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

Indian reactions to 1867 Hancock Expedition will be featured at
Fort Larned Old Guard Annual Meeting, May 6

     The story is familiar to most Old Guard members. April 1867---General Winfield Scott Hancock leads 1,400 troops out of Fort Larned to a large Cheyenne-Sioux village northwest of the Fort. Hoping his show of force will push Plains tribes toward peace that summer, Hancock arrives at the camp only to discover that the Cheyennes and Sioux have fled.

     The general interprets the Indians' disappearance as proof of their guilt in recent depredations. In retaliation, he orders his men to burn the village and everything in it.

     The Cheyennes and Sioux, fearing a repeat of the tragic Sand Creek Massacre two and a half years earlier in Colorado Territory, believe they have escaped with their lives. But when they learn that Hancock has destroyed their camp, they launch raids on the Smoky Hill Trail in northern Kansas.

     As a result, Hancock causes the very Indian war he hoped to prevent.

     Fast-forward to 2006. On Saturday, May 6, the Old Guard will mark the 139th anniversary of this chain of events with an afternoon/evening meeting highlighting Indian reactions to the Hancock Expedition.

     Three speakers---former Fort Larned Old Guard Chairman Leo E. Oliva; Cheyenne historian John Sipes, Jr. of Norman, Oklahoma; and Sioux historian Kenneth Bordeaux, Lincoln, Nebraska---will present programs at Fort Larned NHS beginning at 1 p.m.

Cheyenne-Sioux Indian Village

     At 2:45 that afternoon, events will move to the site of the ill-fated village where living-history programs will be given.

     Back at the Fort, a retreat ceremony at 5:45 p.m. will precede dinner. After a brief Fort Larned Old Guard business meeting at 7 p.m. the day will be capped with a frontier military band concert and period dance. Fred Schmidt, Abilene, Kansas, will conduct the musicians. Robert Thomas, Fort Scott, will act as dance preceptor.

     Please plan to attend. Our annual meeting committee has done a wonderful job arranging the day's activities. We hope everyone will be able to enjoy the fruits of their labors. In fact, thanks to the committee's hard work, a portion of the meeting's cost will be offset by a generous grant from the Kansas Humanities Council.

     April 14, 1867: "The Indian village consists of about three hundred hide lodges. They show unmistakable traces of the haste of their owners to get away,----dogs half eaten up, untanned buffalo robes, axes, pots, kettles, and pans, beads and gaudy finery, lately killed buffalo, stews already cooked in the kettles, are scattered about promiscuously, strewing the ground. . . .

     "We saw plenty of dog hash and dog heads cooked. The chiefs' wigwams were painted in a gaudy manner. . . .

     "General Hancock is so angry that he intends to burn the camp today."----Correspondent Henry M. Stanley, accompanying the Hancock Expedition.

Revello is honored for 30 years of service with NPS
     While visiting Kansas on February 25, 2006, Fran Mainella, Director of the U.S. National Park Service, recognized Supervisory National Park Ranger Felix Revello for thirty years of service to the U.S. Government.

     Accompanying Mainella was National Park Service Regional Director Ernest Quintana, Deputy Regional Director David Given and Latonya Miller from the Midwest Regional Office in Omaha, as well as employees from Fort Larned and Nicodemus National Historic Site.

     In more than 30 years of service, Ranger Revello has served in a variety of national parks across the nation. His current assignment is at Fort Larned National Historic Site where he has served as Chief Ranger since August 1993.

Fran Mainella, Fellix Revello, Linda Revello
National Park Service Director Fran Mainella (above left) presents a plaque to Fort Larned National Historic Site Chief Ranger Felix Revello on February 25, 2006.
Linda Revello is at right.

     At Fort Larned National Historic Site, Revello has been responsible for directing activities including law enforcement, interpretation, fee collection, safety, and natural and cultural resource management. He has also been significant in planning and developing the Nicodemus National Historic Site, serving as Superintendent of this site on several long-term occasions.

     In previous assignments Revello served at Cape Lookout National Seashore, North Carolina; Buck Island National Monument & Christiansted National Historic Site, U.S. Virgin Islands; Colorado National Monument, Colorado; Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site, Montana; Castillo de San Marcos National Monument, Florida; and Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota.

     Revello is a native Texan, raised in San Antonio. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Forestry at Stephen F. Austin University in Nacogdoches, Texas, and conducted graduate studies in recreation, parks and tourism at Texas A&M University.

     He and his wife Linda reside near Larned where they are members of Peace Lutheran Church and active in several civic organizations.

     Authorized by Congress in 1964, Fort Larned National Historic Site takes visitors back to 1859 when the fort was established as a base of military operations to protect traffic along the Santa Fe Trail and as an agency for the administration of the Central Plains Indians by the Bureau of Indian Affairs under the terms of the Fort Wise Treaty of 1861.

     With nine restored buildings, Fort Larned survives as one of the best examples of Indian Wars period forts. Most of the buildings, including barracks, commissary, officer's quarters and more, are furnished to their original appearance.

Historian and Former Fort Larned Old Guard Chairman Leo Oliva (below right) gives National Park Service Director Fran Mainella copy of his book, Fort Larned: Guardian of the Santa Fe Trail, during her recent visit to Kansas. Both presentations took place at Nicodemus National Historic Site.
Fran Mainella-Leo Oliva

Lost letters from Larned
     Just a few years ago, historians discovered "missing history" in library vaults, dust-covered trunks in attics, and occasionally in cardboard boxes purchased at garage sales. But thanks to technology, sources for historical documents are now often as close as an Internet connection, and as easy to retrieve as clicking a mouse. Old Guard member (and web-guru) Larry & Carolyn Mix recently uncovered a cache of historical material relating to Fort Larned at the Wisconsin Digital Library.

     The letters were written in 1865 by Captain Charles W. Felker, Company A, 48th Regiment, Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry, to his wife in Omro, Wisconsin. Of the 25 documents, seven were written from Fort Larned in October and November 1865. A September 15 letter from Fort Riley (page 1 reproduced) mentions Felker's assignment to Larned. As space permits, future issues of Outpost will include copies of Felker's correspondence.

     Thanks to Leo Oliva for his assistance in transcribing the text from the digital copies posted online.

18th Letter Page One

[18th letter, page 1]
Fort Riley Kansas
Sept. 15th 1865
My Dear Sarah

     After a tedious march of Eight days we arrived at this Fort yesterday We start for Fort Larned to-morrow and amidst the hurry and bustle of preparing to move I sit down to drop you a line to let you know where I am. It has been all hurry and confusion in camp all day. We have been busy drawing rations and clothing preparing for our long march of one hundred and seventy miles from this place. My company is quite lucky for we only go to Fort Larned while some of the companies go two hundred and forty miles further west to Fort Lyon. We are now Camped on the bank of a Stream called the Republican The men are engaged in various ways to while away the monotony of Camp life. Some are Singing Some are sleeping some I hear as I sit in my tent arguing the question

[page 2]

     as to when we shall go home while a party of officers (pretty tight by the by) are now engaged in pulling a poor tired Captain who has worked hard all day out of bed to make him drink. "Shaking him down" they call it. There is some of the most beautiful Country between here and Lawrence that I ever saw. It is high rolling prairie covered with a most luxurient growth of grass often higher than a mans head As far as the eye can reach you can trace the course of the streams by the belt of timber lining the banks as they wind their way through the fertile valleys. Some of the country is hilly the bluffs rising abruptly two or three hundred feet. In about four days more we shall be in the land of the buffalo and there I propose to do some bigger hunting than I used to on Fox River. How would you like a piece of buffalo tongue. We left Hi. Kimball sick at Topeka. He is troubled with his old back complaint. George Pingry and Ed Thrall deserted on the 10th inst.

[page 3]

     I presume you will soon see the white livered babies in Omro. I should think they would be ashamed to show their faces at home Both were well and hearty and had never been sick a day Mr Cady has been quite sick but is rapidly getting better. I have walked almost the whole distance. At first I was so weak it seemed almost impossible for me to move but I am now getting quite stout. Have you got the letters I sent you from Lawrence and the draft of $300 and the express package and receipt. Have the draft cashed as soon as you get it. It is safer to have money than a draft Now I have written you a much longer letter than I intended to when I commenced for I was officer of the day yesterday & was up last night and am so tired and sleepy tonight I can hardly keep my Eyes open. Write me often as you can and direct to Fort Larned Kansas

[page 4]

     When are you going to send me your photograph Please do send it as soon as you can I want you to look as well as you can for I shall show it to the officers unless you object. Give Alf & Hattie my regards also the neighbors. How does Lill prosper. Does she improve in talking How glad I shall be to get back to you and Lill once more and now no more tonight from
Your own

[19th letter, page 1]
Fort Larned Kansas
October 4th 1865
My Dear Wife,

     I have just time to drop you a line before the Stage leaves which I send by a Lieut. who starts for Fort Leavenworth this morning We arrived here Sept 30th. I am in good health am growing very fleshy. We are now at work fixing up our winter quarters We shall undoubtedly Stay here all winter. I have not received any letters from you since we left Lawrence. Do write and let me know how you are and whether you have received the draft I sent you at Lawrence. I cannot write more at present but will write you at length by next Stage Goodbye dear Wife
Felker, Charles W., 1834-1901
Letters, 1865

     Letters by Captain Charles W. Felker, Company A, 48th Regiment Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry, to his wife in Omro, Wis.; written from Camp Washburn in Milwaukee, Wis. and various forts in Kansas, detailing everyday life in camp and on the march, and mentioning buffalo hunts, a camp newspaper he started, and a bout with typhoid fever.

Additional information from the website:
     Wisconsin Goes to War: Our Civil War Experience is a collection of first-person narrative accounts of Wisconsin soldiers and citizens.

     The collections were originally selected for digitization among those of the Wisconsin Historical Society for use by Civil War history courses taught at UW Oshkosh. These records were chosen based on the subject matter and legibility of the documents. The original UW Oshkosh digital project has now been reconceived and enhanced by the UWDC to provide for greater operability and discovery.

     Many of the included documents are handwritten while others consist of a typed transcription for which originals may or may not be available. In most cases however, an electronic text version is also provided allowing researchers to conduct keyword searching. In several cases, collections represented here DO NOT include all of the material available in the original, physical form at the Wisconsin Historical Society. Materials from larger collections that were not subject appropriate for the digital version or could not be safely digitized have been excluded. Contact the Wisconsin Historical Society's archives reading room (www. to determine if more historical material is available from any specific collection.

     The first phase of the collection consists of 630 pages of materials dating from the years 1861-1866. When the entire project is completed it will consist of over 2,600 pages of original Civil War documents.

Photo spread at Fort's picnic area
by Tony Cyphers, Ranger, FLNHS
     WOW! Fort Larned Old Guard member and Fort Larned volunteer Karl Grover has a twin brother!

Fort Larned NHS New Picnic Area Site Sign

     Not really---but it appears that way in our updated display at the Fort Larned NHS picnic area. The new graphic is made of five wide-angle photographs spliced together to form a 180-degree scene of the Fort. Altogether it is one continuous picture measuring 36 inches tall by 13 feet, 4 inches wide!

     When you walk up to view the display you're standing between the visitor center and barracks porches with an almost three-dimensional effect. To your left you see Karl Grover walking toward you-and to the right, there is Karl again, this time looking at the garrison flag. (As we took the photos that day, we were short on soldier reenactors!)

     Hopefully this new display will entice some visitors to make the trip from the picnic area, across the bridge and into the Fort.

     Last October the Fort Larned NHS Superintendent Kevin McMurry purchased a 42-inch plotter to add the ability to print blueprints. He was gracious enough to allow the interpretation division to use this equipment. With it we will be able to create exciting and affordable graphics (such as those at the picnic area) for new applications.

     Also purchased last year was a two-sided light-box. It displays a lighted graphic 16 by 23 inches on both sides. Right now we are constructing a portable base on which to mount it and hopefully it will be ready to use for the Old Guard's annual meeting.

     The new plotter can also print graphics for the light-box. When completed, we anticipate displaying it at special events, local business, and other places to drum up business for national parks in Kansas.

Elmore teaches National Park Service training course in Florida
     Fort Larned Park Ranger George Elmore spent most of February as the chief 19th-century small arms instructor at the National Park Service 2006 Historic Weapons Training Course held at Camp Blanding Army National Guard Base, Florida.

     Purpose of the training was to teach other rangers how to load and fire historic weapons safely. Safety and responsibility were the themes of the sessions conducted February 13-24 near Starke, Florida.

     Sixty-six National Park Service employees and six park partners spent two weeks of intense training to become park historic weapons supervisors. Students acquired hands-on experience in the military drill for handling flint and percussion weapons, including proper carriage, loading and firing. They also learned about the necessary accoutrements needed to demonstrate each weapon, as well as the care and maintenance of all equipment.

     Safety modules such as storage, handling and transportation of black powder were included, along with program management and planning special events. Written exams were required for certification in small arms, artillery and black powder safety. Practical exams included demonstration critique, blank firing, and live firing.

     Elmore returned to his regular duties at Fort Larned NHS at the conclusion of the February training sessions.

Training Sessions at Camp Blanding, Florida with Ranger George Elmore         Training Sessions at Camp Blanding, Florida with Ranger George Elmore
Training Sessions [above] were held at Camp Blanding, Florida. George Elmore (far right) was the chief 19th century small arms instructor during the course.

Restoring Fort Larned's past for the future
by Felix Revello, Chief Ranger, FLNHS

     Park staff are continuing the process of repairing/restoring the many fine and original structures at Fort Larned. When you next visit the Fort, we hope you will take note of this important work.

     Work completed last fall on the old commissary stabilized the west end of the north wall; in the process, sections of the wall were tipped out by several inches. This project required dismantling the wall stone-by-stone, pouring a concrete base and relaying the stones in their original locations.

     This summer will bring stabilization of the commissary's south walls as contractors carefully remove short sections of the old crumbling foundations from under the walls and replace them with concrete to ensure that the building stands into the next century. Cracked ceilings and walls of the east barracks building will also be repaired this summer. Finally, we should be able to commence restoring the north officers quarters this summer. It will be a complete restoration.

     Ranger George Elmore already has helped the park locate and acquire some of the furnishings for the officers quarters. Knowing George's commitment to authenticity and his acquisitive nature, we will have, in a few years, a fully refurnished building faithfully depicting the 1860s era of Fort Larned.

     Although most of this work is being conducted under contract, Fort Larned staff carefully oversee and manage these projects to ensure that the National Park Service' dedication to historical accuracy is achieved to preserve the authentic story for future generations.

     Aaron Fisher, chairman of Fort Larned's 150th anniversary celebration committee, has contacted some Fort Larned Old Guard members about the upcoming "hoopla." He continues to solicit ideas and would appreciate hearing from you via e-mail at or by phone at 620-668-5652. Regular mail will reach him at 6706 JJ RD, Copeland Ks 67837-8211. Contact Aaron and help plan a memorable celebration.

Mark your calendar:
May 6, 2006 Old Guard Annual Meeting
May 27-29, 2006 Memorial Day weekend living-history events
July 4, 2006 Old-fashionedindependence Day celebration
September 2-4, 2006 Labor Day weekend living-history events
October 14, 2006 Candlelight tour

     Old Guard membership is open to anyone interested in the frontier military history of the United States, the Indian Wars in the trans-Mississippi West, the role of the military in the development of Kansas and the West, Indian-white relations on the Plains, and-of course-Fort Larned National Historic Site.

     Memberships: Individual, $15-$24 per year. Family, $25-$49 per year. Not-for-profit organization, $30above per year. Business partner, $40-above per year. Life membership, $300-above. (Other supportive levels of annual membership are available, as well.)
Fort Larned Old Guard PO Box 354, Larned, Kansas 67550-0354

Santa Fe Trail Research Site

Santa Fe Trail Research Site
"E-Mail & Home Page"
Larry & Carolyn
St. John, Ks.
© "Forever"