In 1842, Fort Scott was constructed to protect the Permanent Indian Frontier. Soldiers stationed at Fort Scott attempted to maintain peaceable relations between the settlers in the area and the nearby American Indian Tribes. Prior to 1840, many Native American tribes were displaced in the Kansas territory and living among white settlers and other Native American tribes native to the region. Due to Manifest Destiny, many American settlers were moving west and into Native American territory. Military forts were established from Fort Snelling in Minnesota all the way down to Fort Jessup in Louisiana. Fort Scott was geographically situated in the middle of this line of forts.
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Military presence in the area served two purposes. The first was to maintain relations between white settlers and Native Americans. The second was to keep the peace between the various Native American tribes living in the area. In 1850, after the California Gold Rush, relations between the United States and Native Americans dissipated and the American government abandoned their efforts to protect Native Americans.
Dragoon Expeditions - In the 1840’s, Dragoon soldiers from Fort Scott conducted expeditions escorting parties across the Santa Fe and Oregon Trails, explored unmapped territories, and maintained relations with Plains Indians.
Bleeding Kansas - In 1853, the military abandoned Fort Scott and their efforts in the area. The buildings were sold at auction and became the center of a growing town. During this time, Fort Scott found itself in the middle of the “Bleeding Kansas” era. Pro-slavers, free-staters, and abolitionists fought for what each believed to be the just cause. The buildings in Fort Scott were largely taken over by pro-slavers. The free state forces waged a campaign in Fort Scott against all who opposed them. It was a time of great turmoil followed by several bloody incidences.
Civil War - Following the “Bleeding Kansas” years came the Civil War. The U.S Army returned to Fort Scott and established headquarters at the old frontier military post. The Union Army occupied the buildings of Fort Scott and 40 miles of fortifications around Fort Scott. By the early 1860’s, Fort Scott would become the largest and strongest military point south of Fort Leavenworth. The Quartermaster Supply Depot, General Hospital, and two-story military prison made Fort Scott a key location for Union troops during the Civil War. The summer of 1865 saw an end to the Civil War and military presence at Fort Scott. The government buildings and military surplus were sold and the soldiers vacated the town.
Railroad Expansion - In the years following the Civil War, railroad expansion surged in the West. Railroad companies fought to be the first to build a railroad through Indian territory south of Fort Scott. Settlers in Fort Scott banned against the railroads as a response to the prospect of losing their lands. They waged violence against the railroad workers and military presence was seen once again in Fort Scott. The soldiers in Fort Scott were sent to keep the peace between the railroad company and the settlers, but the influence of the railroad tycoon, James Joy, in the US government was seen with the protection of the railroad workers over the settlers. The railroad line eventually made it through Indian territory and served as an economic boost to Fort Scott. It provided the town with ties to the east and made Fort Scott a center for trade in southeast Kansas.
The historical site of Fort Scott has 11 original buildings and 30 historically furnished rooms that are open to the public. The Infantry Barracks contains exhibits about the military presence in Fort Scott from the frontier days through the Civil War era. The Dragoon Barracks Museum tells of the expeditions led in the frontier days of the 1840’s. The Wilson-Goodlander house contains exhibits of the site’s construction. The Fort Scott Visitor Center is located in the former military hospital that later served as a school for African Americans. It is open year-round. Restrooms and a book store are available at the Visitor’s Center.
Curriculum materials are available about Fort Scott. Field trips, guided tours, and guest speakers are provided to help students gain a better understanding of Fort Scott and its significance to American history. A junior program is available for younger and older children. Participants complete activities throughout Fort Scott and its historical sites to complete the Junior Ranger program. The Trailblazer Program is a summer day camp available to children ages 9-12. Participants engage in a series of activities over the course of five days that encourages the mission of the National Park Service.
Old Ft. blvd, Fort Scott, KS, Phone: 620-223-0310