Forgotten Forts Series - Fort Smith (AR)

NFB22

Sergeant Major
Joined
Jun 21, 2012
Location
Louisville, KY
After finishing up finals and what not the series is back, hopefully I can spread some new information around about some more "forgotten forts" around the United States that played a part in the American Civil War.

Fort Smith was a post located in what is now modern day Fort Smith, Arkansas. The fort that played a role in the American Civil War was actually the second fort built on the site located at the confluence of the Arkansas and Poteau Rivers. The orginal Fort Smith was begun in 1817 and completed roughly 5 years later. This fort was a square stone and timber work with 2 blockhouses. The fort was only garrisoned for a few years before troops were transferred to larger and stronger fortifications.
800px-Fort_Smith_Bks_Courthouse_-_4.jpg

A second fort was designed for the site and construction began in 1839 under the command of Captain Charles Thomas. The fort was to be a masonry work with a pentagonal layout similiar to Fort Sumter or Pulaski however the fort was also to have major bastions at each angle of the fortification. The plans called for 12 ft walls with 2 story bastions with the walls being 3 feet thick. Construction went well into 1841 with the walls being built up to 1/3 of their projected height before progress was halted. The fort was to be converted to an Army supply depot and construction began on barracks (above) and other garrison buildings. During this time Fort Smith was under the command of Zachary Taylor before he took command of forces during the Mexican-American War. During the war supplies from Fort Smith were crucial to an American victory. Later during Taylor's presidency the fort was deactivated but the order was reversed upon his death.
Attack-Across-the-Poteau.jpg

With the outbreak of the American Civil War in 1861 the Fort Smith garrison was relatively unprepared with only a small garrison at the supply depot. Union troops under the comamnd of Captain Samuel D. Sturgis (Sturgis would go on to become a Brig. General during the war) abandoned the fort on April 23 and state troops quickly occupied the post. Confederate forces would continue to occupy Fort Smith until September of 1863 when Union troops would reoccupy the position. The fort did see action in late summer of 1864 when Confederate forces under the overall command of then Colonel Stand Watie shelled the fort to no avail. Fort Smith remained in Union hands for the remainder of the war with its supplies being used to support the Union war effort in the west.
fort smith 1.jpg

Following the war the fort would continue it's duties as a supply depot until 1871 when the U.S. Army abandoned it. In the following years the forts large masonry barracks served as a U.S. District Court and would continue to do so until just shortly before the turn of the century.

Today Fort Smith is a National Historic Site and is maintained by the National Park Service. Vistors can see the second Fort Smith's original restored barracks and the Federal courtroom along with teh commissary building. The orginal walls and bastions are clearly marked to give visitors an idea of the size of the fort. Ruins of the first fort can also be viewed along with the ruins of the house used by Zachary Taylor when he commanded the post. A vistor center is also on the grounds. The park is open year round to visitors.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fort_Smith,_Arkansas
http://www.nps.gov/fosm/index.htm

This fort along with all other "Forgotten Forts" will be listed in the series index below.
http://civilwartalk.com/threads/forgotten-forts-series-index.80901/
 

TinCan

Captain
Joined
Aug 20, 2011
Location
Transplanted Texan
Fort Smith will always be infamous as the site of Judge Isaac Parker's (The Hanging Judge) courtroom.
In 21 years on the federal bench, Judge Parker tried 13,490 cases—344 of which were for capital offenses. Suspects pleaded guilty or were convicted in 9,454 cases. Of the 160 sentenced to death by hanging (156 men, and 4 women), 79 were hanged. The rest died while incarcerated, appealed, or were pardoned.
 

ErnieMac

Lt. Colonel
Forum Host
Silver Patron
Retired Moderator
Joined
May 3, 2013
Location
Pennsylvania
Probably more famous from its role in the administration of the Oklahoma Territory, courtesy of Judge Isaac Parker and John Wayne (Rooster Cogburn).
 

NFB22

Sergeant Major
Joined
Jun 21, 2012
Location
Louisville, KY
Fort Smith will always be infamous as the site of Judge Isaac Parker's (The Hanging Judge) courtroom.
In 21 years on the federal bench, Judge Parker tried 13,490 cases—344 of which were for capital offenses. Suspects pleaded guilty or were convicted in 9,454 cases. Of the 160 sentenced to death by hanging (156 men, and 4 women), 79 were hanged. The rest died while incarcerated, appealed, or were pardoned.
z

I read up on Parker when I was looking for info on the fort. He actually died in just a matter of weeks after they stopped using Fort Smith as a Federal court.
 
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