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American History
Trails to nowhere and to everywhere
contributed by Lu Hickey


In the early 1800's,  American history reveals the old west had lots of trails as the western migration continued to lead thousands of easterners west to explore the new frontier, seek their fortune, stake their claim,  homestead a portion of the large land grants that were available to them.

The Indians were at their peak,   continuously raiding the wagon trains, killing or kidnapping the women and stealing the horses and food.  For good reason, the white man was moving further and further into their domain and retaliation was in order.  This prompted the Indian Affairs in Washington DC to provide protection for the many wagon trains scattered across the vast plains of the midwest.  Thusly, the US Cavalry was dispatched.

As we glean the early history of the East to West forts, Fort Leavenworth first known as Cantonment Leavenworth, was established by Henry Leavenworth on the Missouri River's right bank of Salt Creek 8 May 1827 to protect the western frontier and travelers on the Santa Fe Trail.

The post was evacuated in May 1829 and occupied by Kickapoo Indians until regarrisioned in the Fall of 1829 the post was renamed Fort Leavonworth, 8 February, 1832. 

The 1835 expedition, on a summer tour, traveled from the South Platte River then along the Arkansas by a route along the base of the Rocky Mountains the followed Bent's Fort to the Santa Fe Trail junction on the march back to Fort Leavonworth.

Fort Leavonworth had a vital role in the protection of Union interests of Kansas and western Missouri at the beginning of the civil war, and was an attractive target throughout the war because of it arsenal.  During the war, Camp Lincoln was established on the military reservation of Fort Leavenworth to muster the volunteers coming into federal service.

The 7th Kansas Cavalry (Jennisons Jayhawkers) mustered in at Fort Leavenworth on August 31, 1861. The unit had a bad reputation at this time--lots of looting and numerous raids into Missouri, captured and exchanged at the battle of the Little Blue near Kansas City around November 1861.  They were granted furlough at Memphis Tennessee on January 22, 1864 and mustered out at Fort Leavonworth on September 29, 1865.  Fort Leavonworth is the oldest permanent United States military post west of the Missouri River.  It is still operative and the 35th Infantry Division is stationed there.

Fort Monument Station was on the Smoky Hill Trail which was a stage coach and Pony Express route and was established in 1865.  It was located in Gove County, Kansas Territory between Fort Hays and Fort Wallace.  It was designated Monument Station and it was the garrison for Cavalry troops who were sent there by Major General Greenville Dodge, to protect the station from the Indian attacks.  This fort was functional from 1867 to 1870 at which time the Kansas /Pacific Railroad proceeded on westerly and in June 1868 the garrison was withdrawn.

Fort Mann is another not so well known or well garrisoned fort. It was located a few miles west of Dodge City in Ford County Kansas on the bank of the Arkansas River east of the site of the old Fort Atkinson.  It was located 25 miles east of the Cimmaron Crossing of the Santa Fe Trail.

The Kansas Territory is a fairly large area, now measuring 400 miles east to west.  It was of course, prime for the Plains Indians when the settlers began to move in.  The Indians did not think the Blue Coats would go that far out into the territory away from Fort Leavonworth.  But they were in for a surprise...

Fort Mann was established as it was of equal distance from Fort Leavonworth to Santa Fe New Mexio Territory. The government needed this garrison as a stop over point for the repair of their wagons and replacement of animals.  Built by Captain Daniel Mann, master teamster, (for whom the fort was named), and a corps of forty teamsters were directed by William McKissack, Captain and assistant quartermaster.

Although this was not a regular defensive military post, it was defensible and occupied from time to time.  The ten soldiers there could scarcely defend themselves, let alone passing caravans.  During the year, Lt. Commander Gilpin counted 3000 wagons, 12,000 persons, and 150,000 head of cattle that had passed the Fort.  The Commanches and Kiowa Indians killed forty seven of these Americans and stole 6500 head of stock.

Fort Mann was repaired and enlarged in 1848.  Fort Mann was abandoned in 1850 when Fort Atkinson was established.


 

 


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