Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Oklahoma History: Fort Arbuckle, A Lost Tribute

A drawing of Fort Arbuckle, courtesy of Legends of America


By Alanna Radle Rodriguez and Judge Rodriguez





For this blog, I was able to get my history-loving-does-research-better-than-me husband to join me. I hope you enjoy this next installment of Oklahoma Forts.

The 1840’s happened to be a time of westward expansion, wars, gold rushes, and Indian raids. The truth of the matter is, the eastern tribes were unhappy about the Indian Removal Act and the plains tribes were much more than unhappy.

During the 1840’s more and more wagon trains were headed west along the southern California road, going from Fort Smith to the gold mines of California and the silver mines of Nevada. Raiding the wagon trains proved quite lucrative for the plains tribes, and they were able to take many of the supplies they felt were being denied them. The quick slash and grab tactics were preferred by the Comanche, Kiowa, and Cheyenne that proved the most deadly. In an effort to keep the tribes from raiding so much, a series of forts was created in the eastern part of the Indian Territory, now the state of Oklahoma.

Fort Arbuckle was founded by Captain Randolph Marcy in 1852. It was located inside the boundary of the Chickasaw Nation, on the bank of the Washita River, approximately 7 miles west-northwest of the present town of Davis, Oklahoma. The fort and the surrounding mountain range were named posthumously after a frontier general, Matthew Arbuckle, who was instrumental in numerous treaties, forts, and the suppression of uprisings from the 1820’s through the 1840’s.

Fort Arbuckle Marker, courtesy of OklahomaHistory.net
The fort was originally constructed in a rectangular shape, with the barracks on one end and the quartermaster and the commissary facilities at the opposite end. Eventually, there ended up being over thirty buildings located in the complex, including stables, a hospital, and officers quarters. All the buildings were constructed of rough-hewn logs with stone chimneys.

In 1858, Major William Emory of the 1st Dragoons was appointed as the commander of both Forts Washita and Arbuckle. Most of the buildings were in a general state of disrepair, ordnance stores were depleted, and surplus ammunition including gunpowder had to be buried to be protected from the weather. The reason being is that if gunpowder gets wet, it takes four to six days per pound to dry. However even once it dries, it never is the same. It just doesn’t have the same boom. Before the troops could make repairs, orders came to abandon the fort in order to start a new one approximately 90 miles to the west/northwest called Fort Cobb.

Once the War Between The States started, Major Emory ordered the troops manning the three forts under his command to evacuate and head to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. The Chickasaws supported the Confederacy, like many of the tribes that were mostly disgruntled with the way they had been treated by the federal government. Given the rough terrain, the lack of supplies in the area, and the lack of strategic positioning, Fort Arbuckle did not play a significant role in the War Between The States. While there were Confederate troops stationed at the fort during the war, there is no record of any battles or even skirmishes in the area. After the war, the fort was once again garrisoned by federal troops of the 6th Infantry and the 10th Cavalry.

Fort Arbuckle was used as a supply depot by General Sheridan during the Comanche campaigns of 1868. It was kept manned until 1869, when it was strategically obsolete since Fort Sill had been constructed further west-northwest. It remained in use, in such condition as it was, until all the supplies had been consumed by troops traveling through from forts further east on their way to Fort Sill, roughly in 1870.

Once the site was permanently abandoned, the elements took their toll within several years and the last of the standing barracks and stables fell. After almost 150 years, the only remaining piece of the fort is a lone chimney in the countryside now on private property—a mute reminder of the historic site which has been largely forgotten. 

Fort Arbuckle Marker, courtesy fortwiki.com

5 comments:

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  2. Alanna, Thanks for the interesting post about Fort Arbuckle. It's too bad that more of the fort didn't survive.

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    1. Thanks, Vickie! And you're right. Not a lot of these forts have survived.

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