Forgotten Forts Series - Fort Towson

NFB22

Sergeant Major
Joined
Jun 21, 2012
Location
Louisville, KY
Fort Towson is a ruined former U.S. Army post located near the town of Fort Towson in Choctaw County, Oklahoma. The post is once again constructed in an open-style post that was so common in the west prior to and following the American Civil War. The post was established on the recommendation of General Winfield Scott that a new fort be established in the Indian Territory. Construction began in 1824 under the command of Maj. Alexander Cummings of the U.S. 7th Infantry. The fort was named after Paymaster General of the Army Nathaniel Towson who also saw extensive action and built a name for himself during the War of 1812.
fort towson 2.jpg

The post helped maintain order in the Indian Territory by keeping the peace among settlers and indians as well as keeping a watchful eye for bandits in the region. However, in 1829 Fort Towson was abandoned until a year later when the post was reopened as Camp Phoenix in order to once again maintain the peace between indians and the region's settlers. Within a year the post was once again named Fort Towson. With its reestablishment Fort Towson became one of the most active posts in the Indian Territory and multiple new buildings were built to house and support it's troops. During that time the fort was garrisoned by elements of the 3rd U.S. Infantry under Major Stephen Kearney who would go on to command the "Army of the West" during the Mexican-American War. Prior to and during the Mexican-American War more buildings were built at the post using stone foundations. Some of these buildings included multiple enlisted barracks, multiple officers quarters, storerooms, a hospital, a magazine and a school. All of these buildings surrounded the central parade ground. During the Mexican-American War the fort was used as a staging area for troops and supplies.
Fort Towson 1.jpg

Following that war and the end of hostilities with Mexico the fort was seen as more of a secondary post. In 1854 the U.S. Army officially abandoned Fort Towson for the final time and for the rest of the decade the post's buildings were used by indian agents. A fire broke out in the late 1850's destroying many of the buildings at Fort Towson but some survived. With the outbreak of the American Civil War the abandoned fort was recongized as useful by Confederate troops. Small militia units quickly garrisoned the fort at the onset of the war but it was not until 1863 that Confederate troops would fully garrison the post. In 1864 Confederate Major General Samuel B. Maxey made Fort Towson the headquarters of the Indian Territory. In February of 1865 Maxey turned over his command to Brig. General Stand Watie who would use Fort Towson to the same capacity. Fort Towson would never fire a shot in anger during the war and it was at the nearby village of Doaksville that Watie surrendered his forces on June 23, 1865.
fort towson 4.jpg

Following the war in 1865 the fort was once again abandoned. The remaining buildings fell into disrepair and over time turned to ruins. It was not until 1967 that the state of Oklahoma and the Oklahoma Historical Society purchased the land in order to preserve what is left of Fort Towson. In 1970 the site was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
fort towson 3.jpg

Today Fort Towson is ran by the Oklahoma Historical Society as the Old Fort Towson State Historic Site. Visitors to the fort can walk the original parade ground and tour the old ruins of the fort. There is also a small visitors center that houses artifacts from Fort Towson. The ruins of the nearby settlement of Doaksville where Stand Watie surrendered his forces are also open to the public. Fort Towson is open Tuesday-Saturday from 9am-5pm and is free of charge to visit.

http://www.fortwiki.com/Fort_Towson
http://www.okhistory.org/sites/forttowson?full

Also be sure to check out all other "Forgotten Forts" threads in the Forgotten Forts Series Index (Link Below)
http://civilwartalk.com/threads/forgotten-forts-series-index.80901/
 

AndyHall

Colonel
Joined
Dec 13, 2011
I got to spend some time at Fort Towson working on a shipwreck project nearby, some years back. Lived in wall tents on the grounds, too, although the food was probably better than back in the day. At the end of the project the local folks hauled out CW-era field piece to shoot off, and treated the whole crew to squirrel stew, which is quite an experience, eating with a bunch of anthropology majors. More than once, somebody pulled out a little piece of bone and held it up, asking their colleagues, "scapula?"
 

NFB22

Sergeant Major
Joined
Jun 21, 2012
Location
Louisville, KY
I got to spend some time at Fort Towson working on a shipwreck project nearby, some years back. Lived in wall tents on the grounds, too, although the food was probably better than back in the day. At the end of the project the local folks hauled out CW-era field piece to shoot off, and treated the whole crew to squirrel stew, which is quite an experience, eating with a bunch of anthropology majors. More than once, somebody pulled out a little piece of bone and held it up, asking their colleagues, "scapula?"

I saw something on the OHS website about a wreck nearby.
http://www.okhistory.org/sites/rrwreck?full
 

AndyHall

Colonel
Joined
Dec 13, 2011
I saw something on the OHS website about a wreck nearby.
http://www.okhistory.org/sites/rrwreck?full
Yes, that's the one. The PAST Foundation (with whom I worked) ran a field school there in conjunction with the Oklahoma Historical Society in 2001. The wreck was subsequently fully studied by the Institute of Nautical Archaeology at Texas A&M, that identified it as the steamboat Heroine, sunk in 1838 while delivering supplied to Towson. It is, I think, the oldest Western Rivers steamboat fully studied as an archaeological site, and the only example I know of, of the single-engine boat with a central flywheel.

One of the artifacts recovered during the field school was an intact barrel of salt pork, presumably intended as rations either for the garrison or for distribution to Native Americans. After 163 years at the bottom of the Red River, it was not the most pleasant thing to be downwind of, but even before it went on to the conservation lab, it was clear that it was full of the oddest, crudest, cheapest cuts of the animal, largely bone, including a full, intact skull, complete with a circular punch hole right between the eyes from where it was stunned during butchering.
 
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donna

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Forum Host
Joined
May 12, 2010
Location
Now Florida but always a Kentuckian
Another very informative post. I didn't know you were putting book together on them. I must have missed reading that before.

When you do get book done. I know we (my husband and I) would like to but a copy. Thanks.
 

NFB22

Sergeant Major
Joined
Jun 21, 2012
Location
Louisville, KY
Another very informative post. I didn't know you were putting book together on them. I must have missed reading that before. When you do get book done. I know we (my husband and I) would like to but a copy. Thanks.

No book in the works at this time. It's just another one of those things on TinCan's wish list.
 

AndyHall

Colonel
Joined
Dec 13, 2011
Recovery of the 163-year-old barrel of salt pork from the Red River Wreck site, near Fort Towson. The staves had fallen away, leaving the barrel heads in place:

ScottSurfaceswithBarrel.jpg


ScottLiftsBarrel.jpg


BarrelOnBarge.jpg


SheliJohnWrapBarrel.jpg
 
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