Sights From Kansas – Fort Larned

Historical sites always draw me in to explore, so on my recent visit to Kansas, I borrowed my son’s car and set off to see Fort Larned, home to the guardians of the Santa Fe Trail as the website states. Knowing the raw deal Native Americans got from our government makes visiting an old fort difficult, but the National Park Service did a good job focusing on the Indian’s point of view in the wonderful visitor center. Of that I was glad. I wandered around outside the fort and tried to imagine living there so many years ago. It was really windy which kept me moving along. My next post will feature the interior displays set up inside each building. Stay tuned… ~SueBee

Per Wikipedia:

“The Camp on Pawnee Fork was established on October 22, 1859 to protect traffic along the Santa Fe Trail from hostile American Indians.[2] It was renamed Camp Alert in 1860, as the small garrison of about 50 men had to remain constantly alert for Indians. In May 1860 it was moved upstream, 3 miles (4.8 km) 30 miles to the west up the Pawnee Fork, and by the end of the month was renamed Fort Larned. It served the same purpose as Camp Alert and as an agency for the administration of the Central Plains Indians by the Bureau of Indian Affairs under the terms of the Fort Wise Treaty of 1861. The fort’s service ended as a combination of the tribes’ relocation to reservations and the completion of railroads across Kansas that ended the need for the Santa Fe Trail.

Larned, Kansas and the fort that was constructed there are named in honor of Colonel Benjamin F. Larned, the paymaster general of the United States Army at the time the post was established. Larned experienced a lengthy military career, first serving as an ensign in the 21st Infantry during the War of 1812. He was promoted to captain after the defense of Fort Erie, and by 1854 Larned was a colonel and had been appointed paymaster general. Despite the town and fort bearing his name, Colonel Larned never came to Kansas.

As the American government claimed vast amounts of land west of the Mississippi River, trade and commerce with the territories grew exponentially. According to one source in 1859, trade had risen $10,000,000 annually. In the Missouri Republican, it was reported that 2,300 men, 1970 wagons, 840 horses, 4,000 mules, 15,000 oxen, 73 carriages, and over 1,900 tons of freight left Missouri for New Mexico. It became apparent an additional fortification was required to protect the trade routes. Fort Larned’s location was chosen by William Bent, an agent for the Upper Arkansas Indians. Bent stated, “I consider it essential to have two permanent stations for troops, one at the mouth of Pawnee Fork, and one at Big Timbers, both upon the Arkansas River….To control them (the Indians), it is essential to have among them the perpetual presence of a controlling military force.””

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  1. | Sights From Kansas – Fort Larned part 2SueBee and Kat - Apr 08, 2021

    […] from my previous post, this gallery shows some of the interior displays at Fort Larned. I think it’s fascinating to […]

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