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Fort Larned

a National Historic Site near Larned, Kansas

location of Fort Larned
location of Fort Larned National Historic Site

In the fall of 1859 Captain George H. Stewart, commanding Company K of the First United States Cavalry, was sent out with his company to establish a post on the Santa Fe Trail. He selected a site on the south bank of the Pawnee River about eight miles west of its junction with the Arkansas River, and Camp on Pawnee Fork was established on October 22. The camp was renamed "Camp Alert" on February 1, 1860. It was moved 2 miles west on May 29, 1860, at which time it was also renamed Fort Larned, in honor of Colonel Benjamin F. Larned, the Paymaster-General of the U. S. Army. The first buildings at Fort Larned were built of adobe, but they were gradually replaced with ones constructed of locally quarried limestone.

Fort Larned was a key post during the Indian Wars of 1859 to 1869, but also served as an agency of the Indian Bureau. A number of notable individuals passed through the fort during this time, including Kit Carson, Buffalo Bill Cody, and George Armstrong Custer. From 1867 to 1869, the 10th U. S. Cavalry, more familiarly known as the "Buffalo Soldiers," was stationed at the fort.

The Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad was completed to the fort in 1872, effectively ending the fort's role as protector of the Santa Fe Trail. By 1878 all potentially hostile Indians had been moved to reservations, and the U. S. Army officially abandoned Fort Larned on July 19, 1878.

Fort Larned in April 1879
Fort Larned in 1879

On August 4, 1882, the U. S. Congress passed an act directing the Secretary of War "to relinquish and turn over to the Department of the Interior, to the public domain, the Fort Larned reservation, to be sold to actual settlers at the appraised price, not more than a quarter-section to any one purchaser." The formal transfer took place on March 26, 1883, and the buildings and land were sold at public auction the following year.

Fort Larned's land and buildings remained in private hands until August 1964, when it became a National Historic Site. Nine of the fort's original buildings are still standing, including the officers' quarters, barracks, and a blacksmith shop. The site also includes a reconstruction of a hexagon-shaped blockhouse.

Fort Larned as it looks today
Fort Larned today


Kansas Historical Society
Legends of America
National Park Service

See Also

Kit Carson
Buffalo Bill Cody
George Armstrong Custer
Buffalo Soldiers
National Historic Sites

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This page was last updated on November 17, 2018.