Transcribed from volume I of Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. ... / with a supplementary volume devoted to selected personal history and reminiscence. Standard Pub. Co. Chicago : 1912. 3 v. in 4. : front., ill., ports.; 28 cm. Vols. I-II edited by Frank W. Blackmar.

Fort Leavenworth.—On March 7, 1827, Maj.-Gen. Brown ordered Col. Henry Leavenworth, of the Third United States infantry, to take four companies of his regiment and ascend the Missouri, "and when he reaches a point on the left bank near the mouth of the Little Platte river, and within a range of 20 miles above its confluence, he will select such a position as, in his judgment, is best calculated for the site of a permanent cantonment. The spot being chosen, he will construct, with the troops of his command, comfortable though temporary quarters, sufficient for the accommodation of four companies."

This order marks the beginning of one of the best known and most important military posts in the country. At the time the order was received by Col. Leavenworth he was on duty at Jefferson barracks at St. Louis. Taking four companies, commanded by Capt. Belknap and Lieuts. Wheeler, Hunt and Babbitt—204 men in all—he started on his mission. On May 8 he reported that there was no suitable site for a cantonment on the left bank of the river, and recommended a bluff on the opposite side, "about 20 miles above the mouth of the Platte." His recommendation was approved on Sept. 29, 1827, and on Nov. 8 the post was named Cantonment Leavenworth, in honor of its founder.

Temporary quarters were constructed, in accordance with Gen. Brown's order, but no reservation for the post was established until 1838, when President Van Buren declared as such a large tract of timbered land on the east side of the Missouri. An entry in the records of the adjutant-general's office, under date of June 21, 1838, says: "The land held as reserved, extends from six to seven miles along the Missouri river, and varies from one to two miles wide, containing about 6,840 acres." This land had been claimed by the Delaware Indians until the survey of 1830. By the survey of 1839 it became a part of the military reservation. In 1854 the secretary of war ordered a new survey, and the boundaries of the reservation then established were approved by President Pierce. In 1872 the United States attorney-general ruled that the land north of the post had never belonged to the Delawares, but became the property of Kansas when the state was admitted to the Union, and the state legislature, by the act of Feb. 25, 1875, ceded to the United States jurisdiction over that portion of the reservation.

On July 20, 1868, Congress authorized the sale of 20 acres of the reservation to the Leavenworth Coal company. At the same session right of way was granted to two railroad companies and a free public highway. By the joint resolution passed by Congress on Feb. 9, 1871, the reservation was further reduced in size by the sale of 128.82 acres to the Kansas Agricultural and Mechanical Association for a fair ground, the value of the land to be determined by a committee of army officers. On June 6, 1888, a tract of nearly 10 acres was sold to the Leavenworth City and Fort Leavenworth Water company—the coal rights being reserved by the government—and the following March the water company was granted the privilege of leasing ground on the reservation for a reservoir. The following description of the fort is taken from Hazelrigg's History of Kansas, published in 1895:

"The reservation contains 5,904 1/4 acres on the west side and 936 acres on the east side of the Missouri river. The reservation is crossed by three railroads. An iron-truss three span bridge crosses the Missouri. A wide military road leads through the reserve to the post, which is entered from the south through a handsome archway. The parade ground is 517 by 514 feet, is graded down on the west side and thrown up in the center. North of this beautiful ground is a row of officers' headquarters, some of them modern and new, others as old as 1828, with vines creeping all over them. On the east side of the parade ground are the quarters of the field officers; neat home-like houses, with all comforts and conveniences. Between these and the brick pavement that edges the carriage way around three sides of the ground is a beautiful lawn. The barracks are frame and face the east. The post headquarters is an L-shaped, one-story brick building. It contains rooms for the commanding officer, the adjutant and the sergeant-major. A large room in this building is the dread court-martial room."

Since the above was written the government has made liberal appropriations for additional improvements. About the beginning of the present century, when cavalry and artillery quarters were provided, contracts amounting to over $350,000 were let for the construction of a riding school, cavalry stables, a new parade ground, barracks, quarters, stables and gun sheds for a battery of light artillery, and a new headquarters building. In 1900 an appropriation of $60,000 was made by Congress for a modern military hospital, and in 1904 an addition to the hospital was ordered at a cost of $30,000. Altogether, over $2,000,000 have been expended on the post, and with the completion of improvements under contemplation it will be probably the greatest military establishment in the world. The garrison in 1909 consisted of one regiment of infantry, five troops of cavalry, four companies of engineers and a battery of light artillery—a total of 3,078 officers and men.

The importance of Fort Leavenworth as a military post dates almost from its establishment. For years before Kansas was organized as a territory steamboats touched at the fort, which was a depot for military supplies for the entire department. A postoffice was established there on May 29, 1828, with Philip G. Rand as postmaster. During the war with Mexico Fort Leavenworth was a gathering point for soldiers and a shipping point for military stores bound for the front. In 1846. Gen. Stephen Kearney stopped at the fort for some time while on his way to Santa Fe; Gen. Joseph Lane's Oregon expedition started from there in 1848; Capt. Stanshury's expedition to Salt Lake in 1849 rested for awhile at the fort, and Gen. John C. Fremont made his final preparations there before setting out on his exploring expeditions which gave him the sobriquet of the "Pathfinder." Upon the discovery of gold in California Fort Leavenworth became the outfitting point for a number of overland parties bound for the Pacific coast; the fort was the rendezvous for the surveying parties of the proposed Central Pacific railroad in 1853, and in 1859 a United States arsenal was located on the reservation.

Among the officers stationed at the fort in the early days were several who achieved distinction in military circles. Capt. Belknap, who accompanied Col. Leavenworth to locate the fort, was the father of W. W. Belknap, who was secretary of war in President Grant's cabinet, Lieut. Henry I. Hunt was chief of artillery in the Army of the Potomac in the Civil war. C. A. Finley was surgeon-general of the United States army during the first year of the Civil war. Col. E. V. Sumner and Col. George Sykes both rose to the rank of major-general. Albert S. Johnston, one time commandment at Fort Leavenworth, was killed at the battle of Shiloh while in command of the Confederate army, and Braxton Bragg also became a prominent Confederate officer.

Fort Leavenworth is located 3 miles north of the city of Leavenworth, with which it is connected by a line of electric railway, right of way of which was granted by Congress to the Leavenworth Rapid Transit Railway company on Sept. 10, 1888. (See also Army Service School and U. S. Penitentiary.)

Pages 664-666 from volume I of Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. ... / with a supplementary volume devoted to selected personal history and reminiscence. Standard Pub. Co. Chicago : 1912. 3 v. in 4. : front., ill., ports.; 28 cm. Vols. I-II edited by Frank W. Blackmar. Transcribed May 2002 by Carolyn Ward.