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

Infantryman Writes From Fort Larned, Part 3
Historical Perspective
     This is the third installment of letters written by John Morrill, a member of the 48th Wisconsin Infantry who 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, Kansas. With the exception of added paragraphing, the letters appear as written. Some references to his farm and other home matters have been omitted.

Tuesday, October 24, 1865

     "It has been a dull damp day. rained some. I have been sitting by the Stove most of the day Reading some old Sentinals we borrowed from the boys. a part of the time talking with those who call in. Mr Hilts has made me quite a visit. just gone out.

     "I have done a little work & but little. my health is getting quite good. there is no news in this place. nuthing to make news of[.] it is the same monotony from day to day. I shall not write but little more. . . .

     "Well Boys I suppose you expected me to write something Interesting to you but as I have not been verry well the past week. be good boys & do as well as you Can. not let any thing get destroyed[.] if you see any thing that has got thrown down take care of it. do not wait for Mother to tell you or do it her selfe. you know it will soon be winter now. Olive I cannot tell you anything about your business as I do not know but you must be good & when you get time you must write. so must the boys.

     "I must close as I wish to carry this to the Office before 4 Oclock

     "From your Verry Affectionate Husband & Father JOHN MORRILL"

Saturday, October 28, 1865
"Dear dear Wife & Children,

     "I got a letter from you to day. it came 2 days in advance of the Mail. I know not how but was verry glad to hear from you but sorry you are homesick & low spirited. It is not so with me. I live in the bright future where ones fancy leads them to paint all Bright. yet in this when we come to experience it there is much of sorrow & Sickness mingled in our Cup. Then again I look back with pleasure, mingled with sorry & my mind stretces to comprihend the present. Be of good Cheer.

     "I did think I would write considerable to night but Sam Came in & we talked quite a long while & I do not think I will be verry lengthy to night. By the way why Sam is out[.] he is duty to day & it leaves me alone. all is quiet expect when some mischevious Mouse breakes the monotony. I have no duty to do with the company any more than a citizen. if it is cold I can stay inside & I will tell you what kind of weather we have had for the last 3 days.

     "thursday in the forenoon it rained a little & the wind blue. in the afternoon it rained some & snowed & the wind blue tremenduously & that night it came off cold & Froze & yesterday it was tremenduously cold. the snow on the north side of buildings did not thaw off during the day (There was Just enough to cover the ground where there was grass. in the mud it melted about as fast as it came) yesterday & last night water froze in the pudles so it would bear quite a child but to day it is getting warmer but the Ice has not all thawed about in the Streets to day. I was glad to. . . .

     "I was glad you were getting along well gathering your Crops & verry glad you have good health. I think if you have feed enough & the work is not agoing to be to much[.] you had better keep Major. I will look your letter over again (I have looked it over 2 or 3 times) & see if there is any more questions you wish answered.

     "I have overhauling & taking account of ordinance all the week. the Col has been with me 4 days. I have got pretty well acquainted with him. he keeps something agoing all the time. appears like quite a boy that he is. I understand he is only 24 but he can put on dignity when nesessary. Sam volunteers to help us when he is not on duty & there is a boy that clerks for the Col. it will take nearly all next week to get through. I have spun out to quite a length to night but I will now close & retire So good night."

Monday, October 30, 1865

     "Noon. I have just eaten my dinner. Sam has gone to get his. I will tell you something what the weather has been since I closed writing Saturday evening.

     "that night it snowed from 3 to 4 inches so when we arrose yesterday morning it looked quite like Winter with that amount of snow on the ground & still snowing. it snowed slowly all day yesterday but as the weather was rather warm it thawed nearly as fast as it fell & last night it cleared off & froze quite hard & this morning it appeared like winter as the ground & everry thing around was covered with snow.

     "I will tell you what my work has been to day be sides arranging things a little to eat. Sam went out to the Wood pile about 20 rods & cut 1 days stove wood & I brought it in. that is the forenoons work. if I was where I could devote some of my leisure time to helping you along with your work it would be quite a help to you. But you must be of good Courag. 1 week & I shall have served 8 months so cheer up.

     "I should have written some yesterday But Mr Hilts made us quite a long visit & we were quite busy talking & Besides Gov pays me for time enough week days that the[y] have nuthing to do & so I might as well work for my selfe.

     "you may want to know something how I manage my board[.] I will tell you. I presume Olive will laugh. I get my Bread at the Bakers there was an oven built here for a beakery & had been used so they found a beaker in each of our two companies & detailed them to bake & they bake the best bread I have seen since we have been out. Well I do not use quit[e] all my rations of Bread as I have rice & other thing that serves to lesson the required amt of Bread. I go to the shop & draw flour when I do not want Bread.

     "Well what next[.] I will tell you as fast as I can. I have a little cook Stove in my room. sometime you might see me beaking pancakes & Sitting by the stove eating them. sometines baking Sweet cake sometimes cooking meet & Tea & So On. I design to make me a Short Cake for supper. Oh! if I had some of your potatoes, but I guess this will do & I will not any more [mon ?] as the mail is due from the east to day. I hope to get another letter but do not much expect. will wait & See."

Wednesday, November 1, 1865

     "You see Oct is passed The mail due here Monday did not arrive until last evening. I got a letter from you. sorry the cattle trouble you also sorry Jennie has had such a hard time with her foot. . . .

     I never saw as rough weather in Wis as it has been here. for the past week [it] snowed & rained & Frose. the [wind] has blown almost a hurry cane sometimes & yesterday the wind blew from the south & carried off the snow & now it is decidedly muddy. the wind is blowing quite strong & in a few days if it does not storm any more it will be good getting arround.

     "you must try & Provide your self with wood for cold weather. render yourself & the children as cumfortable is posable. Boys you must be good Boys. take good care of everry thing. Olive must learn all about house work. I have nuthing more of importance to write so good by for this time.
"From Your Affectionate Husband & Father JOHN MORRILL"

'Riding Aside' Returns To The Fort
     The fine art of "riding aside" returned to officers' row at Fort Larned this summer. Ranger Mary Ellen Cottell initiated a new living history program depicting an officer's wife riding sidesaddle at the Fort.

     A historically-correct English, Champion and Wilton sidesaddle and two riding habits of the period were purchased by the park to add a touch of authenticity to the program. A lovely bay gelding, Chestnut---no stranger to the Fort----returned to duty, performing not only for the sidesaddle presentation but also as a cavalry mount.

     The half-hour program was held in the backyard of the south officers' quarters. It included a brief history of sidesaddle riding, as well as a description of the riding habits worn by the ladies on the forays onto the prairies with their escorts. Actual anecdotes from many of the equestrienne officers' wives were related to the audience, as gleaned from the diaries and journals of Eveline Alexander, Elizabeth Custer, Alice Baldwin and Frances Row.

     The program was warmly received by park visitors as they learned more about an ancient art of riding horses and the lives of female members of the regiment.
Contributed by Mary Ellen Cottell, FLNHS Seasonal Ranger.

Fort Notes
     Although fall is already here, we still haven't had a chance to slow down from our summer season. Fort Larned's visitation for 1997, like 1996, will exceed 40,000 visitors, with a slight (5%) decline.

SPMA Bookstore
     We welcome Laressa Gardner, the new Southwest Parks and Monuments Association (SPMA) employee here at Fort Larned. "Rusti," as she prefers to be called, has been a tremendous help in improving our bookstore. Many new selections have been added--- so many, in fact that we have run our of space. SPMA has agreed to order new shelves so we can continue to expand. Hopefully, the new display fixtures will arrive before the candlelight tour on October 11. Southwest Parks and Monuments Association continues to support projects at the Fort. SPMA funds purchased furnishings in the bakery and 150 cartridge cases used to interpret the Springfield .50-.70 rifles. In December SMPA will do help with the Christmas open house.

Summer Education Encampment
     Fort Larned held its summer educational program in two sessions this summer. The 19 children who attended learned about all aspects of life at Fort Larned in 1868. They spent two days as soldiers, a day as students in the post school, and the final two days as members of an Indian camp. The educational program is a unique experience, open to children ages 11 through 13.

Post Bakery
     Over the Labor Day weekend, the post bakery was the hottest place to be. Even the blacksmith agreed; his forge couldn't match the bake oven for creating a sweltering climate. Park Ranger Eric Leonard served as post baker. For those visitors who braved the heat of the bake oven, there was a great deal to see (and smell), as bread was baked the entire weekend.

Fort Larned On The Internet
     The hectic summer schedule prevented us from doing much to our Web site, but watch for changes this fall! Many new additions are currently in the works, and the whole site will be spiffed up. Teachers and students, in particular, will be pleasantly surprised. Fort Larned NHS can be found on the Internet at: {}
Our e-mail address for inquiries is
Contributed by George Elmore and Tony Cyphers, FLNHS Rangers.

Limited-Etchings Available By Wayne Hagerman, Fort Larned Old Guard Chairperson
     As announced in the last issue of OUTPOST, the Old Guard is pleased to offer a series of Fort Larned etchings created by artist Michael Florian Jilg of Hays. I would like to thank Michael for his generosity and support of the Fort Larned Old Guard. His etchings have been well received which has benefited the Fort Larned Old Guard and Fort Larned NHS a great deal.

     We have not yet devised a good marketing technique for these beautiful etchings and other items we hope to make available in the future. For now, Art Riedel, Fort Larned Old Guard member from Larned, has agreed to maintain the inventory of etchings and distribute them. Art may be contacted by mail through the Old Guard: P.O. Box 354, Larned KS 67550-0354.

     Mr. Jilg's etchings may be viewed in the visitors center at Fort Larned. With the holidays coming up, you can get your shopping done easily---buy a Fort Larned collectable and never leave home!

Remembering Bruce Kenyon
     Bruce Kenyon, a long-time volunteer, seasonal employee and supporter of Fort Larned NHS, died May 9, 1997.

     Over the 13 years he worked at the Fort, Bruce met thousands of people in his role as the post blacksmith. As he used his talents with the forge, hammer and anvil, he gave visitors the chance to see history in action. To the delight of youngsters, he often gave away lantern hooks and other items he created in the shop.

     Bruce began volunteering at the Fort in 1984 and worked about ten years as a seasonal ranger. He was a retired teacher and lived in Bison at the time of his death. The Old Guard extends its sympathy to his wife Mardell. and other family members.

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