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Oklahoma Forts of the Old West

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Oklahoma Forts

 

Camp Nichols

Fort Arbuckle

Fort Cobb

Fort Davis

Fort Gibson

Fort McCulloch

Fort Reno

Fort Sill 

Fort Supply

Fort Towson

Fort Washita

Fort Wayne

 

Buffalo soldiers

After the Civil War, Fort Arbuckle was occupied by Buffalo Soldiers.

Image available for photo prints & editorial downloads HERE.

 

Camp Nichols (1865) - Also known as Fort Nichols or Camp Nichols Ranch, the historic fortification was located about 3.5 miles northwest of present-day Wheeless, Oklahoma. Founded by Colonel Kit Carson, the noted soldier, trapper and scout, it was occupied for only a few months in 1865. Established to protect travelers on the Cimarron Cut-off of the Santa Fe Trail from raids by the Kiowa and Comanche Indians, it was the only military site on the trail in Oklahoma.

 

Thought to have been named in honor of Captain Charles P. Nichols of the First California Cavalry, soldiers built a stone wall around the parade ground, officers' quarters, a hospital, a commissary and other outbuildings. Some 300 California and New Mexico troops were quartered in dugouts and tents.

 

Wagon trains traveling between Fort Dodge, Kansas and Fort Union, New Mexico stopped at Camp Nichols frequently. It never officially became a "fort" and was only utilized for a few short months. It was abandoned in November, 1865.

 

Today, there is nothing left of the fort other than a few tumbled stones. Though placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1966, it is located on private property and is not accessible to the public. Wagon ruts can still be seen about 0.5 mile south of the fort.

 

Fort ArbuckleFort Arbuckle (1851-1870) - Established in April, 1851 by Captain Randolph B. Marcy and Company D of the 5th U.S. Infantry, the fort was named for General Matthew Arbuckle, the Commander of the Military Department of Missouri, who died of cholera on April 11, 1851. Built in the mostly unsettled Indian Territory, its purpose was to protect the "Civilized" Indians, including the Chickasaw and Choctaw, from the Kiowa and Comanche , as well as protecting emigrants making their way to the California gold fields using the trails between Fort Smith, Arkansas and Santa Fe, New Mexico.

 

Erected in a rectangular shape, the log buildings included barracks, a commissary, quartermaster's quarters, and officers' quarters. Just outside the rectangle was a hospital and sutler's store.

 

During its active years, the post was occupied by the U.S. Army, Confederate troops,  including the Chickasaw Brigade during the Civil War, and then reoccupied by the U.S. Army's 10th U.S. Cavalry of "Buffalo Soldiers."

 

 

 

When Fort Sill was established, the troops were transferred and Fort Arbuckle was abandoned in the Spring of 1870. Today, all that is left of the site is part of a chimney from the officers' quarters. A historical marker has been erected on Oklahoma State Highway 7 in Hoover, Garvin County.

Fort Cobb (1859-1869) - Established on October 1, 1859, Fort Cobb’s original purpose was to supervise the move of Texas Indians into Oklahoma. Under the guidance of Major W.H. Emory of Fort Arbuckle, the post was built by two companies of the First Cavalry and one company of the First Infantry. Constructed on the high ground east of the present-day town of the same name, the buildings consisted of wood and adobe.  

During the Civil War, the post was occupied by both Confederate and Union forces. After the vast majority of Indians took up with the southern forces, Union troops retreated north into Kansas in May, 1861 and Confederate soldiers took over the post. The post was sacked by Indians in October, 1862, but continued to be held intermittently by Confederate commands until close of Civil War. It was re-garrisoned by Federal soldiers in the Fall of 1868, serving as a post for soldiers during the Indian Wars. General George Armstrong Custer's command was encamped at Fort Cobb from December, 1868 to January, 1869. Shortly afterwards, the fort was abandoned in March, 1869.

Today, there is nothing left of the post other than a monument in Fort Cobb, Oklahoma.

Fort Davis (1861-62) - Established to serve as a Confederate headquarters in Indian Territory and named in honor of Jefferson Davis, the post was located on the south bank of the Arkansas River 2 ˝ miles northeast of present-day Muskogee, Oklahoma. Under the direction of Brigadier General Albert Pike, the fort’s construction began in November, 1861 and its purpose was to aid in the struggle to keep Indian Territory loyal to the south and prevent Union invasions into Texas from the north. When complete, the post included 13 wooden buildings, including barracks, a commissary, stables, and other out buildings. Garrisoned by troops from the Five Civilized Tribes, Texas, and Arkansas, it was officially named Cantonment Davis, though was always more commonly known as Fort Davis.

However, its life was short-lived, as, after the Confederate defeat at the Battle of Pea Ridge, Arkansas in March, 1862, Brigadier General Albert Pike believed that his headquarters at Fort Davis were vulnerable to attack. Gathering his scattered forces, he retreated to a bluff on the south bank of the Blue River and started a new post known as Fort McCulloch.

On December 27, 1862, the fort was burned by Union troops led by Colonel William A. Phillips.  Though nothing remains of the fort today, the site was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971.

Fort Gibson (1824-1890) - Fort Gibson was one of the most important of the posts on the "Permanent Indian Frontier." See full article HERE.

Confederate Brigadier General Albert PikeFort McCulloch (1862-1865) - After the Confederates were defeated at the Battle of Pea Ridge, Arkansas in March, 1862, Brigadier General Albert Pike believed that his headquarters at Fort Davis were vulnerable to attack. Gathering his scattered forces, he retreated to a bluff on the south bank of the Blue River about three miles southwest of Kenefic, Oklahoma. He named the post General Benjamin McCulloch who died at Pea Ridge. Though strategically located along routes leading to Forts Gibson and Washita in Indian Territory, Fort Smith, Arkansas, and supply towns in north Texas, no permanent buildings were erected. Consisting of earthworks, the post was garrisoned by Texas and Arkansas troops.  When Pike resigned in July, 1862, the importance of the post declined, but served as a refugee haven during the war and briefly, in 1865, as General Stand Watie's seat of command. The site, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is on private property and there are no remains of its former activity.

 

Fort Reno (1874-1949) - Fort Reno began as a military camp in 1874 in the Indian Wars Era. See full article HERE.

 

Fort Sill (1869-Present) - Fort Sill remains the only active Army installation of all the forts on the South Plains built during the Indian Wars. See full article HERE.

 

Fort Supply (1868-1894) - First established as Camp Supply, the post was built to protect the Southern Plains. See full article HERE.

 

Fort Towson, OklahomaFort Towson (1824-1865) - Established in May, 1824, the post was originally called "Cantonment Towson,” in honor of Nathaniel Towson, Paymaster General of the Army. Originally, the fort served as an outpost on the border between the United States and Texas, which was, at that time, part of Mexico. At this time, the area was rife with conflict between white settlers and Indians, as well as numerous lawless elements, and threats from Mexico. In 1829, the post was abandoned but soon reestablished as "Camp Phoenix" to protect the Choctaw Nation. It was renamed back to Fort Towson in 1831.

 

During the 1830s, troops were responsible for protecting settlers bound for Texas and served as a dispersal point for the displaced Choctaw and Chickasaw Indians when they were moved to Indian Territory from their homes in the Southeastern United States. In 1842, troops from Fort Towson helped in the construction of Fort Washita 70 miles to the west and was an important staging area for U.S. forces during the Mexican War of 1846.

 

The post continued to be occupied until 1854, when it was turned over to the Choctaw Indian Agency. However, when the Civil War began, southern forces took over the post, which eventually became the headquarters of Confederate General Samuel B. Maxey. Later, it was the last stronghold of General Stand Watie, who surrendered to federal troops at the post in June, 1865 following the Battle of Doaksville. Afterwards, the fort was permanently abandoned.

The Oklahoma Historical Society acquired the site in 1960, but there was little left of the old post. Today, the historic site, added to the National Register of Historic Place in 1970, features a museum about two miles northeast of the present community of Fort Towson, Oklahoma.

 

Fort Towson
HC 63, Box 1580
Fort Towson, Oklahoma  74735-9273
580-873-2634

 

Also See:  Doaksville Archeological Site

 

 

Fort Washita (1842-1870) -Established in 1842 by General Zachary Taylor to protect the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations from the Plains >Indians, the post was the southwestern-most fort in the United States at the time. See full article HERE.

 

Fort Wayne (1839-1842) - Established in 1839 by Lieutenant Colonel R. B. Mason of the 1st Dragoons, the post was named in honor of General "Mad" Anthony Wayne. Its purpose was to be one of many forts established to protect the "new" American West. It's initial life; however, was short lived, as it was abandoned just three years later in 1842, and turned over to the Cherokee Nation. When the Civil War broke out, Stand Watie took over the post and organized the Cherokee Mounted Rifles.

 

On October 22, 1862, Brigadier General James G. Blunt and his troops attacked Colonel Douglas H. Cooper and his Confederate command on Beatties Prairie near Old Fort Wayne. Though the southern forces put up a stiff resistance initially, overwhelming numbers forced them to flee shortly after the battle began, leaving their artillery and equipment behind. There were some 150 Confederate casualties.

 

Today, the location is an Oklahoma Historic site, but nothing remains of the post. it is located in Delaware County, Oklahoma on State Highway 20 about a mile west of the Arkansas border.

 

 

© Kathy Weiser/Legends of America, updated January, 2015.

 

 

 

Oklahoma Forts Slideshow:

 

 

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