William G. Cutler's History of the State of Kansas


[TOC] [part 10] [part 8] [Cutler's History]


The history of Fort Leavenworth has been traced up to the time that it has acquired its present status as a magnificent natural park. If the visitor expects to find many of the grim and unpleasant features of war at the fort, he will be happily disappointed. No grim battlements frown upon him, but rather he is ushered into a beautiful village by way of a broad macadamized roadway, which connects the city with the fort. To the right are the buildings of the Commissary department and the offices of the heads of departments. The two main structures were erected in 1859, for arsenal purposes. These and other buildings once occupied as officers' headquarters, compose the old portion of the fort. Gen. Pope's residence, a spacious home-like house, surrounded by beautiful flower gardens and breathing an air of comfort and luxuriance, can be seen just west of these buildings. Continuing the drive into the fort grounds, one comes upon as charming a view as can well be imagined. Passing a number of cannon, mortars and other ordinance - the ordinance depot - the two main drives meet in one broad way, which circles around as fine a parade ground and as magnificent a grass-plat as the sun ever shone upon. Here and there cool patches of dark shade are cast upon the sward by graceful trees, while upon the other side of the broad, smooth roadway, elegant residences front upon two sides of this smooth sea of green velvet. These are the officer's residences. Many of the buildings are over twenty years old, but the clinging vines and bright flowers which adorn them, give an appearance of rest and social beauty to the structures which would not attach to them if they were new and modern in architectural structure. The wide verandas which stretch across most of them, when graced by bright men, women and children, seem, for all the world, to be a portion of some generous English home in some lovely English village. Before passing further, reference should be made to the gem of a chapel building, situated on the east side of the garrison, on Arsenal avenue. The building is a charming spot, overlooking the river; is built of limestone, constructed in the English style of architecture, and would be an ornament to a large city. Rev. David White is chaplain. The National Cemetery - Noble Warwick, Superintendent - is beautifully located half a mile west of the garrison. To the west of the parade ground are the soldiers' barracks and the School of Application for Cavalry and Infantry. But one wing of the building, which is the headquarters of the school, has been completed. When finished, the structure will be one of the most attractive and imposing at the fort. Across the way from the school building is the guard-house and near by is the Fort Leavenworth Hotel, a large, spacious building which sets back a distance from the avenue, and is the home of fifty or sixty officers. (This was formerly used as a hospital.) The Catholic Chapel, a plain, substantial brick building, is still further to the west. Father Downey is pastor. A number of comfortable officers' residences are situated upon the north side of this thoroughfare, called the "West End." The view of the reservation from this point is imposing and picturesque. To the south is the extensive Government farm, teeming with grain - its pasture lands covered with plump and hardy live-stock. Further to the west are billows of thick foliage, while beyond all is the beautiful city of Leavenworth, connected with the charms of the fort by that broad highway, over which military wagons are slowly moving, or gay equipages dashing back and forth. Passing the old barracks again, and verging towards the northeast, the fine structure, known as the military prison, is reached. Guards are pacing its wide, high walls, and sentinels are on duty at its gates. Here, almost for the first time, the visitor is impressed with the idea that the hand of military discipline is iron-bound, but he is relieved in spirit if he is fortunate enough to meet the genial governor of the prison, Capt. Blunt. His residence adjoins the prison, overlooking a grand expanse of the Missouri River, charming ravines, and in fact as romantic and beautiful a scene as can be witnessed in the State. From this point the great iron bridge can be sen spanning the river. Over it the Rock Island & Pacific enters the Reservation from the east. The Leavenworth, Atchison & Northwestern (controlled by the Missouri Pacific) also passes through the Reservation from the north to south, and the Kansas Central (narrow gauge) enters its northeast corner, and runs in a northwesterly direction through the lower farm.

The principal features which go to make up Fort Leavenworth have been given, but when it is stated that a news-stand, telegraph office, reading-room, post-office, and all the other accompaniments of a city are found, it is unnecessary to say that the fort is a busy locality as well as "a thing of beauty and a joy forever," for weary denizens from the city. It is as stated, a complete and fascinating little village, where can be found the best of society. A peculiar source of enjoyment are the concerts rendered by the fine military band, in the summer season. Upon these occasions the beauty and the fashion of the city and the fort crowd the beautiful avenues which wind through the grounds in all directions. In the winter, parties, social hops and literary and musical entertainments serve to break the monotony of village life. Fort Leavenworth is certainly the paradise of military life.

In concluding this brief description of Fort Leavenworth, lovers of its natural beauty and of the charm of the surrounding country would consider it an "unpardonable sin" if now reference were made to "Sheridan's Drive." The old Rialto road, north of the Fort, Salt Creek valley and the broad Missouri - the grand sweep of county which one almost feels more than sees as he passes along this beautiful drive, cannot but impress the fact upon his mind that it would be unpardonable to slight such beauty which has been so long attached to Fort Leavenworth as one of its famous charms.

Fort Leavenworth is the headquarters of he Department of the Missouri, which includes the States of Missouri, Kansas, Illinois and Colorado; the Territory of New Mexico and the Indian Territory; Forts Elliott and Bliss, Texas, including the town of San Elizario, on the Rio Grande, and that portion of El Paso County lying north of an east and west line passing immediately south of San Elizario, Camp on Snake River, and Supply Depot at Rawlin's Station, Wyoming Territory. The Department is commanded by Major-General John Pope. The Department staff is as follows: Major E. R. Platt, adjutant general; Judson D. Bingham, chief quartermaster; Major George Bell, chief commissary of subsistence; Major D. L. Magruder, surgeon U. S. A., attending surgeon; Major W. R. Gibson, paymaster U. S. A., chief paymaster, First Lieut. Thos. N. Bailey, corps of engineers, chief engineer officer; Capt. D. M. Taylor, ordinance department, aide-de-camp; First Lieut. S W. Groesbeck, Sixth Infantry, on duty in office of the judge-advocate of the department; Capt George Shorkley, Fifteenth Infantry, general instructor of musketry; First Lieut. W. C. Manning, Twenty-third Infantry, acting general instructor of musketry, chief ordinance officer and commanding ordinance depot; Second Lieut. Wm. A. Glassford, signal corps, signal officer, and in charge of military telegraph lines of the department.

Fort Leavenworth Post and Military School. - The post of Fort Leavenworth is in command of Col. Elwell S. Otis of the Twentieth Infantry, who also has charge of the School of Application for Cavalry and Infantry. There are stationed at the post 526 enlisted men - five companies of infantry, four troops of cavalry and one light battery of artillery. In addition to the permanently attached officers, one officer from each of the ten cavalry and twenty-five infantry regiments of the United States army are at the school of application. All lieutenants form a part of the school, and are sent to Fort Leavenworth every two years. The first class to take the course in military and international law, Mahan's outposts, field fortifications, signaling and telegraphy, operations of war, etc., etc.; everything as taught by the great military masters. The second class are drilled in the common branches, and receive practical instruction in field fortifications, surveying, field and garrison duty.

The school is not established by law, but by order of the War Department and under the general Congressional act authorizing such establishments. In 1881 Capt. Hall, of the Nineteenth Infantry, erected the wing of the building now occupied. The new brick barracks were also built. When the central building of the school structure is completed, it will be occupied as the administration headquarters of the school and post.

In March, 1881, Congress appropriated $30,000 for the erection of the new barracks, but as the lowest bid exceeded the appropriation, the erection of only one wing has thus far been authorized.

To return again to the school. Although it is as yet something of an experiment, successes has so far attended the well directed labors of Col. Otis that it will probably become a permanent, as it is already a valuable institution of the military service.

The Military Prison. - This is considered a post independent of Fort Leavenworth, it being under the management of a governor who is responsible to the U. S. Prison Commissioners. Capt. Asa P. Blunt, A. Q. M., U. S. A., is governor, his accounts and work generally being inspected every three months by Gen. Nelson H. Davis, on Gen. Phil Sheridan's staff. Capt. Blunt has held his present position about six years, and by his energy and foresight has made Fort Leavenworth military prison a model institution of its kind.

The first buildings were erected in the winter of 1874-75, Major J. M. Robertson being what was then known as commandant. After serving a year and a half he was succeeded by the present incumbent. Capt. Blunt at once set about reforming the affairs of the institution, and inaugurated by congressional enactment, several regulations which evinced the humane views which he took of what prison discipline should accomplish - not humiliation, but reformation. Any prisoner now, by good behavior while in prison, can re-enlist in the service of the United States, and is either transported free of charge to the post at which he was last stationed, or to an equal distance in any direction from Fort Leavenworth. In addition, he is given a good suit of clothes and five dollars in money. If he has any valuables when he enters the prison they are held for safe keeping and returned to him at the expiration of his term; or if he has money, and so desires, one dollar per month is allowed him for tobacco. In a word, it is the aim to make prisoners feel that though they are under strict discipline, they are men still, and entitled to manly and considerate treatment. The result is that, as a rule, they do their work cheerfully, and well. The amount of money expended at Fort Leavenworth for labor is virtually nothing. With the exception of the employment of a foreman to oversee work, the labor spent in the erection of the prison buildings, up to the present time, has been accomplished by the prisoners. The wall of the prison, which encloses seven acres of ground, is from fifteen to twenty-five feet high, five and a half feet thick at the base, and two and a half at the top. At present (July, 1882), 465 men are in confinement, some employed in the improvement of the fort grounds, others in the manufacture of boots and shoes, harness, brooms and barracks chairs. The needs of the entire United States army are met, in these lines, by the labors of the Fort Leavenworth military prison. For the year ending July 1, the prison turned out 30,000 pairs of boots, 35,000 pairs of shoes, and 30,000 brooms. For the coming year it is estimated that $250,000 worth of material will be manufactured int these several products. The Government appropriation for the maintenance of the prison is $80,000.

Although the buildings of the prison have been improved and enlarged almost continuously since 1875, the inmates are so crowded for working and dwelling room that a three-story brick building, 40 x 114 feet, is being constructed. It will be divided into dormitories and shop rooms.

If the trite expression, 'beehive of industry,' could apply anywhere it is at the military prison. Although industry and good behavior mean a chance for future advancement in the army, the most strict precautions are taken to guard the prisoners. Sentinels with loaded muskets, are pacing the walls and guarding the gates day and night. Of the 465 inmates of the prison fully four-fifths are there for desertion and theft.

The present officers of the Military Prison are as follows: Brev. Col. A. P. Blunt, U. S. A. governor; J. P. Wright, U. S. A., surgeon; Capt. W. Badger, Sixth Infantry, executive officer; Rev. J. B. McCleery, U. S. A., chaplain; Lieut. D. M. Scott, First Infantry, provost marshal; Lieut. J. W. Pope, Fifth Infantry, adjutant; Lieut. W. P. Evans, Nineteenth Infantry, W. M. and A. A. C. S.; Acting Assistant Surgeon, O. C. McNary.

Quartermaster's Department. - Lieut.-Col. Judson D. Bingham is deputy quartermaster general, and chief quartermaster of the Department of the Missouri. Maj. E. B. Grimes is depot quartermaster Fort Leavenworth. An idea of the magnitude of the transactions of the department, whose headquarters are here, may be obtained from the last report made to Q. M. Gen. M. C. Meigs. There then remained on hand nearly 2,500 army wagons, 13,000 wagon harnesses and 4,000 ambulance harnesses. Of the 1,438 cavalry and artillery horses purchased in the several military departments and depots at a total cost of $179,926.71, 494 were purchased in the department of Missouri. During the year 100 mules were purchased at a total cost of $13,500 and 273 horses and 157 mules sold for $13,068.66.

There were manufactured at the prison during the year on account of clothing and equipage, 34,163 pairs boots, 25,944 pairs shoes, 1,656 barrack chairs, and 4,356 corn brooms. The materials purchased by the Quartermaster's Department cost $137,676.04; the civilian labor, paid by the Quartermaster's Department, cost $3,800; royalty on machines, paid by the Quartermaster's Department, $302.49; Value of prison labor, $7,975.20. The average cost of prison labor in making a pair of shoes is 8 cents per pair, of boots 16 cents per pair, of chairs 19 cents each, and of brooms 4 cents each.

The average cost of boots to the department is $2.90 per pair; of shoes, $1.85 per pair; of chairs, $1.22 each, and of brooms, 16 cents each. The last prices of boots and shoes purchased by contract after advertisement were, boots $2.37 cents per pair, and shoes $186 per pair. The materials from which the boots and shoes were made were purchased at the Philadelphia depot of the Quartermaster's Department, under contract, after advertisement, inspected at that depot by experienced officers and inspectors, and shipped, as fast as received, to the Leavenworth prison. The leather purchased under these contracts has been of unexceptional quality.

The Subsistence Department, one of the most important branches of the service, occupies the large stone building on the east side, and is in charge of Gen. George Bell, Chief Commissary. This office makes all purchases for the department, except the stores sent from the East by officers under the direction of the Commissary General. These have to be weighed and carefully examined by the department here. Requisitions from all the different posts in the Department of Missouri for necessary stores also pass through the hands of the officers here, and orders for making shipments are then issued. The supply is generally limited to two or three months. The annual shipments of rations to the "boys in blue" in the Department of the Missouri amount to about 8,000,000 pounds per year. It is no wonder that the Subsistence Department is a busy one.



Dept. of the Missouri. Dept. of Dakota. Dept. of the Platte. Dept. of Texas. Total.
Square Miles 501,104 378,208 288,354 274,356 1,442,022
Number of permanent Mil. Posts 27 22 17 10 76
Companies of Artillery 1 1
Companies of Cavalry 27 23 23 23 96
Companies of Infantry 63 69 29 39 200
Prison-guard, 100 men, 2 Cos. 2 2
Total Companies 93 92 52 62 299
Regimental Headquarters & Band. 8 9 5 6 28
General Prisoners (Mil. Prison) 400

Dept. of California. Dept. of Columbia. Dept. of Arizona. Total.
Square Miles 217,500 225,368 151,916 594,784
Number of permanent Mil. Posts 10 11 12 33
Companies of Artillery 9 2 11
Companies of Cavalry 4 8 12 24
Companies of Infantry 10 20 10 40
Total Companies 23 30 22 75
Regimental Headquarters & Band. 3 3 2 8

Dept. of the East. Dept. of the South. Total. Grand Total of Companies & Organizations.
Square Miles 426,922 471,153 898,075
Number of permanent Mil. Posts 18 7 25
Companies of Artillery 35 13 48 60
Companies of Cavalry 120
Companies of Infantry 10 250
Prison-guard, 100 men, 2 Cos. 2
Total Companies 45 13 58 432
Regimental Headquarters & Band. 4 4 40

Longest Line of Railroad transportation, 1154 miles, in Department of the Missouri.

Longest Line of Wagon transportation, 180 miles, in Department of the Missouri.

Extent of territory of Department of the Missouri, greater than any other.

Number of troops in Department of the Missouri, about one-fifth of entire army - far greater than either Divisions of Atlantic or Pacific.

[TOC] [part 10] [part 8] [Cutler's History]