The struggles of an adolescent America became a full-fledged rebellion during the Civil War as the nation divided over the issues of slavery and self-determination. The war brought the U.S. Army back to Fort Scott. Union commanders viewed the town as a strategic point in southeast Kansas to establish a base of military operations, where the army could protect Kansas against a possible Confederate invasion. Troops reoccupied many of the old fort buildings, including the stables and hospital, and began construction on a variety of new buildings and over 40 miles of fortifications.
Fort Scott served as a major supply depot for Union armies in the West, a general hospital for soldiers in the region and a haven for people fleeing the war-displaced Indians, escaped slaves, and white farmers. Many of these refugees joined the Union Army, greatly diversifying its ranks. American Indian and African American regiments were recruited in the area, including the 1st Kansas Colored Infantry. Sworn in on the grounds of Fort Scott, this was the 1st African American regiment to engage the Confederates in combat.
Fort Scott’s military stores made it a target of Confederate General Sterling Price, who made two unsuccessful attempts to capture it during the war. Guerilla warfare, which plagued the region, also threatened the town. Intense fighting on the Kansas-Missouri border between the Jayhawkers and the Bushwhackers kept the military occupied. The Union presence likely spared Fort Scott from pillaging and destruction, a fate of other towns in the area.
After the Civil War ended, the nation began to heal and to unify. Railroads built across the continent played a major role in tying the country together. Town leaders of Fort Scott saw a railroad line as a means to build prosperity by tapping into the trade of Eastern markets. By 1869, their efforts succeeded as the first railroad reached the city. As workers laid tracks south of town, they came into conflict with squatters who forcefully opposed the railroad. The military returned and established the Post of Southeast Kansas (1869-73) to protect the railroad workers. This set the stage for a rare instance when U.S. troops took up arms against American citizens to protect the country’s business interests.
From 1842-73, Fort Scott evolved from an isolated frontier outpost into a bustling trade center and played a significant role in events that transformed the United States. During that time, America grew from a young divided republic through the growing pains of conflict and war into maturity as a united and powerful transcontinental nation.
Today, the city of Fort Scott is the only major town still existing in Kansas that developed from a U.S. Army fort established before Kansas became a territory and a state.
The fort itself is today restored and preserved as a National Historic site. The historic site is located in downtown Fort Scott ate the intersection of U.S. Highways 69 and 54.
Fort Scott National Historic Site
P.O. Box 918
Fort Scott, Kansas 66701
Fort Scott Hauntings
Fort Grounds – There have been several sightings of ghost-like Civil War soldiers looming on the lawn and around the courtyard. Officers have also been seen in the cell blocks and stables.
On one occasion a visitor to the fort made a comment to one of the staff about a nice conversation he had with a gentleman dressed in period costume. However, the staff person was somewhat confused as no one on staff was scheduled to be dressed in a costume that particular day. Inquiring at the office, this was confirmed. It appears that the Fort Scott tourist had the “pleasure” of meeting one of Fort’s many ghosts.
Officers Quarters – The Officer’s Quarters are said to be the most haunted. Long ago an officer accidentally shot himself when riding up to the building on the left. He had been showing off for his wife. The devastated woman held him in her arms as he died in front of the building. According to our reader Carol, she has felt the presence of the long-dead woman in the quarters on many occasions.
The building on the left once served as the Free State Hotel. However, when the fort was permanently closed, both buildings served as an orphanage home called Goodlander’s for many years. According to staff and guests, the sound of these long-ago orphan children are often heard playing in the two buildings.
Several sightings of fog-like apparitions have been reported sifting from the chimney in the officer’s quarters. It is said that at midnight every night a ghostly figure can be seen looking out of the window of the officer’s building formerly known as the Free State Hotel.