|Fort Gibson Entrance, Wikimeia|
By Alanna Radle Rodriguez
After the Louisiana Purchase, there was a series of forts built along the southwestern border of the US with the intent to maintain peace between the US and the tribes. These forts included Fort Towson, Fort Washita, Fort Arbuckle, Fort Sill, Fort Reno, Fort Supply, and Fort Gibson, all of which are in Oklahoma.
In 1824, Fort Gibson was established as the furthest west fort created by the US Army. Colonel Arbuckle of Fort Smith, Arkansas sent troops to the fork of the Arkansas River and formed on April 21st 1824, Cantonment—or temporary post—Gibson. It was named after Colonel George Gibson, who later became Commissary General of Subsistence. In other words, it was named after the commanding general of the groceries. The surgeon of the cantonment immediately started taking meteorological surveys providing the earliest known records of weather for Oklahoma. Colonel Arbuckle also formed Fort Towson approximately 120 miles to the south.
|"Two Log Buildings at Fort Gibson, Dating from 1824|
Courtesy Chronicles of Oklahoma
|Map of Fort Gibson, circa 1874|
Courtesy The New Buffalo Soldiers
Throughout the Texas Revolution, the Army sent most of the troops stationed at Fort Gibson to the Texas border region. Their absence weakened the military power and pacification capacity at Fort Gibson, but the reduced garrison did its job and maintained stability in the region. The fort served as command post for Colonel Arbuckle for numerous treaties between the tribes, as they were continuously in contention.
Colonel Arbuckle left in 1841, reporting that the area was as safe and secure as it ever had been. During the 1840’s and 1850’s, the Cherokee complained bitterly about the sale of alcohol to their people, and in 1857, they convinced the Department of the Army to turn the fort over to them. They established the town of Kee-too-wah on the site of the old fort.
During the War Between the States, Union troops occasionally occupied the post. In the summer of 1862, Union soldiers pushed back a Confederate invasion of Indian Territory. The Union abandoned the fort and withdrew to Kansas. In April 1863, Colonel William A. Phillips of the Union Indian Brigade reoccupied Fort Gibson and kept it in Union hands throughout the remainder of the war. The Confederates never attacked the fort, although an attack on the fort's livestock became known as the Battle of Fort Gibson. Troops under General Blunt marched southward in July 1863, and won the Battle of Honey Springs.
In the summer of 1864, a steamboat came up the Arkansas River with about a thousand barrels of flour and tons of bacon to resupply Union troops at Fort Gibson. Cherokee Gen. Stand Waite, largely cut off from the rest of the Confederacy, didn’t want to sink the boat. He wanted to capture it, along with the food and other supplies on board. The ensuing battle is the only naval battle to have been fought in Oklahoma/Indian Territory history.
|Yukon River Steamboats at Fort Gibson, Courtesy Wikimedia|
In 1890, the fort was abandoned by the US Army for the last time. Troops occasionally camped at the site when unrest brought them to the town of Fort Gibson, which took the name of the fort. After the military permanently departed, the civilian town expanded into the former military grounds of the fort.
|Honey Springs Reenactmen, Courtesy of Oklahoma Historical Society|
Born and raised in Edmond, Oklahoma, Alanna Radle Rodriguez is the great-great granddaughter of one of the first pioneers to settle in Indian Territory. Alanna loves the history of the state and relishes in volunteering at the 1889 Territorial Schoolhouse in Edmond. Her first published story, part of a collaborative novella titled Legacy Letters, came out September 2016. Alanna lives with her husband and parents in the Edmond area. She is currently working on a historical fiction series that takes place in pre-statehood Waterloo, Oklahoma.