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

Old Guard Annual Mess and Muster
April 24, 2010
     Everyone is invited to join in the festivities of the Old Guard Annual Mess and Muster, on Saturday, April 24, at the Fort. Program details are provided in this issue. Phone reservations with credit card may be made by calling 888-321-7341 (Fort Larned Old Guard Secretary Bonita Oliva or Editor Leo Oliva). You do not need to be a member of the Old Guard to attend these events. The purpose is to provide the public an opportunity to learn more about this remarkable historic site.

     This is an opportunity to see the fort up close, with living-history activities presented throughout the historic garrison. There will be speakers (Bill Chalfant and Leo Oliva), retreat ceremony, a fine meal, annual Fort Larned Old Guard meeting, election of board members and officers, and an educational music program.

     Superintendent Kevin McMurry and the entire staff of the Fort, many dedicated volunteers, and the officers and board of the Old Guard will be there to welcome you and help you enjoy your visit to the best preserved frontier fort in the West. Please make plans to be there and register soon. The registration deadline is April 16.

Fort Larned National Historic Site Will Be Finalist In The 8 Wonders Of Kansas History Contest
     The 8 Wonders of Kansas contests, sponsored by the Kansas Sampler Foundation, continue, and the history category will be the next opportunity to vote. Fort Larned National Historic Site will be among the 24 finalists, and the final 8 will be selected by popular vote. Watch for the announcement of this contest, which will run from April 22 to June 15. The winners will be announced June 22.

     It is difficult for places in the western half of Kansas to make the final 8 because the bulk of population is in the eastern part of the state. In the recent voting for the 8 Wonders of Kansas Geography, not one place in the western part of the state made it. If we all work to get schools involved and the students to vote, we can give Fort Larned the place it deserves. Everyone is urged to help get out the vote for Fort Larned.

     For more information and to vote, beginning April 22, go to {}. Each e-mail address may vote up to three times. Paper ballots are available by request. You must vote for eight choices each time.

Thank You Fort Larned Volunteers
by Chris Day, Fort Larned Old Guard Chair
     Fort Larned National Historic Site is such an awesome view with its original buildings surrounding the parade ground. My first trip to the Fort was in 1985, which also included 48 fifth and sixth-grade students, traveling down the Santa Fe Trail. It was Memorial Day Weekend, one of the several living history weekends. I was so impressed with all of the activities and what the students wrote in their diaries about their Fort experience.

     At that point, I realized that it took the National Park Service staff and numerous volunteers to make that weekend so successful. Twenty-five years later, I am still taking students down the Santa Fe Trail and the Fort volunteers are still there to help our students learn about the culture and history of the Fort era.

     The Fort Larned Old Guard extends thanks to the Fort volunteers for their commitment during the 150th Celebrations plus all of the other weekend events during 2009 that took hours, effort, and loads of energy. Your dedication to making history live for visitors today is greatly appreciated. We know you will be there for us in 2010. A salute to all of you!

Fort Larned Old Guard Chair's Column
by Chris Day
     It has been a long and cold winter since the 150th Celebrations last fall. Fort Larned National Historic Site is always beautiful in the spring, and I'm looking forward to the Annual Mess and Muster meeting in April. The annual meeting committee has put together a wonderful day at Fort Larned on Saturday, April 24.

     I am looking forward to William Y. Chalfant's presentation on his new book, Hancock's War: Conflict on the Southern Plains. This includes the story of the Cheyenne and Sioux village site now owned and protected by the Old Guard. Fort Larned was a part of and actively involved in Hancock's War and its aftermath. What a great opportunity to buy the book and have it signed by the author.

     Leo E. Oliva always has wonderful presentations and this will be his first performance of a first-person narrative by Private Robert Morris Peck of Company K, First U.S. Cavalry, telling about the founding of Fort Larned. The memoirs of Private Peck appear in each issue of Outpost. He was an accomplished story teller.

     The Barton County Community College catering service always does an outstanding job, and the BBQ dinner will be served Saturday evening in the quartermaster building.

     I am so pleased that the Fort Larned Old Guard supported the Cheyenne clothing and accoutrements for the Plains Indian Exhibit, prepared by Ken Weidner. We will have a presentation in the evening about this exhibit. Special thanks to all who donated to this project (see list below).

     David K. Clapsaddle has a wonderful outreach program for the traveling trunk presentations, and he will be commenting on this project in the evening after our meal.

     After a short business meeting, we will have outstanding entertainment from Jeff Davidson and the Trail Riders. Jeff is a native of Kansas and began his entertainment career as a square-dance caller. He has been the entertainer for the Flint Hills Overland Wagon Train since 1985 and obtained the idea of mixing Kansas history and Western songs while singing around the campfire.

     I am happy that I could serve as chair of the Fort Larned Old Guard these past two years. Fort Larned is "alive and well" with ongoing projects that will keep this wonderful historic Fort intact so future generations will have the same opportunities as we have had to enjoy such a unique site.

     I look forward to seeing you at the Fort on April 24. Please come enjoy this outstanding treasure.

If you don't know history, you don't know anything.
You are like a leaf that does not know it is part of a tree.
-Michael Crichton

Indian Exhibit Project Donors
     The Fort Larned Old Guard extends special thanks to the following for contributions to the fundraising project to pay for the creation of an Indian exhibit for the Fort. This new exhibit, prepared by Fort Larned Old Guard member and Fort Larned volunteer Ken Weidner, will be presented to the Fort at the annual meeting on April 24. Donations for this project are still accepted. The offer of prints for larger donations remains in place. So far donations have covered about 10% of the exhibit cost.
     Ben Bailey, Larned, Kansas -- Rosetta Graff, Kinsley, Kansas -- Bonita & Leo Oliva, Woodston, Kansas

Fort Larned Superintendent's Column
"On Our Watch" by Kevin McMurry
"Thanks for supporting the forts 150th anniversary events."
     Fort Larned National Historic Site, a unit of the U.S. National Park Service since 1966, celebrated its 150th anniversary throughout 2009 with numerous and well attended public events. Commemoration of the fort's history began Memorial Day weekend with events portraying General Winfield S. Hancock and George Custer's expedition in 1867 and impacts on the nearby Cheyenne and Sioux Indian Village which was destroyed by the Army. Events continued on the 4th of July weekend with education programs recognizing all U.S. Medal of Honor winners, militia units that served at Fort Larned, and both medical difficulties and social opportunities on the plains.

     Labor Day weekend activities brought the frontier military post to life with volunteer living history reenactors, Cavalry drills, Galvanized Yankee programs, and a special USPS Cancellation Stamp commemorating Fort Larned's Post Office. On Saturday the Post Players presented an original dinner theater production typical of that at a frontier fort.

     On September 19, due to efforts of volunteer Janice Seymour and Congressman Jerry Moran, identification of deceased soldiers moved to Fort Leavenworth in 1887 was finally achieved. With assistance from the U.S. Army Command at Fort Leavenworth and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, National Cemetery Association, a moving ceremony led by Fort Leavenworth Garrison Commander, Colonel Wayne A. Green dedicated a bronze marker bearing names of those soldiers.

     The celebration of Fort Larned's Sesquicentennial concluded on Columbus Day weekend with a Volunteer Recognition luncheon and traditional evening candlelight tour on Saturday. The formal rededication ceremony on Sunday was led by Colonel David P. Anders, Commander of the Third U.S. Infantry from Arlington, Virginia, rededicating the 1867 cemetery marker. The day also featured the Fort Riley Military Band, Senator Brownback's Regional Director Dennis Mesa, Leo Oliva, David Clapsaddle and Rick Herrera from the Army Combat Studies Unit as well as Tom Seltmann from the Pawnee County Historical Society, former Fort Larned residents Judy (Frizell) Redding and Phil Perez, and Tagga's Southern Fried Catfish. Despite the freezing rain and cold temperatures both days, many great supporters of Fort Larned came out. One letter we received included the comment, "well yes, the weather was cold and terrible, but the people were warm and wonderful and that certainly made it a grand visit to Fort Larned.". Thank you for being one of the people this visitor was writing to me about!

     With you and the forts many other partners, we look forward to working with you anytime in recognizing all future milestones celebrating Fort Larned's place in Kansas history!

Fort Larned Old Guard Roll Call: Secretary Bonita Oliva
     Bonita's High School senior sneak trip, a class of 10 graduating from Alexander High School, traveled to Fort Larned in 1961, a distance of around 50 miles. The enormous barn with huge haymow was impressive, leaving a lasting memory of the event. She believes that was her first visit to Fort Larned though she grew up within 25 miles of this historic landmark. After becoming a single mother with two young children, Bonita returned to Fort Hays State University and received a master's degree in history in 1976. She has worked at various jobs, including librarian, Farm Service Agency field person, and working for the Postal Service, as well being a farmer and historian's wife. She has assisted Leo on the farm as well as doing historical research.

Jake Carson and Bonita Oliva at Bent's Old Fort
Bonita Oliva with Jake Carson, great-grandson of Kit Carson, at
Bent's Old Fort National Historic Site during the 2009 Santa Fe Trail Bike Trek

     Bonita is a charter member of Fort Larned Old Guard and served as a member of the Fort Larned Old Guard Board from 1995 to 2001, holding the position of secretary. She was reelected to the Board in 2005 and currently serves as secretary. She is especially proud to have been a member of the Board when the decision was made to purchase the Village Site and has enjoyed time spent there, including a couple of overnight stays.

     She was elected to the Board of the National Santa Fe Trail in 2009. She is a member of the Kansas Anthropological Association and has participated in many of the summer digs in various parts of Kansas. She has been a beekeeper for more that 30 years. She enjoys spending time outdoors. She has been bicycling since 2001, and has ridden across Kansas five times. Last fall she completed her second complete trip over the Santa Fe Trail by bicycle. She has bicycled in a number of other states including Louisiana, Florida, Michigan, Nebraska, North Dakota, and Indiana. She and Leo enjoy traveling, and have visited Europe, Mexico, and South American a number of times. Her study of the Spanish language has made these trips more enjoyable. For the past several years she has been restoring of an old farm house north of Woodston, Kansas. Visiting historic areas, reading, and listening to recorded books about history are Bonita's favorite ways of relaxing.

     The celebration of Fort Larned's 150th Anniversary added to the distinct memories Bonita has of the Fort, including the wonderful performances of the Fort Riley band and the candlelight tour by trolley to view scenes relating the establishment of the Fort, in temperatures around 30 degrees. She has special admiration for those volunteers who spent the evening out-of-doors to provide the memorable moments of the Fort's history.

Fort Larned Roll Call: Michael Seymour
     Mike Seymour is a permanent Park Guide at Fort Larned National Historic Site. Mike started his career at Fort Larned as a volunteer in 1996. In 1999 he became the oldest intern accepted at Fort Larned. Mike took a seasonal position in 2000, and 2007 was accepted as a permanent Park Guide. Aside from the usual duties of tours and historical programs, Mike does curatorial work, takes care of ICMS (Interior Collections Management System) and CMS (web site).

Mike and Janice Seymour
Mike and Janice Seymour at Fort Larned National Historic Site

     Before coming to the Park Service Mike operated his own business for 27 years in Tonganoxie, Kansas, where he was born and raised. He attended the University of Kansas and spent six years, two active, in the U.S. Army.

     Mike and his wife Janice have been married 44 years and have two sons and three grandchildren with another on the way. Janice has been a volunteer at Fort Larned for 13 years and was instrumental in opening Fort Larned's cemetery. Through her persistence a plaque was placed, at Fort Leavenworth National Cemetery, in honor of the soldiers who were interred at Fort Larned. Their sons and families have also volunteered at Fort Larned.

     Mike's hobbies include military history, especially soldier accoutrements and, of course, their weapons. He also owns and has collected classic cars from the 50s and 60s.

Volunteer Roll Call: Margaret Linderer
     Margaret Linderer signed up as a Fort Larned Volunteer on August 17, 1990, expressing an interest in becoming a volunteer to sew costumes for use in the living-history programs. From that day to now Margaret has not missed an opportunity to help other volunteers with constructing period clothing and instructing how to correctly wear the clothing. She has held several volunteer ladies' training sessions on the proper way they should appear to represent the various time periods. One recent contribution was part of the 150th celebration; she hosted a fashion show and a volunteer training program for women wanting to learn more. In looking through all the girls and ladies clothing used at Fort Larned by living-history volunteers, you will quickly notice that Margaret has made almost 100% of the clothing.

Margaret Linderer
Margaret Linderer dancing with Custer reencator
Steve Alexander at Fort Larned 150th celebration, 2009

     Since 1990 Margaret has also gained the reputation of being a five-star cook. She has cooked for many years in the Post Hospital Kitchen, feeding many hundreds of meals to the volunteers who portray the civilian side of life at Fort Larned. On occasion a solider from the ranks has had to be run out of her kitchen when they showed up at the hospital door wanting food, saying the meal in the soldiers mess was not nearly as good as what the civilians are getting. If you have been out for a Christmas Open House, you have most likely eaten some of her cookies. She has donated hundreds of cookies made from the 1860-1870s recipes for the open house. Margaret's cooking and sewing talents have become legendary among all the volunteers.

Fort Larned Unit Flags
Fort Larned, Kansas Unit Flags

     For the 150th Anniversary Celebration, Margaret constructed a replica flag for each unit that served at the fort. After many hours of research and reproduction of the accurate design on the 25 flags, she sewed each one together. They now beautifully adorn the museum hallway, giving permanent recognition to all the military units connected with the historic Fort.

     In 1992 Margaret was given the Volunteer of the Year award for having put in the most volunteer hours. Every year Margaret averages donating 200 to 300 hundred hours, making new clothing and cooking in the hospital kitchen. When Steve and Margaret moved from the Larned area to Colorado, she made the comment that in spite of the move she would continue to help as much and as long as she can. Margaret has continued to help with constructing clothing, cooking, providing instructions for wearing historic clothing, and even playing in the Fort Larned Post Band.
Thank you Margaret!

Quartermaster Report:
Company Officers' Quarters (HS-7 & HS-9))

by Celeste Dixon, Park Ranger
[This is fourth in a series on the structures at Fort Larned.]
     In the fall of 1867, the Army at Fort Larned began a building project to replace the deteriorating adobe officers' quarters located south of the parade ground with the sandstone buildings now on the west side of the parade ground. These buildings, today known as HS-7 and HS-9, were intended for the Fort Larned company officers, who were captains and lieutenants.

Fort Larned, Kansas Officers Row
Officers' Row Fort Larned Company Officers' Quarters left and right
Commanding Officer's Quarters in Center

     Captain Almon F. Rockwell supervised the construction project with plans drawn by Private Adolph Hunnius, Co. D, 3rd Infantry. Private Hunnius mentioned in his diary on August 26, 1867, that he had sketched a plan in lead print for the officers' quarters to be used by the mason. The structure was completed and occupied in the spring of 1868.

     The post surgeon's first volume of Fort Larned medical history described the buildings as the two longer buildings on officers' row that are "divided into sets of quarters with two kitchens and two without. There are two rooms in each set of quarters. . . . The buildings are plain and substantial with long porches in front and small porches in rear at side of kitchens. . . . All quarters have large yards in rear with high fence. . . . All officers have their stables in the rear of their yard."

     Originally, the two lieutenants' quarters had no access to a dining room or kitchen. In the beginning of 1870, an addition was built to provide the lieutenants with a shared dining room, kitchen facilities, and rooms for their shared servants. Another post surgeon described these additions in February 1870, "frame additions are being erected in the subalterns' quarters, which will give to each two lieutenants three other rooms . . . so that hereafter two lieutenants will have between them a kitchen, dining room, and a servant's room, instead of none as at present."

     As was reported in the last article about the post commander's house, the officers and their wives were responsible for providing the furnishings for their own quarters. Since shipping the bulk of their possessions was a personal expense, the men and women often had to make do with limited furnishings. Like the post commander's wife, these ladies did their best to make these quarters as comfortable and homey as possible.

     Most of the officers who served at Fort Larned had seen action during the Civil War and many carried a high brevet rank. The change from commanding a regiment in actions involving entire armies in the task of saving the Union to leading an under-strength company on escort duty was a difficult mental adjustment for many of these men. Along with the hot, dusty job of escort duty on the Santa Fe Trail, the officer's routine included worrying about the condition of the post, inspecting spoiled supplies or broken equipment, sitting on courts-martial, or conducting routine drills with enlisted men, many of whom were dissatisfied with army life.

     Promotion was slow and difficult. An officer in a line regiment could not be promoted until a vacancy opened within the regiment at the next rank. Many officers were constantly sending letters to influential friends and acquaintances looking for assistance with promotion or transfer from a line to a staff position. Without such assistance most officers spent years on the frontier living and working under hard conditions at the junior officer level.

     The social life of a frontier officer consisted mainly of drinking and playing billiards with his fellow officers in the officers' bar at the post sutler's store. If he brought his wife with him, they could try and make their existence as pleasant as possible but their social life was limited to the families of other officers. They also had no opportunity to get out for the evening since there was no place for them to go.

     The life of a frontier officer at Fort Larned was like that of officers at other frontier forts, unexciting and routine. Some men had a sense of adventure in taking part in the "taming of the West," though most just saw the land as an area to be exploited for individual gain and economic well-being. For most, soldiering on the frontier was a job to be done, and they did it.

Builder's Marks
by William Chapman, Facility Manager
     Builder's marks, such as layout marking, craftsman's marks, scribe markings, and alignment hash markings, are the marks that are let-in to a building material by the builder with a tool. The mark's purpose is to identify a door or window opening, aligning material to be joined together. In the image below is one of these marks. This builder's mark became visible during recent excavation work to expose the foundation of the North Officer's Quarters HS-9.

Fort Larned North Officer's Quarters Builder's Mark

     These marks were created to insure that the placement of windows and doors were correct with the plans. The marks are in alignment with the centers of the window and door rough openings.

Maintenance Trails
by William Chapman, Facility Manager
     Since last fall, we have closed contracts from last year and begun work on the new ones. We have completed the installation and UL certification for lightening protection systems on all but one historic structure. The maintenance facility is sporting a new metal roof, replacing deteriorated asphalt shingles.

     In recent local news releases we informed the public of our continuing efforts at Fort Larned National Historic Site to reduce our impact on the environment. We installed new lighting systems in the visitor center, maintenance facility, and parking lot. Other accomplishments include complete restoration of the first post cemetery, recycling more than 2500 pounds of electronic and other waste, and a 23% reduction in electrical consumption.

     Staff also painted the exterior of the south officer quarters and its northern lieutenant rooms, repaired service road surfaces, and prepared buildings for special events. Staff winterized and closed the comfort station for the winter months; other facilities are in the visitor center.

     Progress on the contract to restore the north officers quarters is proceeding well.

     For 2010 we continue our efforts to make the park accessible for our physically-challenged friends, complete the restoration of North Officer Quarters and furnish the structure, and continue the prairie restoration near the oxbow.

Fort Larned Becoming Greener
[The following article appeared in the March 2010 issue of Midwest Energy's Kansas Country Living.]
     Fort Larned National Historic Site in Pawnee County is one of 14 National Park locations nationwide to be included in the Energy SmartPARKS program.

     The U.S. Department of the Interior and the U.S. Department of Energy will help the National Park Service showcase sustainable energy practices and fulfill its mission of environmental stewardship.

     At Fort Larned, the visitor center and museum, which are served by Midwest Energy, have been completely retrofitted with a combination of light emitting diode (LED) and compact fluorescent lamps. Additionally, the museum exhibit cases are much brighter with new LED lighting which requires no ventilation and does not generate ultraviolet light detrimental to artifacts. With this new lighting, objects are safer, exhibits are easier to view and the constant hum of cooling fans is a thing of the past, said Kevin D. McMurry, Fort Larned superintendent.

     Outside, new solar powered lighting systems have been installed at the entrance, visitor parking area, bridge and information kiosk. In the maintenance compound, solar power systems provide lighting for equipment use and storage areas where electricity is not readily available.

     "Combined, these conservation measures have reduced energy consumption by 23 percent, representing a savings of money which is now directed to other visitor and historic preservation needs," McMurry said.

     "Everyone can save money on energy bills by reducing consumption and at the same time reduce impacts on the environment and natural resources," he added. "Visit any time to talk with staff about energy conservation ideas. They will certainly share what they've learned about the subject and will show anyone the state-of-the-art equipment now in use."

     Two other national projects illustrate the potential of Energy SmartPARKS: the exterior relighting of both the White House and the Washington Monument. With groundbreaking technology that improved the exterior illumination, these national icons now look beautiful while being energy efficient at the same time.

     Although the official assessment of the White House relighting project by DOE has not yet been conducted, early estimates anticipate over 50 percent energy reduction. The Washington Monument relighting project resulted in a 27 percent energy reduction with a cut of 36 tons per year in carbon emissions, according to the official DOE assessment.
More information on the Energy SmartPARKS project is available at {}.

Post Commander: Lieutenant David Bell
by Zack Corpus, Park Guide
     [This is second in a series on the commanding officers of Fort Larned. No photo of Bell has been located.]
     First Lieutenant David Bell, Company K, First U.S. Cavalry, had his work cut out for him when Captain George Steuart transferred to him the duties of commanding officer. On November 21, 1859, the orders were received from Department Headquarters, Fort Leavenworth, for Captain Steuart to return to Fort Riley and leave 30 men at the Camp on Pawnee Fork under the command of Lieutenant Bell. Five days later, Steuart transferred command to Lieutenant Bell, who went about the Herculean task of establishing a permanent military outpost in hostile territory. According to a remark in the Record of Events for November 1859, "Captain George H. Steuart's company, First Cavalry, broke up camp and marched for Fort Riley, K.T., Nov. 26, 1859, leaving behind for mail escort one first lieutenant, one sergeant, two corporals, one bugler and 26 privates."

     In addition to establishing a fort and beginning construction, Bell was required to maintain adequate escorts for mail through the area. He also dealt with reports of Indian attacks and threats to travelers along the Santa Fe Road. As one of the first commanding officers at Fort Larned, his role is pivotal, yet we know little about him.

     Lieutenant Bell was born in either February or March 1827 in Ohio. He was nominated to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point from the state of Iowa and entered on July 1, 1847. Bell graduated 18th in the Class of 1851 and received a commission as brevet second lieutenant with the Second U.S. Dragoons. He was promoted to second lieutenant on October 9, 1852. On March 3, 1855, Bell was promoted to first lieutenant and transferred to the newly-organized First U.S. Cavalry. Bell and Fort Larned's first commanding officer, Captain Steuart, received their commissions as first lieutenants into the same regiment on the same day. After Steuart was promoted to captain, they were both assigned to Company K and left Fort Riley on October 7, 1859. They established Camp on Pawnee Fork on October 22, 1859, with Captain Steuart the commanding officer and Lieutenant Bell the only other commissioned officer at the post.

     Recent attacks by Kiowa Indians on the mail parties and other travelers had been the major factor in the decision to establish the Camp on Pawnee Fork. Within a few days after the troops arrived at the new post, Kiowa Indians were seen nearby. Private Lambert Wolf, Company K, First Cavalry, was at the post and recorded in his diary what happened.

     "October 30. Everything has been passing off smoothly and nice. Our corral is growing apace. We are having lots to do with not much rest heavy guards at night with lots of work through the day. This morning, just as we got ready to eat our breakfast, three citizens came into our camp reporting that 15 Kiowas had driven them in. Boots and saddles sounded, leaving our hot coffee. In 10 minutes 20 of us, under command of Lieut. D. D. Bell, were moving lively southwest for the Arkansas river. Three miles from camp we overhauled 2 Kiowa Indians with six ponies they were made 'good Indians' and the ponies brought into camp. In the shield of the first one killed we found 27 bunches of different human hair, supposedly his trophies. We now carry our arms with us, always prepared for any surprise."

     Private Robert Morris Peck, another member of Company K who helped establish and build Camp on Pawnee Fork, recorded similar details about Lieutenant Bell's decision to kill the Kiowas and take their horses and supplies. He stated there were 12 troops in the party and noted that the Kiowas' horses were later auctioned off and the proceeds divided among the men of the party that had killed the two Indians.

     At Camp on Pawnee Fork, Lieutenant Bell was placed in charge of providing escorts for the mail wagons on the Santa Fe Road. He established a system of escorting the mail between Cow Creek, some 50 miles east of Camp on Pawnee Fork, to the Cimarron Crossing of the Arkansas River, nearly 90 miles to the west. The escort parties, usually comprised of 10 soldiers riding in wagons accompanying the mail party, were expected to meet escort troops at the Cimarron Crossing from Fort Union, New Mexico, accompanying the eastbound mail, and the escorts would switch mail parties and return to their duty stations. If they failed to connect at the Cimarron Crossing, troops from Camp on Pawnee Fork were to accompany the mail as far as Fort Union, if necessary.

     When Lieutenant Bell assumed command of the young post at Pawnee Fork, he found his small force of 30 men insufficient to accomplish all their tasks. He quickly requested reinforcements and was sent First Lieutenant John D. O'Connell and 20 men of the Second U.S. Infantry, who arrived December 22, 1859. They brought with them a civilian contract surgeon, Dr. A. L. Breysacker, the first post surgeon at the military camp. The reinforcements still were not enough manpower to protect every mail coach. The small garrison survived the winter and on February 12, 1860, Lieutenant Bell received orders written February 1, changing the name of the post from Camp on Pawnee Fork to Camp Alert. The army realized the importance of a stronger military post as unrest brewed on the Kansas plains.

     Lieutenant Bell and William Butze, agent at Pawnee Fork mail station of Hall and Porter (mail contractors), worked together during the winter of 1859-1860 to build a bridge at the crossing of Pawnee Fork. Lieutenant J. E. B. Stuart, also a member of the First Cavalry, noted in his diary in May 1860, at the beginning of the Kiowa Expedition under Major John Sedgwick, that the troops crossed "Bell's bridge." Sometime during the following year that bridge was washed away by a flood.

     Private Peck told about how the soldiers entertained themselves at the outpost during the winter months, including wolf hunting. He wrote: "Another pastime that we have is killing wolves, which are always very numerous in the buffalo range. Lieut. Bell has a pack of greyhounds, and some of the teamsters have a whopper-jawed bulldog. If a wolf is sighted near the post the pack is turned loose after him. The hounds can easily overtake him, even when he has a good start, but they won't grapple and hold him--the wolf whips them; but if they can manage to worry and delay the coyote till old bull gets there, he's a 'goner,' for when the bulldog once gets hold of him he never lets go till he lays the wolf out dead.

     "This is good sport, but not profitable. All the profit there is in wolf killing is the hides, and as these are nearly destroyed when killed by the dogs, some of us have adopted the better-paying plan of poisoning them with strychnine."

     Despite limited manpower and many duties to perform, sod buildings were erected for officers and enlisted men, a corral was built, and a storehouse and ice house were completed under Lieutenant Bell's leadership. In addition, the mails were successfully protected during the winter months. The lieutenant performed well the many tasks assigned to his little command, and he deserves recognition for his work as the second commanding officer at the post.

     On May 4, 1860, Captain Henry W. Wessells, Company C, Second U.S. Infantry, arrived with two companies of his regiment, increasing the military force at Camp Alert to 160 men. His orders were to assume command of the post and construct a permanent military installation nearby. Lieutenant Bell relinquished command to Captain Wessells. The remnants of Company K, 1st Cavalry, left their home at Fort Larned and joined other companies from the regiment in further Indian campaigns.

     Lieutenant Bell, however, was sent to Fort Monroe, VA, still an active military post today, and was on duty as a recruiting officer at Norfolk, VA, in the fall of 1860. He died of typhoid fever on December 2, 1860, while on a visit to Old Point Comfort, VA. He was buried in the Fort Monroe Cemetery. Those laid to rest at Fort Monroe faced a similar fate to those at Fort Larned. Their bodies were disinterred and reburied at a national cemetery. First Lieutenant David Bell is buried in Section J, Site 9, Hampton National Cemetery, Hampton, Virginia.

A Lovely Abode
by David K. Clapsaddle
     [Clapsaddle, Larned, Kansas, is an active member of Fort Larned Old Guard and writes about the history of Fort Larned, the Santa Fe Trail, and other regional topics. Special thanks to him for preparing this article for Outpost.]
     By order of Major General Winfield Scott Hancock, a village of some 1500 Southern Cheyennes and Oglala Sioux located on the Pawnee River upstream from Fort Larned 30 miles was put to the torch on April 19, 1867. The 300 lodges and other possessions of the Indians were consequently burned or otherwise destroyed. An inventory of the property was taken and values were categorically assigned. The total value of the lodges and other possessions was estimated at $100,000. Henry M. Stanley, a journalist accompanying Hancock's troops, listed the items destroyed.

     "The following is a true list of the miscellanea which were consigned to the flames this morning: 251 lodges, 942 buffalo robes, 436 horn saddles, 435 travesties, 287 bead mats, 191 axes, 190 kettles, 77 frying-pans, 350 tin cups, 30 whetstones, 212 sacks of paint, 98 water kegs, 7 ovens, 41 grubbing horns, 28 coffee mills, 144 lariat ropes, 129 chairs, 303 parflecks, 15 curry combs, 67 coffee pots, 46 hoes, 81 flicking irons, 149 horn spoons, 27 crowbars, 73 brass kettles, 17 hammers, 8 stewpans, 15 drawing knives, 25 spades, 4 scythes, 8 files, 19 bridles, 8 pitchforks, 15 teakettles, 90 spoons, 15 knives, 10 pickaxes, 1 sword, 1 bayonet, 1 U.S. mail bag, 74 stone mallets, 1 lance, 33 wooden spoons, 251 doormats, 48 raw hide ropes, and 22 meat stones.

     "The loss of these articles will be severely felt by the Indian tribes Cheyennes and Sioux. It will require 3,000 buffaloes to be killed to procure enough hides to make their 'wigwams.' The whole outfit of an entire wigwam costs, on an average, one hundred dollars. Six different stacks were made of the effects taken from the village; everything was promiscuously thrown in, and fire set to them all at the same moment. The dry poles of the wigwams caught fire like tinder, and so many burning hides made the sky black with smoke. Flakes of fire were borne on the breeze to different parts of the prairie, setting the prairie grass on fire. With lightning speed the fire rolled on, and consumed an immense area of grass, while the black smoke slowly sailed skyward. Every green thing, and every dead thing that reared its head above the earth, was consumed, while the buffalo, the antelope, and the wolf fled in dismay from the destructive agent." [1]

     Not counted by Stanley, but of great loss, were the lodge poles. The crooked poles made from the deciduous trees of Kansas were no match for the lodge pole pines of Colorado Territory, many miles to the west.

The wanton destruction prescribed by General Hancock was belied by the serene setting of the village. Hancock described the site as follows.
     "The command followed in the direction the Indians had taken, and, after a march of ten and a half (10 1/2) miles from our camp of yesterday, we approached their villages, which were found to be situated in a beautiful grove, on the north branch of Pawnee Fork. We encamped within one-half mile of their villages, which we found to contain about three hundred (300) lodges of Sioux and Cheyennes." [2]

Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer's description is likewise telling.
     "A march of a few miles brought us in sight of the village, which was situated in a beautiful grove on the banks of the stream up which we had been marching. The village consisted of upwards of three hundred lodges, a small fraction over half belonging to the Cheyennes, the remainder to the Sioux. Like all Indian encampments, the ground chosen was a most romantic spot, and at the same time fulfilled in every respect the requirements of a good camping-ground; wood, water, and grass were abundant. The village was placed on a wide, level plateau, while on the north and west, at a short distance off, rose high bluffs, which admirably served as a shelter against the cold winds which at that season of the year prevail from these directions." [3]

     Fortunately, there remains a number of other firsthand accounts which confirm the beauty of the place as described by Hancock and Custer. Isaac Coates, the surgeon assigned to the expedition, wrote, "The Indian village was situated in a beautiful grove on the North Fork of Pawnee Creek, a most charming spot. The buffalo grass, which was just beginning to grow, was soft as velvet to the feet. In the lovely abode, the red man had been living, remote from the public-highway, in peace and quietness." [4]

The aforementioned Henry Stanley offered a similar description.
     "The Cheyenne village is located in the center of a grove of noble elms, which covers a square area of three hundred paces along the banks of the Pawnee River. From our tent door the white tops of the Indian wigwams may be seen, gleaming through the trees. The aborigines undoubtedly display great taste in the selection of their camping grounds. Water and wood are indispensable necessities to the Indian, as well as to the white settler. But the savages, roaming at large over the whole country, can select, of all the thousand and one lovely spots which Nature has so bountifully provided, the loveliest of all. And it is without exaggeration we style the spot on which the Indians pitched their village as scenically pretty." [5]

     Another description was provided by Captain Albert Barnitz, one of the Seventh Cavalry's company commanders. "Well, we are finely encamped on the Pawnee Fork on a beautiful terrace. On our left, the wooded stream, beyond which at a distance of a mile or two are the bluffs; on our right a mile or two off, rolling swells of the prairie and on our right front by a little belt of timber is the Indian (Cheyenne) encampment." [6]

     Yet another description was written by Major Horace L. Moore, commanding officer of the 18th Kansas Cavalry, who camped at the village site in the summer of 1867. "Camped at night on the high ground formerly occupied by the Indian camp burned by General Hancock. An excellent situation for camping. Saw no fresh Indian signs. Grass poor, water and wood plenty. At this point there is an island containing some ten or twelve acres sparsely timbered." [7]

     A visit to the village site is instructive. Still pristine in many ways, it retains much of its historical integrity. To the northwest less than a mile, the "bluffs" mentioned by both Custer and Barnitz are easily discerned; and the area occupied by the lodges described by Custer as a "wide low plateau," by Barnitz as a "beautiful terrace," and by Moore as an "island containing some ten or twelve acres" is much in evidence. Moore's mention of the island is enhanced by Barnitz's reference to the "wooded stream." The stream encircling the village so as to create an illusion of an island was not the Pawnee River; rather it was a tributary of the river which acted as a drainage system for Custer's "plateau," leaving Moore's "ten or twelve acres" high and dry during the times of flood which were common to the Pawnee River.

     Today the "noble elms" described by Stanley are gone. Only their rotting trunks remain strewn across the location. In their place, second growth ash trees grow in abundance. However, the buffalo grass described by Coates as "soft and velvet to the feet" is still to be found in abundance. Even the most unimaginative observer cannot help but be impressed by what Coates described as "the lovely abode," Custer as a "romantic spot," and Stanley as "the loveliest of all."

     Members of the Old Guard may well take pride in the preservation of this historic site. Fort Larned Old Guard village site manager, Leo E. Oliva, considers the historic site to be one of the most beautiful spots in Kansas, and he plans for his remains to spend eternity there.


  1. Henry M. Stanley, My Early Travels and Adventures in America (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1982), 40, 45, 46.

  2. W. S. Hancock, Reports of Major General W. S. Hancock upon Indian Affairs With Accompanying Exhibits (Washington: McGell & Witheros, 1867), 22.

  3. General George A. Custer, My Life on the Plains (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1966), 49-50.

  4. W. J. D. Kennedy, ed., On The Plains With Custer and Hancock: The Journal of Isaac Coates, Army Surgeon (Boulder: Johnson Books, 1997), 66. "North Fork of Pawnee Creek" refers to three separate streams, the Pawnee River (north branch), Buckner Creek (middle branch), and Sawlog Creek (south branch), David K. Clapsaddle, "The Fort Hays-Fort Dodge Road," Kansas History (Summer 1991), 107, 110, 111. Editor's note: North Fork was used by the military to designate the tributary of Pawnee River that flows through the village site.

  5. Stanley, My Early Travels, 41.

  6. Robert M. Utley, ed., Life in Custer's Cavalry: Diaries and Letters of Albert and Jennie Barnitz, 1867-1868 (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1977), 33.

  7. Map and Report from Major H. Moore Comdy 18 Kas. Vol. Cavalry with report of Capt. E. A. Barker Comd Detch Kas. Vol. Cavalry, National Archives, Fort Larned National Historic Site.

Fort Larned Offers New Programs For Scouts
     Fort Larned National Historic Site is in a new phase of the greater National Park Service scouting initiative. The fort now offers the opportunity to earn a Resource Stewardship Scout Ranger Badge. Any Boy or Girl Scout who is interested in the program can ask about it at any National Park Service Site around the country. Fort Larned's program is easily accessible by speaking to the ranger at the information desk in the Visitors' Center.

     The Scout Ranger Badge can be earned individually or as a unit by completing a variety of tasks aimed at historic and natural preservation of an NPS site. The other intent of the program is to assist the boys or girls in achieving a greater understanding of what it means to be a scout, and to aid them on the way to their scouting goals. Included on the scouts' list of options at Fort Larned are: taking a tour of the fort, completing the junior ranger program, assisting rangers in natural preservation, and performing upkeep on the fort's historic structures. Fort Larned has a plethora of information to give to scouts. Sites like Fort Larned create avenues to learn of the post-Civil War plains and conflicts. Ideas such as loyalty, service, and camaraderie permeate the societies of both the soldier and American Indian. As an outpost on the Santa Fe Trail, Fort Larned is forever linked to numerous other historical sites in Kansas and across the western United States. Mail, goods, military supplies, and pioneers paved through the wilderness and the ensuing clash of cultures. The opportunities to relate this time period to scouting are endless.

     Find more information online at {}. Scouts can even make an entire weekend's expedition to visit Fort Larned. Nearby Camp Pawnee, administered by Pawnee County, provides camping spaces and restroom facilities for anyone wishing to stay more than a day. The town of Larned also boasts the Central States Scout Museum, which houses one of the areas most in-depth collections of Boy Scouting memorabilia and provides housing for scouts traveling through Larned.

     Units who wish to participate in the program are encouraged to contact the fort and set up a date and time to complete the requirements as a group. Units can also earn a group certificate for their efforts. Individual scouts can request the completion requirements upon their visit and do not need to call ahead.

Reminiscences Of Indian Wars In
Kansas And Indian Territory, Part I
by Colonel John H. Page, Third Infantry

     [John Henry Page, a native of Delaware, was living in Illinois when the Civil War began. He enlisted as a private in the First Illinois Light Artillery in 1861 and was appointed second lieutenant in the Third U.S. Infantry a short time later. In 1862 he was promoted to first lieutenant and became captain in 1864. In was as captain that he served during the Indian wars and the time of these memoirs. Page was never commanding officer at Fort Larned, but he served as commanding officer at Fort Harker and Fort Dodge. Later Page received several promotions: major in the 11th U.S. Infantry in 1885, lieutenant colonel in that regiment in 1891, colonel in the Third U.S. Infantry in 1895, and brigadier general of volunteers in 1898. He also received two brevet ranks for gallant and meritorious service during the Civil War (battles of Fredericksburg and Gettysburg). These memoirs were recorded during the time he was colonel (1895-1898).

     Colonel David Anders, Third Infantry, who was at Fort Larned for the 150th celebration, had this material sent to Fort Larned by the staff at the Old Guard Museum, Fort Myer, Virginia. It was sent because Colonel Page provides his memories of events in the area during the era and, especially, because there are details about the actions of Corporal Leander Herron, Company A, Third Infantry, who was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his bravery on September 2, 1868, on the Santa Fe Road between Forts Larned and Dodge. Corporal Herron's citation reads: "While detailed as mail courier from the fort, voluntarily went to the assistance of a party of 4 enlisted men, who were attacked by about 50 Indians at some distance from the fort and remained with them until the party was relieved." For some reason the Medal of Honor was not presented to Herron until 1919, when he was 70 years old and living at St. Paul, Nebraska.

     Special thanks to Colonel Anders and the Old Guard Museum for sharing this document. Page was not entirely accurate about some events, and corrections or additions are provided in brackets. This article appears in two parts and will be concluded next issue.]

     The winter of 1866 and 7 the Indians although not committing any overt acts of hostility, still it was felt that they were only abiding their time, waiting for the spring grass and the fattening of their ponies. Some few chiefs came into Fort Dodge and Larned and the usual powwows of their agents and Commanding Officers of Posts took place and reports duly made to Headquarters. The consensus of opinion was that the Indians would soon break loose and companies of Troops were sent to guard the settlers, that were flocking into some of the most fertile promising valleys on the Saline, Republican and other streams.

     General Hancock, the Department Commander organized a force of Cavalry, Infantry, and light Artillery to meet them in the Spring, as a large display of soldiers was considered a morale influence to deter them from taking the war path, but the Indians in those days did not count noses, they had been the Lords of creation, and claimed sole ownership of the grass, water, buffalo, land, and considered the white man as an intruder, only useful in supplying them with horses, saddles and sweet provender of civilization, by trade when convenient to them, by force when they so willed it.

     In the early spring as soon as the trails were passable, Hancock's display of force took the field. It was composed of the 7th Cavalry, a Battalion of the 37th Infantry and a Light Battery, considered in those days a formidable and terrorizing display of Military. The march was conducted with considerable "pomp and circumstance of War."

     The Indian Village was pitched on Walnut Creek [actually on Pawnee Fork] a little West of the trail leading from Fort Dodge to Fort Hays. Nearing the village the troops were put in line, but the redskins did the same and sized them up so evenly, it surprised the white man's chief who brought his warriors to a halt and a parley was conducted in which the Indians agreed to talk the matter over the next morning [this was at "confrontation ridge" west of present Burdett, and Page's chronology is somewhat in error]. When the day dawned the Indian village was ominously quiet, not the barking of a dog or beat of tom-tom disturbed the quietude of the prairies. The wily foe had decamped during the night, leaving their tepees standing. An old crazy squaw was the only occupant of the village. The tepees were burnt, the command was disintegrated, the 7th Cavalry going to Fort Hays, the 37th to New Mexico, and Battery to Fort Riley.

     Then began a series of raids on the smoky hill route, the killing of stage station agents and employees, the burning of stations with their small squad of soldiers guarding them. The Third Infantry lost a number of men by these depredations, the two companies of the regiment at Fort Hays being consistently on the road, guarding trains, stage coaches, etc.

     A train of empty forage wagons from the Hancock expedition arrived at Fort Dodge with an order for "F" company (mine) to escort it to Fort Riley, the terminus of the Kansas Pacific Railroad, and then to take station at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. I did not want to go to Leavenworth, but had to obey orders. I wrote a letter to Department Headquarters asking not to be sent and received a reply at Fort Riley, stating I had been selected by the General for the duty as from the records I was entitled to it, but my case would be taken under consideration and if I still desired to return to the frontier, my request would be granted.

     The escorting of a train of seventy-five six mule teams by forty men, with the country infested with Indians was no ordinary task.

     A camp on the prairie would be selected away from gullies or ridges, an oval corral would be formed by the wagons the opening about twelve yards wide at one end. The mules were let loose inside the corral; after their roll, the bell mare was taken to the outlet and the herd followed. All the men were put out in the advance forming a circle around the animals. They were permitted to graze for an hour and a half and before they became restless were returned to the corral.

     Fortunately the men could ride, so were fresh for duty at all times; nevertheless it was a great relief when we reached Fort Harker and got beyond the usual bailiwick of the roaming savages.

     Several couriers during the trip reached me with advises that the Indians were after my herd, but with the exception of a few stray small parties, who attempted a stampede during the night, we were not bothered.

     The Kansas Pacific Railroad was graded beyond, and rails laid to Fort Harker, which point now became the terminus. There not being a sufficient force to guard the graders, take care of stage lines, on the Arkansas and smoky hill route, a regiment of Kansas volunteers was called into the service.

     To make complications worse, cholera broke out along both overland routes and many a soldier fell a victim to this devastating and demoralizing disease.

     The cold weather had checked it in 1866 at Fort Riley; when the warm weather returned it broke out at Junction City and started on its career westward taking hold of the trails to Denver and Santa Fe.

     My company was on duty at Fort Leavenworth but from the news at the front I felt that we would not remain there very long.

     About the middle of July a telegraphic order was received for my company to report for duty at Fort Harker, Kansas. In a few hours we were on the train, and in due time arrived at Harker which had become District Headquarters, General A. J. Smith, in command.

     My camp was pitched on a high knoll a mile from the Fort as cholera was raging. I had in my pocket a leave of absence with permission to go to Europe, it was subject to the joining of my 1st Lieut. G. W. H. Stouch, (now captain of the 3rd Infantry). I felt, under the circumstances that to take my leave then would not be proper, but the construction train came in from the west, and on it was Generals Sherman, Hancock, and A. J. Smith; they all told me that I should take my leave, and invited me to go east with them on their special train, that would leave the next morning; that my Lieutenant would be ordered to join from Fort Hays. Still thinking it not proper to leave my command during Indian hostilities and cholera scourge among the troops, I expressed my sentiments on this subject to General Hancock; he informed me that in view of the cholera, no extensive movements on concentration of troops would take place, that the rail road and stage routes would be guarded, and that cholera would no doubt put an end to the Indian troubles in a short time. So under these circumstances I availed myself of my leave of absence.

     On my return from abroad, the terminus of the railroad was at Hays City, a shack town that had grown up like a mushroom; it had its hotels, banks, opera house, gambling places, in fact it was a receptacle for all the oddities that a new territory usually collects, the man of wealth, the penniless bum, the good, vicious, and bad.

     I arrived the day before Thanksgiving day, and found that the first stage on the new route to Fort Dodge would leave the next day, the trail having been marked out by Pyramids of buffalo bones on the prominent ridges.

     All seats had been engaged by some women and their children en route to Santa Fe.

     Fort Hays [new location] was just being built, the light frame work of the buildings being up; all hands were working like beavers to get under shelter before winter set in. A blizzard was predicted for Thanksgiving day, so after much coaxing, the women passengers were persuaded not to attempt to make the first trip as it would be dangerous. Early morning I was en route to Fort Dodge, my station, my companions being three men, a boy of sixteen, and the division Superintendent of the mail route. About 10:00 o'clock the expected blizzard broke upon us with a driving snow storm. After wandering around for hours the driver acknowledged he was lost; night coming on we halted on the open prairie and fought the storm all night long; realizing our danger, we kept moving or riding around a circle on the horses; with much difficulty we kept the boy from going to sleep as he would have certainly frozen to death if he had been permitted to do so.

     At day light the storm had expended its fury and we were rejoiced to see the trees on Walnut Creek, where finding the stage station we got a hot meal and took a much needed sleep and rest. Although we passed through a horrible night in safety, we were thankful that the women had not insisted upon retaining their seats as they no doubt would have perished in the storm.

     During my absence the troops had been fighting cholera and Indians, escorting trains, guarding track layers, in fact every one was glad to hear that the Peace Commissioners appointed by the President had induced the Indians to assemble at Medicine Lodge Creek some 75 miles south of Fort Larned, Kansas, to make a treaty of peace. There were assembled the Cheyennes, Arrapahoes, Kiowas, and Comanches. A treaty was made that the several tribes would accept lands in the Indian Territory, that they would permit the Kansas and Union Pacific Rail Roads to be built and the land north of the Arkansas river to be open to settlements. Rations, clothing, arms and ammunition were promised them, in return for these concessions. The winter of 67 and 8 passed off quietly. Many Indians came into Larned and Dodge, buffalo were plenty and trading good, but with the advent of the spring the Redmen began as usual to talk big; they claimed they were not receiving what had been promised them, the young bucks said the old men had not consulted them about going to the Indian Territory, they clamored for the immediate issue of the arms and ammunition, and declined to accept rations and clothing without arms.

     General [Philip] Sheridan had relieved General Hancock in the command of the Department. He realized that the troubles with the Indians could not be settled by Peace Commissioners and that sooner or later it would develop upon him to settle the business, so he requested Post Commanders to keep him informed about the different tribes in their vicinity. Major [Henry] Douglas, my post commander, asked me to visit the Indian camps and gain what information I could, but to keep my mission quiet. Taking a few men I started ostensibly on a hunting expedition and visited the villages on Neuscatangah [?] Creek, some 30 miles south of Dodge. I was soon satisfied from their talk that they would break out very soon and at a big council, they sent a message by me to our Big Chief to fatten the horses and mules as they intended to take them if we did not get out of the country. I felt uneasy in their camps and was glad to get away. My report was sent to General Sheridan for his information.

     About a month later I was requested to make another trip to the Indian camps. I (reluctantly) assented and started off on horse back with scout [Fred] Jones the interpreter of the post. Towards sundown we rode into the Kiowa camp. They were holding a council, and I could see there was a great excitement, and from the crowd around the usually big council circle, I felt sure something important was taking place. Our sudden appearance created quite a commotion and the loud unwelcome grunt of the bucks and squaws foreboded no pleasant prospects for us. The old hags took our ponies, relieved us of our rifles, ammunition, revolvers, hunting knives and hatchets. I was told to enter the circle and sit down, Jones was led around to the other side of the ring and from not saying anything to me, I knew he had been cautioned not to address me.

     A crier had assembled the whole village. While waiting for them to collect I felt that my fate was to be discussed, from the crowd of squaws and children behind me, I knew they were waiting for their prey, as prisoners were usually turned over to them for execution. Amidst a deathlike silence, Satanta, the head chief of the Kiowas, strode into the circle and throwing off his blanket began his oration. He was a magnificent looking Indian. The Kiowa language resembles somewhat the Italian and his flow of words, dignified gestures and bearing would have delighted the eyes and ears of a civilized audience.

     From his signs I know he was reciting the old story of Red and the white man; whenever he pointed his finger at me, it produced a grunt from his hearers, not pleasing to my ears.

     Satanta was followed by Kicking Bird, the chief next in rank, and then the small fry got in their five minute harangues which seemed to please the villains as they answered with yells and war whoops.

     Jones had turned deathly pale, and it was perhaps fortunate for me I could not understand what was being said. Hearing an unusual chatter among the squaws behind me, I saw they were making a passage way for Black Kettle, chief of the Cheyennes and the ranking chief of all the southern tribes [this is pure fabrication]. He strode into the middle of the circle and delivered his speech, which was received with great respect and without any demonstration on the part of his hearers; then walking up to me he handed me the corner of his blanket and said "come."

     Taking hold of the blanket I followed Black Kettle to his tepee, where a squaw who could talk a little English, told me I must not go out without Black Kettle was with me. It is safe to say that I had no inclination to do so.

     A fire was built in front of the tepee, I could hear the tom toms beating and squaws chanting, and was informed they would soon collect around the fire to dance the scalp dance, and that I was to dance with them. The squaws formed around the fire, the bucks beating the tom toms and looking on. A bloody fresh scalp was dangling on a pole that was stuck in the ground. All arrangements for my entertainment having been completed, Black Kettle handed me the corner of his blanket; I followed him out of the tepee, took my place among the squaws and danced around with them for over an hour, to the great delight and edification of the assembled savages. The squaws were good-natured, were laughing and giggling and enjoying themselves highly; I tried my best to be pleasant under the circumstances and put on an air of nonchalance that must have impressed the Indians either with my coolness, or sweet innocence of my surrounding. Before going to sleep that night Black Kettle told me that at sunrise he expected Roman Nose with his band of Dog Soldiers would arrive; that he would send me to the Arkansas River and I could skip for my station. A little after daylight I could hear the whoops of the Dog Soldiers; it was sweet music to my ears. The chiefs came into the tepee to see me and shook my hand cordially which was reassuring. About ten o'clock my pony, rifle, and trapping were brought to me. I asked for Jones the interpreter; they said he had stolen a pony and escaped during the night which was considered a good joke on the Kiowas. Surrounded by Dog Soldiers I thanked Black Kettle for his friendship and bidding him goodbye was escorted to the Arkansas, a band of Comanches and Kiowas riding wildly on our flanks, pretending to spear and scalp an imaginary foe.

     Just at dark we reached the river and I was told to cross, the dog solders lining the banks for 200 yards so the Kiowas could not get near to me to give a parting shot with an arrow.

     The crossing was 17 miles below Fort Dodge. Turning towards the post I rode slowly until out of sight, then struck up the first ravine and made for Fort Larned which I reached the next morning. Here my friends soundly berated me for making a fool of myself, then told me that the only thing that had saved me was a band of Cheyenne Indians with the tepees and children were camped at the post, that the garrison was ready to jump on them at a moment's notice and Black Kettle knowing it, had saved me on their account.

     They also informed me that they were almost certain the Indians were on the war path in some direction and expected news of their depredations at any moment.

     Resting my pony, the following night I rode into Fort Dodge. Jones had made affidavits that I had been burned at the stake, that Tappan an Indian trader was dead, that he himself had escaped during the night. My sudden appearance was a surprise and great relief to my friends, it was such a surprise to Jones that he stole out of the post and was never heard of afterwards in that part of the country.

     I had made up my mind that there would be no more volunteering on my part for any more such work as I had been doing. My last trip had cured me as I supposed, but in a few days Lieutenant [Frederick H.] Beecher of the 3rd Infantry, with a couple of scouts arrived from Fort Larned en route to Hays, to join Major [George A.] Forsyth who was raising a company of scouts and was to be their commander. Lieutenant Beecher had volunteered to be his subordinate.

     Major Forsyth who was an Aide to General Sheridan was a youth like myself, with more energy than discretion. My last trip I thought had added 2 or 3 years to my age, so I tried to dissuade Beecher from his undertaking, telling him it was sure death and little honor, but he would not back down. He told me General Sheridan was at Fort Hays, that he had a letter from him saying he would like to have a talk with me. I told Beecher I was very much flattered at the General wanting to see me, (but I did not consider it safe to cross the country to Hays). Beecher assured me the Indians had all gone south of the Arkansas to take their villages to places of safety, that it would not be safe later, as he expected they were getting ready for the war path.

     At daylight the next morning, Beecher, the two scouts, Grover, Parr, and myself, were heading for the stage station on Walnut Creek. Arriving there we found it abandoned, with hundreds of pony tracks around it. Putting our heads together we decided to turn west, ride two miles along the creek, hide and when night came on, to make a break for Fort Dodge. We had gone about a mile and a half when our party rode into Roman Nose and his Dog Soldiers.

     They were magnificently dressed in full war paint and feathers each riding his pony and leading his war horse. My hair stood on end, but I was to blame myself for it.

     The scouts talked to them, I shook hands with my old protector and told Roman Nose we were on a hunt for antelope.

     He pointed to the Northwest and said we would find plenty of them. As far as I could see up the creek the Indian village was coming along. John Smith, a white man that had married into the nation passed in his wagon. He told us to look out for the boys at the rear of the column who were herding the loose stock, as they were very sassy knowing they were soon going on the war path; that he himself would go to Fort Dodge that night and quit the Indians before it was too late to do so. The village strung along for some five miles; we found the boys at the rear in an ugly mood, but as we kept our fingers on the triggers of our guns, it kept them from being too bold. We knew it would not do to try to go to Fort Dodge, so as soon as it was dark we struck north for the railroad and kept going all night long.

     I took advantage of our night ride to talk to Lieut. Beecher and dissuaded him from trying to wipe out the Indians with a few men, that it was an impossible task and the government did not require or ask such a sacrifice on the part of its officers, except in emergencies to save life, but there was no changing his mind. Our horses became leg weary, were in want of water, my left leg had become useless, an intense pain seizing me in the hip joint, so finding a spring at the base of a lonely sand hill we dismounted and unsaddled. The horses seemed restless and as one of the scouts started towards the sand mound to investigate the cause, an ear piercing horrible shriek petrified the whole party including the horses. My pain disappeared like magic and I jumped for my rifle as lively as any one. The noise was the whistle of a construction locomotive in a cut some 30 yards from us.

     When we recovered from our fright, we greeted the rail road men with great pleasure, and the sight of an iron horse seemed for the moment to transport us suddenly into civilization.

     The 7th Cavalry were encamped a few miles from us, near Fort Hays, where we rested two or three days.

     Hearing that some wood choppers were going to Fort Dodge, I joined the party and returned to my station. There I was informed the Indians had gone to Fort Larned to meet General [Alfred] Sully the District Commander who by an issue of arms that had been withheld from them for making a raid on the friendly Kaw Indians, hoped to pacify the turbulent element and get them to go to their allotted lands. We heard that the squaws and children were encamped all around the post, that all seemed quiet and settled with good prospects of a pleasant summer rest after the constant uneasiness and uncertainty that we had been subjected to for so long a time. It was especially agreeable news to the women and children who had been cooped up in the garrison, as no one dared leave the vicinity of the post without rifle in hand and constant watch to keep from being jumped.
(concluded next issue)

Mail Call
     Congratulations on publishing the Fort Larned Outpost. You have put new life in the Old Guard. Keep up the outstanding efforts. It is enjoyed.
Norman & Lois Hanson -- 7 Circle Dr -- Newton Kansas 67114

Membership Changes
     Fort Larned Old Guard has lost one of its charter members. Clifford Hope, Jr., Garden City, died February 11, 2010. We extend condolences to his wife, Delores, their family, and friends. Clifford was a great supporter of Kansas history, and we miss him.

Fort Larned Old Guard welcomes the following new members:
     Allen County Pubic Library, Genealogy Periodicals, Fort Wayne, IN -Ben Bailey, Larned Kansas -Craig S. Crosswhite, Ness City, Kansas -Laura Gadbery, Brighton, MA -Joseph F. Meany, Jr., Albany, New York -Sherrie L. Smith, Hays, Kansas

Rough Riding On The Plains (continued)
by Robert Morris Peck
     [Robert Morris Peck, a private in Company K, First U.S. Cavalry, in 1859, was present at the founding of Camp on Pawnee Fork that became Fort Larned. Peck published his memoirs in 1901. The portion of his memoirs detailing the background and establishment of the military camp are continued here and will continue in future issues. This portion of his memoirs picks up his story of events near Peacock's Ranch in September 1867, where Lieutenant George Baird, whom Peck calls Bayard, has just shot and killed Kiowa Chief Pawnee. The officers had to decide what to do next. Private Peck will make an appearance at the Old Guard annual meeting at the Fort on April 24.]

     Our wagons having come up by this time we soon had our dinners. Capt. Walker increased our disgust for him by sending a wagon and detail of soldiers out and having the dead Kiowa hauled in and buried in a grave near the ranch that he had had dug by another detail.

A Council Of War
     As the officers held their council of war in the ranch we soldiers could only conjecture what plan of action they had decided on by the orders we received and subsequent movements of the command.

     In a conversation that I had afterwards with Peacock he told me that he was present, and took part in the officers' discussion of plans. He said that Walker expressed his intention to wait for the arrival of Sedgwick, who was expected in a few hours and turn the whole affair over to him to take whatever action he deemed best, but the rash and hot-headed young officers, such as Bell and Bayard, had ridiculed Walker's want of decision and nerve until, in seeming desperation, he had determined to mount and move on the Indian camp with our little party.

     We all believed that there would be no fight if we waited for Maj. Sedgwick to bring it on, and possibly that is the reason that some of the officers favored doing the business before he came up.

     Peacock said that Capt. Walker did not seem to have determined on any definite plan of action, but was wavering between two plans that had been discussed. One was to ride boldly into the Indian camp and demand the surrender of the Kiowas who had robbed the ranch, and if they refused to comply, to then wait for Sedgwick's reinforcements. The other plan, which was urged by Bayard and Bell, was to move as quickly and quietly as possible to the village, and without making any demand of them at all, to charge in their midst and trust to luck to surprise and stampede them.

     Either plan seems to have been very faulty and rash. It was hardly reasonable to expect that a camp of a thousand warriors exasperated at the result killing of one of their chiefs would either accede to our demands, run from us or wait till we were reinforced. If we could succeed in surprising them we might stand some show of whipping even so large a number, but what reason had our officers to believe that Indians, who are at all times difficult to surprise, would be taken unawares at such a time as this when they would naturally be expecting an attack. I was surprised that officers, some of whom had been engaged in Indian fighting several years, should entertain such a foolhardy scheme.

     It is a lamentable fact that in war the lives of soldiers are often uselessly and wantonly thrown away by rash or incompetent officers in just such foolish and unwarranted undertakings.

     Walker's original intention of waiting for Sedgwick would have been the proper and prudent course under the circumstances. It would be almost a hopeless case for our little command to attempt to clean out the Indian village, but with the addition of Sedgwick's force we might stand some chance of success. But he was browbeaten into giving way to a lot of thoughtless young officers, and to try an almost hopeless experiment without a well-defined plan. I never thought Walker was a coward.

     His fears in this instance seemed to arise from a dread of censure for having precipitated a war with the Kiowas that might have been avoided by tact and diplomacy. He was always over-cautious, and never seemed able to decide and act promptly.

A Reckless Operation
     As soon as we had eaten a hasty dinner we were mounted and, under guidance of John Adkins, one of Peacock's men, started for the Kiowa camp, about seven miles up Walnut Creek. We could not understand Capt. Walker's intentions. It seemed incredible that with our small force of a little over a hundred men he would think of attacking the Indians in their village, which Peacock assured him contained not less than a thousand warriors. But such subsequently proved to have been his desperate plan.

     He had been taunted with cowardice, and he was going to wipe out the stigma if he had to sacrifice the entire party.

     As we approached the Kiowa camp all seemed to realize that it was a desperate undertaking, but none were inclined to shirk the danger. Strict discipline teaches the soldier to march into certain death if commanded to do so, especially if his commander leads. We had to pass through timber and bushes in approaching the village, that was admirably suited for an ambush if the Kiowas had laid a trap for us, and our commander took no precautions against such contingency, which he should have done by throwing out skirmishers to feel our way through the timber. We felt that our little command was being badly handled, and that it would be pure luck if any of us got out of the scrape alive.

     We believed that it was a case of victory or death, with all the chances against us, and if we met with defeat it was hardly probable that one of us would live to tell the tale. There was little or no talking in the column -- each seemed busy with his own thoughts. No exchange of messages or tokens to be sent by surviving comrades to loved ones far away, in case one didn't answer to the next roll-call; for when we got in sight of the tops of some of the lodges the dreadful silence made us feel that we were marching into a trap, and if such was the case we might kill a lot of the Indians and die fighting as became soldiers; but there would be no hope of escape for a single man of the party with that swarm of bloodthirsty-savages all around me.

     It is an understood rule among officers and soldiers in fighting Indians to "always save one bullet for yourself,"--never allow yourself to fall into the hands of the Indians alive. Better to die by your own hand that to be tortured to death, which is the certain fate of him who is taken prisoner by them.

Saved By A Panic
     There were the tops of the lodges now, a number of them, plainly to be seen above the bushes we were riding through, but everything was so still none of the usual noises to be expected about an Indian village. We fully expected each minute that the Kiowas would rise up out of the bushes all around us, with that blood-curdling Indian yell, and begin the slaughter which could have but one ending -- the extermination of our party. The suspense was terrible.

     But what a relief it was when Adkins, our guide, who had kept a little in advance, came galloping back and announced that the Indian camp was abandoned!

     Such proved to be the case, and in a few minutes we were riding through the deserted village.

     I drew a long breath of relief (and I have no doubt the rest of our party did likewise) when I found that we would not have to fight at such a disadvantage and against such fearful odds.

     It seemed that the Kiowas had become panic-stricken on learning of the killing of Pawnee, and expecting that we would immediately move to attack their ponies and stampeded, in their fright leaving many of their lodges standing. By the mere accident of this panic we were probably saved from massacre, for if the Kiowas had held their ground and prepared to fight us we would have marched right into any trap they chose to set for us.

     Hastily collecting their abandoned material, we made bonfires of what we could not make use of, and rode back to Peacock's, where we found Maj. Sedgwick's command. Joining them we marched down to Big Bend and camped.

     As the surroundings and circumstances were very similar, this affair might have resulted, but for the accidental panic of the Indians, just as the ambuscade that Custer was drawn into by the Sioux and Cheyennes on the Little Big Horn, in '76, which ended in the massacre of Custer and his entire party.

     War with the Kiowas was now certain. They would construe the killing of the old Chief Pawnee as an open declaration of hostilities, and as they were fairly spoiling for a pretext, this would furnish a good one for going on the war path. And before we could warn them, or take the necessary steps to protect the scattering parties of emigrants along the road, many of the weak or defenseless and inexperienced travelers would fall victims to the treacherous savages.

     It would be folly to blame this unhappy culmination of events on Lieut. Bayard's rashness in killing the Indian Chief. He only did what almost any other man would have done under like circumstances, and the Kiowas were determined on an outbreak, with or without provocation.

Guarding The Trail
     That evening a Santa Fe mail passed our camp going into the settlement, and the party reported not having seen any signs of the hostiles as they came down the river. Maj. Sedgwick, being under orders to go to Fort Riley, Kan., with the command, sent by this mail dispatches to Department Headquarters concerning the turn affairs had taken, and saying that he would go on to Riley, as ordered, but would take the responsibility of leaving a detachment of 40 men, under a competent officer, to escort mails and furnish what protection they could to travel along the road through the range of the hostiles.

     Next day we remained in camp at the Big Bend. Another Santa Fe mail party came along, going west, and being informed of the state of affairs the conductor demanded an escort through the dangerous ground. A detail of 40 men-10 from each company-under the command of First Lieut. Elmer Otis (the late Col. Elmer Otis, retired, who died at San Diego a couple of years ago), was quickly made, I being one of the number, and we were soon in the saddle and jogging along the road with the mail wagon. The command was to await our return at the Big Bend. It was thought that the road would be safe beyond Pawnee Fork, 35 miles west, as no signs of the Kiowas had been seen lately west of that creek.

     A little before sunset we reached the east bank of Pawnee Fork without having seen any signs of the Indians, and Lieut. Otis halted the detachment and determined to camp for the night. The absence of all signs of the Indians had led us to believe that they had all gone off northward after their stampede from the village we had burnt on Walnut Creek, and they had probably kept strictly out of sight of the road in order to give us this impression and throw us off our guard.

     The conductor of the mail we were escorting was named Smith. His brother was one of the drivers and Bill Cole was the other. The mail matter in this instance was carried in a covered spring wagon, drawn by six mules, the out-rider or extra driver usually riding an extra mule alongside to whip up. Their usual day's drive was from 40 to 50 miles, camping out at night, as there are no mail stations or other habitations between Peacock's Ranch, at Walnut Creek near the Big Bend, and Fort Union, a distance of about 400 miles, and consequently no change of teams.
(continued next issue)

     April 24, 2010: Annual Fort Larned Old Guard
Mess & Muster at Fort Larned, Kansas.

"Deadline for Next Issue of Outpost: June 15, 2010"

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