Best Preserved Frontier Fort in the West - Fort Larned Old Guard Newsletter

Fort Larned Old Guard Approaches Its 10th Anniversary
     For almost 10 years, the Fort Larned Old Guard (Fort Larned Old Guard) has been providing support to Fort Larned NHS. The Old Guard was born on December 3, 1988, when a group of friends met at the Fort.

     Charter board members included Bill Chalfant, Hutchinson; Al Campbell, Larned; Ron Parks, Topeka; Ruth Olson (Peters), Larned; Leo Oliva, Woodston; Gary Thomas, Wichita; Steve Coen, Wichita; and Chuck Smith, Great Bend. George Elmore, Carl Immenschuh, Bonita Oliva and Ruth Snell were among the several interested and helpful bystanders.

     Prior to the organizational meeting, FLNHS Superintendent Jack Arnold and Joe Snell (recently-retired executive director of the Kansas State Historical Society) had drafted bylaws and a memorandum of agreement that would be signed jointly by the Old Guard and National Park Service. Snell served as the Old Guard's chairman of the board until the spring of 1991.

     As a not-for-profit tax-exempt organization, FLOG's stated purpose was---and is---"to provide support for Fort Larned National Historic Site beyond that given by the federal government." In its first decade of operation, the Old Guard has made its presence felt in a variety of ways.

     It has helped fund a variety of Fort projects and events through the sale of reproduction Army coffee cups, commissions and enlistments, and reprints of The Plains (Fort Larned's 1865 newspaper).

     The Old Guard's largest contribution to date has been the purchase of a restored Rucker U.S. Army ambulance. With the generous cooperation of the Jordaan Foundation in Larned, Fort Larned Old Guard was able to add the rare 1870s-era vehicle to the historic scene at Fort Larned.

1870s era Rucker U S Army Ambulance
Photos Courtesy of Fort Larned NHS Research Collection
1870s era Rucker U S Army Ambulance

     In addition to OUTPOST, the Old Guard sponsors an annual meeting the first Saturday in April. Programs have ranged from Native American speakers and military impersonators to a 19th-century dinner theater and a fly-in by 20th-century Army helicopters.

'Libby' Custer, 7th Cavalry Survivor
     As indelibly and almost as deeply as her husband, Elizabeth Bacon Custer stamped her mark on the 7th U.S. Cavalry.

     She was a tiny, slender, dark-haired beauty, well educated, socially adept, and completely devoted to her husband. However they regarded George Custer, most acquaintances liked and admired "Libby." She in turn, conscious of her obligations as wife of the commanding officer, worked hard at promoting harmony, solidarity, esprit, and simple good times in the regiment.

     Born on April 8, 1842, in Monroe, Michigan, Libby enjoyed an early life of comfort and quiet refinement as the daughter of one of the town's leading citizens, Judge Daniel Bacon. As youths, Libby and George Custer, an Ohio boy who lived occasionally with his half-sister Lydia Reed, did not come to know each other, because the Reeds were far beneath the Bacons' social level. But Captain Custer of General McClellan's staff was another matter, and the courtship, conducted furtively in 1862-63, finally overcame Judge Bacon's resistance, especially after Captain Custer became General Custer. They were married in Monroe on February 9, 1864.

     The 13-year marriage of Elizabeth and George Custer is one of history's great love stores. She submerged herself completely in him and his career. Unlike most Army wives, she followed him wherever the flag took him, to muddy bivouacs in Virginia, remote and vermin-infested frontier forts, and tent homes in Kansas and the Dakotas. Indeed, she went places where she should not have gone and where her presence interfered with or even endangered the conduct of military affairs. In return, Custer lavished on her a love approaching worship, placing her at the center of almost every thought and act and devoting himself tirelessly to her happiness.

     Widowed by the Little Bighorn battle at the age of 34, Libby spent the next 57 years---the balance of her long life---extolling her "Antie" and defending him against critics. In three books Boots and Saddles, 1885; Following the Guidon, 1890; and Tenting on the Plains, 1893 she wrote vividly of frontier life in the 7th Cavalry while also glorifying its commander. As one critic has written: "(Her books) projected the Custer image that she wanted the American people to accept." And most people did--until other interpretations began to take root.

     Elizabeth Custer survived well into the 20th century. She died in New York City on April 6, 1933, just shy of her 91st birthday--and after lobbying Congress for a museum at the Little Bighorn battlefield. She was buried beside her husband in the post cemetery at West Point.

     Adapted from Life in Custer's Cavalry, edited by Robert M. Utley (Yale University Press 1977)

Greetings From Fort Larned
     I hope you will be able to attend the Fort Larned Old Guard annual encampment on April 25, 1998.

     As you can tell from the enclosed information, you won't want to miss this year's encampment. Throughout the day, living-history stations will be open. Additionally, there will be cavalry demonstrations, the aroma of baking bread, and the opportunity to visit a large Indian village.

     Prior to supper, there will be the opportunity to visit with various authors and attend a discussion by noted artist, Jerry Thomas. Lieutenant Governor Gary Sherrer is our invited guest of honor for the evening meal. With the co-sponsorship of the Kansas Arts Commission, you will be able to enjoy the presentation "Boots and Saddles: The Life and Times of General Custer's Wife" by Van Ann Moore, accompanied by Raul Gomez. After the meal, you'll have a glimpse of the past as unseen bystanders at the Indian village.

     For your convenience, we have enclosed a meal order form in this copy of Outpost. As you will note, we are offering a selection of menus all of which will include fresh-baked bread from the post bakery!

     Please return your meal reservation as soon as possible. As in the past, we will be opening this encampment to the general public and anticipate a large response for this outstanding program. Don't wait-please respond by April 17.
Wayne H. Hagerman, Fort Larned Old Guard Chairperson

Letters From Fort Larned, Part 5
     This is the final installment of letters written by John Morrill at Fort Larned. Morrill, a member of the 48th Wisconsin Infantry, arrived at Fort Larned in the fall of 1865. During his stay in Kansas, Morrill wrote regularly to his family in Jackson County, Wisconsin.

     Morrill's correspondence is part of the collection of the Kansas State Historical Society in Topeka. With the exception of added paragraphing, the letters appear as written.

Tuesday, November 21, 1865
Dear dear Wife & Children,

     "I seat my self once more to speak to you through the silent language of the pen & situated as We are it is a great blessing to us. I received your letter mailed the 31st Ult yesterday and was verry glad you had got a man to help you & that you was getting along well. My health is good. good Spirits & good appetite & Good cook. if my cook should get sick I could not relish the cooking of any one else at the post I do not think. therefore it behooves me to take good care of the Cook.

     "You cautioned me not to worke to hard. I have not enough to do to furnish a respectable amount of exersise. I will tell you about all I have to do, is to cut wood for my stove after it is drawn (& Sam does some of that) & do my own cooking. yesterday in the afternoon I did put some pockets into my overcoat. The business in the Office does not occupy but a verry small portion of my time yet I have to be about most of the time so that if there is anything wanted to attend to it yet. I can go out & run about some of the time.

     "my duty is verry light indeed so do not worry about that. If the weather is rough I stay by the stove if pleasant I can go out & cut wood and get some ahed & pile it up behind the stove & I am all arright in that direction. I think I shall have to come home soon for I used up all my thread I brought with me yesterday puting in my pockets.

     "You asked me if I expected we should stay out here all winter. it is a direct question. I told Sam last evening I did not intend to have broached that question at all, as the military is rather uncertain but as it is a direct question I am duty bound to answer it.

     "We do not expect according to orders & moovements to stay here all winter. We expect to be relieved next month sometime in the month. we may be disappointed but I think not but it will take us quite a time to get home after we start but be off good cheer. I will apprise you when we do moove & I shall get along as fast as I can. The boys from that vicinity are all well. M D Buell came up here on escort saturday & is here yet (Tuesday). his health is good now. he is with me now comes in and chats considerable portion of the time. staid with us last night. you may wish to know how we can accommadate our friends. we have a quantity of blankets belonging to Gov in the Office & a plenty of room. he draws rations does not board with me. will probably go back tomorrow or next day. is waiting for their team to return. it went on to Ft Dodge.

     "There were four Indians come into camp on Sunday. the first I have seen come in to see if they could be permited to come in & trade. said they were camped 2 days ride frome here South of the Arkansas River. they staid in camp all night. they Were the first I have seen, they appeared reder than those in our vicinity. I believe they belonged to the Paw nee tribe.

     "The weather here is verry pleasant indeed since we had that rough spell of weather.

     "Well I have been out and got my beef since I pened the above & put it on to cook. you may think I did not want to let you know that we were coming hoome soon. that is not so. I would be verry glad to let you know that but I do not know it yet. it is not a fixed fact. therefore I did not want to have you look for me & get disappointed but I hope we shall not get disapponted yet we are liable to disappontement but I hope in this case we shall realise our expectations & I think we shall. the men are all anxious to return to their homes

     "Well I have been out & Looked arround a little & suned a while now I guess I will finish my letter. The Officers sent off & got a little printing Press. it arrived yesterday. I suppose they will publish a big paper. I will send you one if they get the thing to running. they are flying arround seting it up. I got an invitation to write something for it but I declined at presant. I suppose when they leave they will sell out to their successors. Success to the Press.

     "In relation to the Wood lot tell Chauncey to wait until I come home which I an inhopes will not be verry long. Get your selves well provided for winter & get along as well as you can. I presume it will be lonesome but you must try & render your selvs as comfortable & happy as posable. you know we live in the future in antisipation. that is what buoys our Spirits up and keeps us mooving forward.

     "I can read your letters Olive first rate. you must take good care of Dimes little kits. keep them fat. you must write often. the boys must write to and tell all the news. you can learn to write in a little while now so you can write good. Take good care of the Stock. if I get home I shall want [to] use the horses. I do not know as I shall want to but will be under the necesity of doing so to get thing in shape to farme next Summer. if I could Start from here a private citazen it would not take verry long to travel home after getting to Leavensworth. If it was not quite so far I would invite you in to take dinner with me some day but you would be late home in the evening as it is rather a long walk. you must all take the best care of your selvs that circumstances will permit. look well to you health & cumfort.

     "From Your affectionate Husband & Father JOHN MORRILL"

Sunday, December 3, 1865
Dear Wife & Children

     "It is a cold Windy Windy night. the weather has been verry pleasant Indeed since we had the snow storm & cold weather in October. Until last night it commenced to rain in the night. did not rain much. rained a little this morning and the wind has blown raw & Cold all day from the N.E. with some mist. towards night it began to grow cold. & now the wind blows strong from the N.E. & it is freezing quite fast. it is a rough night for the gards. I get rid of that duty can retire to rest any time I please, which is quite a privaledg in the army. I have not posted gards but one day & night since we left Lawrence the 6th of Sept. I am alone this evening as Sam is on duty but he does not have to stand gard as he is a Corp. I have been along through the day (It is Sabbath) excep callers. Sam has been in several times but not to stop & there has been several others in to make short Stops.

     "You may want to know what I have to eat. I will give you to days rotine the others are about the same, except the beans for which potatoes are substituted mostely & ocasional Pancakes instead of Short. For breakfast Tea Beans Bread Applesauce & cake, for Dinner Potatoes Boild Beef Bread & Applesauce & [-?-] Supper Tea, Short cake & Sweet cake so you see there is no reason to complain of the fare especially for a Soldier. And such an appetite to eat it why I can eat & eat & the eat more.

     "You may think it is dear eating to eat potatoes Judging from the market price which I sent you last week. But that is Citizens price. the Gov sent potatoes & onions her which they sell to Soldiers for the following prices; potatoes 2 cts a pound, Onions 2 1/2 so you see Soldiers have some privaledges. I manage to make the rations feed me by turning them arround some. We are looking for our relief now everry day and I think ere I mail this I can announce their arrival. but do not know. The Col was in last evening & talking in relation to turning over the Stores here (and these are all there is to detain us) he thought we could put on force enough to handle over & Count all in 1/2 day. we would not put them back in place, But Posably they will take them at our count which will obviate the necesity. I hope it is so. But we shall not tarry verry long after they do arrive, you may rest assured. The Col says he killed time coming out. he is aoging to kill meuls going back. I am inhopes that I shall be able to tell you more about the time when we shall leave here before I close this. It is doutful if I write again from this Point.

     "The Indians have got to be quite frequent visitors at the Post. the first that Came in was 2 weeks ago to day 4 Appaches. they dresssed & fed them well and there has been quite a number in since yesterday about noon. there was about 12 or 14 of the left which had been in & Stoped over night & there was about as many more of the Shians came in. Sam has just came in & says our relief [h]as arrived at Zarah 35 miles from here. will probably be here tuesday night good night for to night As I shall have a plenty of time to sleep. I will write you a little more. The Hospital Stewart just came in. he says our relief will be here tommorrow by 2OCIock. 2 co[mpanie]s will Stop at Zarah & 3 come here. there is but 5 cos of them they have 30 teams it is stated good, more soon

     "Still later 8 PM the Courier from Zarah just made me a call. says the relief will be here tommorrow night with transpotation enough so we can all ride back good again.

     "Well it is now tuesday evening & I will write you a few more lines from this post. it is the last I shall probably write you from this point. our relief arrived last evening about 4 OClock & to day we have been turning over the Stock. the men voluntered liberally & we made things moove. they took many of the boxes at our count & we got through about 3 OCIock, we got through Invoicing & my home & Stock are now in possession of other hands. I shall lodge here with them tonight & early tomorrow morning we Shall turn our faces homewards. we shall make the best time we can. In conversation with the Colonel I said to him it looked likely to Snow. he said he did not care, it might Snow hail or any thing if we could only get started home out of this God forsaken hole he wanted, something to break the monotany. we are now in readiness to start early tomorrow Providence Permitting. I shall write you from deferant points as I have opportunity & will write our Progress. My respts to all

     "From your Affectionate husband and Father JOHN MORRILL

     "PS Dec 6 We are still at Larned storm Staid it commenced to snow last night about dark. Stormed all night & most of the day to day & I seldom ever saw a harder storm in any place. we shall probably start tommorrow. I shall write you more ere I close this now as I can carry this to Zarah in advance of the mail more soon

     "Mon 7th We start this morning Weather cold"

Sunday, December 10, 1865 Fort Ellsworth
Dear Wife & Children

     "We are comeing. left Larned thursday. have been on the road 4 days and now have already made near 80 miles towards Leavensworth. We designed to have started Wednesday but we had a furious now storm thursday. it was exceedingly cold a cold north wind with about 8 in of snow on the ground & no track except the Stage which left in advance of us. several of the boys froze their feet a verry little but one froze his so that he could not travel. I did not dred the days but feared I should lay cold nights but the 2 nights that I have been out I have slept perfectly warm (one night at Zarah I went into their holes with them) & I dout if we have a colder night than the first one out from Larned. it is now warmer & Looks some like rain. I will tell you how we march. there is in the train 30 -- 6 mule team 2 -- 4 mule anbulances, there is 6 teams assigned to Each Co & they put a portion of their baggage into each wagon & then placce a noncommisioned officer in charge of Each of the wagons & devide the men up amongst the wagons. about half of them can ride at a time so they change. a portion rides awhile & then they get out and the balance ride so they do not get tired although the walking is hard. I shall not mail this until I get to Saline 35 miles from here. We travel as though we were going into the woods. the easiest way they can put their gun & accouterments into the wagons & then travel as they can best get along. No military form about going to or leaving camp -- no gards day or night so you see the Col makes it as easy for the men as posable. I do not no how long we hall have to stop at Leavensworth but I think not verry long & ere you get this we shall probably be there so I think you had better not write any more there. I will direct as soon as I find out where we go from there. Suppose we shall go to madison may go to Milwauke. There is not much of interest now to write. only we are coming & the boys from that vicinity are all well.

     "Saline 14 Weather cold. about 1 foot snow. We are getting along as well as could be expected. will reach Ft Riley if we have good Saturday or Sunday. all well Yours in haste from your Affectionate Husband & Father JOHN MORRILL"

     As he headed toward home Morrill wrote at least two more letters from Kansas. On December 18 he was in Manhattan; Christmas Day he was at Fort Leavenworth. There Morrill and the rest of the 48th Wisconsin were mustered out of the service.

     According to his December 25 letter, he was headed to Madison, Wisconsin, where he hoped to be by the first of January. As he neared the end of his stay in Kansas, he concluded one of his letters: "have made nearly 20 miles more we shalll soon get into America."

Printing The Past
     The Fort Larned library now boasts a microfilm reader-printer. The new machine makes it easy for park staff and researchers to make copies from the library's microfilm collection.

Summer Education Encampment
     This will be the fourth year for our summer education program at Fort Larned NHS. We plan to have two sessions this year, June 8-12 and July 13-17.

     Each morning for a week, youth from ages 11 through 13 will relive the life and times of the people on the Plains during the Indian Wars. They will experience life through the eyes of soldiers, post school children and Plains Indians. If you know of potential "recruits" for our summer education encampments, please have them call us at 620-285-6911.

New Old Stoves
     Thanks to special funding from Southwest Parks & Monuments Association, Fort Larned now has two "new" old cast-iron stoves. Both are in beautiful condition and will eventually be placed in buildings at the Fort.
Contributed by FLNHS staff members.

Fresh-Baked Bread To Be Featured At Old Guard Dinner
     Really fresh Army bread will be featured at the Old Guard banquet April 25,1998.

     Beginning early that afternoon pans containing eight loaves will start coming out of the wood-fired brick oven in the shops building. The bread will be available for tasting through the afternoon and will be on the menu with the stew at dinner in the evening.

     The bake oven was dedicated at the Old Guard banquet in April 1997. With that initial baking, some serious cracks developed. Those were repaired and the oven performed well several times through the summer and fall.

     The bread dough is made from an adaptation of an Army recipe from the late 1870s. The original recipe was measured in 100-pound sacks of flour and quarts of water. It began with starter instead of yeast.

     Somewhere in the translation between the huge Army recipe and a size manageable in a modern kitchen, some of the quantities got out of proportion so it now takes a little fiddling to get it to result in bread.

     The key to developing its great flavor is the leisurely process involved. It starts with a sponge of flour, water and yeast. After additions of more flour, water, and a bit of salt and three risings, the loaves are formed, coated with lard and allowed to rise one more time. Pans with eight loaves weighing just over a pound each spend about half an hour in the bake oven.

     The Army baked up to 300 loaves a day when Fort Larned was at full complement, but cooks weren't allowed to serve the bread fresh. Believing that fresh bread was unhealthy, they let the loaves age a day or two in large cupboards before issuing them. Poor quality flours, uncertain yeasts and starters, and incomplete baking may have contributed to that theory.

     Today we have more reliable flour and yeast and view fresh-baked bread as a real treat. Come, enjoy a taste of history with bread from Fort Larned's brick oven on April 25.
Contributed by Margaret Linderer, Fort Larned Old Guard member and Fort Larned National Historic Site VIP.

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