Monday, July 10, 2006

Fort Scott National Historical Site

We were invited to a friend’s son’s wedding in Osawatomie, Kansas, on Friday evening. It was a perfect opportunity to load up the Trekker and do a little Kansas road trip. We spent Friday night in the parking lot of the motel where our friends were staying. The wedding was beautiful, the reception had a live band and afterward we sat around on lawn chairs just talking until 1:00 am. Glad we had our bed with us.

Saturday morning we ate breakfast with the group and then took off for Fort Scott National Historical Site near the city of Fort Scott. On the way, we stopped at the Mine Creek Battlefield museum. It is located on the actual site of the Civil War battle. We attended a program about this battle last February at the Clinton Historical Society meeting. It provided a good background to the actual site of the battle.

Fort Scott is beautifully preserved. Many of the buildings are original and the few they did have to rebuild were to exact specifications. A Park Ranger provided additional insight into the daily living of the time. The fort was constructed mainly by the soldiers stationed there from 1842-46 at a cost of $32,000, a low figure even at that time. The Nation was not ready to spend much money on the frontier army. Its purpose was to protect the Indian Nations from intrusion from settlers as the Kansas Oklahoma territory was set aside as Indian land at that time.

During the active years of the fort, it was the home of the 1st Dragoons, Co. A. These well-trained mounted soldiers were able to fight on horseback or on foot. They went into battle with three weapons: the Hall carbine, .52 caliber, the 1842 percussion pistol, .54 caliber and a saber. Their company was identified by the color of horse they rode with black being the color of Co. A at Fort Scott. The Dragoon name was later changed to Calvary probably to the disappointment of the proud soldiers at that time.

Fort Scott was sold at auction in 1853, well before the Civil War. Tomorrow, Bleeding Kansas.

Bleeding Kansas

I am feeling a little uncomfortable writing about Bleeding Kansas. There are so many knowledgeable historians and I am not one of them. However, we are interested and learning. We spent an hour listening to a National Park Ranger at Fort Scott tell the major role Kansas played in the Civil War and I will try to recount his facts. He started his presentation with three items on a table, a gun, a ballot box, and a gavel. His point being, Kansas experienced all three before becoming the 34th State.

Kansas was not yet a state when the Union and Confederate States were forming. At the time, the assumption was southern states would be Confederate and the northern Union. In 1854 Congress opened Kansas and Nebraska for settlement and let them decide by vote whether they would be slave or free. There were many of both persuasions trying to influence the outcome. The first vote had to be thrown out because of Missourians crossing the border to cast illegal ballots. It was during this time that within five miles of our home Quantrill’s guerrillas raided a family residence and killed one man. Of course, Lawrence, just 10 miles away, was the center of his wrath as was Miami County to the south. It wasn’t only Missourians, Kansas had John Brown.

Troops were brought back to Bourbon county and the Fort Scott area to patrol the Military Road running from the Kansas City area to Texas and helped quell the border violence. There was still the political battle and at one time, there were two congresses meeting in the state, one free and one slave. In the end, seven years after the territory was opened for settlement, January 29th, 1861, Kansas entered the Union as a free state.

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