. Hunting was a popular pastime; according to Captain Swords, "wolf chasing and duck hunting" was the only way one officer could tolerate the place. [ [ Fort Scott National Historic Site - Operating Hours & Seasons (U.S. National Park Service) ] ] [Oliva pg.53,57,61]

Bleeding Kansas

Two years after the army abandoned the fort, the buildings were sold by auction to civilians. Two of the buildings became hotels, each being run by one side of the Bleeding Kansas conflict: Free-Soil at the Fort Scott Hotel and Pro-Slavery at the Western Hotel. Most of the residents in Fort Scott supported slavery, but those in the environs tended to the free-soil side. During this time, Fort Scott would see murder and attempted arson. [ [ Bleeding Kansas ] ]

Army returns

During the great conflict that arose between 1861 to 1865, the fort again saw action as a military post. In August 1861, the Union Army took command of Fort Scott, and readied it for the war times. Troops from Indiana, Iowa, Colorado, Ohio, and Wisconsin would come to the fort, and either stayed by the fort, or traveled farther, to subjugate Missouri, Arkansas, or the Indian Territory. A major supply depot was situated at the fort, and it was the dream of Confederate general Price to capture the town, but the closest the Confederate force came to the garrison was twelve miles. The fort also served as a military hospital and prison until after the war, as in October 1865 the army again left the facilities, and sold what they controlled again by auction. [ [ War! War! War! Fort Scott in the Civil War ] ]

The army would again return on January 14, 1870, when the Post of Southeast Kansas was formed. The Post was based at Fort Scott, but the soldiers camped along the rail tracks. They were sent to protect the railroads and their workers from the settlers who did not want the railroad to evict them from their homes. The settlers began to see the troops as lackeys to the railroads, and considered them the enemy as well. There were some conflicts, and by the spring of 1873 the troops would be pulled away from Fort Scott for good. [ [ Soldier vs. Settler ] ]


On October 19, 1978, Fort Scott became a National Historic Site, encompassing seventeen acres. Today the fort is open throughout the year, save for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years Day. Visitation was 25,528 in 2005. [ [ Fort Scott National Historic Site - Park Statistics (U.S. National Park Service) ] ]

ee also

* Black Seminoles ("Cimarrones")
* Bleeding Kansas
* Buffalo Soldiers from Fort Gibson
* Freedom's Frontier Heritage Area
* Kansas Sampler
* Kansas Territory


* National Park Service: [ Official site]
* [ Freedom's Frontier]
* [ Kansas Territory: Frontier Military Scenic Byway]

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