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History & Hauntings of Fort Leavenworth

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Fort Leavenworth



Fort Leavenworth History

Fort Leavenworth, first known as Cantonment Leavenworth, was established by Henry Leavenworth on the Missouri River on May 8, 1827. Fort Leavenworth was the first settlement in Kansas territory and is the oldest active Army post west of the Mississippi River. Sitting on the bluffs overlooking the western bank of the Missouri River, the fort initially served as a quartermaster depot, arsenal, and troop post, and was dedicated to protecting the fur trade and safeguarding commerce on the Santa Fe Trail.

The post was evacuated in May, 1829 and occupied by Kickapoo < Indians until it was re-garrisoned in the fall of 1829. The name of the post was changed to Fort Leavenworth on February 8, 1832.

Fort Leavenworth quickly became a primary destination for thousands of soldiers, surveyors, and settlers who were passing through on their way to the vast West. During these early years, soldiers from Fort Leavenworth protected wagon trains hauling supplies over the Santa Fe, Oregon and other trails to most forts, posts and military camps of the West, some as far as the Pacific Ocean. In 1839, Colonel S. W. Kearney marched against the Cherokee with ten companies of dragoons, the largest U.S. mounted force ever assembled.

With the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, the Army spent much time attempting to keep the lid on the pot of trouble between the proslavery bushwhackers and the free soil jayhawkers.

Military expeditions from Fort Leavenworth under General Albert Sidney Johnston also assisted in 1857-58 with bringing the Mormons in Utah under Brigham Young back under federal control.


During the Civil War, thousand of recruits were recruited and mustered out from Camp Lincoln at Fort Leavenworth. Between 1861 and 1865, the regular army formed the foundation on which volunteer forces were built. Fort Leavenworth was considered a rich prize by Confederate General Sterling Price who advanced towards the fort in 1864. Before reaching the fort, however, he was defeated in the battle of Westport, Missouri on October 23, 1864.


Railroads stretching towards the west came under increasing attack by the Plains Indians during the Civil War. Because the western posts were undermanned, Confederate prisoners were called upon to help fight the hostile Indians. Five of these regiments were outfitted at Fort Leavenworth.




For the next 30 years, Fort Leavenworth became the chief base of operations on the Indian frontier, their primary mission to control the American Indian tribes on the Western plains. Between the years of 1865 and 1891, the Army had more than 1,000 combat engagements with Apache, Modoc, Cheyenne, Ute, Nez Perce, ComancheKiowa, Kickapoo and other tribes. The Indians wanted to maintain their lands and freedom, and the United States government wanted to place the Indians on reservations. With the constant breaking of treaties and an inability to send the Indians promised supplies, the Indians did not feel compelled to keep treaties on their own end. Fort Leavenworth was directly involved in the Indian Wars through 1878, when Chief Joseph's Nez Perce tribe was detained at the fort after their defeat in 1877. 


In 1866, the U.S. Congress authorized the formation of four black regiments the 24th and 25th Infantry Regiments and the 9th and 10th Cavalry Regiments. The 10th Cavalry Regiment was formed at Fort Leavenworth under the command of Colonel Benjamin H. Grierson on September 21, 1866. In western Kansas, the Kiowa encountered the soldiers of the 10th, and finding them to be valiant opponents, termed them the "Buffalo Soldiers."


In time, the term was used for the black soldiers in four regiments. The Buffalo Solders left Fort Leavenworth to win repeated honors on the plains and in the west. In 1898 the Buffalo Soldiers fought in Cuba winning praise from Theodore Roosevelt and his Rough Riders for their critical role in the battle for Santiago.


The Buffalo Soldiers also served on the Mexican border before the American entry into the First World War. Today a monument stands at Fort Leavenworth in tribute to the Buffalo Soldiers of the 9th and 10th Cavalry Regiments.



Continued Next Page

Buffalo Soldier at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas

Buffalo Soldiers Monument, November, 2003, Kathy Weiser


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