Saturday, July 3, 2010

Reporting from Fort Hays, Kansas

On the way into Hays this morning  we decided to see the small herd of American Bison in Frontier Park.  We were not greeted warmly as you can see from this Bison cow and her calf ignoring us.   Bison give birth in the spring to a single calf.  When full grown, adult Bison can reach a height of 6 feet and weigh up to 2,000 pounds.
Click on sign for a concise history of the fort

Across the road from the Bison is Old Fort Hays, in service from 1865 to 1889 to protect military roads, railroad workers and wagon trains headed west.   It is a neat place to be.  Now.   You are on the same rolling wind-swept Kansas prairie that early settlers and soldiers visited.  It is serene, and as you look at the few remaining buildings you can imagine just how lonely and basic life out here was in the decades after the Civil War.
Here is the guard house which was used as a jail, as quarters for enlisted men and storage of ammunition.

This bunk bed slept four soldiers.  Each had a single drawer under the bottom bed.  The beds were phased out in 1874, much to the happiness of the troops.  A contingent of the famous Buffalo Soldiers was stationed at Fort Hays.

Officers had a better lifestyle.  These are the only two of the original  officers residential units remaining.  While simple compared to today's standard of living they were quite accommodating when occupied by military officers.

Officers had semi-private privies.  There is a wall between the "seating areas" and the walls are plastered, but is is still an outhouse.

The block house was used for a variety of functions including offices and church services as well as a major fortification in case of attack.  

I was surprised to learn that Fort Hays did not have  surrounding stockade walls because here in Kansas they were not considered necessary due to the large number of troops stationed at the fort and the small number of braves in a raiding party -- usually about 25 to 30.

Stay tuned

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