"Camp Nichols, Oklahoma"
USGS Aerial Photograph

Camp Nichols Oklahoma, 1865

     The summer of 1865 was related many years later by Mrs. R. D. (Marian) Russell;

     In May, 1865, orders were given Kit Carson to march eastward along the Santa Fe Trail, which passed Fort Union, and establish a cantonment for the protection of the wagon trains and stages along the route to the end of the railways in Missouri and Kansas. The Arapaho and Apache had added their forces to the Cheyennes, Kiowas and Comanches, and wagon trains had almost ceased trying to cross the Plains without military escort.

     Colonel Carson located Camp Nichols at Cedar Bluffs, about midway between the North Canadian River crossing and Cold Spring and about a mile north of the Santa Fe Trail, on or about May 31st. The high ground there commanded a fine view of the surrounding country, with a small stream about 600 feet away. It was 25 miles west of present Boise City, and 5 miles north of present Mexhoma, Oklahoma: and was completed in June, with stone walls 200 feet square. Camp Nichols was abandoned on or about September 22, 1865, after its troops had escorted many trains to Fort Dodge and Fort Larned, and to Fort Union.

     It has ever been the policy of this government to keep always in mind the permanent good of the white man while bestowing as many indulgences upon the lndian as it could.

     I did not go to the new point of defense until about 2 weeks after the troops had been at work at Camp Nichols, as it was called, some 120 miles east of Fort Union. I was then 20 years of age.

     Kit Carson, who marched from Fort Union with his regulars and selected the site, would not let me make this initial journey in May, although I begged that I might accompany my husband and others and scoffed at the idea of danger. But the colonel was obdurate. Perhaps 15 days after their arrival at Cedar Bluffs, he ordered Lieutenant Russell to proceed with wagons and an escort to Fort Union and on his return I accompanied him to Camp Nichols.

     On our arrival in June, 1865. we lived in army tents until our houses were completed. The latter were built of stone, half in the ground and half above, and had dirt roofs supported by logs.Timber for roofs and other purposes was cut at the head of one of the canyons 11 miles west, and laboriously hauled to the new camp. The rooms were just on the outside of the fort, some 20' from the south wall.

     In these officers' quarters lived Major A. H. Pfeiffer, in command after Carson left, Capt. R. C. Kemp, Capt. Strom (California Company), Capt. William Henderson and Lieutenants John Drenner, Campbell and Ortner. We had also 10 Indian scouts and 2 squaws and there were 2 laundresses, wives of Mexican soldiers of one of the companies, who washed for the infantry and cavalry, each soldier paying $1 a month for laundry work. Mrs. Henderson, wife of the officer, and I, with the above were the only women in camp.

     The soldiers, some 300 in number, slept in tents and dugouts within the enclosure. The Cheyennes and Arapahoes were especially bad east along the Trail, and every 2 weeks, as the wagon trains collected from the west at Nichols, an escort of our soldiers would accompany them to Fort Dodge or Larned and return with wagons westbound.

Camp Nichols Oklahoma, 1865

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