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Missouri Forts - Page 2

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Pilot Knob Mountain, Missouri, 1876Fort Hovey (1861-1864) - Also called Fort Curtis, this fortress was a small Civil War era earth-and-wood post built on a hill overlooking the junction of the road that connected Ironton and Pilot Knob with Fredericktown in 1863. The fort's objective was to protect the Arcadia Valley and the iron mines located on Pilot Knob Mountain. It was initially named Fort Hovey in honor of Union Colonel Charles E. Hovey, who commanded the 33rd Illinois Volunteer Infantry, who built the fort in the winter of 1861-62. 


After the Union victory led by Brigadier General Samuel R. Curtis at the Battle of Pea Ridge, Arkansas on March 8, 1862, the post was renamed Fort Curtis in his honor. The fort continued to be occupied until Confederate troops advanced into Missouri in 1864. The fort was then abandoned because it was to far from the rail terminus and supply depot in Pilot Knob. The Union troops were relocated to Fort Davidson, about 2 ½ miles north at the town of Pilot Knob. Fort Curtis was briefly used as an observation post by Confederate Soldiers just before, during and shortly after the Battle of Pilot Knob.


Though there is nothing left of the fort today, the site is designated with a historic marker located on the Arcadia Valley United Presbyterian Church ground at Church and Spring Streets in Arcadia, Missouri.


Fort Orleans (1723-1726) - Also called Fort D'Orleans, this was a French fort -- the first built by any European country on the Missouri River and the first settlement in what is the State of Missouri today.


It was established in November, 1723 by Étienne de Veniard, Sieur de Bourgmont and 40 French soldiers on the Missouri River, near the mouth of the Grand River, but its exact location is unknown. The fort was to be the Missouri River headquarters of the newly created Louisiana (New France) territory and was named for the Duke of Orléans. When complete, the post included a chapel, the first Catholic church in the Missouri Valley.


De Bourgmond, a friend to many Indian tribes and author of the first navigation report on the Missouri River in 1714, was chosen to build the fort by a French trading concern, The Company of the Indies. The fort was to serve as a check to any advance by the Spanish from the southwest and as a base for New Mexican and Indian trade. Bourgmond was later made Commandant on the Missouri River and was in charge of making peace with the Comanche Indians. n 1724, De Bourgmond traveled to Kansas via the Kansas River to the southwest, where he fulfilled his commission to make peace with the Comanche tribe, as well as the Osage, Iowa, Pawnee, Oto and Makah tribes .


In 1725 he returned to France taking several Indian chiefs and a young Missouri maiden along for a visit. The whole party delighted the French who called the girl "Princess of the Missouri," saw her baptized in Notre Dame, and married to a sergeant. De Bourgmond was made a noble and had for his coat of arms an Indian against a silver mountain. Bourgmond did not acompany the chiefs back to Missouri, instead choosing to stay at his home in Normandy. The following year, the fort was abandoned. One story says that it was left manned by only eight soldiers, who were killed by Indians.

The exact location of the fort is unknown; however a marker is located on US Highway 24 in the Wiese Roadside Park about one mile northeast of De Witt, Missouri.


Fort ZumwaltFort Zumwalt (1798-1815) - Located in present-day O'Fallon, Missouri, this frontier fortress was originally built by Jacob Zumwalt. In the beginning it included only a log cabin for his family; however when the War of 1812 erupted, he enlarged the home with two wings, added portholes to the walls, and enclosed it within a stockade fence. It soon became a gathering place for area settlers during Indian uprisings. Zumwalt sold his property in 1817, and in 1837, it sold again to Major Nathan Heald who built a large home in 1884.

Today the site is the Fort Zumwalt Park. Amazingly, a stone chimney with two fireplaces of the original Zumwalt home continue to stand. The park also includes the historic  Darius Heald home, which has been restored.


Joseph Robideaux' Trading Post (1826-1840?) - Also called the Blacksnake Hills Trading Post, it was founded by Joseph Robidoux III for the American Fur Company in what would later become St. Joseph, Missouri. The trading post prospered, but after four years, Robidoux returned to independent trading. Doing very well, he ultimately became the "Father" of  St. Joseph when he hired two men to lay out the town, which was an immediate success. The site of the old trading post was at present day Riverfront Park in St. Joseph, Missouri.



Liberty Arsenal, MissouriLiberty Arsenal (1830's-1861) - In the late 1830s the United States Government established an arsenal in Liberty, a town settled in the 1820's, primarily by southern pioneers. This alleviated many fears of the residents who constantly worried about Indian raids. With the militia guarding the arsenal, the Indians stayed away. But, the town of Liberty had more to fear. Though the city was mostly populated with southern sympathizers, the arsenal was raided by proslavery men during the Kansas-Missouri Border War in 1855.


Surprisingly, when the Civil War broke out, Missouri voted to stay with the Union, even though the state was filled with a Confederate minded population. This placed the state in a war within its own borders. The arsenal was raided again on April 20, 1861 by about 200 men from Clay and Jackson Counties. The Southern sympathizers captured about one thousand muskets, four brass field pieces and a small amount of ammunition. It was the  first civilian Civil War hostility against the Federal government in the State.


The munitions were to be hidden at the home of Henry Lewis Routt near what is now William Jewell College. Routt was eventually captured and tried for treason, found guilty in a military trial and sentenced to hang. But, friends on both the Confederate and union sides interceded and President Abraham Lincoln issued a pardon, one of the earliest of wartime acts of mercy.


Instead, a large proportion of the arms were shipped upriver to the charge of St. Joseph Mayor M. Jeff Thompson. The arms were distributed to Missouri Militiamen and later to the Missouri State Guard. The four brass field pieces became Captain Henry Guibor's State Guard battery.


Union General Nathaniel Lyon, fearing that the much larger St. Louis Arsenal could also fall, seized the St. Louis Arsenal on April 29th and began sending most of its munitions safely to Illinois.


Today, there is nothing left of the Liberty Arsenal that was once located at Liberty Landing on the Missouri River.




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


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