"Bent's New Fort"
USGS Aerial Photograph

Bents New Fort Colorado

     First known as Fort William, and then as Bent's Fort, the second stockade became one of the most prominent landmarks along the Santa Fe Trail. It was built of stone and a smaller trading post. The size was 180 feet long and 135 feet wide, with 15 foot high walls that were four feet thick. Cannons were in the bastions at the southwest and northwest corners. Cactus was planted on the tops of the walls to discourage climbers.

     This trading post was a rendezvous for Fremont's expedition to the Rockies, Kearney's march to Santa Fe and Price's Mexico column. It lasted until 1852 when William Bent, bitter over his unsuccessful attempts to sell it at his price to the Federal government, moved his gear out in 20 wagons and blew up the first Bent's Fort.

     The chronology continues with this, Bent's "New" Fort, 30 miles to the east and on a bluff overlooking the Arkansas River. Here he built a smaller version of his adobe establishment. It stood on a point so that it could be approached only from the north. The 16 foot high stone walls surrounded a dozen rooms and a large central court. A 55 foot long ware house was inside. Although it had no bastions, it retained the cannon of the earlier fort and these were mounted on the corners of the roof.

     Bent's reputation of fair dealing followed him and his trade kept up at the same pace as before. Then in 1859, the Army moved nearby and hinted that it might like to stay. Noting the damper that this put on his trading, Bent suggested that the Army might like to buy him out. Major John Sedgwick concurred.

     "I would strongly suggest that it be purchased," Sedgwick wrote in reference to the fort, "both for the convenience and the economy. It is offered for sale for $12,000, and I do not think that the government can put up such a work for that money."

     In 1860 Bent's New Fort became Army, but only on a lease basis: at $65 a month. Contrary to some historians, the Army never bought the fort. It paid the rent for a couple of years, then determined that Bent was only a squatter on Indian lands without legal title.

     The Army first re-named the place to Fort Faunterloy, after a Dragoon officer, then Fort Wise, after the governor of Virginia. It used the stone stockade principally as a commissary and quartermaster storehouse. The center of Fort Wise was built by Sedgwick's 350 men on the low ground next to the Arkansas a mile away.

Bents New Fort Colorado




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