Saturday, December 10, 2016

Fort Larned NHS

On the plains of south-central Kansas, lies Fort Larned NHS, a restored mid-1800s Army fort.  In its time, it sat along the Santa Fe Trail, serving as protector for those that traveled it.

Initially, a handful of American adventurers moved west to trap for furs or trade with the Indians for goods to send back east.  As I explained in my post about Bent's Old Fort, at that time, there was a healthy, symbiotic trade relationship between those early pioneers and the Indians.  As more Americans moved westward via the Santa Fe Trail, however, competition for land and resources between the native Indians and the newcomer Americans escalated, with attacks and treaty violations occurring on both sides.  Several forts, including Fort Larned, were established along the Trail to protect the commerce transiting it.  A detachment of the Indian Bureau was also based at the fort, charged with finding peaceful solutions to conflicts between the whites and Indians.

The restored fort is remarkably similar to military bases today, albeit on a much smaller scale.  At the site, you can tour the supply warehouse, officer and enlisted quarters, blacksmith shop, infirmary, and school/training room.  Each area has been restored to exactly how it would have been in the mid-1860s.  In fact, it's so well done, it sometimes feels as if you've gone back in time!

The standard supply warehouse of food, tools, and other supplies you would expect at any 1800s Army fort

In addition to the standard supplies, the fort also issued uniforms to the troops.
The Army issues orders for everything.  They even issue official orders for how to make the bread.
Enlisted quarters:  I believe they packed about 40 soldiers into this room.
Officer quarters:  Interestingly, officers were only allocated a specified amount of space.  For instance, Lieutenants and Captains were authorized one bedroom with an additional living/sitting room.  If they wanted their wives/family with them, they had to fit in that same amount of space.

The doctor's office and infirmary.  No privacy there!  And those beds looked awfully rickety.

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